Christ- Our Substitute
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/02/2003
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, April 15th, 1860, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street, Southwark.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of
God in him."2 Corinthians 5:21.
SOMETIME AGO an excellent lady sought an interview with me, with the object as she said, of enlisting
my sympathy upon the question of "Anti-Capital Punishment." I heard the excellent reasons she urged
against hanging men who had committed murder, and though they did not convince me, I did not seek
to answer hem. She proposed that when a man committed murder, he should be confined for life. My
remark was, that a great many men who had been confined half their lives were not a bit the better for it, and as
for her belief that they would necessarily be brought to repentance, I was afraid it was but a dream. "Ah," she
said, good soul as she was, "that is because we have been all wrong about punishments. We punish people
because we think they deserve to be punished. Now, we ought to show them," said she, "that we love them; that
we only punish them to make them better." "Indeed, madam," I said, "I have heard that theory a great many
times, and I have seen much fine writing upon the matter, but I am no believer in it. The design of punishment
should be amendment, but the ground of punishment lies in the positive guilt of the offender. I believe that when a
man does wrong, he ought to be punished for it, and that there is a guilt in sin which justly merits punishment."
"Oh no; she could not see that. Sin was a very wrong thing, but punishment was not a proper idea. She thought
that people were treated too cruelly in prison, and that they ought to be taught that we love them. If they were
treated kindly in prison, and tenderly dealt with, they would grow so much better, she was sure." With a view of
interpreting her own theory, I said, "I suppose, then, you would give criminals all sorts of indulgences in prison.
Some great vagabond who has committed burglary dozens of timesI suppose you would let him sit in an easy
chair in the evening before a nice fire, and mix him a glass of spirits and water, and give him his pope, and make
him happy, to show him how much we love him." "Well, no, she would not give him the spirits, but, still, all the
rest would do him good." I thought that was a delightful picture certainly. It seemed to me to be the most prolific
method of cultivating rogues which ingenuity could invent. I imagine that you could row any number of thieves in
that way; for it would be a special means of propagating all manner of roguery and wickedness. These very
delightful theories to such a simple mind as mine, were the source of much amusement, the idea of fondling
villains, and treating heir crimes as if they were the tumbles and falls of children, made me laugh heartily. I fancied
I saw the government resigning its functions to these excellent persons, and the grand results of their marvellously
kind experiments. The sword of the magistrate transformed into a gruel-spoon, and the jail become a sweet retreat
for injured reputations.
Little however, did I think I should live to see this kind of stuff taught in pulpits; I had no idea that there
would come out a divinity, which would bring down God's moral government from he solemn aspect in which
Scripture reveals it, to a namby-pamby sentimentalism, which adores a Deity destitute of every masculline virtue.
But we never know to-day what may occur to-morrow. We have lived to see a certain sort of menthank God
they are not Baptiststhough I am sorry to say there are a great many Baptists who are beginning to follow in
their trailwho seek to teach now-a-days, that God is a universal Father, and that our ideas of his dealing with the
impenitent as a Judge, and not as a Father, are remnants of antiquated error. Sin, according to these men, is a
disorder rather than an offence, an error rather than a crime. Love is the only attribute they can discern, and the
full-orbed Deity they have not known. Some of these men push their way very far into the bogs and mire of
falsehood, until they inform us that eternal punishment is ridiculed as a dream. In fact, books now appear, which
teach us that there is no such thing as the Vicarious Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. They use the word
Atonement it is true, but in regard to its meaning, they have removed the ancient landmark. They acknowledge
that the Father has shown his great love to poor sinful man by sending his Son, but not that God was inflexibly just
in the exhibition of his mercy, not that he punished Christ on the behalf of his people, nor that indeed God ever
will punish anybody I his wrath, or that there is such a thing as justice apart from discipline. Even sin and hell are
but old words employed henceforth in a new and altered sense. Those are old-fashioned notions, and we poor
souls who go on talking about election and imputed righteousness, are behind our time. Ay, and the gentlemen
who bring out books on this subject, applaud Mr. Maurice, and Professor Scott, and the like, but are too cowardly
to follow them, and boldly propound these sentiments. These are the new men whom God has sent down from
heaven, to tell us that the apostle Paul was all wrong, that our faith is vain, that we have been quite mistaken, that
there was no need for propitiating blood to wash away our sins; that the fact was, our sins needed discipline, but
penal vengeance and righteous wrath are quite out of the question. When I thus speak, I am free to confess that
such ideas are not boldly taught by a certain individual whose volume excites these remarks, but as he puffs the
books of gross perverters of the truth, I am compelled to believe that he endorses such theology.
