Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
Christ in My Place
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake He not of Himself: but being high priest that year, He prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with His disciples. And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that He will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where He were, He should shew it, that they might take Him.”
How hard, how desperately wicked, how utterly depraved the heart of man is! A mighty miracle had been wrought just a short distance from Jerusalem. A man who had been dead for four days was raised to life in the sight of many witnesses. The fact was unmistakable, and could not be denied. Yet, the chief priests and Pharisees and the multitudes under their influence would not believe. They shut their eyes and stopped their ears. Fearful of losing their ecclesiastical power, they would not bow to God’s revelation. Rather than bowing to Christ, they “took counsel to put Him to death.”
Read this passage again, and behold the insanity with which men reason when they set themselves against God. These elated fools reasoned that the only way they could preserve their nation was to destroy Christ, His church and His Gospel. They rushed madly down the path they chose; and the very thing they feared came to pass. In just a few short years, the Roman armies did come, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple, and carried away the whole nation into captivity.
The religious hypocrites held before us in this passage clearly exemplify the fact that lost people, with hearts full of sin, with hearts completely filled with hatred for God, often love religion, religious traditions, and religious ceremonies. Here is a great multitude (v. 55), plotting to murder the Lord Jesus, meticulously purifying themselves for the observance of the passover!
“The Jews’ passover was nigh at hand…Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, — What think ye, that He will not come to the feast?” — He will, indeed, come. He created the world for this hour. Before this feast was ended, Christ our Passover would be sacrificed for us. The subject presented to us here is Substitution. I want to show you from the Word of God what substitution is, and show you the efficacy of Christ’s substitutionary work.
The Bible is a book with one subject, and that subject is Substitution. The singular theme of the Holy Scripture is the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which He obtained eternal redemption for His elect and secured the everlasting salvation of His people. The one purpose and object of the Word of God is to reveal the glory of Christ in the performance and accomplishment of His great substitutionary work. If you miss, or fail to understand the Gospel message of Substitution, you cannot understand anything written upon the pages of inspiration.
I know that the Bible teaches us many blessed truths. I love to study and preach Bible doctrine. I am not embarrassed or uneasy when someone refers to me as a “doctrinal preacher.” If I were not a preacher of Gospel doctrine, I would not pretend to be a preacher. But all the blessed doctrines of the sacred Volume may be summed up and set forth in one doctrine — Substitution. No truth of Holy Scripture, no part of the Bible can be understood apart from the doctrine of Substitution.
The very first doctrine of the Bible, the doctrine of creation, can be understood properly only when we realize that all things were created by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute. The doctrine of Divine providence is a precious truth of Holy Scripture. We rejoice to “know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called, according to His purpose.” But providence can only be understood when we realize that all things are upheld and governed by the word and power of Christ our Substitute. We believe the glorious doctrines of eternal election and sovereign predestination. And we are not at all bashful about proclaiming them. But election is in Christ. We were chosen in the Substitute. Predestination is that we should be conformed to the image of the Son of God, our Substitute. How we rejoice and glory in the doctrine of the atonement! But if there were no Substitute, no Mediator between God and man, if there was no one who could satisfy the needs of fallen man and the justice of a holy God, if there were no suitable Substitute, there would be no atonement. The doctrines of the resurrection and the glorification of the saints cause our hearts great joy before God. This is the glorious expectation of the sons of God. But we would have no hope of future glory, if there were no Substitute into whose likeness we must be made.
The theme of the Bible is Substitution. The whole purpose of Divine Revelation is to teach us that God will not speak to, nor will He be spoken to by any man, apart from a Substitute. God only deals with men through a Substitute. Your eternal salvation, or your eternal damnation will be determined by your relationship to God’s appointed Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything in the Bible sets forth Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the incarnate God-man as the one, the only, the all-sufficient Substitute for sinners (Luke 24:44-47).
