IT is a striking fact that God never speaks of Christ as dying
"in our room and stead," or that He endured the cross as our
"substitute." The mere statement of this fact is deemed by some as a thrust at
"evangelical" truth. But it must be remembered that it is God Who is responsible
for these omissions from the Scriptures. We are simply calling attention to them. In
truth, the deepest spirituality and most evangelical doctrine sees in these unsound words
a distinct menace to the glorious evangel of the happy God.
There is a great difference between acting for or instead of
another. Instead implies two parties on the same level and of similar
qualifications. A mother does many things for her child which the infant cannot do
for itself. When it advances in years and has duties of its own the mother may, at times,
take one of its tasks and do it in its place. Yet even then the very fact of her
relationship involves the thought of favor shown by the greater to the lesser.
To reverse the situation, we may all speak on behalf of God and
His word, but woe be to us if we speak instead of it! Job's friends displaced the
divine philosophy by their own, but Elihu spoke on His behalf. Only God's prophets, like
Moses, may speak in His stead, for he was made a god to Pharaoh.
The following are most of the passages in which the precious
preposition for (huper) is used of the work of Christ on our behalf. It will
be readily seen that it is used far more freely than any other connective to indicate the
relation of His work to us. It is of prime importance that we appreciate the full import
of this preposition. We use hyper freely in English in its literal meaning of OVER
(in the genitive) and above (in the accusative). Morally, it means, in behalf of, for
the sake of, for. Read over the list and see that it never means instead of.
above, for the sake of, for
For Christ...died for the sake
of the irreverent
|| For hardly for the sake of the just will
anyone be dying:
for, for the sake of the good, perhaps, some may even be
daring to die
|| when we are still sinners, Christ died for our
|| He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for
|| Be not, by your food, destroying that one for
whose sake Christ died.
|| Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for our sakes.
|| This is My body, which is broken for your sakes.
|| Christ died for our sins according to the
|| if One died for the sake of all, consequently
|| And He died for the sake of all to Him Who
died and is roused for their sakes
|| For the One knowing no sin, He makes sin for our
|| Who gives Himself for our sins
|| the Son of God, Who loves me, and is giving Himself
up for me.
|| Christ reclaims us out of the curse of the law,
becoming a curse for our sakes
|| Christ loves you, and gives Himself up for us
|| Christ...loves the ecclesia, and gives Himself up for
|| Who dies for us that, whether we are watching
we should live at the same time together with Him.
|| Who is giving Himself a correspondent ransom for
|| Titus 2:14 Who gives Himself for us, that He
should be redeeming us
|| Heb. 2: 9 so that He should...be tasting death for
the sake of all
|| Christ suffered for your sakes
|| Christ, then, having suffered for your sakes
On two occasions our translators have rendered it in one's stead.
Both are glaringly faulty, even on the surface. In Philemon (13) Paul recognizes the
inferior station of Onesimus. Philemon never would have served Paul as a slave. Onesimus
did not take his place, but acted on his behalf. We do not pray in Christ's stead.
Be conciliated God (2 Cor.5:20). We are not taking His place, but speaking on His behalf.
We are not equals. We cannot do His work. We are His slaves. He is our Lord. The very
thought of doing aught in His stead is abhorrent to all who know themselves and a little
of His supremacy.
Should we be unable to fix the meaning of huper, there are a few passages in
which we could lower the sense to instead of and not detect our error. But there
are many instances where such a meaning is absolutely impossible. Christ did not give
Himself instead of our sins (Gal.1:4). How could we claim to suffer in Christ's
It is well known that the word anti INSTEAD, has gradually
changed so that it now means against in English. Even in the Scriptures, it does
not cling to the literal instead at all times, but broadens into secondary
meanings, just as huper OVER, is used for in behalf of, for
the sake of.
As a limited number of connectives must do duty for the whole field of thought and link
all kinds of relations, it is obvious that, in some cases, where there is no exact link
available, the one nearest in sense must be used. So that the connectives expand their
meaning to include adjacent sphere of thought. They also have the tendency to become fixed
to certain ideas, so that, in English, the connective is practically determined by the
word with which it stands, even when another seems more logical.
Literally, the law said "an eye instead of an eye" (Matt.5:38). But
this suggests that the aggressor's eye was substituted for his victim's, so that
the eye of the victim was spared, and only the aggressor's eye was destroyed. This was not
true. Both eyes perished. One eye did not replace the other. The law demanded an
equivalent, not a substitute.
