Whose Place on Calvary?

James A. Goering

The song goes, "He took my place on Calvary, now I don't have to go." But did He really take my place? Calvary is the place where redemption's price was paid through the shed blood of our Savior. I had no place on Calvary, for my shed blood would have availed nothing. No, Jesus took His place as God's sacrificial Lamb. He provided the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of those who believe.

The song expresses the sentiments of those who teach a substitutionary redemption. They say Jesus died in our place instead of for us. A lot of weight is put on some Old Testament "types" of our Lord's death, but those "types" are misapplied. The logic just does not hold up. Consider the following:

The ram died instead of Isaac, and his life was spared.

The Passover lambs died instead of the firstborn in the houses of Israel, and their lives were spared.

Jesus died instead of us, and our lives are spared. Right? Wrong!

The argument breaks down. Jesus' death does not deliver us from death.

If Jesus died instead of us (in our place) rather than for us (on our behalf), why are we all dying?

The deaths of the ram and of the lambs, while they delivered from physical death, did not make atonement for the sins of those delivered. Jesus' death, while it does not deliver from physical death, does provide for forgiveness of sins through faith in the redemption He provided. It was the lambs offered for sin offerings (Leviticus 5) that provided the real type of "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

The wages of sin is death-physical, spiritual, and eternal (Genesis 2:16, 17; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:6; 14b). If Jesus really died in our stead , how did He escape those wages? How did He escape bearing the full consequences of our sin- dying spiritually as well as physically, and suffering the torments of Hades (Luke 16:19-31)? Didn't He really bear our guilt? Didn't He fully take our place and our sentence to its logical end? If not, how can His death benefit us? On the other hand, if He died for us, He did so as the sinless and guiltless Lamb of God, and was therefore free from the con sequences of our sin.

Jesus shed His blood to deliver us from spiritual and eternal death. There is no substitution for the sinner about that, unless our own blood would qualify. And, of course, it does not.

Jesus took His place, not mine, as the Lamb of God on Calvary.

The real and effectual substitution (if we may call it that) is the blood of Christ instead of the blood of goats and calves by which He "obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12). -JAG

James Goering

From Life Lines of Southeastern and South Atlantic Mennonite Conferences, Harrisonburg, Virginia, November-December 2004, page 62.


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January 4, 2005