Christ our Substitute
The dictionary defines the noun substitute as one that takes the place of another or replacement. This definition implies the existence of particular requirements. For example,
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 the person being substituted.
A substitute teacher replaces the regular teacher if the latter is unavailable. In some regions, the qualifications for substitute teaching may not be as strict as those for a regular teacher. However, at a minimum, for mosts districts, a college degree is required. Some districts require the successful completion of competency tests. Other districts insist on full teaching qualifications. Implied in these requirements is that the substitute teacher must be an adult. In summation, schools are looking for people with similar academic preparation and work experience.
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.
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 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 to Melchisedec. We see this idea echoing in Romans 5 and 6 when Paul contrasts the two Adams. In the following verses, Paul reveals the premise,
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 have resurrected with Him also; which is why Paul says that in Christ we are in Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). The above explains why 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.'" Jesus 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 our Sin and us in Him. So, He suffered the curse that we should suffer, but we suffered it with Him. And, since He was victorious, His victory is our victory. But, do we believe it?