by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Luke 24:13-35 records an incident that took place on resurrection Sunday. Two very discouraged disciples were returning to the village of Emmaus. When Jesus met them they did not recognize Him. He asked them why they were so discouraged and they told Him that their hopes were shattered because their Messiah had been crucified. Then Jesus said (Luke 24:25-26):
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
In verse 27 we are told:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
We know that God gave the sanctuary to Moses, so we can actually say, “Beginning with the sanctuary, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself, Christ and Him crucified.”
As we have seen in our study, the sanctuary is God’s master model plan of salvation. The reality is Jesus Christ. One of the most vital truths revealed in the sanctuary concerning Christ is what we call today “the doctrine of substitution.” Whether you look at the individual sin offering or the daily sin offering conducted by the priest that took place in the morning and in the evening or the sacrifice of the Lord’s goat on the day of atonement, the procedure was the same.
The sinner or the priest would put his hands on the lamb and then lean heavily. If you look at the Talmud, you will see that he leaned all his weight on the lamb and confessed the sins of the people, thus symbolizing that the sins were being transferred from the sinners to the lamb. Then the lamb was slain and consumed on the brazen altar by fire that came from God and the sinners went free. Unfortunately, the Jews failed to see the true significance of the sacrificial system, in terms of the Messiah. Therefore, they rejected Christ, the lamb of God, who came to this world to take the sins of the human race. They rejected Him as our Substitute.
The Christian church, after the passing away of the apostles, perverted the truth of the gospel and obscured the truth of the doctrine of substitution. This was done especially through the Roman Catholic Church through the introduction of the mass. It was not until the sixteenth century reformation that the doctrine of substitution was not only restored, but it was brought into the forefront as the heart of the gospel message.
But there is a problem. Since the reformation, this doctrine has come under fire, real fire. It was attacked first of all by Roman Catholic theologians in the Council of Trent in the counter reformation. Today it is attacked by non-Christian scholars, especially Muslim scholars. The objection is the same. All through the ages, it’s the same objection and, unfortunately, it is a valid objection. The objection is that the doctrine of substitution is absolutely unethical and unlawful.
An illustration is given by an incident that took place in Kenya when we were there as missionaries. An American ship touched the port of Mambossa, the main port of east Africa, the second largest city in Kenya. You know what sailors like to do when they hit land. Some of them went to the Star Club that night. They evidently had too many drinks and they got into a fight over a Kenyan woman. One of those American sailors by the name of Sandstrom took a knife and stabbed the Kenyan woman to death. The police came and put him into custody to await trial. His ship could not wait so it took off back to the States. In the meantime, the mother of this Sandstrom, who lived in New York, went to her senator and pleaded with him to try and save the life of her son. In Kenya, murder is always punished by capital punishment, which is by hanging. She wanted to save the life of her son.
The senator used his influence and he also had a tool, because at that time Kenya was getting foreign aid from the U.S. government. Using this as a leverage, the senator managed to get the Kenya government to pardon this man and set him free. When he arrived in New York by air, his mother met him and the first words she said which were recorded in the newspapers in Kenya, “This is an answer to prayer.” Apparently the whole church to which she belonged was praying for the salvation of this young man.
The Kenyans, especially the intellectuals, were furious at what the Kenyan government did. The professor of law at the Kenya University, who was a Muslim and the head of the faculty of law, stood up before the assembly of fifteen thousand students and made this statement, “Kenya has lost all sense of justice.” But he did not blame the Kenya government, neither did he blame the British government from which Kenya has received its legal system. He blamed the Christian Church. He said, “It is Christianity that has taught us that you can sin and transfer your sins onto an innocent man who died on a cross and you can go Scot free.” Then he said, “No law will allow that. That is the most unethical and the most unlawful religion you ever heard of.”
I mentioned this once at Andrews University and there was in the congregation a well-known lawyer. Later he came up to me and said, “You know, what that Muslim lawyer said was, unfortunately, correct. No law allows you to transfer guilt and punishment from a guilty person to an innocent person.” No law will allow that and the problem is that God’s law will not allow that. We will come to that in a moment, but first let us look at certain statements made by Roman Catholic theologians in the counter reformation, Orleander and John Newman. I want you to notice how they label it “the doctrine of substitution.” They called it “legal fiction” or “passed-on-righteousness,” or “divine make-believe” or “celestial bookkeeping.” These are the kinds of labels they gave this doctrine.
