Give Me a Body (Substitute)
(Part II of a transcript of a sermon about atonement by Dr. Martin Holdt)
Heb 10:3-12 “ in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God “
There you have it “Substitutionary Atonement”, Christ giving His own body as a sacrifice in your place for your sin.
We live in a day and an age when, even within the Christian church, there is far too little of a brokenness of heart and a mourning over sin. May God give it back to us, because when He does, we might be a step closer to revival. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. I find the above verses the most moving in the whole Bible.
When I read it, it is as if God is speaking to these blood-bought people, pulling aside the veil and saying; look what happened before the incarnation. Of course we can never be absolutely precise, but surely we’re meant to understand something of the glory, something of the sheer wonder of what happened at the incarnation. And it is Christ who speaks, and it is as if Christ is saying to the Father: “Father, the sacrifices of goats and lambs and bulls has not really been effective. Give Me a body. I need to go down there and be what these people could never be and pay for the penalty of sins, as they could never handle. Give Me a body. “
My God why have You forsaken Me
Listen again to Romans chapter 3 verse 25: “God put forward Christ Jesus as a propitiation by His blood.” I know we have often thought about this, but not enough. We have often prayed about this, but not enough.
About what? About Jesus crying: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Do yourself a favour, ask God to give you an understanding of that verse and those words, as He chooses to. It will do something for you.
When I come to my conclusion a little later, you’ll understand.
Psalm 22:1 and 2 is another Messianic song. Here the very words that Jesus would utter, centuries later, when He was hanging on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me, why are you so far from saving me from the words of my groaning? O my God I cry by day but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” It is substitutionary and you know, if it is not, then we have to face the consequences of our sin and mark you, if you and I have to face the consequences of our transgressions and sins, then this is just a foretaste of the horror we shall experience.
The description given in the book of Revelation chapter 6 and from verse 15 about God’s judgment when the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, listen, everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks on the mountains calling to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand by that, because they had no interest in the blood. Because we have an interest in the blood of Christ and it’s because we rest our case on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Romans 8 verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation.
“Man of sorrows. What a name for the Son of God who came.
Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah what a Saviour.
Mocked by insults harsh and crude, in my place condemned He stood, sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah what a Saviour.
Guilty, violent, helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He. Full atonement can it be. Hallelujah what a Saviour.”
Lost and damned without the Saviour
You who are preachers, isn’t it wonderful to preach the gospel from the Old Testament? You who are preachers, do you often preach the gospel, our own people need to hear that. They need to know why they ought to be a thankful people. Don’t neglect the gospel and preach it from both the Old and New Testaments. You might one day decide to do it from the prophet Zechariah chapter 13 verse 7: Surely, this is pointing forward to Christ. ‘Wake o sword against my Shepherd, God speaks against the man who stands next to me declares the Lord of Hosts and because it happened. The result they will call upon My Name and I will answer them and I would say you are my people, and they will say the Lord is my God.” And God says that because there was a sacrifice, because there was a man, a God man, who paid the price for us. He did that very effectively, and when He had agonised and suffered, He called out: It is finished. It’s done. If it is not this, namely, Jesus as our substitute, taking upon Himself the penalty of the sins of His people, then agreed, I would give an ear to somebody who says, well you know that’s divine child abuse. Why? Because His death would have been altogether unnecessary. I mean, He was brilliant as a prophet, taught, people hanging onto His lips, even those who came to arrest Him with the words and went back, when they were accosted, why haven’t you brought Him? Never a man spoke like this man. And the healings of so many people. But to spare us from God’s wrath we want to affirm today, He died for me and but for that, I am lost and damned for ever.
Curse of the moral law
So the first reason was propitiation. Secondly, to discharge the penalty we must pay for the breach of the moral law. It’s got everything to do with the moral law. We’re meant to love the moral law. But sometimes, it ought to scare the daylights out of us, to think back and to realise that that is precisely where we fell short of the glory of God.
