If you have not yet read the book Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substituion, you should.
The book is an answer to much of the criticism the biblical doctrine of penal substitution has come under in recent years. The biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral aspects of this doctrine are all examined. It’s an incredible source of information.
But here I want to share a section that is so powerful, I read it over and over again, allowing it to move me to worship the Savior who stood in my place that I might be saved from God’s wrath.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not come into the world to meet with his friends. He came to die for his enemies. He came to a people who had rejected his law and killed his prophets, who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, trampling his courts in the hypocrisy of their self-righteous religious observances. He came to nations that had exchanged the truth of the living God for a lie, the glory of the immortal God for man-made images, and the fountain of living water for cracked and broken cisterns. He came to a world stained with violence, to a people whose hands were full of blood and whose righteous deeds were like filthy rags, to a complacent humanity who proclaimed ‘Peace! Peace!’ while they waged war with God.
This is the biblical portrait of the people for whom Christ died. We were objects of wrath, rightly facing the unmitigated, everlasting fury of an incensed God, but now in Christ we have found mercy. We have been brought from death to life, from corruption to glory. We were slaves to sin, the world and the devil, but are now adopted children of our heavenly Father. We were stained with the filth of a wicked life and tormented by the pain of a guilty conscience, but are now pardoned and forgiven, standing blameless before him as a pure bride, clothed in the clean, white robes of Christ’s righteousness.
Now contemplate the blistering holiness of our God, the Holy One of Israel, the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity. His eyes are too pure to look on evil; his voice shakes the heavens; at his sight the angels in glory hide their faces. Who can dwell with this consuming fire, with this everlasting burning? Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? Yet this God took pity on us, this God stooped down to us and lifted us up to enjoy the blessing of restored relationship with him, that we may gaze upon his face for all eternity.
What love it is, that this holy God should give his Son – his only Son, his beloved – to suffer and die in the place of rebels. He gave him, not hoping that he might be spared, but knowing that he would be despised, rejected and killed. And as he turned his face away from his Son in the blackness of Golgotha, he turned towards us – a people loaded with guilt, children given to corruption – and fulfilled those precious words ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’
A penal substitutionary understanding of the cross helps us to understand God’s love, and to appreciate its intensity and beauty. Scripture magnifies God’s love by its refusal to diminish our plight as sinners deserving of God’s wrath, and by its uncompromising portrayal of the cross as the place where Christ bore that punishment in the place of his people. If we blunt the sharp edges of the cross, we dull the glittering diamond of God’s love.
Amazing Love, how can it be?
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?