Well, brethren, I am happy to say that sort of stuff has not gained entrance into this pulpit. I dare say the
worms will eat the wood before there will be anything of that sort sounded in his place; and may these bones be
picked by vultures, and this flesh be rent in sunder by lions, and may every nerve in this body suffer pangs and
tortures, ere these lips shall give utterance to any such doctrines or sentiments. We are content to remain among
the vulgar souls who believe the old doctrines of grace. We are wolling still to be behind in the great march of
intellect, and stand by that unmoving cross, which, like the pole star, never advances, because it never stirs, but
always abides in its place, the guide of the soul to heaven, the one foundation other than which no man can lay,
and without building upon which, no man shall ever see the face of God and live.
Thus much have I said upon a matter which just now is exciting controversy. It has been my high privilege to
be associated with six of our ablest brethren in the ministry, in a letter of protest against the countenance which a
certain newspaper seemed willing to lend to this modern heresy. We trust it may be the means, in the hands of
God, of helping to check that downward marchthat wandering from truth which seems by some singular
infatuation, to have unsettled the minds of some brethren in our denomination. Now I come to address you upon
the opic which is most continually assailed by those who preach another gospel "which is not anotherbut there
be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ," namely, the doctrine of the substitution of
Christ on our behalf, his actual atonement for our sins, and our positive and actual justification through his
sufferings and righteousness. It seems to me that until language can mean the very reverse of what it says, until by
some strange logic, God's Word can be contradicted and can be made to belief itself, the doctrine of substitution
can never be rooted out of the words which I have selected for my text "He hath made him to be sin for us, who
knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
First, then, the sinlessness of the substitute; secondly, the reality of the imputation of sin to him; and thirdly,
the glorious reality of the imputation of righteousness to us.
I. First, THE SINLESSNESS OF THE SUBSTITUTE.
The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam,
Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the
divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of
his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever
fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people. Now, you will readily perceive that if one is to be a substitute for
another before God, either to work out a righteousness or to suffer a penalty, that substitute must himself be free
from sin. If he hath sin of his own, all that he can suffer will but be the due reward of his own iniquity. If he hath
himself transgressed, he cannot suffer for another, because all his sufferings are already due on his own personal
account. On the other and, it is quite clear that none but a perfect man could ever work out a spotless
righteousness for us, and keep the law in our stead, for if he hath dishonoured the commandment in his thought,
there must be a corresponding flaw in his service. If the warp and woof be speckled, how shall he bring forth the
robe of milk-white purity, and wrap it about our loins? He must be a spotless one who shall become the
representative of his people, either to give them a passive or active righteousness, either to offer a satisfaction as
the penalty of their sins, or a righteousness as the fulfilment of God's demand.
It is satisfactory for us to know, and to believe beyond a doubt, that our Lord Jesus was without sin. Of
course, in his divine nature he could not know iniquity; and as for his human nature, it never knew the original
taint of depravity. He was of the seed of the woman, but not of the tainted and infected see of Adam.
Overshadowed as was the virgin by the Holy Ghost, no corruption entered into his nativity. That holy thing which
was born of her was neither conceived in sin nor shapen in iniquity. He was brought into this world immaculate.
He was immaculately conceived and immaculately born. In him that natural black blood which we have inherited
from Adam never dwelt. His heart was upright within him; his soul was without any bias to evil; his imagination
had never been darkened. He had no infatuated mind. There was no tendency whatever in him that to do that
which was good, holy, and honourable. And as he did not share in the original depravity, so he did not share in the
imputed sin of Adam which we have inheritednot, I mean, in himself personally, though he took the
consequences of that, as he stood as our representative. The sin of Adam had never passed over the head of the
second Adam. All that were in the loins of Adam sinned in him when he touched the fruit; but Jesus was not in the
loins of Adam. Though he might be conceived of as being in the womb of the woman"a new thing which the
Lord created in the earth,"he lay not in Adam when he sinned, and consequently no guilt from Adam, either of
depravity of nature, or of distance from God, ever fell upon Jesus as the result of anything that Adam did. I mean
upon Jesus as considered in himself though he certainly took the sin of Adam as he was the representative of his
Again, as in his nature he was free from the corruption and condemnation of the sin of Adam, so also in his
life, no sin ever corrupted his way. His eye never flashed with unhallowed anger; his lip never uttered a
treacherous or deceitful word; his heat never harboured an evil imagination. Never did he wander after lust; no
covetousness ever so much as glanced into his soul. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."
