Christ The Substitute

‘(…) In securing this reconciliation, Christ was properly a substitute in the place of sinners. A ‘substitute’ is “one person put in the place of another to answer the same purpose.”— Webster. The idea is, that the person substituted is to do or suffer the same thing which the person for whom he is substituted would have done. An agent, an attorney, or a representative, is to act for the person for whom he is substituted as the person himself would have done in the case. A nation is threatened with invasion. The inhabitants of a certain district are assembled, and a ‘draft’ is made of a certain proportion to constitute a military force to repel the invader. When one is drawn to serve in the army, instead of going himself, he is permitted to employ, at his own expense, another, who shall be equally able-bodied and equally skilled in the ‘art of war.’ He who is thus voluntarily substituted in the place of him that was drafted to perform the service goes forth in his stead, to do what he was to do, to suffer what he would have suffered, to encounter the danger which he would have encountered. If he experiences cold and hunger in the service, it is in the place of what he on whom the lot fell would have suffered; if he dies on the field of battle, it is in his stead; if he renders any service in repelling the foe or in establishing the liberties of his country, it is in his place; if he is crowned with the rewards due to a victor, he wears the garland which the man in whose place he was substituted would have worn.

So, in the plan of atonement, it is supposed that the Lord Jesus Christ took the place of sinners. He died that they might not die. He placed himself between them and the sword of justice; he received in his own person, as far as could be done, what was due to them; and he thus saved them from experiencing in the world of despair what was due to their sins. He effected so much by his voluntary sufferings that it was not necessary, by any demands of justice, to inflict the penalty of the law on those for whom he died.

Two passages of Scripture will illustrate what is meant by substitution, though they are not here adduced as proof that Christ died in the place of sinners. One occurs in John xi. 49, 50: “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.” The idea of Caiaphas is not that Jesus would die as a sacrifice for sin, but that his death would avert the ruin of the nation; that, unless he was thus put to death, the Romans would come and take away their place and nation. In what way he supposed that this would avert such a calamity, it is not necessary now to inquire. The idea is simply that his death would in some way be instead of the ruin of the nation. Perhaps he meant that by thus giving him up to death they would show their zeal for the suppression of every thing that seemed to endanger the Roman power, and that, if this was not shown in a case like this, the Romans would suppose that they were disposed to encourage a spirit of insubordination and revolt, and would come and inflict summary vengeance on them. The other passage occurs in Isaiah xliii. 3, 4: “lam the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore I will give men for thee, and people for thy life.” The idea here is, that the Egyptians were regarded as having been given up to destruction instead of the Hebrews. Either the Jewish or the Egyptian people must perish; and God chose that Egypt, though so much more mighty, should be reduced to desolation in order to deliver the Hebrew people. They were destroyed instead of the Hebrews, and in order that they might be delivered from bondage. On the same principle it is said, in verse 4, that God would continue to do this. His people were so precious in his sight that he says,’ I will,’ if necessary, ‘give men,’ that is, the men of other nations, ‘for thee, and people,’ that is, the people of other lands, ‘for thy life.’ He would not see his own people ruined; and if the case should occur that one or the other must perish, he wrould deliver up the people of other lands to ruin rather than his own people. This is referred to now, not as having any reference to the atonement, but as an illustration of it. The regular course of things would have been that the Hebrews would have been crushed and destroyed. But God chose that it should be otherwise, and preferred that the calamity should come upon the Egyptians. In the case of redemption, ruin was coming upon the race of man. It was certain that unless there was some substitution the race would perish. Sufferings indescribable and awful—sufferings that would express the Divine sense of the value of law

and of the evil of a violation of that law—must come either upon the offenders themselves, or upon some one who should take their place; and God chose that those sufferings should come upon the Redeemer rather than upon the guilty. Thus they might be saved, and at the same time there might be an expression of the Divine sense of the value of law and of the evil of a violation of that law, as clear and as impressive as though the guilty had themselves borne the full penalty of the law.

That this is the doctrine of the Scriptures will be apparent from the passages now to be quoted.

