Sunday, August 9, 2009

In My Place Condemned He Stood

I am currently reading the book "In My Place Condemned He Stood" by JI Packer and Mark Dever and it is just loaded with powerful truths about the Cross and what it is really all about. On this Sunday, the Lord's day, what better thing to do than to meditate on the Cross of Christ and what it means, namely Penal Substitutionary Atonement (a doctrine currently under deceptive attack by emergents, liberals, and some "church growth" exponents). You are about to be blessed with some precious insight from the pen of JI Packer:

How then did the cross actually redeem us, through Jesus' death? By reconciling us to God, ending the alienation and estrangement that were previously there, linking God and us together in new harmony, replacing enmity between us with friendship and peace, by means of the putting away of our sins (Rom 5:11, Col 1:19-22).

So how did the cross actually reconcile us to God, and God to us? By being a propitiation, ending God's judicial wrath against us (Rom 3:24).

And how did the cross actually propitiate God? By being an event of substitution, whereby at the Father's will the sinless Son bore the retribution due to us guilty ones (2Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13, Col 2:14).

For Paul, this substitution, Christ bearing our penalty in our place, is the essence of the atonement. Certainly, he celebrates the cross as a victory over the forces of evil on our behalf (Col 2:15) and as a motivating revelation of the love of God toward us (2Cor 5:14-15), but if it had not been an event of penal substitution, it would not for him have been either of these. As Galatians 2:20 declares, his life of responsive faith was wholly formed and driven by the knowledge that his Savior had revealed divine love to him by giving Himself to die on the cross in order to save him.

Accordingly, this text starts to show us how faith in Christ, our penal substitute, should be shaping our own lives today. Here is my analysis of insights basic to personal religion that faith in Christ as one's penal substitute yields.

1. God, in Denney's phrase, "condones nothing", but judges all sin as it deserves: which Scripture affirms, and my conscience confirms, to be right.
2. My sins merit ultimate penal suffering and rejection from God's presence (conscience also confirms this), and nothing I do can blot them out.
3. The penalty due to me for my sins, whatever it was, was paid for me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His death on the cross.
4. Because this is so, I thorugh faith in Him am made "the righteousness of God in Him", ie, I am justified; pardon, acceptance, and sonship to God, become mine.
5. Christ's death for me is my sole ground of hope before God. "If He fulfilled not justice, I must; if He underwent not wrath, I must to eternity" (John Owen).
6. My faith in Christ is god's own gift to me, given in virture of Christ's death for me.
7. Christ's death for me guarantees my preservation to glory.
8. Christ's death for me is the measure and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son to me.
9. Christ's death for me calls and constrains me to trust, to worship, to love and to serve.

Only when these nine truths have taken root and grow in the heart will anyone be fully alive to God.

A lawyer, having completed his argument, may declare that here he rests his case. I, having surveyed the penal substitutionary sacrifice of Christ afresh, now reaffirm that here I rest my hope. So, I believe, will all truly faithful believers.

In recent years great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible's overall story of how God's plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to it's climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testamant book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther's primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther's question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.

The church is and will always be at its healthiest when every Christian can line up with every other Christian to sing PP Bliss's simple words:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood -
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!


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