Tuesday, May 5

Was Jesus A Real Substitute? More Reflections on Particular Redemption

Substitutes. In our world, they are viewed as inherently deficient.


Sugar substitutes may save the lives of diabetics, but they possess a rather long-lasting aftertaste, and we're told they may even contribute to additional health problems. Sugar substitutes are better than no sugar at all, but they just don't match the taste and texture of sugar. They are, in many ways, deficient.

The same could be said for substitute teachers (sorry to those of you who are substitutes!) ... although it may not always be the case. We all recall how our classmates responded to a substitute teacher. The sub rarely taught anything new. He never required the class to complete assignments. Usually, the sub's job was to keep the students from inciting a riot, or shooting one another's eyes out with spitballs and homemade paper footballs.

Substitution, though, is an essential doctrine to Christianity, and contrary to our culture's view of substitutes, Christ's death as our substitute is in no way deficient. Instead, Christians laud the biblical view of substitution--even though it's a bloody reminder of our sin. In the Old Testament, lambs died as a substitute for believing Jews. In the New Testament, Christ died as a substitute for believers past, present, and future. Romans 5:8-9 clearly teaches substitution: Christ took our place, so that we are spared the need to die there.
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."
It's a precious and essential doctrine to our salvation. Christ died in the place of sinners. And in doing so, as a real substitute, Christ accomplished and secured something--actually some things--universally beneficial on behalf of those for whom He died: 
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)."

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).

"Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

"Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16).

"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
It's the Greek word "hupo" and it means "in the place of" or "on behalf of." It means an actual flesh and blood substitute ... like that substitute flesh and blood teacher came and actually stood in your classroom in your teacher's place. And because Christ really died as a flesh and blood substitute on behalf of and in the place of sinners, consider what the aforementioned Scriptures promise:
1) The wrath of God against our sins has been satisfied, absorbed, and saturated by Christ.
2) We know--experientially--God's love.
3) We've been redeemed from lawlessness, and are being purified so that we zealously pursue good works.
4) We might live with Him.
5) He took the curse for us so that we might be freed from it.
6) We possess the righteousness of God in Christ.
Those are real promises, based upon a real flesh and blood substituion--Christ dying in our place. Yet for all who purport an "unlimited or universal redemption" view, Christ cannot be a real flesh and blood substitute. Why? Because there are people for whom Christ substituted Himself who don't enjoy any of the benefits of that real flesh and blood substitution. And if that real substitution did not result in securing those benefits in the lives of all for whom Christ substituted Himself, there must be something deficient and defective about the substitute--just like the sugar and classroom substitutes. How could Christ die as a flesh and blood substitute for those who are facing in hell the same wrath He faced in their place on the cross?

What's so dangerous about purporting a "universal substitution" view? It seems to destroy (or at least confuse) the meaning of "substitute," and it may well lead to an abberrant view of Christ as being deficient as a substitute. Nothing could be more dangerous to the reality of our faith than a defective substitute who did not actually substitute Himself in the place of sinners.

We then are left to embrace one of two views: either Christ's died in the place of real people and thereby secured the benefits of a substitutionary atonement for them (real and particular redemption), or Christ's death was less than actually substitutionary in nature because it did not secure the benefits of a substitutionary atonement on behalf of all for whom He died (universal or unlimited redemption).

Real-life, flesh and blood substitution has actual benefits attached. With Sweet-N-Low or Splenda, you get the taste without the calories. With a substitute teacher, you get a real living human to facilitate the class. True substitution, then, provides real-life benefits.
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
So that. Christ died for us ... so that ... we might live with Him. There is no actual substitution without actual accompanying benefits.

If that's not the case, I'm going to get fat ... really fat. One of my neighbors loves to bring me cheesecake laced with Splenda!  

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8 Comments:

Blogger greglong said...

Honestly, this is really getting old, Ken.

But you sucked me in again. :-)

Heb 2:9-11
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering
.

Jesus tasted death "FOR EVERYONE." And yet he only brings "many" sons to glory, not "all."

I'd encourage you to go back and read Grudem's section on this matter (and remember--he agrees with you and disagrees with me on this matter). In my opinion, you are placing far more importance on this matter than does the New Testament, seeing as how limited atonement is not explicitly addressed in even one NT passage.

