In our last article we introduced the problem of the substitution theory. I believe a couple quotations will easily summarize the problems we considered last time. “The great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon said: “If Christ has died for you, you can never be lost. God will not punish twice for one thing. If God punished Christ for your sins He will not punish you. “Payment Gods justice cannot twice demand; first, at the bleeding Saviors hand, and then again at mine. How can God be just if he punished Christ, the substitute, and then man himself afterwards?” (Boettner; The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination). The impossibility of apostasy is demanded from a belief that Jesus died as a substitute. To reject the impossibility of apostasy yet accept substitution is to not know what one is saying. Certain beliefs and doctrines have logical consequences. Spurgeon was exactly right: if Jesus is our substitute, then God cannot hold any punishment against man, regardless of our actions for God would be unjust to punish twice for the same sin. The problem is that if Jesus is our substitute, as most suggest and teach, then all people are saved. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Substitution teaches that Christ bore the punishment for all sins. If so, there is no need for faith, no need to obey Gods commands, and no need to respond to Jesus because Christ has already bore the sinners punishment and no one can be charged with sin. Substitution eliminates the need for faith, belief, repentance, confession, baptism, or obedience to God. This is a major problem that cannot be ignored by those who advance the teaching of substitution.
Boettner also says, “Divine justice demands that the sinner shall be punished, either in himself or in his substitute. We hold that Christ acted in a strictly substitutionary way for His people, that He made a full satisfaction for their sins, thus blotting out the curse from Adam and all their temporal sins; and that by His sinless life He perfectly kept for them the law which Adam had broken, thus earning for His people the reward of eternal life” (ibid.). He states that Christ took the full satisfaction for our sins. If so, why was Christs punishment different than ours? Why did Christ not suffer eternal punishment, eternal torment, and eternal separation from the Father in hell? If divine punishment was poured out, then there is nothing for us to be punished because Christ took Gods wrath rather than us. If Christs punishment was the full satisfaction for sins, why is there eternal torment for evildoers (Matthew 24:41-46)? If a few hours of torment on the cross is full satisfaction for sins, why cant we suffer for a few hours on a cross for our sins rather than be cast into hell? This is another major problem with substitution theory.
Further, Boettner states that Christ kept the law perfectly for us. Again, if Christ kept the law for me or in my place, I have no need to keep the law of God. But where does the Bible teach that Christ was keeping the law for us? Where does the Bible state that the reason for Jesus sinlessness was that he was keeping Gods in our stead? There is no place in the scriptures where such a teaching is made. Rather, the Bible declares Jesus needed to be sinless to be the perfect sacrifice and high priest on our behalf (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 7:26-28).
Boettner continues, “God would be unjust if He demanded this extreme penalty twice over, first from the substitute and then from the persons themselves. The conclusion then is that the atonement of Christ does not extend to all men but that it is limited to those for whom He stood surety; that is, to those who compose His true Church.” (ibid). Now limited atonement is declared which is one of the five points of Calvinism. Jesus supposedly did not die for all people, just the ones selected (predestined) by God. Yet again, the scriptures teach otherwise. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (John 3:16). Jesus death was for the sins of the world, not for the sins of the predestined. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Further, notice that John does not describe Jesus as the substitute for our sins. Rather, Jesus is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Substitution is simply not found in the scriptures.
We, unknowingly, have been indoctrinated with these false concepts. Jesus made atonement for the whole world and offers conditions to receive atonement for sins. Some may say that they believe in substitution but there are conditions that must be met before Christ will be ones substitute. But this ends with the very same problem: if there are conditions, then Jesus died only for those who have met these conditions, which is limited atonement. The scriptures teach Jesus died for all people and all sins without condition. In later articles we will explain how Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, yet not all people are saved. Substitution causes a problem: either all people are saved because Jesus bore the punishment of the sins of the whole world or Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world. John Calvin understood this problem and taught that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world, just the predestined. But, as we have noted, this is contrary to clear biblical teaching.
Finally, Boettner says, “When the Christian remembers that he was saved only through the suffering and death of Christ his substitute, love and gratitude overflow his heart; and, like Paul, he feels that the least he can offer Christ in return is his whole life in loving service. Seeing himself saved by grace alone, he learns to love God for His own sake and finds it the joy of his life to serve Him with the whole heart. Obedience becomes not only the obligatory but the preferable good.” (ibid). How is the person obligated to serve? He is chosen by God, Jesus died for him, and he cannot be lost or ever fall away. Why would he have to do anything? He has no obligation for earlier Boettner said that God cannot punish him since Christ took all of the wrath of sin! You cannot have it both ways. Substitution demands the consequence that there is nothing we do for salvation (including belief, faith, repentance, and confession) and nothing we can do to lose our salvation (including murder, adultery, stealing, lying, etc.). To teach obligations, commands, or conditions is to violate the very premise of substitution.