Yesterday I had a book review on The Cross of Christ by John Stott, and shared some excerpts from it. I will continue to share excerpts from the book this week – today on Christ our substitute.
Jesus Christ was the unique God-man. While he was one person, he was fully God and fully man. (The technical phrase for this is the hypostatic union.) Yes, this is a bit of a mystery, but its truth is a critical and core Christian doctrine. Jesus Christ was not part God and part man, or a man that got a special enlightenment from God (or anything else) but both fully God and fully man. Those who don’t care for theology may be thinking “who cares?” but this does matter and is important. The identity of our substitute on the cross has much to do with our salvation.
From John Stott:
“We are obliged to conclude that the cross was a substitutionary sacrifice. Christ died for us, Christ died instead of us….The possibility of substitution rests on the identity of the substitute.”
“Our substitute, then, who took our place and died our death on the cross, was neither Christ alone (since that would make him a third party thrust in between God and us), nor God alone (since that would undermine the historical incarnation), but God in Christ, who was truly and fully both God and man, and on that account was uniquely qualified to represent both God and man and to mediate between them. If we speak only of Christ suffering and dying, we overlook the initiative of the Father. If we speak only of God suffering and dying, we overlook the mediation of the Son. The New Testament authors never attribute the atonement either to Christ in such a way as to disassociate him from the Father, or to God in such a way as to dispense with Christ, but rather to God and Christ, or to God acting in and through Christ with his whole-hearted concurrence.”
“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”