Substitution is the sinner’s only hope. The substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope we have, the only hope God’s elect have ever had, and the only hope sinners ever shall have. In the Old Testament Church God’s elect believed on and trusted that Substitute who was to come, the One promised, prophesied, and pictured in the Old Testament Scriptures, and were redeemed and justified, forgiven and accepted in their Substitute, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Genesis 3:15; 4:1-4; 22:8-14; Exodus 12:13; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:24; 12:10; Malachi 4:1-2; ; Luke 2:25; John 1:29; Acts 10:43).)
As the Church of the Old Testament had but one foundation upon which to rest their hope before God, so today we have no hope of acceptance with God but this, — “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” In both the Old Testament era and in this Gospel era, the Christ we trust, the Substitute by whom we are redeemed is Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” whose “works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 4:3).
The Book of God makes it perfectly clear that the only hope any sinner has of eternal salvation is Substitution. Our only hope of acceptance with God is through the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every ritual, every garment of the priesthood, every sacrifice, every article of furniture within the tabernacle, the tabernacle itself, all the laws of the Old Testament, the temple, the temple service, and all the prophets of God, all have but one message, and they all speak it very plainly. Their message is Substitution and that is the message of every man called and sent of God to preach the Gospel. Substitution means “Christ in My Place.”
A Substitute Is
You know what a substitute is. A substitute is one who stands in the place of another. A substitute assumes the obligations and responsibilities of another person. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, as our Substitute. The Son of God assumed our nature and took upon Himself the sins of God’s elect. He stood in the place of sinners at Calvary so that all who trust Him might stand in His place eternally accepted before God. Since I fully trust my soul upon the merits of Christ and Him alone, resting my soul upon Him for everything before God, I have good reason to believe that Jesus Christ is my Substitute. I want to tell you about Christ my Substitute. I want to show you how that He has stood, is standing, and shall forever stand in my place before God. I want you to know, trust, love and worship my glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinners’ Substitute.
A Perfect Substitute
Who is our Substitute? (John 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; 6:14-16). His name is Immanuel, — “God with us.” The sinners’ Substitute must be a real man; and He must be the infinite God. Were He only God, He could not suffer. Were He only man, He could not satisfy. But the God-man can both suffer and satisfy.
And the Substitute must be perfect (Leviticus 22:21). In Leviticus 21 and 22, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron with the most vital and fundamental information on how to approach and worship Him. The high priest must have no defect, deformity or blemish of any kind (Leviticus 21:16-21). And the sacrifice must have no blemish at all (Leviticus 22:17-24). If the priest had no defect, but brought a sacrifice with blemishes it would not be accepted, for it “must be perfect to be accepted” (Leviticus 22:21). Likewise, if the sacrifice had no blemish, but the priest who offered it had any blemish, the sacrifice would not be accepted at all, for it “must be perfect to be accepted.”
The purpose of those ancient Levitical laws was to declare the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the ceremonial pictures of the law. Christ is our perfect, great High Priest without spot, blemish, defect, deformity or sin (Hebrews 4:14-15; 7:26; 8:1). And He is the perfect Sacrifice. He is the Lamb without blemish and without spot (John 1:29; 1 Peter. 1:18-20). It is only through the Lord Jesus Christ and His glorious sacrifice that we could be and are justified from all sin (Acts 13:38-39; Hebrews 9:12).
In the Lord Jesus Christ every believer is a priest with no blemish, no sin (Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10). In Christ’s precious blood atonement we approach the throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-22), because we have a perfect sacrifice that fully, eternally satisfies the holy justice of God (Romans. 3:24-26; Colossians 1:19-22; Jude 1:24-25).
It is in, by, through, and with Christ our Substitute, the perfect Priest and perfect Sacrifice, that we meet God’s standard of perfection. — “It must be perfect to be accepted.” And this is all “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
Why did our Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, come into this world? What was His purpose in coming? What was His mission? He said that He came to do His Father’s will. He said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, taking upon Himself our nature, so that He might do that which was committed to Him by His Father in the covenant of grace before the world began. Christ came to redeem unto Himself a people and to glorify His Father in doing so. — “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). In order for God, in His infinite holiness, to save fallen, guilty sinners, God’s own Son must become the sinners’ Substitute. Righteousness must be established. Sin must be punished. Justice must be maintained and satisfied. Christ assumed our nature and came into this world so that God might be both just and the Justifier of His people.