From the beginning of his life to the end, you cannot put your finger even upon a mistake, much less upon a wilful
error. So perfect was he, that no virtue seems to preponderate, or by an opposing quality give a bias to the scale of
absolute rectitude. John is distinguished for his love, Peter for his courage; but Jesus Christ is distinguished for
neither one above the another, because he possesses all in such sublime unison, such heavenly harmony, that no
one virtue stands out above the rest. He is meek, but he is courageous. He is loving, but he is decided; he is bold
as a lion, yet he is quiet and peaceful as a lamb. He was like that fine flour which was offered before God in the
burnt offering; a flour without grit, so smooth, that when you rubbed it, it was soft and pure, no particles could be
discerned: so was his character fully ground, fully compounded. There was not one feature in his moral
countenance which had undue preponderance above the other; but he was replete in everything that was virtuous
and good. Tempted he was, it is true, but sinned he never. The whirlwind came from he wilderness, and smote
upon the four corners of that house, but it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. The rains descended, heaven
afflicted him; the winds blew, the mysterious agency of hell assailed him; the floods came, all earth was in arms
against him, but yet he stood firm in the midst of all. Never once did he even seem to bend before the tempest; but
buffetting the fury of the blast, bearing all the temptations that could ever happen to man, which summed
themselves up and consummated their fury on him, he stood to the end, without a single flaw in his life, or a stain
upon his spotless robe. Let us rejoice, then, in this, my beloved brothers and sisters, that we have such a
substituteone who is fit and proper to stand in our place, and to suffer in our stead, seeing he has no need to
offer a sacrifice for himself; no need to cry for himself, "Father, I have sinned;" no need to bend the knee of the
penitent and confess his own iniquities, for he is without spot or blemish, the perfect lamb of God's passover.
I would have you carefully notice the particular expression of the text, for it struck me as being very beautiful
and significant,"who knew no sin." It does not merely say did none, but knew none. Sin was no acquaintance of
his; he was acquainted with grief, but no acquaintance of sin. He had to walk in the midst of its most frequented
haunts, but did not know it; not that he was ignorant of its nature, or did not know its penalty, but he did not know
it; he was a stranger to it, he never gave it the wink or nod of familiar recognition. Of course he knew what sin
was, for he was ver God, but with the sin he had no communion, no fellowship, no brotherhood. He was a perfect
stranger in the presence of sin; he was a foreigner; he was not an inhabitant of that land where sin is acknowledge.
He passed through the wilderness of suffering, but into the wilderness of sin he could never go. "He knew no sin;"
mark that expression and treasure it up, and when you are thinking of your substitute, and see him hang bleeding
upon the cross, think that you see written in those lines of blood written along his blessed body, "He knew no sin."
Mingled with the redness of his bloodthat Rose of Sharon; behold the purity of his nature, the Lily of the
Valley"He knew no sin."
II. Let us pass on to notice the second and most important point; THE ACTUAL SUBSTITUTION OF
CHRIST, AND THE REAL IMPUTATION OF SIN TO HIM. "He made him to be sin for us."
Here be careful to observe who transferred the sin. God the Father laid on Jesus the iniquities of us all. Man
could not make Christ sin. Man could not transfer his guilt to another. It is not for us to say whether Christ could
or could not have made himself sin for us; that certain it is, he did not take this priesthood upon himself, but he
was called of God, as was Aaron. The Redeemer's vicarious position is warranted, nay ordained by divine
authority. "He hath made him to be sin for us." I must now beg you to notice how very explicit the term is. Some
of our expositors will have it that the word here used must mean "sin-offering." "He made him to be a sin-offering
for us." I thought it well to look to my Greek Testament to see whether it could be so. Of course we all know that
the word here translated "sin," is very often translated "sin-offering," but it is always useful, when you have a
disputed passage, to look it through, and see whether in this case the word would bear such a meaning. These
commentators say it means a sin-offering,well, I will read it: "He hath made him to be a sin-offering for us who
knew no sin-offering." Does not that strike you as being ridiculous? But they are precisely the same words; and if
it be fair to translate it "sin-offering" in one place, it must, in all reason, be fair to translate it so in the other. The
fact it, while in some passages it may be rendered "sin-offering," in this passage it cannot be so, because it would
be to run counter to all honesty to translate the same word in the same sentence two different ways. No; we must
take hem as they stand. "He hath made him to be sin for us," not merely an offering, but sin for us.