5/05/2009 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Fields said...

Greg,

A couple of things:

First, I choose to emphasize this on the blog simply because this is the outlet for my thoughts as I think through the practical ramifications for my "emerging" (and I don't mean that how it sounds) views. I do not preach or teach this in my ministry, and I don't plan to. But this blog is not my church ... it's a community for friendly banter over theological issues and ideas ... and it helps me to formulate my thoughts and views.

Second, the Hebrews 2 passage seems to prove my point, not yours. If everyone really meant everyone ... and if Christ died as a real substitute for everyone ... then wouldn't He bring EVERYONE to heaven?

I think it would be helpful for you to take the remainder of Hebrews 2 into account when determining the meaning of EVERYONE in verse 9. Go on to the benefits of that substitution in the remainder of the chapter ... I think then you will see that the context defines everyone not as "everyone who has ever lived" but as "everyone" in every kind of person ... from every time and every place.

You still have not interacted with the idea of substitute. Did Christ die as a substitute for everyone (in your definition) ... in the place of everyone?

Remember, a substitute stands in the place of someone so that that someone is not required to be present there (as is the case with the substitute teacher).

And I'm wondering if you differ with your Senior Pastor on this issue?

Thanks for allowing me to suck you in again!

5/05/2009 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger greglong said...

No, Ken, Heb. 2 means what it says. He tasted death for everyone. I'm not sure how you can explain away everyone.

I don't know if Jesus is the substitute for all mankind, in so many words, because the NT never says whether or not He was. It does say He is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. It does say He is the propitiation of our sins, and not of ours only, but also the sins of the whole world. It does say He tasted death for everyone in order to bring many sons to glory.

I don't feel the need to explain away these verses any more than I need to explain how God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be God and yet there be only one God, or how God sovereignly (is that a word?) elected some to salvation and yet mankind is responsible to come to Him by faith.

Again, I have no problem with limited atonement per se (I'm somewhere in the middle...a 4.5 pointer?), as long as it does not lead to aspects of hyper-calvinism such as not giving a free offer of the Gospel or not being able to tell people God loves them or whatever.

And as I said in the last post (my comments were tardy), I really like what Grudem has to say on this matter. I think he strikes a good balance.

5/05/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Fields said...

Greg,

I agree with your comments regarding hyper-calvinism, and believe that a sincere offer of the gospel is not only possible--but necessary--for all men.

I am a bit surprised you seem unwilling to talk about Christ as substitute. In one sentence, you state that Christ died FOR everyone, and in another you aren't willing to say that Christ died as a substitute for all mankind.

I don't understand how you can be so certain of one while being so uncertain of the other.

How could Jesus die FOR people He was not the substitute for?

And if Christ was the substitute for everyone, what did His substitution actually accomplish on behalf of those who will never believe?

And I've read Grudem's comments, and agree with him!

5/05/2009 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous will hatfield said...

Observation:

again there is a difference between absorbing God's wrath on sin and being the substitute for the sin of man. The emphasis in Heb. 2 is on his suffering under God's wrath and tasting death. This again lines up with 1 John 2 - being the propitiation for the entire world.

The only way you have to insist on election being here - and forced to a very strict view on limited atonement is if you believe that election is the first thing God did vs. choosing to provide salvation in Jesus Christ (decrees of God), ie. choosing the people to be saved before choosing the means of salvation.

5/06/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken: [In the New Testament, Christ died as a substitute for believers past, present, and future. Christ took our place, so that we are spared the need to die there.]

tjp: Perhaps I'm missing something here, but where does the NT say (or even imply, for that matter) that Christ died as a substitute for believers only? What texts speak to this particularity?

Ken: [Christ died in the place of sinners. And in doing so, as a real substitute, Christ accomplished and secured something--actually some things--universally beneficial on behalf of those for whom He died.]

tjp: Amen!

Ken: [It's the Greek word "hupo" and it means "in the place of" or "on behalf of." It means an actual flesh and blood substitute ...]

tjp: You talk as if "huper" necessarily supposes the exemption of the party (or parties) in whose place the suffering is endured. That's a bit generous on your part. Scripture nowhere asserts that God is duty bound to release all from whom Christ died. This would turn forgiveness into a duty and not a mercy. Scripture everywhere suggests that even after Christ made atonement for all, God was still free to lay down the terms of its application, or the conditions of its appropriation, which are repentance and faith.

