Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Substitution

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
—Romans 6:8-11

The facts referred to in these four verses constitute the glorious gospel that we preach: 1. The first fact here very clearly indicated is that Jesus died. He, Who was divine and therefore immortal, bowed His head to death. He, Whose human nature was wed to the omnipotence of His divine nature, was pleased voluntarily to submit Himself to the sword of death. He, Who was pure and perfect, and therefore deserved not death, which is the wages of sin, nevertheless condescended for our sake to yield Himself up to die. This is the second note in the gospel scale. The first note is incarnation: Jesus Christ became a man. Angels thought this worthy of their songs and made the heavens ring with midnight melodies. The second note is this, I say, that, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phi 2:8). He died as a sacrifice. Methinks,33 after many lambs from the flocks of men had poured out their blood at the foot of the altar, it was a strange spectacle to see God’s Lamb brought to that same altar to be sacrificed. He is without spot or blemish or any such thing. He is the firstling of the flock; He is the only One of the Great Master, a right royal, heavenly Lamb. Such a Lamb had never been seen before. He is the Lamb Who is worshipped in heaven, and Who is to be adored, world without end. Will that Sacred Head condescend to feel the axe? Will that glorious victim really be slain? Is it possible that God’s Lamb will actually submit to die? He does so without a struggle. He is dumb34 in the shambles35 before the slaughterers; He gives up the warm blood of His heart to the hand of the executioner that He might expiate36 the wrath of God.

Tell it! Let heaven ring with music, and let hell be filled with confusion! Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, the Lamb of Jehovah’s Passover, died. His hands were pierced and His heart was broken. To prove how surely the spear had struck the mark, the vital fluid flowed in a double flood, even to the ground—Jesus died. If there were any doubt about this, there were doubt about your salvation and mine. If there were any reason to question this fact, then we might question the possibility of salvation. But Jesus died and sin is put away. The sacrifice smokes to heaven; Jehovah smelleth a sweet savor and is pleased through Christ the Victim to accept the prayers, the offerings, and the persons of His people.

Nor did He die as a victim only: He died as a substitute. We were drawn as soldiers for the great warfare, and we could not go; for we were feeble, should have fallen in the battle, and have left our bones to be devoured of the dogs of hell. But He, the mighty Son of God, became the Substitute for us, entered the battlefield, [and] sustained the first charge of the adversary in the wilderness (Mat 4:1-11). Three times He repulsed the grim fiend and all his host, smiting His assailants with the sword of the Spirit, until the enemy fled and angels waited upon the weary Victor. The conflict was not over, the enemy had but retired to forge fresh artillery and recruit his scattered forces for a yet more terrible affray.37 For three years, the great Substitute kept the field against continual onslaughts from the advance guard of the enemy, remaining conqueror in every skirmish...Devils were cast out of many that were possessed, whole legions of them were compelled to find refuge in a herd of swine, and Lucifer himself fell like lightning from the heaven of his power.

At last, the time came when hell had gathered up all its forces, and now was also come the hour when Christ, as our Substitute, must carry His obedience to the utmost length: He must be obedient unto death. He has been a Substitute up until now; will He now throw down His vicarious38 character? Will He now renounce our responsibilities and declare that we may stand for ourselves? Not He. He undertook and must go through. Sweating great drops of blood, He nevertheless flinches not from the dread assault. Wounded in hands and in feet, He still maintained His ground. And though, for obedience sake, He bowed His head to die, yet in that dying He slew death, put His foot upon the dragon’s neck, crushed the head of the old serpent, and beat our adversaries as small as the dust of the threshing floor. Yes, the blessed Substitute has died. I say if there were a question about this, then we might have to die, but inasmuch as He died for us, the believer shall not die. The debt is discharged to the utmost farthing...God’s sword is sheathed forever, and the blood of Christ has sealed it in its scabbard. We are free, for Christ was bound! We live, for Jesus died!

