“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit”
(1 Peter 3:18)
Substitution is a concept that most of us know very well. If a player on a sports team is performing poorly or is injured during a game, for example, he may be pulled off the field and a substitute may step in to replace him. I remember being a kid in elementary school and how seeing a substitute teacher some mornings was enough to break the monotony and give us hope—hope that we may be able to get away with more mischief than the regular teacher would allow! In any case, substitution is a major theme in the Bible, and one we would do well to consider seriously. We see substitution occurring at the dawn of human history, right after man’s fall into sin and depravity. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and though guilty, original man Adam was spared immediate judgment by the substitutionary death of a perfect animal (Genesis 1:31; 2:17; 3:19-21). We see substitution again in Genesis chapter 22, where we read that the great patriarch Abraham was about to slay his son at heaven’s command. Instead, the LORD provided a ram to be sacrificed. The nation of Israel owes its very existence to a divine act of substitution. Later on in Israel’s history, the nation found itself in bitter bondage in Egypt. As a supernatural sign judgment, God promised He would pass through the land and slay the firstborn of every household in a single night (Exodus 12). God did not leave His people without a means of escaping this horror, however. He instructed them to kill a lamb per household and apply its blood to their dwellings in accordance with His specific instructions. Those who did so were passed over for judgment. In effect, their lambs acted as the substitutes for the firstborn in their homes. These examples, and countless more in the Scriptures, all point to Jesus Christ, our substitute sacrifice who bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Paul explained that God “hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The mysterious and awesome doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement is brought out most clearly, and if I may say, heart-wrenchingly, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. When I think about the saving benefits of Christ’s substitutionary work for us, I am moved to contemplate another form of substitution that ought to be manifest in the life of a Christian. If we desire that Christ be our substitute sacrifice, then we must, of necessity, allow Him to be a substitute for our individual selves. No longer should our personal desires or preferences sit as Lord of our lives, but the King of kings who redeemed us with His own blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Galatians 2:20). God help us with this today, for Your glory and the good of others. Amen!