4) The Substitutionary Death of Christ


In our daily meditations, we continue our theme of being equipped to share the gospel with others. Often, our problem is how to share the gospel. We need training on what truths to share. We have already gone over three essential parts of a gospel presentation: 1. Salvation is a gift 2. All have sinned. 3. The wages of sin. Now we come to the fourth part, which is why Christ, God in the flesh, had to die. He died as us and for us. He died the death of a substitute.


We are getting into the good news itself, and the following truths should be clearly explained so that people can settle the issue of righteousness once and for all. If a person feels unworthy, they will never approach God. Trying to live the Christian life on our merit and effort is impossible. There is a reason why Jesus had to suffer on the cross, and this is the crucial thing that people need to understand:


For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).


Jesus did not die as a martyr; He died as a substitute. What do we mean by a substitute? In his book Written in Blood, Robert Coleman tells of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor. "Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister." The two children were wheeled into the hospital room--Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?' Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. He thought that giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he'd made his great decision. Johnny, fortunately, didn't have to die to save his sister. However, each of us has a condition more serious than Mary's, and it required Jesus to give not just His blood but His life. He took the just punishment that you and I deserved upon Himself so that forgiveness could be given to us freely as a gift.


"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).


"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).


The issue of sin had to be paid. In His love, God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to be born as a man and overcome sin and death for us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died as our substitute. Substitutionary death is the best word we can think of to describe what Jesus did by dying in place of you and me.


Let’s illustrate it further with the following story. In the book Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of prisoners of war working on the Burma Railway during World War Two. At the end of each day, the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion, a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury, and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. "All die! All die!" he shrieked, cocking, and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment, one man stepped forward, and the guard clubbed him to death with his gun while he stood silently at attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again, and no shovel was missing. That one man had gone forward as a substitute to save the others. In the same way, Jesus stepped forward and satisfied justice by dying in place of us.

Let’s continue this theme tomorrow. Keith Thomas


If you want to explore these thoughts now, the link to the full study follows: What is the gospel?