Eighty percent of the world population today are non-Christians. We brag sometimes about the wonderful success that we are having in baptisms, but most of our baptisms are people who are already Christians. We are simply moving them from one denomination to another. We have not yet been able to touch the non-Christian world! One fifth of the world’s population are Muslims. In fact, if you take all the Christians together, Roman Catholics and Protestants they are less than the Muslim population. Unless we solve the ethical issue of the doctrine of substitution, we will not be able to convince the non-Christian world. All non-Christians are legalistic, and legalistic religion needs to be convinced that the message of God’s salvation in Christ is also a legal message. As Paul says in Romans 3:31:
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
“Does the doctrine of salvation in Christ do away with the law?” And the answer is: “God forbid. It establishes the law.” In Romans 3:25-26, Paul says that, when God justifies sinners, He is just in doing it. We need to come to grips with this issue.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he 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.
The Bible condemns anyone who transfers sin from a guilty person to an innocent person. Turn to the book of the law, Deuteronomy. Remember, Israel was a theocracy; that is, God was not only their spiritual leader, but He was also their political leader. He gave them many laws. He gave them bank laws, agricultural laws, and civil laws. One of the civil laws He gave them is in Deuteronomy 24:16:
Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
Each person shall be put to death for his own sin. This law simply says you cannot transfer guilt and punishment. An illustration of how this law actually applies in the history of Israel is in 2 Kings 14:1, 3, 5:
In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. ...He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. ...After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king.
That is, he brought the men who had murdered his father to justice. But now look at verse six:
Yet he did not put the children of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the Lord commanded: “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”
This good king did not transfer guilt and punishment to the children of the murderers because he was obeying the law of God.
Look now at Ezekiel 18, where God, through Ezekiel, spends a whole chapter on this issue. The Jews had gone astray on this issue and God was correcting them. The Jews had taken a proverb and were using it in a legal sense and God was trying to correct them. Reading in Ezekiel 18:l:
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?”
They had taken this proverb and were using it in dealing with the legal issues of the land. They were punishing the children for the fathers’ sins. Note what God says in verse 3:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.
Then Ezekiel gives several examples. In Ezekiel 18:4:
For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child — both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
That’s the statement of the law. Now the example in verse 5:
Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.
Then he gives a whole list of things that are right and he concludes in verse 9:
...That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Why will he live? Because he did right, says the law. But now, in verses 10-11, here is a man who did not do right and should not live:
Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):...
He has a son and this son is a robber and a murderer, a shedder of blood. He does some terrible things. How should he be judged? Look at the last part of verse 13:
...Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
Nobody else. You have a father who is good, he lives. He has a son who is bad, he dies. Now this bad son also has a son, mentioned in verse 14:
But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things....
In other words, the son of the bad fellow sees what his father is like and turns away from it and does good, what happens? The last part of verse 17 says:
He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.
The conclusion is spelled out in verse 20:
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
That’s the word of God. In view of this, how then can Jesus die as a substitute? If you check the dictionary on the word “substitute,” it defines it as “a person who functions instead of another person.” The words “substitute” or “substitution” are not biblical words. This is a theological term. Whenever you come across a theological term, please don’t go to your dictionaries to find the meaning; go to your Bible.
It is the same with the Sabbath. When the Bible says the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, I don’t go to the calendar to find which day it is. The calendar is not the measuring stick of truth, because there are churches today who keep Sunday as the seventh day. The measuring stick of truth is the word of God and the word of God is clear which day is the seventh day. I don’t need the calendar. All the Christian world knows that Christ died on a Friday — except Armstrong and a few others — and that Christ rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. So we know that Sabbath comes after Friday. We go to the Bible to define the Sabbath and we go to the Bible to find the doctrine of substitution, not to the dictionary. The Bible defines substitution in the “in Christ” motif.
We are not condemned because we are guilty of Adam’s sin. God doesn’t transfer Adam’s guilt to us. If you read Romans 5:12, Paul tells us that we do not die because of Adam’s sin, but because we participated in it:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....
There is no transfer. We are implicated in Adam’s sin because we were in him. Likewise, we were in Christ when He obeyed and when He died! He is not our substitute because He came to this world instead of us, which is what the word “substitute” means as given in the dictionary. Christ did not die instead of you. If He did that would be unethical. He died as you.
Let us read a modern evangelical scholar whose eyes (thank God) are being opened, Reo Steadman. He is a very good Biblical preacher.
“Jesus died because He took our place. That is what the scripture announces. He was not merely a substitute. It is always difficult for us to understand how an innocent person can die for a guilty one and set him free but the scriptures do not teach that He was only a substitute in the sense that He died instead of us. The scriptures do teach that there is an identity involved. The scripture says that He actually became us.”
In other words, He did not come to this world instead of us, but He came to this world as us.
The other day, when I quoted a few statements of Ellen G. White, some dear sister said, “That’s what we need.” Well, I’ll give it to you but what we need is the scripture. I will give it to you if you want it, in case you want to witness to your fellow-Adventist. However, God has given us the responsibility to witness to the world. When we do that, we need scripture to prove our points.
“In Christ Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race.” 5BC:1130.
“Christ could have done nothing in His earthly ministry in saving fallen men if the Divine had not been blended with the human.” 7BC:904.
While He was in heaven, before Christ came to this world, did He have righteousness? Was He righteous before He came to this world? Was He rich in righteousness? Why couldn’t He give it to us as a gift? Because no law could allow that. So, before He could be our righteousness, He had to qualify to be our righteousness. How could He qualify? God had to take you, and I’m using “you” in the plural form, and He had to take His Son and join us together in one person. He and we became one. That is what we covered in the last chapter in the “in Christ” motif. The moment we became one, He now becomes the second Adam. He becomes now our substitute. He becomes one with us so that what is true of Him is also true of us.
When Christ died on the cross, was it one man dying in the place of all men, which is the reformation or evangelical position which has come under fire, or was it all men dying in one man? Let’s look at what the Bible teaches. 2 Corinthians 5:14:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
The death of Christ was a corporate death, just like the sin of Adam was a corporate sin. All sinned in Adam, so also all died in Christ. Look also at 1 Peter 2:24:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Some translations will say, “that we might be dead,” but go to your Greek Bible. It is in the aorist tense. It is something that happened on the cross, not something that should happen, that we being dead to sin should now live for righteousness.
When Christ took upon Himself our humanity He took the humanity that needed redeeming. The trouble with the evangelical church, which is the trouble with the reformation gospel, is that they separate the humanity of Christ from the humanity that He is redeeming and they present an unethical gospel. The only way that you can uphold the substitutional doctrine is when you identify the humanity of Christ with the humanity that needs redeeming. It is your humanity and mine that stands condemned. On the cross, the humanity that died is our humanity. You died. That’s why Paul can say in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“I have been crucified with Christ.” It wasn’t one man on the cross that died in the place of all men; it was all men dying in one man, Jesus Christ. The death of Christ was a corporate death.
When you accept the gospel, Jesus says in Mark 16:15-16:
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Have you ever asked yourself what baptism means in the New Testament? Nowhere in the New Testament do you find that baptism means baptizing into the church; it is always baptized into Christ. It means you are accepting His history as your history and you can do it because His humanity is your humanity. “The humanity of Christ is everything to us.” May I make it clear that, in that humanity, you stand perfect.
When I read Steps to Christ [by Ellen G. White] for the first time, I read a statement there that baffled me until I understood the truth. It said that, “When a person accepts Christ, God looks at that person as if he had not sinned.” And I said, “That’s not true; I have sinned!” But in Christ I have never sinned and that is my anchor.
Now let’s go to another problem. One that has been caused by this incorrect understanding of substitution. We deal with it because it has been coming very rapidly into the church since the 1970s, especially since 1972, when Robert Brinsmead made his confession. He admitted that the awakening message was very heavy on one side. He admitted that was wrong and he went to the other extreme and defined righteousness by faith only as justification and made the comment that the reformation gospel was absolutely correct without any flaw. I do not want to undermine the reformation gospel. I thank God for the Reformers. And yet they had problems that they did not solve. I believe that God has raised the Adventist Church to restore the gospel correctly and in its totality.
The problem that has crept in from this false idea of substitution is what the famous German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” If Christ did not have to identify with me to save me, the conclusion is I don’t have to identify with Him to be saved; all I have to do is simply believe, which to many meant a mental assent to truth. But faith is more than a mental assent. Paul defines faith as obedience to the truth.
Here is an illustration of what is meant by “cheap grace.” I went ingathering with another missionary in Western Uganda. We were doing the business shops. After we finished, we went to the government rest home. It was the cheapest place to find accommodation and we wanted to save money for the church. We paid only fifty cents each for a bed and then we went to the common dining area to eat our supper. A young African walked up to us. Now my friend looked like an American and talked like one so he didn’t have problems with him but he came to me thinking that, since I was an Indian, that I was a Hindu and he wanted to witness to me. He came sincerely and I appreciated that. He came up to me and asked, “Are you saved?” I thought I would have some fun here, but I also wanted to witness to him. I said, “Saved from what?” He said, “Are you saved from sin?” I said, “Can you be more specific? Do you mean the guilt and punishment of sin or do you mean the power and dominion of sin or do you mean the presence of sin? Which one are you talking about?” He realized that I was a Christian and he said, “You sound like a pastor.” I said, “Yes, I am a pastor. May I ask you the same question? Are you saved?” In excitement, he raised his arms and said, “Brother, I was saved three months ago.” I said, “How come?” He replied, “I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I said, “Young man, may I correct you? You were not saved three months ago. Faith has no merits in it. You were saved two thousand years ago. You accepted salvation three months ago.” I went on to ask, “If you are saved, how come I smell pombay (which is the Swahili word for beer) on your breath?” He looked at me with amazement and he said, “Brother, don’t you know we are saved by grace and not works?” “Oh, really?” I said. “Can you explain that to me?” And he did in one sentence. He said, “Christ did it all.” “Oh,” I said, “You mean He lived a perfect life instead of us and He died on the cross in our stead?” And he said, “Brother, you’ve got it now.” I said, “Young man, I want to take your theology to its logical conclusion.” “What is it?” he asked. “He went to heaven instead of you.” Oh, He didn’t like that and I don’t blame him. Then I told him, “Go and have a good night’s rest. Let that beer clear off your head and come and I will give you a Bible study on grace.”
I used the text that he used on me and I went one step further. Ephesians 2:8-9:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
“Have you read verse ten?” I asked him.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We were created to do good works in Christ Jesus and we should do them. I gave him Titus 3:5:
...He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,....
Thank God for that. Read also verse eight:
This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
“Oh,” he said. I continued, “Brother, when you accept Christ, you accept His history as your history.” Then I turned to Romans 6 and I said, “Brother, He died to sin. Therefore, you die to sin. How can you say, ‘It is okay to sin’? You are contradicting your faith.”
We see that the history of Christ is our history. God rewrote our history in His Son Jesus Christ. He could do that because He put us into Christ two thousand years ago and, for that history to become effective in our lives, we have to surrender our will to the truth as it is in Christ. Look at 2 Timothy 2:11:
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;....
Timothy was a young fellow and this was one of the last letters Paul wrote before he was executed and this is what he said to young Timothy.
We are dealing with the objective gospel first, in terms of the sanctuary. We will come to the subjective. We are laying a foundation. You can’t separate Christ our righteousness in terms of objective truth and subjective experience. It is true that the subjective experience does not contribute toward our salvation. It is the evidence that we are already saved.
We must never say we are saved by what Christ did two thousand years ago plus what Christ is doing for us today. We are saved by what Christ did for us two thousand years ago. That salvation is perfect; it is complete. We can’t add to it or improve on it. But whom God saves He reveals that salvation in our lives. And here it is, a fundamental truth of the gospel, in 2 Timothy 2:11:
Here is a trustworthy [true] saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;....
In this world we begin by birth, born in a sinful race. We begin by birth and we always end up with death. In the gospel, it is the opposite; we begin with death and end up with life. And there can be no life with Christ if we have not died with Him.
That is the meaning of baptism, a public confession that His death is our death, that His burial is our burial and His resurrection is our resurrection. Baptism is a public confession that we have accepted our history that God wrote in His Son Jesus Christ. We were born in Adam, but now we have died to Adam and we are resurrected in Christ. That is the good news of substitution.
In 1 Corinthians 15, there are two statements made about Jesus Christ.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.
These two terms are extremely important. As the last Adam Christ is the sum total of the first Adam. He took this Adamic race to the cross and did away with the Adamic race because it stood condemned. In the resurrection, He raised the human race with a new life. He is the head of the second human race redeemed from the first.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
The old is gone on the cross; it came to an end and the new has come. You and I are new people, so let us live like new people. Let not the world see us as we were before our conversion. They need to see Christ, the hope of glory.
May God help us to understand the doctrine of substitution. And let us be ethical in our preaching and in our witnessing, because Jesus did not come instead of us. He came as us and, in Christ, we have a new history, a history that we can be proud of. God looks at us not as ones struggling in Christ. Yes, as individuals we are struggling, but, in Christ, we stand perfect both in terms of positive righteousness and in terms of the legal justice of the law.
This is why the doctrine of substitution is the anchor for which I will stand before the judgment. For when the law says to me, “Jack, have you obeyed the law?” I will not say, “I tried to obey you,” because the law wouldn’t accept that. I will say, “Yes, I obeyed you perfectly.” And the law will say, “When did you obey me perfectly?” I will say, “When I was in Christ.” And the law will accept that, because God put me into Christ and I was there when He obeyed the law. The law will say, “But Jack you are a sinner, you must die.” And I will say, “I have already died.” “When did you die?” And I will say, “In Christ.” And the law will say, “You are free.” And I will say, “Thank you.” Then I will take my crown and lay it at the feet of Christ and to Him I will give the glory.