God substituting himself for man

By Dave Henning / March 16, 2023

“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to be at the heart of both sin and salvation.  For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. . . .  Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”- John Stott, The Cross of Christ

“[God] did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”- Romans 3:26 (NIV)

Timothy Keller continues Chapter 5 of Forgive as he notes that, in this world — and in our hearts — love and anger are at odds with each other.  Therefore, Pastor Keller asserts, we need more help in understanding God.  Because, the author observes, we tend to veer into one of two distortions:

  1. a kind of ‘conservative’ religion; harsh and rooted in a severe God
  2. a ‘liberal’ religion; relativistic, sees God as simply accepting

Thus, we must go to the cross to heal our understanding of God.  And in the process receive an undivided heart.  For the real God is a God of both love and fury.

Furthermore, Pastor Keller notes, the tension between law and love drives the plot of the entire Bible.  However, the author states, the tension resolves not merely through the death of Christ.  It also resolves through Christ’s voluntary death as the second person of the Triune God – a substitute in our place.

In conclusion, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), a Free Church of Scotland minister, wrote over 140 hymns on many themes.  In Everlasting Righteousness, Bonar commented on a just, yet forgiving God:

“There has been no compromise.  Law and love have been surrendered to the full; the one, in all of its severity, the other in all its tenderness.  Love has never been more truly love, and law has never been more truly law, than in the conjunction of the two.”

Today’s question: How do you respond to John Stott’s quote about God substituting himself for man?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Fear cannot awaken love”

About the author

Dave Henning

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