Dying thus as a sacrifice and as a substitute, it is a comfort to us to know that He also died as Mediator39 between God and man. There was a great gulf fixed, so that if we would pass to God we could not, neither could He pass to us if He would condescend to do so...[but] Jesus comes, arrayed in His pontifical40 garments, wearing the breast-plate, bearing the ephod—a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (Heb 5:6). His kingly character is not forgotten, for His head is adorned with a glittering crown; and o’er His shoulders He bears the prophet’s mantle. How shall I describe the matchless glories of the Prophet-king, the Royal Priest? Will He throw Himself into the chasm? He will. Into the grave He plunges; the abyss is closed! The gulf is bridged, and God can have communion with man!

I see before me the heavy veil that shields from mortal eyes the place where God’s glory shineth. No man may touch that veil, or he must die. Is there any man found who can rend it, [so] that man may approach the mercy seat? O that the veil that parts our souls from Him that dwelleth between the cherubims could be torn throughout its utmost length! Strong archangel, wouldest thou dare to rend it? Shouldest thou attempt the work, thine immortality were forfeited, and thou must expire. But Jesus comes, the King Immortal, Invisible, with His strong hands; He rends the veil from top to bottom (Mat 27:51), and now men draw nigh with confidence, for when Jesus died a living way was opened. Sing, O heavens, and rejoice O earth! There is now no wall of partition, for Christ has dashed it down!...This, then, is one of the great notes of the gospel, the fact that Jesus died. Oh! Ye, who would be saved, believe that Jesus died! Believe that the Son of God expired. Trust that death to save you, and you are saved.

2. But Jesus rises: this is no mean part of the gospel. He dies; they lay Him in the new sepulcher; they embalm His body in spices; His adversaries are careful that His body shall not be stolen away. The stone, the seal, the watch, all prove their vigilance. Aha! Aha! What do ye, men? Can ye imprison immortality in the tomb? The fiends of hell, too, I doubt not, watched the sepulcher, wondering what it all could mean. But the third day comes, and with it the messenger from heaven. He touches the stone; it rolls away; he sits upon it, as if he would defy the whole universe to roll that stone back again. Jesus awakes, as a mighty man from his slumber; unwraps the napkin from His head and lays it by itself; unwinds the cerements41 in which love had wrapped Him and puts them by themselves; for He had abundant leisure. He was in no haste; He was not about to escape like a felon who bursts the prison, but like one whose time of jail-deliverance has come and lawfully and leisurely leaves his cell. He steps to the upper air, bright, shining, glorious, and fair. He lives! He died once, but He rose again from the dead! There is no need for us to enlarge here. We only pause to remark that this is one of the most jubilant notes in the whole gospel scale...Death is overcome! There is found a man Who by His own power was able to struggle with death and hurl him down. The grave is opened! There is found a man able to dash back its bolts and to rifle its treasures. And thus, brethren, having delivered Himself, He is able also to deliver others.

Sin, too, was manifestly forgiven. Christ was in prison as a hostage, kept there as a surety;42 now that He is suffered to go free, it is a declaration on God’s behalf that He has nothing against us. Our Substitute is discharged; we are discharged. He Who undertook to pay our debt is suffered to go free; we go free in Him! “He rose again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). Nay more, inasmuch as He rises from the dead, He gives us a pledge that hell is conquered. This was the great aim of hell: to keep Christ beneath its heel. “Thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). They had gotten the heel of Christ, His mortal flesh, beneath their power, but that bruised heel came forth unwounded. Christ sustained no injury by His dying...Beloved, in this will we triumph: that hell is worsted,43 Satan is put to confusion, and all his hosts are fallen before Immanuel. Sinner, believe this! It is the gospel of thy salvation. Believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose again from the dead, and trust Him, trust Him to save thy soul! Because He burst the gates of the grave, trust Him to bear thy sins, to justify thy person, to quicken thy spirit, and to raise thy dead body—and verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt be saved!