The sense of substitution clings to anti in some of its usages, as "instead
of a fish will he be handing him a serpent?" (Luke 11:11), but far more frequently it
loses the idea of replacing or replanting. From the fact that that which substitutes for
another is usually of the same kind or measure or value, it is used of any equivalent or
corresponding entity, that which will tip the opposite side of the scales.
The common phrase "evil for (anti) evil" (Rom.12:17; 1
Thess.5:15; 1 Peter 3:9) cannot be rendered evil instead of evil," in the
sense of substitution. An evil return is the same in kind. It corresponds to the original
evil, but does not take its place. So also "grace for grace" (John 1:16).
The grace which the disciples received was of like quality and measure as that bestowed on
Christ, but it was, in no sense a substitute for it.
Anti is usually used in denoting the price of a thing, the money equivalent. If
we should pay ten dollars for a Bible we do not give the money because we should give the
Bible, but because it is its equivalent in value. The same is true of a ransom. When our
Lord and Peter paid the half shekel as a ransom for anti them (Matt.17:27), it was
not a substitute for their souls. The Septuagint denotes the relationship by the genitive
case (Ex.30:12) and by the preposition peri, which means about, concerning
The Lord gave His soul as a ransom for anti many (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45).
Peter, speaking to the Circumcision, tells them that they were ransomed, not with
corruptible silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18,19). It is
evident that the soul of Christ (His humiliation and suffering during His life--not
His death) takes the place of the half shekel ransom, for many. It has no direct
reference to the nations. Indeed ransom, the Godward aspect, is never applied to
them. The apostle always uses the far stronger expression deliverance (apolutroosis).
Only once he uses redeem (Titus 2:14) of its manward aspect.
I once believed that this ransom for many was strictly substitutionary, and have a
canceled notation in my concordance to that affect. But when I tried to define the thought
I could not make it clear. It is not Christ Who is the supposed substitute. It is not His death.
It is His soul. This refers to His experience as serving His people, for that is
the subject in view. He was seeking to engage them in service and slavery for others and
gave this as His example. The expression includes His sufferings on the cross, but is not
limited to that. The ransom for the saints in Israel is the whole of His humiliation.
We can understand that this is equivalent to the divine demands for their ransom, when
weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. But we cannot formulate any distinct idea how it
could be instead of, or as a substitute for, the saints of the Circumcision. Let us
put it concretely. Peter was ransomed. Both typically and actually the Lord paid his half
shekel. Was that piece of money sent to the temple at Jerusalem in place of Peter? Or was
it an equivalent sent for Peter?
There is a most striking passage, in which both anti and huper are used,
which will help us. The Man, Christ Jesus, is giving Himself a correspondent ransom antilutron
for huper all (1 Tim.2:6). The price paid for all is much greater than for many.
His soul was given for many. He gives Himself for all. The figure is taken from the
atonement money. What He was to the saints in Israel He will become to all mankind.
The force of anti in connection with a ransom is fixed for us by the compound
word antilutron, INSTEAD-LOOS-ener, correspondent ransom. A study of
all the compounds with anti will convince us that it seldom keeps its literal sense
of substitution. For instance, antilegoo INSTEAD-say, does not mean
to say something in place of another, but to contradict him; antimisthia, INSTEAD-HIRE,
is not what is given in place of wages, but the equivalent, the recompense. So antilutron
is not what is given in place of a ransom, but an equivalent or correspondent ransom.
This is confirmed by the fact that it is followed by huper, in behalf of. It is
inconceivable how Christ should be Himself a substitute in the place of all. We can
entertain such a thought when confined to the sacrifices under the law but that He Himself
should take the place of His creatures is not only unscriptural but irrational. He is
unspeakably greater than men. He gives Himself on their behalf but not in their place, as
The fact that "substitution" has such a large place in evangelical theology
is in keeping with its poverty and lack of appreciation of the overwhelming value of
Christ's sacrifice. It is in keeping with such terms as "atonement." It rises no
higher in its conception of His glorious offering than a remedy for sin. Indeed, a
"substitutionary atonement" is supposed by many to be the highest description of
His work, when it is fitted only for the temporary results of animal sacrifice under the
Let us revel in the truth that Christ's death was for our sakes, not "in
our room and stead." Endless reasoning will never satisfy the difficulties of His
so-called "substitution." All these mental objections flee once we give Him His
true place, so high above us that He could not take our place, but, in amazing
condescension, suffered for our sakes. The language of theology drags Him down to equality
with us. Let us seek to restore Him to it is true supremacy.