15 June 2009

Simple Substitution

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Saddest Cry from the Cross," a sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle Sunday Evening, 7 January 1877.

"At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34).

he only solution to the mystery of Jesus' exclamation on the cross is this: Jesus Christ was forsaken of God because we deserved to be forsaken of God.

He was there, on the cross, in our room, and place, and stead; and as the sinner, by reason of his sin deserves not to enjoy the favor of God, so Jesus Christ, standing in the place of the sinner, and enduring that which would vindicate the justice of God, had to come under the cloud, as the sinner must have come, if Christ had not taken his place.

But, then, since he had come under it, let us recollect that he was thus left of God that you and I, who believe in him, might never be left of God. Since he, for a little while, was separated from his Father, we may boldly cry, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and, with the apostle Paul, we may confidently affirm that nothing in the whole universe shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Before I leave this point, let me say that the doctrine of substitution is the key to all the sufferings of Christ. I do not know how many theories have been invented to explain away the death of Christ. The modern doctrine of the apostles of "culture" is that Jesus Christ did something or other, which, in some way or other, was, in some degree or other, connected with our salvation.

But it is my firm belief that every theory, concerning the death of Christ, which can only be understood by the highly-cultured, must be false.

"That is strong language," says someone.

Perhaps it is, but it is true. I am quite sure that the religion of Jesus Christ was never intended for the highly-cultured only, or even for them in particular.

Christ's testimony concerning his own ministry was, "The poor have the gospel preached to them;" so if you bring me a gospel which can only be understood by gentlemen who have passed through Oxford or Cambridge University, I know that it cannot be the gospel of Christ. He meant the good news of salvation to be proclaimed to the poorest of the poor; in fact, the gospel is intended for humanity in general; so, if you cannot make me understand it, or if, when I do understand it, it does not tell me how to deliver its message in such plain language that the poorest man can comprehend it, I tell you, sirs, that your newfangled gospel is a lie, and I will stick to the old one, which a man, only a little above an idiot in intellect, can understand.

I cling to the old gospel for this, among many other reasons, that all the modern gospels that leave out the great central truth of substitution prevent the message from being of any use to the great mass of mankind. If those other gospels, which are not really gospels, please your taste and fancy, and suit the readers of Quarterly Reviews, and eloquent orators and lecturers, there are the poor people in our streets, and the millions of working-men, the vast multitudes who cannot comprehend anything that is highly metaphysical; and you cannot convince me that our Lord Jesus Christ sent, as his message to the whole world, a metaphysical mystery that would need volume upon volume before it could even be stated.

I am persuaded that he gave us a rough and ready gospel like this, The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost; "or this," With his stripes we are healed "or this," The chastisement of our peace was upon him;" or this, "He died the Just for the unjust to bring us to God."

Do not try to go beyond this gospel, brethren; you will get into the mud if you do. But it is safe standing here; and standing here, I can comprehend how our Lord Jesus took the sinner's place, and passing under the sentence which the sinner deserved, or under a sentence which was tantamount thereto, could cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

C. H. Spurgeon


Mike Riccardi said...


Reading this is like taking a shower.

Tara said...

Excellent...and a good read for a Monday.

TheMinorAdjustment said...

A perfect reading that smacks the emergent method of explaining away the deity of Christ in the face.

David said...

How I needed this today.

Michael said...

Thank you for posting this.
My theological roots found a deeper spring in which to sink and settle themselves with this bit from CH.

Thanks again

Rick Frueh said...

The substitutionary essence of the cross is now being attcked, even when presented without the word "penal". The up and coming philosopher Peter Rollins, when asked if the cross was a substitutionary atonement for sinners, replied "the jury is still out".

If you can poison the source of drinking water, you can poison all the water that flows from that source. Without a scapegoat/substitution we are all still in our sins.

Anonymous said...

As everyone before me has said or intimated already, this really is the centre of the gospel isn't it.

Unless He took my place, I will have to take it on my own. And I can't do that and survive.

Thank the Lord for His mercy, and, more specifically, for his willingness to be my substitute in the face of the wrath of God.

trogdor said...

Am I the only one who read that and thought it was about NT Wright? Every time he responds to critics, praises them for making an earnest effort to understand his case but claims they just don't comprehend, he's basically admitting that he's wrong.

LUCKY said...

In my understanding of the atonement I see that Christ Jesus did something for me and every other person that we could not do for ourselves. He suffered bled and died so that we might live and for this I am ever grateful and blessed. You cannot negate Christ's divinity, he is either the Son of God or he isn't, he did not leave us any other place to stand than that and I stand with him and know he is the living Son of God.

Ihechukwu said...

Spurgeon... love the man.

"The greatest tragedy today is that people fail to understand the substitutionary facts of Christ's death." TB Joshua


Anonymous said...

There is a prominent "emergent" guy out there who claims to have a fresh take on all this, because of his own personal journey. One phrase he uses repeatily when asked about Christ sacrifice is "Jesus became sin for us", yet he does not accept the idea of Penal Substitution. My question is, I know that He became sin for us, He who had no sin, but what does this statement mean coming out of the mouth of someone who does not believe in the substitutionary sacrifice? There seems to be a new vocabulary, so I am never sure of what is being said.
Is he saying Christ sinned?