Many of those who defend the substitution theory of Christ also use some of the Old Testament stories as proof for Christs substitution. Do any of the Old Testament analogies we frequent show substitution? Let us take a moment to consider a few of them.
A SUBSTITUTE FOR ISSAC
The offering of the ram instead of Isaac is a case of substitution. In fact, the Bible clearly states the ram as such: “So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” Is it not interesting that the Bible has no problem declaring the ram a substitute for Isaac, but never declares Jesus to be a substitute for us?
Unfortunately, we are frequently told the Abraham represents God, Isaac represents us, and the ram represents Christ. Therefore, Christ became our substitute. However the Bible does not make this analogy. But Hebrews 11:17-19 depicts Abraham as God and Isaac as Christ. Isaac figuratively rose from the dead and returns to Abraham. In the same way, Christ rose from the dead and return to the Father. If anything, the offering of Isaac shows that no one would be there to stop the hand of God from slaying his own Son like Abraham was stopped by an angel from slaying his son. God would offer his son for the sins of the people. Maybe the reason there was a ram caught in the thicket and not a lamb was to prevent us from making a false analogy.
Further, Isaac was scheduled to die on the altar. God had decreed that Abraham slay his only son. The ram became a substitute for Isaac. But we were not scheduled to die on the cross. If we had, we may be able to say that Jesus stepped in and took our place, dying instead of us. But we have seen this is not true. The Bible never declares that Jesus took our place nor that we were to die on the cross.
The scapegoat was set into the wilderness after the sacrifice of atonement had been made for sins. The scapegoat symbolized to the people that their sins were being taken away from them through the activities on the day of atonement. Jesus is seen in the sacrifice of atonement and not solely in the scapegoat. In fact, the scriptures never liken Jesus to scapegoat. Jesus is likened to the sacrifice.
Further, the sins were not literally transferred on to the scapegoat. We know that the blood of bulls and goats did not take away sins (Hebrews 10:1-4). The sins remained with the people. The scapegoat simply symbolized God overlooking these transgression until the true sacrifice of Jesus could come. In the same way, Jesus did not literally carry our sins on him, as we have argued throughout the last lesson and this lesson. Rather, Jesus sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension shows that our sins have been taken away from us.
LAYING ON OF HANDS
It is often asserted that by laying on of hands, the sins of the one making the offering were literally taken away from the worshipper and placed on the animal. But, again, we know that sins were not taken away under the old covenant (Hebrews 10:1-4).
Barton W. Stone explains this point well: “The law of the sin-offering was, that the offender should lay his hands on the victims head. If this signified the confession and imputation of sin, I ask, did every woman after child-birth, who brought her sin-offering, and according to the law laid her hands on the victims headÃ¢â‚¬”did she by this act confess her sin, because she had brought forth a child into the world? No: for in having children in lawful wedlock, she obeyed the institution of heaven. Did the woman who brought her sin-offering for katemena, and laid her hands on the victims headÃ¢â‚¬”did she by this act confess that she had sinned in this? Did the leper, the man with a running issue, by laying their hands on the heads of their sin-offerings, confess that they had sinned in these things? I cannot think so.
“But it may be said that the victim was accepted for the offerer, or in his room and stead. I answer: The victim was accepted or favorably received at the hand of the offerer, if it was of that description which the law required, and offered in a right manner. Leviticus 22:23 “A bullock or lamb which hath any thing superfluous, or lacking in its part, thou mayest offer for a free-will offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted.” Leviticus 22:20,25; Phil. 4:18 …Should any still insist that accepted for you means in your stead, and therefore the victim was a substitute; I answer: that a sheaf of wheat is said to be accepted for you. Leviticus 22:11, “And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, and it shall be accepted of him.” Surely the sheaf was not a substitute, nor was sin imputed to it, and it accepted in the stead of the offerer!”
To say that substitution was taking place with the animal and offerer proves too much. Substitution clearly did not take place between a sheaf of wheat and the offerer. Nor can we assume that laying on of hands transferred sins since there are many other instances where the laying on of hands took place, but had nothing to do with sins whatsoever.
THE FIRSTBORN OF EGYPT
It is also suggested that the blood of the lamb in the Passover which was placed on the door was a substitute for the firstborn of Israel. But how was this an act performed in the place of the firstborn of Israel? This lamb was no substitute for the sins of the Israelite firstborn, no penalty for sin was placed on the lamb that was slain, and the lamb did not take the place of anyone.
But if it were so, then it proves too much because all the firstborn animals were also delivered in the Passover (Exodus 11:7). Whatever the purpose was for placing the blood on the doorway for the Israelites, it included shielding their animals as well. Was the blood of the Passover lamb a “substitute” sacrifice for the “sins” of animals as well? Substitution is no more involved in the Passover than in the instance of the bronze serpent years later. The blood on the doorway was simply for identification and thus protection from the wrath of the Lord, not some form of substitution.
Nothing in the Bible declares Jesus dying in our stead or acting as a substitute for us. Rather, Jesus paid the ransom price through his death to redeem us to God.