Christ our Substitute

Josh Buice

In our series through Romans, I was privileged to preach Romans 5:6-8 as we focused on the fact that Jesus died as our substitute. He didn’t die a generic death for a generic group of people, instead, he died a specific death in the place of his sheep. He became the sacrificial Lamb who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In the first part of verse six, we see Paul identify the weakness of man’s sinful flesh in the natural state. The term that Paul used was different than the word choice in Ephesians 2. In Ephesians he used the word “νεκρός” meaning dead. That is how we are classified as guilty sinners, dead in our trespasses and sin. In this text in Romans, he used the word “ἀσθενής” which means to be debilitated. Johnathan Edwards once said the following about human depravity, “Corruption of man’s nature, whereby his heart is wholly under the power of sin, and he is utterly unable, without the interposition of sovereign grace, savingly to love God, believe in Christ, or do anything that is truly good and acceptable in God’s sight.” [1] The point is absolutely clear, we are helpless, weak, sickly, impotent, frail, and unable to contribute to the salvation of our dead soul. Salvation is a work of God’s sovereign grace.

In the remaining part of this section, from the end of verse six through verse eight, Paul places emphasis on the sovereign love of God. In Romans 5:6, Paul speaks to the death of Jesus being at the right time. God is not only sovereign over the souls of men, women, boys, and girls—he’s also sovereign over time. He created it (Gen. 1:5), he caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10), and all through the Gospel of John you see verses that point to the desire of the people to kill Jesus, but “his hour had not yet come” (see John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). When his hour had come, he made that known to his disciples in Mark 14:41 and he spoke to it in his prayer to the Father in John 17:1.

His love is sovereign. It’s not emotionally driven or based on the choices of fallen sinners. God loves unconditionally. Notice the emphasis that Paul places on the time of Jesus’ death. It was perfectly planned. Not only did he die at Passover, but he died while sinners were still weak. He didn’t ask people to clean up their act or get religion before he would die for them. His death was on behalf of dead, depraved, wretched sinners who could not in the slightest manner help themselves.

At this juncture, Paul writes, “But God, shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones years ago said, “Oh, how I thank God for the ‘buts’ in the Bible.” It was Leon Morris who wrote the following:

Redemption is substitutionary, for it means that Christ paid that price that we could not pay, paid it in our stead and we go free.  Justification interprets our salvation judicially.  As the New Testament sees it, Christ took our legal liability, took it in our stead. Reconciliation means the making of people to be at one by the taking away of the cause of hostility.  In this case, the cause is sin and Christ removed that cause for us.  We could not deal with sin,” says Morris.  “He could and did, and did it in such a way that it is reckoned to us.  Propitiation points us to the removal of the divine wrath and Christ has done this by bearing the wrath for us.  It was our sin which drew it down.  It was He who bore it.  Was there a price to be paid, He paid it.  Was there a victory to be won, He won it.  Was there a penalty to be borne, He bore it.  Was there a judgment to be faced, He faced it. [2]

Christ died at the right time for his people in order to save them from their sin (Gal. 3:13-14). When fathers were preparing their lamb at Passover, Jesus was being nailed to the cross on Calvary. When the high priest was preparing the lamb for sacrifice for Israel in conjunction with the Passover celebration—Jesus was crying out, “Eli Eli lema Sabachthani—that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)?

Because salvation is a work of God and Jesus paid for our sin debt in full—our salvation is completely secure and will never be snatched away or lost through human failure. Christ was our substitute and for that we must rejoice!

  1. Jonathan Edwards [1754], Freedom of the Will (WJE Online Vol. 1) , Ed. Paul Ramsey page 432.
  2. Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965), 405.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Author Christ our Substitute

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.