One of the tragedies of modern theology is that the concept of substitution has become suspect and has been so largely abandoned. This has been primarily due to the revolt against biblical and confessional teaching which has been increasingly predominant since the later seventeenth century and especially in more recent times. On the other hand, unfortunate and inadequate presentations of the doctrine have given an appearance of justification to the attack. It may well be asked whether many of those who verbally make much of substitution have really considered its true content, meaning and scope.
A Biblical Motif
There can be no doubt, of course, that substitution is taught in the Bible itself. Prefigured in the vicarious suffering of the servant in Isaiah 53, it is demanded by a strict reading of the New Testament prepositions. In addition, we think of the great passage in Romans 5 where Jesus Christ is portrayed as the representative and head of a new race. Reference may also be made to the “reconciliation” of 2 Corinthians 5, which carries the distinct thought of an exchange, especially in the light of verses 14 and 21. Indeed, it can be asserted with confidence that the Gospel loses its intelligibility and power if we do not accept the truth that Jesus Christ took our place, that in that place he did something for our salvation which we could not do for ourselves, and that the only place which now remains for us is in him.
Life And Death In View
The content of substitution, however, must not be restricted narrowly to the death of Jesus Christ; for the whole purpose of his coming into the world was to effect a substitution. Substitution begins in fact with the incarnation of the divine son—unless we are not ...1
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