Could we have cleaned up our sin on our own? No, No, No! We need and needed Jesus! The idea of Christ being our substitute is at the heart of the gospel message. As my friend Dave Gibson often explained, “If you do not grasp the idea of substitution, you are not understanding the gospel.” The Bible clearly states that Christ died in our place.
“And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14).
The certificate of debt, the debt of guilt that we owed because of our sin, “the decrees against us”; that debt, Paul wrote, “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Our sin, our guilt, our shame, our punishment – all taken away at the cross. What a beautiful word picture. And all of this was accomplished by Christ’s death in our place.
Another reference to this substitute idea is I Peter 2:24. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross…” You can’t get a clearer picture of substitution than “bore our sins in His body”.
But in an incredible next step, look how Peter continues this verse. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (I Pet 2:24).
Christ’s death as our substitute bought our justification. It put us in right standing with God. It declared us righteous. But it did so much more. It also set us free from, not only the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin as well. It set us free from sin’s mastery (“die to sin”) and fully energized us to “live to righteousness”.
Just as Christ is our substitute in death, taking on our punishment, He is also our substitute in life; in living the Christian life. We can live in righteous ways, making righteous choices because Christ is living His life in us and through us.
This is what all this has been leading up to with our study of Christ indwelling us, not as some kind of a place keeper until we die and finally find our freedom in heaven, but literally living His life through us as Galatians 2:20 so clearly articulates. Life now, right now, this very minute, is changed by His presence!
This is our reality as a Christ follower. And this reality can only be fully experienced by faith; by believing all that Christ promised about a life set free. As you dwell on this promise, ask yourself this pointed question, “Am I walking in the reality of His presence today? The beautiful answer is, “You can!”