What did the Lord Jesus Christ accomplish while He was in this world? He brought in an everlasting righteousness. He satisfied the law and justice of God. He put away all the sins of His people. He redeemed a people unto Himself (Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:12; 10:10-14)).
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:1-14)
Where is Christ Now? (Hebrews 1:1-3). Yonder, beyond the skies, I see Him, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as our Substitute. Our great Substitute has finished the work of redemption; and now He is reigning as the exalted Monarch of the universe, performing the final salvation of those people for whom He died, the sinners He has redeemed with His own precious blood. The sovereign Ruler of this universe is that one who suffered and bled and died as the sinners’ Substitute! (Isaiah 53:10-12; John 17:2).
The Lord Jesus Christ stood as our Substitute in eternity past as our Surety in the everlasting Covenant of Grace. Christ is an eternal Substitute. It is always smart to begin in the beginning. And if you want to know what the Book of God teaches about salvation, you’ve got to understand that it is a work finished from eternity in our Substitute. By God’s own oath in the counsels of eternity, “Jesus was made a Surety of a better testament” (Hebrews 7:22). Before I was a sinner, Christ stood as my Savior. Before I broke God’s law, Christ stood as my Redeemer. Before I was a transgressor, Christ stood as my Righteousness. Before I fell in Adam, I was accepted in Christ my Substitute. Before I became a slave, Christ stood as my Ransom. Before I became a debtor, Christ stood as my Surety.
From everlasting, the God of Glory said, concerning His elect, — “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In the Covenant of Grace the salvation of God’s elect was planned, purposed, provided for, made sure, and completely accomplished (2 Samuel 23:5; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Timothy 1:9). All the blessings of the Covenant and all of God’s elect were entrusted to the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Surety of the Covenant (John 6:39; Ephesians 1:13). He voluntarily took upon Himself all responsibility for us, just as Judah became surety for Benjamin and assumed all responsibility for Benjamin (Genesis 43:8-9). With Christ standing as our Substitute and Surety, in the mind and purpose of God, our salvation was from eternity a thing already complete. In very plain, unmistakable words, God the Holy Spirit declares that the whole work was done in Christ before the world began (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 4:3). Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain as our Substitute before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). We were “accepted in the Beloved”, our Substitute, from eternity (Ephesians 1:6). God has always looked upon His elect in Christ, the Substitute, and always will!
Christ is an eternal Substitute. He stood in our place and we were in Him from eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ is our obedient Substitute. He stood as our Substitute while He lived in this world. For thirty-three years the Lord Jesus Christ lived as the Federal Head and Representative of His people in this world. It is written, — “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). As we were made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, we were made righteous by the obedience of Christ. In the course of His earthly life the Lord Jesus Christ restored that which He took not away — Righteousness.
Understand this, — the sinless life of Christ was as necessary for our redemption and salvation as His death at Calvary. In His life Christ fulfilled the holy law of God as our Substitute, establishing perfect righteousness (Romans 3:22), without which we could never be accepted before God. By His life of obedience, He brought in an everlasting righteousness for us. His name is, Jehovah-tsidkenu, “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). Our Lord voluntarily submitted Himself to every law and ordinance of God to fulfil all righteousness as our Representative. All that Christ did in His life, He did as our Substitute. His righteousness is imputed to us because it is ours. All who are represented by Him, all for whom He obeyed the law as their Substitute, obeyed the law in Him. We often say, “It is just as though we did it.” And that is true; but there’s more to this than a “just as though.” — The Book of God reveals a real Substitute and real substitution (compare Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16). God demands that we fulfill the law in perfect righteousness; and we who believe have fulfilled the law of God in our Substitute (Romans 3:28-31; 8:3-4).