My predecessor, Dr. Gill, edited the works of Tobias Crisp, but Tobias Crisp went further than Dr. Gill or any
of us can approve; for in one place Crisp calls Christ a sinner, though he does not mean that he ever sinned
himself. He actually calls Christ a transgressor, and justifies himself by that passage, "He was numbered with the
transgressors." Martin Luther is reputed to have broadly said that, although Jesus Christ was sinless, yet he was
the greatest sinner that ever lived, because all the sins of his people lay upon him. Now, such expressions I think to
be unguarded, if not profane. Certainly Christian men should take care that they use not language which, by the
ignorant and uninstructed, may be translated to mean what they never intended to teach. The fact is, brethren, that
in no sense whatevertake that as I say itin no sense whatever can Jesus Christ ever be conceived of as having
been guilty. He knew no sin." Not only was he not guilty of any sin which he committed himself, but he was not
guilty of our sins. No guilt can possibly attach to a man who has not been guilty. He must have had complicity in
the deed itself, or else no guilt can possibly be laid on him. Jesus Christ stands in the midst of all the divine
thunders, and suffers all the punishment, but not a drop of sin ever stained him. In no sense is he ever a guilty
man, but always is he an accepted and a holy one. What, then, is the meaning of that very forcible expression f
my text? We must interpret Scriptural modes of expression by the verbage of the speakers. We know that our
Master once said himself, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood;" he did not mean that the cup was the
covenant. He said, "Take, eat, this is my body"no one of us conceives that the bread is the literal flesh and
blood of Christ. We take that bread as if it were the body, and it actually represents it. Now, we are to read a
passage like this, according to the analogy of faith. Jesus Christ was made by his Father sin for us, that is, he was
treated as if he had himself been sin. He was not sin; he was not sinful; he was not guilty; but, he was treated by
his Father, as if he had not only been sinful, but as if he had been sin itself. That is a strong expression used here.
Not only hath he made him to be the substitute for sin, but to be sin. God looked on Christ as if Christ had been
sin; not as if he had taken up the sins of his people, or as if they were laid on him, though that were true, but as if
he himself had positively been that noxiousthat God-hatingthat soul-damning thing, called sin. When the
Judge of all the earth said, "Where is Sin?" Christ presented himself. He stood before his Father as if he had been
the accumulation of all human guilt; as if he himself were that thing which God cannot endure, but which he must
drive from his presence for ever. And now see how this making of Jesus to be sin was enacted to the fullest
extent. The righteous Lord looked on Christ as being sin, and therefore Christ must be taken without the camp.
Sin cannot be borne in God's Zion, cannot be allowed to dwell in God's Jerusalem; it must be taken without the
camp, it is a leprous thing, put it away. Cast out from fellowship, from love, from pity, sin must ever be. Take him
away, take him away, ye crowd! Hurry him through the streets and bear him to Calvary. Take him without the
campas was the beast which was offered for sin without the camp, so must Christ be, who was made sin for us.
And now, God looks on him as being sin, and sin must bear punishment. Christ is punished. The most fearful of
deaths is exacted at his hand, and God has no pity for him. How should he have pity on sin? God hates it. No
tongue can tell, no soul can divine the terrible hatred of God to that which is evil, and he treats Christ as if he were
sin. He prays, but heaven shuts out his prayer; he cries for water, but heaven and earth refuse to wet his lips
except with vinegar. He turns his eye to heaven, he sees nothing there. How should he? God cannot look on sin,
and sin can have no claim on God: "My God, my God," he cries, "why hast thou forsaken me?" O solemn
necessity, how could God do anything with sin but forsake it? How could iniquity have fellowship with God? Shall
divine smiles rest on sin? Nay, nay, it must not be. Therefore is it that he who is made sin must bemoan desertion
and terror. God cannot touch him, cannot dwell with him, cannot come near him. He is abhorred, cast away; it
hath pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. At last he dies. God will not keep him in lifehow
should he? Is it not the meetest thing in the world that sin should be buried? "Bury it out of my sight, hide this
corruption," and lo! Jesus, as if he were sin, is put away out of the sight of God and man as a thing obnoxious. I
do not know whether I have clearly uttered what I want to state, but what a rim picture that is, to conceive of sin
gathered up into one massmurder, lust and rapine, and adultery, and all manner of crime, all piled together in
one hideous heap. We ourselves, brethren, impure though we be, could not bear this; how much less should God
with his pure and holy eyes bear with that mass of sin, and yet there it is, and God looked upon Christ as if he
were that mass of sin. He was not sin, but he looked upon him as made sin for us. He stands in our place,
assumes our guilt, takes on him our iniquity, and God treats him as if he had been sin. Now, my dear brothers and
sisters, let us just lift up o
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