Our theme for this month: “Life on this side of the cross”
Our Bible verse for today: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “We see examples of substitution at work in the world.”
In yesterday’s devotional we thought about the doctrine of substitution as described by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21. On the cross Jesus took our sins upon Himself, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness. That’s the doctrine of substitution, both sides of it. Our sins, not credited to us but to Jesus; and in exchange His righteousness credited to us, thereby making us suitable for eternity in heaven. On the cross God treated Jesus as if He had lived your sinful life, so that in eternity He could treat you as if you had lived Jesus’ perfect life.
We know it’s true and yet we’re still left wondering how it could be so. “How can God treat us as if we have not sinned, when He knows full well that we have? Isn’t He just fooling Himself?” And of course, the answer is “No, He’s not just fooling Himself.” God knows that we sinned but He has chosen to accept Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf as the payment for our sins, and then He chooses to simply remember our sins no more. They are in the past, they have been dealt with, and therefore they no longer need to be considered.
What took place on the cross is the ultimate example of the doctrine of substitution in action, but it’s not the only example. We actually see such substitution taking place in life all the time. I’m talking about the soldier who throws his body on top of a live grenade, using his own body to absorb the destructive impact of the explosion and thereby saving the lives of the other soldiers. He gave his life for theirs. They live because he died. Then there was the man who saw two boys being swept away by a raging river. He jumped in and saved them both, but lost his own life in the process. It was the ultimate sacrifice. He died to save them.
I once read a story about a group of Jews during World War Two who were hiding from the Nazis, but who were then discovered in an upstairs room of the house they were in. Among their group was a 14-year-old girl. One of the soldiers grabbed the girl by the wrist and began dragging her to a bedroom, followed by the other soldiers. They were going to rape her. But then a young adult woman in the group called out to them and said, “Wait! She’s only 14 and she has no experience with men. I’m a grown woman and I know how to please men. Take me instead and I will cooperate.” So they took her instead and she was repeatedly gang-raped by the five soldiers, but they left the girl alone. It was a great act of sacrifice that saved someone else from suffering that same fate.
So even in life we find many stories about extraordinary acts of sacrificial substitution where one person suffers, and sometimes even dies, on behalf of others. That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross. He died so you can live. He took your sins upon Himself and gave you His own righteousness in exchange. It was the ultimate example of the doctrine of substitution.