3. We now strike a third note, without which the gospel were not complete: inasmuch as Jesus died, He is now living. He does not, after forty days, return to the grave. He departs from earth, but it is by another way. From the top of Olivet He ascends until a cloud receives Him out of their sight. And now at this very day He lives. There at His Father’s right hand He sits, bright like a sun, clothed in majesty, the joy of all the glorified spirits, His Father’s intense delight! There He sits, Lord of Providence! At His girdle swing the keys of heaven, earth, and hell. There He sits, expecting the hour when His enemies shall be made His footstool. Methinks I see Him, too, as He lives to intercede. He stretches His wounded hands, points to His breastplate bearing the names of His people, and for Zion’s sake He doth not hold His peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake He doth not rest day nor night, but ever pleadeth, “Oh God! Bless thy heritage; gather together Thy scattered ones. ‘I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am’ (Joh 17:24).”

Trembling penitent, let a living Savior cheer thee. Exercise faith in Him Who only hath immortality. He lives to hear thy prayer; cry to Him, He lives to present that prayer before His Father’s face. Put yourself in His hands! He lives to gather together those whom He bought with His blood, to make those the people of His flock who were once the people of His purchase. Sinner, dost thou believe this as a matter of fact? If so, rest thy soul on it, make it thine as a matter of confidence, and then thou art saved.

4. One more note and our gospel song need not rise higher: Jesus died, He rose, He lives, and He lives forever. He shall not die again. “Death hath no more dominion over him” (Rom 6:9)...Disease may visit the world and fill the graves, but no disease or plague can touch the immortal Savior. The shock of the last catastrophe shall shake both heaven and earth, until the stars shall fall like withered fig leaves from the tree, but nothing shall move the unchanging Savior. He lives forever! There is no possibility that He should be overcome by a new death...This, too, reveals another part of our precious gospel, for now it is certain, since He lives forever, that no foes can overcome Him. He has so routed His enemies and driven His foes off the battlefield that they will never venture to attack Him again! This proves, too, that His people’s eternal life is sure...He lives forever!

Oh, Seed of Abraham! Ye are saved with an everlasting salvation by the sure mercies of David. Your standing in earth and heaven has been confirmed eternally. God is honored, saints are comforted, and sinners are cheered, for “he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).

Now I would to God that on one of these four anchor-holds your faith might be able to get rest. Jesus died, poor trembler. If He died and took thy griefs, will not His atonement save thee? Rest here. Millions of souls have rested on nothing but Jesus’ death, and this is a granite foundation. No storms of hell can shake it! Get a good handhold on His cross; hold it, and it will hold you. You cannot depend on His death and be deceived...But if this suffice you not, He rose again. Fasten upon this. He is proved to be Victor over your sin and over your adversary; can you not, therefore, depend upon Him? Doubtless, there have been thousands of saints who have found the richest consolation from the fact that Jesus rose again from the dead. He rose again for our justification (Rom 4:25). Sinner, hang on that. Having risen, He lives. He is not a dead Savior, a dead sacrifice. He must be able to hear our plea and to present His own. Depend on a living Savior; depend on Him now. He lives forever, and therefore it is not too late for Him to save you. If thou criest to Him, He will hear thy prayer, even though it be in life’s last moment, for He lives forever! Though the ends of the earth were come and you were the last man, yet He ever lives to intercede before His Father’s face. Oh, gad44 not about to find any other hope!

Here are four great stones for you. Build your hope on these; you cannot want45 surer foundations: He dies, He rises, He lives, He lives forever! I tell thee, Soul, this is my only hope, and though I lean thereon with all my weight, it bends not. This is the hope of all God’s people, and they abide contented in it. Do thou, I pray thee, now come and rest on it. May the Spirit of God bring many of you to Christ! We have no other gospel. You thought it a hard thing, a scholarly thing, a matter that the college must teach you, that the university must give you. It is no such matter for learning and scholarship. Your little child knows it, and your child may be saved by it. You without education, you that can scarce read in the book, you can comprehend this. He dies; there is the cross. He rises; there is the open tomb. He lives; there is the pleading Savior. He lives forever; there is the perpetual merit. Depend on Him! Put your soul in His hand—and you are saved.

From a sermon delivered on Sunday morning, April 5, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; reprinted by Pilgrim Publications.