Galatians chapter 3 from verse 10 “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse. For it be written cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the law and do them. Cursed. Now, it is evident that no one is justified before God by the Law, for the righteous shall live by faith. Faith in what? Faith in a substitute. But the law is not a faith, rather the one who does them shall live by them. So what are we going to do? We’re helpless and hopeless. Where do we go? Christ redeemed us of the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written cursed is anyone who is hanged on a tree so that through Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised spirit through faith. God cannot go back on His own law. God is a consistent God. God is unchangeable. His law is fixed. And we have violated it, everyone of us here today. We have fallen short of the glory of God. We have been cursed. He became a curse for us. Where? At Golgotha.
Thirdly, He came as a substitute to undo the damage done by Adam. Don’t you love that verse where there is a comparison between the Lord Jesus and Adam. Romans 3 verse 19 “For by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, by the one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Jesus’ life was a matter of obedience from beginning to end. Non-stop.
When it came to the cross because it was the will of the Father to crush Him, He become obedient even to death. Even the death of the cross. Now why in the world would God the Father do that to His beloved Son? Because He loved His elect people. He had a plan and a design by which the load and the weight of sin could be shed on the grounds of the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, it was to reveal the greatness of God’s mercy. Let it never be forgotten that He was under no obligation to do what He did, but He did it. I think people think too much of themselves to appreciate the mercy of God. Don’t you love blind Bartholomew’s, don’t you love his call: “Son of David have mercy on me.” What I love about that. There are people all around him and they can see and they are groping around like a person in darkness.
He does not call: Jesus Son of David, be fair. This is not fair. I demand my right to sight. Nothing of the kind. He knew that he deserved worse than blindness. So he said: Son of David have mercy and that moved Jesus and He healed him. God is pleased to do it His way. For the sake of His people. By giving up His Son to the death of the cross, that He might have mercy and forgive.
Foolishness for those who perish
Now why is this doctrine under attack? Do you know, it was so in the 19th century when Spurgeon was preaching. Aren’t you sometimes amused, with a degree of delight, to see the kind of text that Spurgeon sometimes preached from? Can you believe that a man can preach from a verse from the Psalms, Moab is my Wash pot. I was a young preacher, I so enjoyed that I even preached it myself. But once in the sermon on Genesis chapter 15 verse 11 which reads: “And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses Abraham drove them away.
One of the applications Spurgeon makes was this: there were people in his day, who were trying to feed on the sacrifice of Christ and strip it of the meaning that Scripture gives it. And this is what Spurgeon said: “One would have said, if one had not known human nature, that the doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice, Christ dying in our stead, would at all events have commanded the loving confidence of every human heart. It is so wonderful a system, this plan by which justice is vindicated and mercy is magnified, that one instinctively expects all men reverently to accept it. It would seem too grave a charge to bring against our apostate race that they would set to work to cavilate the divine expedient and so pick holes in their own salvation and try to contradict the kindest hope that God Himself could set before them.” “But so it has been”, he ended, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness”.
He added this: take note we live in the 21st century and the attack continues.
Spurgeon adds: Watch, lest the vultures come down upon the sacrifice and be ready to drive them away. Fantastic, isn’t it. Before warned and forarmed.
How are you going to use this?
Let me make some conclusions, what the Puritans called ‘uses’. Don’t you love it, uses.– How are you going to use this? Well just the first a simple question to anyone here, who knows that you are not a Christian and you’re uncomfortable, you are laden with guilt, you need to be saved. Can you say He died for me? I am going to tell you, next time, about a particular redemption, but I am perfectly entitled to ask you: “Do you know whether He died for you?
Why did He die?
A missionary went to the Far East. He wanted to learn the language as quickly as possible, so he got a teacher who was not a Christian and he asked the teacher whether he could help him, the missionary, to translate the gospels into the language he wanted to acquire and he agreed. And as they worked through the gospels, the teacher at the end of the session would say: “well I like those parables, but I still have a better religion”. They worked on: “I am impressed with the miracles” he would say, “but I have it better than you do.” And so each time, that’s how he responded. And then they came to the cross and there was a silence. The teacher picked up his book and wrapped it up in his cloth and said to the missionary “Why did he die?” “Such a man?” The missionary wisely answered: “For sinners like you and me”. With bowed head the teacher went away. Mr Lu came back the next day to tell the missionary “I have become a follower of Jesus”.
