Substitution and Righteousness

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Part 1
My dear brother in Christ,
What you say about the blood of Christ I believe to be in the main correct. But to say "Sin attached to His life" is not a scriptural expression, and I think not a scriptural thought, although perhaps you mean right. Sins were laid upon Him, He bore our sins, and He was made sin, that is, sacrificially. 'The justice of God demanded the life of the sinner. The life is in the blood; and when Christ as the Substitute shed His blood, the life was given and the demand met. This is, however, a very small part of what is taught as to the blood and death of Christ.
When you say, "The whole life of Christ, and His laying down His life, were in obedience to God," you agree with the Word of God. But when you say, "If Christ is our Substitute from His birth to His death," you depart from Scripture, for Scripture does not say or teach it. "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." He made atonement by His death. God has set Him forth a propitiation (or mercy seat) through faith in His blood. He was made a curse for us that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law. Where? On the tree. Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. This is substitution. It is taking the sinner's place under sin and guilt, and drinking up the righteous wrath of God—the unmingled cup of gall filled up of God for Him—in the room and stead of the sinner.
The moment our sins were laid upon Him, the fellowship of God with Him was withdrawn. How could it be otherwise? If sin attached to His life from His birth to His death, or if He were made sin in His incarnation, how could a holy God have one moment's fellowship with Him? It would be impossible.
We find there was a life of unbroken fellowship with God until after He passed through the agony of Gethsemane and came into those three awful hours of darkness. In the wilderness, an angel is sent to comfort Him. At the Jordan the heavens open upon Him, and God says, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Never could the heavens open for such an announcement before. God had been trying man in every way, but failed to find one in whom He could delight. At last He found one—His beloved Son—the second Man, the last Adam. On Him the heavens opened, and God announced His own delight. In innumerable ways in His life you see the unbroken fellowship between Him and the Father. Finally you see it in Gethsemane, where His agony is not suffering in atonement, but His going through all the agony of the cross in anticipation, and in communion with His Father who sends an angel to strengthen Him. It was His having gone through it all in spirit with the Father in Gethsemane that prepared Him for the terrible hour of suffering in actual atonement. And when the hour did come, all was gone through in perfect calmness. As a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.
After that sin is laid on Him, God's face is withdrawn. The word is then, "Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow." Instead of the heavens opening, and proclaiming God's delight, darkness filled the land; and the vengeance of heaven—the awful, unmitigated wrath and judgment of a holy God against sin—was poured out upon Him in that dark hour of unparalleled sorrow and agony. There was no light there, no opening heavens, no expression of divine delight, no ministering angel—nothing but the,, awful expression of God's judgment against sin—all the mighty waves of divine vengeance sweeping over His soul in the midst of that unmitigated darkness that closed over Him when His God forsook Him. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" was His cry.
In the Levitical offerings, the sin was transferred to the lamb when brought to the altar, not before. Then death immediately followed. So with God's spotless Lamb: When His hour was come, He gave Himself up to be a sacrifice. Sin was laid on Him then, and immediately God's judgment was expressed against it.
I do not mean to say that God had no delight in His Son while hung on the cross. Far from it. Surely if ever God was glorified, it was then. If ever His heart was satisfied, it was then. But sin was in question. God delighted in the One who took it on Him, but while it was on Him, there could be no fellowship-nothing but judgment. He took it on Him that it might be put away.
Again, not only did not Christ bear sin till His hour was come, but there was no relationship formed between Him and sinners during His life. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." It was impossible there could be union until guilt was atoned for. Union with Him is in resurrection. "But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24). The moment He took man's place there was nothing but death. It was by going down to death that He put Himself in man's place, for man was dead in trespasses and sins. Having taken that place, He died unto sin once. And now as the risen One, the last Adam, He takes believing sinners into union with Himself on the ground of having put away their sins, and by taking them out of their old position in Adam, and linking them with Himself, the last Adam—a Man in the glory of God.
Again, there is no union with Him in His death. That is substitution, and substitution is not union. He takes my place as substitute, and I go free.
But there is representation in His death, as well as substitution. If I look at Him on the cross for me, I see first of all my guilt, my sins, laid on Him. That is substitution. He bears them; I do not. Again I see myself there represented by Him, not as bearing sins, but dying unto sin (for sin and sins are different, sins being my actions as a sinner, sin, a principle in my nature). As a child of Adam, depraved in my whole nature, a mass of sin (without any question of my sins), Christ having been made sin, represents me on the cross. If then I look at Him as my substitute, I say, "He has borne my sins, and God has forgiven me, and set me clean." But if I look at Him as representing me there in my first Adam state, I say, "Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." And again, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
There is a most important distinction here. I see the first case—substitution, resulting in forgiveness of sins, redemption from guilt—in Egypt, as the Israelites sit in the houses sheltered by the blood of the slain lamb. The second case I see at the Red Sea. The slain lamb was death by substitution. The Red Sea was death by representation. The children of Israel pass through the sea, and thus in figure pass through death. And the result is, they get a new standing, outside of Egypt. They stand on the shore of the sea, as it were a new creation, on resurrection ground. They have forever cleared t h e death-doomed shores of the old creation. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Union is only on this ground. It is not in His life before the cross, nor in His death, but with Him in His resurrection life. If He had taken us into union with Himself either in incarnation or in death, He would have been uniting to Himself only a mass of horrible corruption.
His death opens the way for our union, but it is with Him risen that we are united. And we are united with Him as a new creation, sin condemned and sins forever cleared away by His death on the cross. I look at the cross, and there I see in the judgment of a holy God, every trace of myself as a child of Adam put away from His presence—old things passed away. I am now linked with the One who accomplished the work. I see Him today, the second Man, the last Adam, a Man in the glory, and I am linked with Him there—all. things have become new. Blessed, wondrous position for the believer! He has thus passed from under his guilt, and out of his position as a child of Adam, through the blood and death of Christ. He has passed beyond guilt, beyond death, beyond condemnation, beyond judgment, quickened, raised up and, seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus—linked forever with the Man in the glory of God, and accepted according to the full perfection both of His work and His Person.