Friday, October 28, 2011

Christ our Substitute

Christ our Substitute

When I came to live in Chicago I worked a few months as a substitute teacher.  A substitute teacher is a person who teaches a school class when the regular teacher is unavailable; e.g., because of illness, personal leave, or other reasons.  In some regions, the qualifications for substitute teaching may not be as strict as those for a regular teacher.  Some areas require a college degree and the successful completion of competency tests (this was the case in Chicago); others require only that the applicant possess a high school diploma or its equivalent; others again insist on full teaching qualifications (Now the case in Chicago).  Standards are often lower for short-term substitute teachers, who may only fill in for a teacher during a short illness or personal day, compared to long-term substitutes, who may be assigned to a class for up to an entire semester. Some authorities will allow a substitute teacher without any training in the subject to be taught, who will not cover new material but will simply supervise students working independently on work previously assigned by the regular teacher.  Some school administrators may not hire full-time teachers unless they have had substitute teaching experience.   Often, the role of a substitute teacher may be covered by a retired teacher from that school or district; in school districts that have gone through layoffs, some furloughed teachers may substitute in the district where they previously held full-time positions.

The noun substitute is defined as one that takes the place of another; a replacement.  It is also defined as to serve or cause to serve in place of another person or thing.  As we can see from the above paragraph a person taking the place of a teacher, must have some kind of training or education.  Most places by now require the substitute teacher to have a similar training and education; which means that the substitute teacher must be an adult. 
In the game of basketball a substitute player is a member of the team, that plays as well or almost as well as the one substituted.  Also, as a member of the same team, the substitute has the same interest and goal as the player being substituted.  So, there is identification.  So, we can see that there are requirements for a substitute: 

1.       The substitute should come from the same pool of person substituted.
2.       The Substitute should have similar if not equal training (same could be said of properties or characteristics).
3.      The substitute must be available to do substitute when necessary.
4.      The substitute should identify with person being substituted.

When we say that Christ was our substitute, this must mean that He must have fulfilled the above requirements.  As God incarnate, He became one of us, so He came from our pool.  He grew up as we grew up.  He was trained as we were (or as we could be) trained.  He was touched with our infirmities and tempted in all things as we are (yet without Sin; Hebrews 4:15).  Many times it the bible says, that Christ was moved with compassion to serve others.  So, He identified with us.  Evidently, if He was doing the job, He was available. 

All of the above would qualify Jesus to be a substitute, but not our Savior.  To save us Jesus identification went beyond a mere sympathy.  Jesus became us.  The idea is that when Jesus came to this earth we were all in Him.  Just as Levi was in Abraham when Levi paid tithes toMelchisedec.  We see this idea echoing in Romans 5 and 6 when Paul contrasts the two Adams.  Perusing the following verses we can see the idea,

Rom5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Rom5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
Rom5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
Rom6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

When Adam sinned we all sinned.  We were all in Adam.  But, when Christ conquered Sin in the flesh, so did we.  We were in Christ, which is why we die and are buried with Him.  So, we are resurrected with Him also; which is why Paul says that in Christ we are in Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).  So when Paul says in Galatians 3:13 that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole,’” He can do this because He is us.  Paul repeats the same concept in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Christ did not merely replace us.  He did not merely die our death.  His identity with us was complete.  He carried us and our Sin in Him.  So, He suffered the curse that we should suffer, but we suffered it with Him. So, His victory is our victory.  Do we believe it?