Maybe this, perhaps is where one or two of you will come to faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.
Worship God for the cross
Secondly, does it move you to worship? I cannot think of anything that so elevates worship as the cross. Paul sitting in prison, he is writing letters and he writes to the Ephesians. That remarkable man has no time to complain about circumstances and restrictions and so he hardly introduces himself when he breaks out in worship “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places even as (and he talks about predestination) but it isn’t long before he gets to redemption and the forgiveness of sins. His heart is full, his mind is stirred, in prison! He must worship. Yes I love the hymn, “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small” and so on. Of course, we worship God for the beauty of what He has made, but when we get to the cross, it singe us, and if it doesn’t it ought to.
Participate at the Lord’s Supper
Thirdly are you going to think again before you participate at the Lord’s Supper? I think there is something wrong with our generation of Christians. Allow me to say, I think of the past: South Africa and the Dutch Reformed Churches, especially in the Western Cape, in the time of Andrew Murray, before and after, you know, they used to have their Saturday afternoon preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because the leaders of the church did not want the people to come and just to sit, to let it be a vain, meaningless repetition. Whether you have that or not in your church, see to it that you prepare. Let the Lord’s Supper be something to you far more meaningful than it has ever been, after this message. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by a kind of casuality about the table of the Lord.
Serve God earnestly
In closing, let the doctrine of penal substitution move you to serve God earnestly, with love and sacrifice. In Romans 12 verse 1 the apostle Paul having spelt out the doctrine of justification. In the earlier chapters of the epistle, chapters 3,4,5, and the application in chapter 6, the references to the law in chapter 7, and again in chapter 8, building up to the climax, and the atonement is there, and when he gets to chapter 12: “I appeal to you brothers by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Give it all that you’ve got, worshiping God and serving God.
He laid His life down for us
I ask you a question as I draw to a close. Do we know anything about what John said in his letter, 1 John chapter 3 verse 16: “By this we know love that He laid down His life for us. And then: “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” None of you have ever been expected to do that. What John is saying, if ever it got to that point, in view of the fact that He laid down his life for us, you ought to be willing to do anything to the point of death. Like Priscilla and Aquila, who risked their lives for the apostle Paul. O, how sad it is, and I know it is true here in South Africa, far too many cases there are Christians for whom certain things are an inconvenience when it comes to service. You leave this place determined that you will never ever talk like that again.
I was married to Beryl, some of you knew her, for nearly 30 years. She was a remarkable person. God has since her death given me a wonderful life partner. ‘n Regte, egte boerevrou en nogal ‘n Dopper.’ But just to tell you a little bit about Beryl. It was not too many weeks before she died. As was our custom we read the Scriptures and prayed every day. One day I was shattered by her prayer. She said this, weakened by this ugly cancer and her life wasting away. This is what she prayed: “Lord please deliver me from mediocrity.” I wanted to interrupt and say “My dear, shouldn’t you rather pray for grace to hold out to the end?” Weakened as she was, because of the cross, because of what it meant to her, she did not want to end even that life, at that stage, with mediocrity. God give me the grace to pray that too, every day. And you. Why? Because love so amazing, so divine demands my life, my all. You go from this place determined that it will be all out to the end. If you have come here in a state of lukewarmness, shed it, sheer and now. If life is a vapour you’ve got little time in which to live the rest of your life.
I think of Studd’s words, I hope I have got them right: “If Jesus Christ is God and lay down his life for me, nothing that I can do for Him can be a sacrifice.“
God help you and God help me to respond to such a Redeemer, who lived and died to bring us to where we are. God bless you my brothers and sisters. God be with us and God be glorified. Heed and pray to take it in, to understand and to glorify You, for Jesus sake.