First, Christ is an eternal Substitute. He stood in our place, and we were in Him from eternity. Second, the Lord Jesus Christ is our obedient Substitute. He stood as our Substitute while He lived in this world. Third, The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stood in our place as our Substitute at Calvary. He is our crucified, sin-atoning Substitute.
Our dear Christ died under the penalty of God’s law, bearing our sin, our shame, our guilt, and the wrath of God due unto us. He died in our place, satisfying the wrath of God for us, so that we (God’s elect, the objects of His everlasting love) would never be required to die. — That is Substitution; and that is the doctrine of Holy Scripture (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:4-8; Psalm 40:12; 69:3-6, 9, 19-20).
Child of God, when you think of the redemptive work of Christ, remember these four facts, rejoice in them, and let nothing move you from them.
1. The death of Christ was a vicarious sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21).
2. The death of Christ was for a particular people. — “For the transgression of My people was He stricken” (Isaiah 53:8). — “The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”
3. The death of Christ was an effectual satisfaction of justice, an effectual atonement, an effectual redemption. — “By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Christ has put away all the sins of all His people. The Lord Jesus has redeemed God’s elect. Our Substitute has silenced the claims of God’s law against us, by fully satisfying it. Our great Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, has justified, perfectly and completely, all of those people for whom He died as a Substitute.
4. And the death of Christ was final. — “Now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
But there is more. — Our Lord Jesus is an eternal Substitute. He is an obedient Substitute. He is a crucified, sin-atoning Substitute. And, blessed be His name, our dear Savior is a present Substitute! See Him yonder in Glory. — Jesus Christ the righteous stands in our place today as our Substitute and Advocate with the Father in heaven (1 John 2:1-2). His five precious wounds, the merit of His righteousness and the merit of His blood effectually secure the present and eternal welfare of His people. God will not charge His own elect with sin; and the law cannot require any punishment of God’s elect because of sin, because Christ, the risen Lord, our Substitute, stands as our Advocate with the Father. Child of God, do not sin! But when you do sin, do not despair! Our Advocate on high holds up His hands, as often as His child sins, and He says, “Father, do not charge My redeemed one with sin. I paid the price for His iniquity, transgression, and sin. See, here are the wounds.”
God will never charge His people with sin for four reasons. In Christ we cease to be accountable for sin, because…
1. God Himself has accepted our Substitute (Hebrews 6:20; 10:12).
2. Our Substitute is perfectly righteous, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous.”
3. Our Advocate has made satisfaction for our sin. — “He is the propitiation for our sins.”
4. In Christ we have no sin. Christ has taken our sins away! — “Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
First, Christ is an eternal Substitute. He stood in our place and we were in Him from eternity. — Second, the Lord Jesus Christ is our obedient Substitute. He stood as our Substitute while He lived in this world. — Third, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stood in our place as our Substitute at Calvary. He is our crucified, sin-atoning Substitute. Fourth, Jesus Christ the righteous stands in our place today as our Substitute and Advocate in heaven. He is our present Substitute. And, fifth, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will stand in our place, as our Substitute before the bar of the thrice holy Lord God on the Day of Judgment.
In that great day, when God judges all men, Christ will present all of His people, even you, even me, holy, unblameable, unreproveable, and perfect before the glorious majesty of the Triune God, saying, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:13; Ephesians 5:27; Jude 24-25). When God examines us with the omniscient eye of His strict justice, truth, and holiness, He will find no spot or blemish in us, because His own Son performed in our place, as our Substitute, perfect righteousness and obedience and thoroughly washed away our sins in His blood (Jeremiah 50:20).
Trusting Christ as my Substitute, I fully expect to hear God say, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And looking upon me in His Son, my Substitute, I fully expect to hear Him say to me, “Well done, Thou good and faithful servant; Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Come, poor, guilty, helpless sinner! Come, you who are dirty, corrupt, bankrupt sinners, come to Christ. Trust your soul upon the merits of the Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ; and, like the publican of old, find free, full, perfect justification in the Christ of God.
Child of God, how this Gospel message of Substitution ought to inspire our hearts with love for, praise to, adoration of, and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine Substitute, the one who is, was, and shall forever be in our place!