Dr. John Owen (1616-1683)
Owen explains how Christ is our substitution.
Satisfaction and Substitution Outlined
by Dr. John Owen
THE sum of what the Scripture reveals about this great truth, commonly called the “satisfaction of Christ,” may be reduced unto these ensuing heads: FIRST: That Adam, being made upright, sinned against God and all mankind, all his posterity in him: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27). “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Gen 3:11). “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc 7:29). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom 5:12, 18-19a).
SECONDLY: That, by this sin of our first parents, all men are brought into an estate of sin and apostasy from God and of enmity unto Him: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa 51:5). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:18; cf. Eph 2:1; Col 2:13).
THIRDLY: That in this state all men continue in sin against God, nor of themselves can do otherwise: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10-12).
FOURTHLY: That the justice and holiness of God, as He is the supreme Governor and Judge of all the world, require that sin be pun-ished: “That will by no means clear the guilty” (Exo 34:7). “For he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (Jos 24:19). “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (Psa 5:4-6). “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13). “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa 33:14). “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death” (Rom 1:32). “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” (Rom 3:5-6). “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2Th 1:6). “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29; cf. Deu 4:24).
FIFTHLY: That God hath also engaged His veracity and faithfulness in the sanction of the Law [so as] not to leave sin unpunished: “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17). “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deu 27:26). In this state and condition, mankind, had they been left without divine aid and help, must have perished eternally. SIXTHLY: That God, out of His infinite goodness, grace, and love to mankind, sent His only Son to save and deliver them out of this condition: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Joh 3:16-17). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1Jo 4:9). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jo 4:10). “… Even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1Th 1:10). SEVENTHLY: That this love was the same in Father and Son, [carried out] distinctly in the manner that shall be afterward declared. So, vain are the pretences of men who, from the love of the Father in this matter, would argue against the love of the Son or on the contrary. EIGHTHLY: That the way in general, whereby the Son of God being incarnate was to save lost sinners, was by a substitution of Himself, according to the design and appointment of God, in the room of those whom He was to save: “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” (2Co 5:21). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8). “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:3-4). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pe 2:24). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1Pe 3:18). All these expressions undeniably evince85 a substitution of Christ as to suffering in the stead of them whom He was to save. [This], in general, is all that we intend by His satisfaction, namely, that He was made “sin for us,” a “curse for us,” “died for us,” that is, in our stead that we might be saved from the wrath to come… NINTHLY: This way of His saving sinners is in particular several ways expressed in the Scripture. As, 1. That He offered Himself a sacrifice to God to make atonement for our sins [by] His death and sufferings: “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” (Isa 53:10). “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Joh 1:29). “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph 5:2). [He] as “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:11- 14). 2. That He redeemed us by paying a price, a ransom, for our redemption: “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mar 10:45). “For ye are bought with a price” (1Co 6:20; 7:23). “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1Ti 2:6). “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Ti 2:14). “For ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pe 1:18-19). 3. That H3. He bare our sins or the punishment due unto them: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all…For he shall bear their iniquities” (53:5-6, 11). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pe 2:24). 4. That He answered the Law and the penalty of it: “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:3-4). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law” (Gal 4:4-5). 5. That He died for sin and sinners to expiate the one and in the stead of the other: “He was delivered for our offences” (Rom 4:25). “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1Co 15:3). “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2Co 5:14). 6. Hence, on the part of God it is affirmed that “he spared him not, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom 8:32). [He] caused all our iniquities to meet upon Him (Isa 53:6). 7. The effect hereof was (1) That the righteousness of God was glorified. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins” (Rom 3:25-26). (2) The Law [was] fulfilled and satisfied, as in the places before quoted, chapter 8:3-4; Gal 3:13; 4:4-5. (3) God [was] reconciled. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2Co 5:18-19). “He made reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). (4) Atonement was made for sin: “By whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom 5:11); and peace was made with God: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one…that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph 2:14, 16). (5) [He] made an end of sin. “To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24)… For in that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” and that “by his stripes we are healed,” He being punished that we might go free, [Christ] became a captain of salvation unto all that do obey Him (Heb 5:9)…These are the things that are indispensably required of us to believe that we may be able to direct and regulate our obedience according to the mind and will of God…If the Lord Christ, according to the will of the Father and by His own counsel and choice, was substituted and did substitute Himself as the Mediator of the covenant in the room and in the stead of sinners that they might be saved and therein bare their sins, or the punishment due unto their sins, by undergoing the curse and penalty of the Law, and therein also, according to the will of God, offered up Himself for a propitiatory, expiatory sacrifice to make atonement for sin and reconciliation for sinners that the justice of God being appeased and the Law fulfilled, they might go free or be delivered from the wrath to come; and if therein also He paid a real satisfactory price for their redemption, then He made satisfaction to God for sin. These are the things that we intend by that expression of satisfaction.
From “A Brief Declaration of Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity” in The Works of John Owen, Vol. 2, reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust.