The modern view of the death of Jesus is that he died for our sins out of sympathy. The New Testament view is that he bore our sins by substitution: God “made him . . . to be sin.” Our sins are removed because of the death of Jesus, and the explanation of his death is his obedience to his Father, not his sympathy with us. We are acceptable to God not because we’ve obeyed or promised to give up things but because of his Son’s death.

We say that Jesus came to reveal the loving-kindness of God. The New Testament says that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus never spoke of himself as one who’d been sent to reveal the Father’s sympathy. Instead, he spoke of himself as a stumbling block, as someone who came to erect new standards and place new demands on all who heard his word: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). The great stumbling blocks in modern spiritual life are our Lord’s character and the demands of the Spirit. We think we’d be happy if only God would stop demanding personal holiness. Maybe so, but we’d be happy on the way to hell. It is God who puts the stumbling blocks in our path, and the stumbling over them awakens us.

The idea that God died for me and therefore I go scot-free is never taught in the New Testament. What is taught is that “he died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15) and that, by identification with his death, I can be freed from sin and have his righteousness imparted to me (Galatians 2:20–21). The substitution taught in the New Testament is twofold: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” It’s not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me.

Wisdom from Oswald

We never enter into the Kingdom of God by having our head questions answered, but only by commitment. The Highest Good—Thy Great Redemption, 565 R