A Reasoning Faith — Lesson 6
Salvation By Substitution
In our previous lessons we sought to demonstrate the fact that God does exist and that He has revealed in the Bible His holy claims on men and women. We were shown that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have been faced with Jesus Christ, God's Son, who came to this earth to die for the sin of man. We have also considered numerous objections raised by people who have other ideas about God's plan of salvation. In this lesson we are going to think through the wisdom and the wonder of God's plan of salvation for sinful people. In a word, it is salvation by substitution.
How It Works
God's love said, "Pardon the sinner" but His righteousness said, "Punish the sinner." How could the two be reconciled? How could God satisfy both His holiness and His love when dealing with the sinner? The solution, of course, was in the death of His Son on the sinner's behalf.
"But," one may object, "doesn't Christianity fail at its very foundation by basing everything on substitution, for substitution will not stand thoughtful investigation. It makes Christ, the Innocent, bear the penalty for the guilty, and thus lets the guilty go free. It is diametrically opposed to our very idea of justice, for we believe that justice should protect the innocent and bring full penalty upon the guilty.
God's perfect justice and perfect mercy are both revealed at the cross. He does not take the innocent and compel him to bear the penalty of the guilty. God acts like the judge in this story. Two young men studied law together, one rose to a seat on the bench, while the other took to drink and wasted his life. On one occasion this poor fellow was brought before his old companion, charged with a crime, and the lawyers present wondered what kind of justice would be administered by the judge. To their surprise, he sentenced his one - time companion to the heaviest penalty the law would allow, and then paid the fine himself and set his old friend free.
God, against whom we have sinned, in justice sat on His judgment throne, and passed the heaviest penalty He could - the sentence of death upon the sinner - then, in mercy, He stepped down from His throne and took the sinner's place, bearing the full penalty Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us "that God was in Christ,' not through Christ but in Christ, 'reconciling the world unto himself."
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one God. The same God against whom we had sinned, passed the judgment, paid the penalty, and now offers full and free pardon, based upon absolute righteousness. That is why the apostle Paul in Romans 1:16, 17 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ....For therein is the righteousness of God revealed...." I, too, can say I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for no man can honestly find a flaw in the righteous forgiveness offered by God to man.
A Finished Work
Is acceptance of Christ as my Saviour all that is necessary to save me for all eternity? Yes! I admit the very simplicity of it seems to make it hard to grasp. But if I owe $500 and have nothing with which to pay, and a friend pays the debt for me and gives me the receipt, I don't worry about it any more. I can look my creditor straight in the face, for I hold his signed receipt. As Jesus Christ gave His life in place of mine, He said, "It is finished," meaning that the work of atonement was completed, and God gave me His receipt. The assurance that He was satisfied with Christ's finished work is shown in that He (God) raised Christ from the dead on the third day.
"I just don't see it," said a cabinet maker, as a friend tried to explain this to him. At last an inspiration came to his friend, who, lifting a plane, made as though he would plane the top of a beautifully polished table that stood near. "Stop!" cried the cabinetmaker. "Don't you see that's finished? You'll ruin it if you use that plane on it."
"Why," replied his friend, "that's just what I have been trying to show you about Christ's work of redemption. It was finished when He gave His life for you, and if you try to add to that finished work, you only spoil it. Just accept it as it stands-His life for yours, and you go free." Like a flash he saw it, and received Jesus Christ into his life as his Saviour.
Moral Life And Spiritual Life
There is one more difficulty. I know a noble, true, kind, generous, manly man who has not accepted Christ as his Saviour. Do you mean to tell me that in eternity he will be lost while this other man, who has received Jesus Christ into his life as his personal Saviour, although not nearly such a fine fellow, has eternal life? I struggled with that for years until I read about biogenesis. Biogenesis is the biological doctrine that living organisms can be generated only by pre-existing living organisms. In other words, there can be no life without previous life. That means there is no such thing as spontaneous life. Dead matter cannot live of itself. (If it ever is to have life, it must get life by coming into contact with something that is already living.)
Christ said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (John 3:6, 7). And so with the apostle in 1 John 5:12 when he said, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." The greatest error of our day is an endeavor to evade the law of biogenesis. The difference between a highly developed moral man and a Christian is not in degree, but in kind - the one has a high grade of human life; the other has spiritual life. The difference is so radical that the one can never grow out of the other, for Christ said even to such an upright man as Nicodemus in John 3:7, "Ye must be born again." It is as if He were saying: "A further development of your old life will not suffice what you need is a new, divine life by receiving Me."
A Significant Contrast
It does not matter how much more beautiful the diamond is than the humblest plant: one has life and the other does not. Polish the diamond as we will, it is still dead. There is really no basis of comparison, for the one has life while the other has none, not even in the slightest degree. The same difference exists between the man with spiritual life and the man who is dead toward God. Moral polish, though it ought to be found in the spiritual man, does not give him his spiritual life. Only by contact with the source of spiritual life can any man pass that otherwise insurmountable barrier between the natural and the spiritual, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2)
The door between the mineral and vegetable kingdoms is shut so that no mineral can open it. That is, a lump of clay cannot of itself develop into a plant. But the roots of a plant can penetrate the clay, absorb its elements, and transform the lifeless into the living. In much the same way the door from the natural to the spiritual is shut, and no man can open it. This world of natural men is separated from the spiritual world by barriers which have never yet been crossed from the manward side. No mental energy, no moral effort, no evolution of character can endow any human soul with the attribute of spiritual life. But, thank God, the Lord Jesus Christ came down from that spiritual world to give us life. And here the reality goes far beyond the illustration. The plant cannot give the clay life. It can only take the substance of the clay into itself. But Christ gives spiritual life to individuals having only natural life.
The basic principle, of course, still holds true. Life comes only from life. In spite of accounts of the "creation of life" by scientists (for sober analysis shows the accounts to be greatly exaggerated), life cannot spring up of itself. Spiritual life cannot develop out of anything that is not spiritual life. Christ is the Source of spiritual life. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God [whatever else he may have] hath not life" (1 John 5:12) ...for "the law of the Spirit of life [is] in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2).
The Vital Difference
We are definitely aware that there is a difference between what is alive and what is not alive. No man has ever taken the non-living atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and made something living out of them. But God did. Because God created life, a living thing can take non-living material and make it a part of itself, a part of a living organism.
To draw an analogy from this example, as matter was transformed into life by the power of God, so the natural man is transformed into spiritual life by the same power of God. "If any one is in union with Christ, he is a new being! His old life has passed away; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) As a living thing grows, so a Christian, a new spiritual life, grows. This is why Jesus spoke of the "new birth" see John 3:1-11). The Bible elsewhere, says, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). The Bible uses other terms for this transformation: "have eternal life" - "are saved" - "are born again" - "have salvation" - "are regenerated." They all point to the same glorious fact, that a sinful man can be brought into a divine relationship with God, which will result in continued spiritual growth through all time.
Have you entered into this relationship? If not, will you think through carefully all that it can mean for you, both for time and for eternity?