Ken: [Yet for all who purport an "unlimited or universal redemption" view, Christ cannot be a real flesh and blood substitute. Why? Because there are people for whom Christ substituted Himself who don't enjoy any of the benefits of that real flesh and blood substitution. . . . And if that real substitution did not result in securing those benefits in the lives of all for whom Christ substituted Himself, there must be something deficient and defective about the substitute--]

tjp: That last sentence is a gross non squiter. But I suppose this may be true if you maintain a pecuniary substitution, but it wouldn't be if you held to a penal substitution. But let me get this straight: Are you saying that if Christ died for all men, and all aren't saved, that therefore His atonement is defective on that account? Are you kidding?

If that's the case, then in the parable of the marriage feast (Mt. 22:1-14), is the king's provision defective because all for whom he provided it refused to enjoy it?

Does that mean God's provision of the Brass Serpent (Num. 21:5-9) was defective because all for whom He designed it didn't look to it?

Again, does it mean a mother's generous table is defective because all for whom it's prepared refuse to partake?

Is the Bible's repeated prohibitions against sin somehow defective because men don't comply?

Is Jesus' invitation to all who labor and are heavy laden (Mt. 11:28-30) defective because all who are so don't come?

Were God's efforts defective because, after doing all that He could do with Israel His vineyard, they still rebelled (Isa. 5:4)?

Was Jesus' healing ministry defective because unbelief hindered all He desired to accomplish (Mk. 6:5,6)?

Was Jesus' love defective because the rich young ruler spurned it (Mk. 10:17-22)?

Were Jesus' overtures to Jerusalem defective because the city rejected Him (Mt. 23:37)?

My goodness, we could go on and on. Me thinks you drastically confound redemption accomplished and redemption applied. And perhaps you do so because you proceed on the faulty premise of unconditionalism. There's no text in either Testament that requires the cross to exhaust all that it accomplished, much less does it require it do so unconditionally. And there's certainly no suggestion anywhere that Christ would be defective if all for whom He died weren't saved. That's pure rubbish.

Ken: [Nothing could be more dangerous to the reality of our faith than a defective substitute who did not actually substitute Himself in the place of sinners.]

tjp: Amen!

Ken: [We then are left to embrace one of two views: either Christ's died in the place of real people and thereby secured the benefits of a substitutionary atonement for them (real and particular redemption), or Christ's death was less than actually substitutionary in nature because it did not secure the benefits of a substitutionary atonement on behalf of all for whom He died (universal or unlimited redemption).]

tjp: One of two? How about a third view? Why not say, as Scripture actually does, that Christ accomplished a full and complete atonement that fully satisfied all God's righteous demands against all men (Isa. 53:11; 1 Jo. 2:2) but that He suspends the enjoyment of His atonement upon repentance and faith (Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 16:31)?

Ken, if anyone's gospel is defective, it's yours. After all, you preach a cross to all that really can't save all because it has no benefits for all. Now that's a rather serious defect, no?

Have a good one!

tjp

P.S. By the way, did the teacher in your illustration substitute for the whole class or only all kinds of students in the class? Just wondering.

5/07/2009 12:56:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I believe PSub is flatly unBiblical, and I recently finished a debate against a Calvinist on this subject.

Some of the issues I have with your post are as follows:

You said: "In the Old Testament, lambs died as a substitute for believing Jews."

Nick: The lambs did not die for Jews in the sense punishment was transferred to the animal, that is not how the OT sacrificial system operated.


You also quoted: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16)."

Nick: But look at this verse carefully, it says as Jesus "laid down his life" so too should Christians "lay down our lives" for others. Yet if Christ laid down his life for us in a Psub format, it is absurd and illogical for Christians to follow Christ's example. Thus Psub could not mean what "lay down your life" means.

5/11/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummmm, huh. I think you need to hold up there.
According to God there can never be a direct benefit for any person whenever any male human's life is lost by bloodshed. There always remains the constant residual of the requirement to account relative to any man's life lost by bloodshed. See the law Gen.9:5 Niv.
Theodore A. Jones

5/23/2009 06:26:00 PM  

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