One of the words which properly denote in place of, or instead of, in the sense of substitution, is the Greek dvzi, (anti.) That this word denotes substitution, or in the place of, is apparent from these passages:—Matt. ii. 22: “In the room [ivri] of his father Herod.” Matt. v. 38: “An eye for \Avxt] an eye, and a tooth for [dvr/] a tooth.” Luke xi. 11: “If he ask a fish, will he for [dvr/] a fish give him a serpent?” James iv. 15: uFor [dure] that,” that is, instead of that, “ye ought to say.” Yet this word is used by the Redeemer in explaining the object for which he came into the world:—Matt. xx. 28: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for [dvr«] many;” that is, his life was a ransom—Xurpovin the place of the many. There is no word in the Greek language which would more naturally convey the idea of a substitution than this. There is none which a writer intending to express the thought that one did any thing in the place of another, would more naturally employ. It may be added that, if it was not the purpose of the Saviour to convey this idea, it is difficult to account for the fact that a word should have been used which would be so likely to deceive the world as to the true intent and object of his coming. Beyond all doubt, he used a word in the language which he employed (probably the Syro-Chaldaic) whose natural and proper signification would be expressed by the Greek word avz’t, (anti,) instead of, in the place of.

Another Greek word which conveys the same idea of substitution is brtip, (hyper.) The word conveys the general idea of protection, care, benefit, favour, for, in behalf of, for the sake of; properly, as if bending over (brJp) a person or thing, and thus warding off what might fall upon it and harm it. (Rob. Lex.) Hence it comes to be used after words which imply the suffering of evil or death for, or in behalf of, any one; and it is in this sense that it is employed in reference to the death of Christ. The generalsense of doing any thing in behalf of, for the sake of, may be seen in the following passages:—John xvii. 19; Acts xxi. 26; 2 Cor. iii. 8; Col. i. 7, iv. 12; Heb. vi. 20, xiii. 17. The particular idea as applicable to the work of the Redeemer, in the sense that his death was in behalf of or for us,—that is, was so substituted as to avert the curse that was descending on us,—may be seen in the following passages:—Luke xxii. 19 : ” This is my body which is given for [pnep] you.” Luke xxii. 20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for [pTrep] you.” John vi. 51: “The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for [pnep”\ the life of the world.” John x. 11: “The good shepherd giveth his life for [fee/?] the sheep.” John x. 15: “I lay down my life for [fee/?] the sheep.” John xv. 13: “Greater love hath Do man than this, that a man lay down his life for [fee/?] his friends.” Still more explicitly the idea occurs in the following language:— “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for [fee/?] the ungodly.” Rom. v. 6. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for [fee/?] us.” Rom. v. 8. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for [fee/?] us all.” Rom. viii. 32. “Destroy not him with thy meat for [fee/?] whom Christ died.” Rom. xiv. 15. So also in 1 Cor. i. 13: “Was Paul crucified/or [fee/?] you?” 1 Cor. v. 7: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for [fee/?] us.” 1 Cor. xv. 3: “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for [fee/?] our sins.” 2 Cor. v. 14, 15: “We thus judge that if one died for [fee/?] all, then were all dead; and that he died for [fee/?] all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died/or [fee/?] them and rose again.” 2 Cor. v. 21: “He hath made him to be sin for [fee/?] us, who knew no sin.” Gal. i. 4: “Who gave himself for [fee/?] our sins.” Gal. ii. 20: “Who gave himself for [fee/?] me.” Gal. iii. 13: “Being made a curse for [fee/?] us.” ^ Eph. v. 2: “Christ hath loved us, and given himself for [fee/?] us.” Eph. v. 25: “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for [fee1/?] it.” 1 Thess. v. 10: “Who died for [fee>] us.” 1 Tim. ii. 6: “Who gave himself a ransom for[fee/)] all.” Titus ii. 14: “Who gave himself for [fee/?] us.” Heb. ii. 9: “That he by the grace of God should taste death for [pTtip]every man.” 1 Peter ii. 21: “Because Christ also suffered for [p7tip] us.” 1 Peter iii. 18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for [pr£p] the unjust.” 1 Peter iv. 1: “Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for [pn&p] us in the flesh.” 1 John iii. 16: “Because he laid down his life for [pxep] us.”

These passages undoubtedly express the idea of substitution. The language is such as a Greek would use if he wished to convey that idea. He could find no better terms in his own copious language to express that thought. (…)’

Source: Albert Barnes, The Atonement (1860), Chapter 8: Confirmation of These Views of the Nature of the Atonement from the Bible, p. 280-287.

Note by crosstheology: the Greek characters of this book have not been correctly digitized by anyone so far. If you can help me in doing that, please do.


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