In yesterday’s post we began thinking about the gospel message of 1 Peter 3:18, noticing Jesus as our sacrifice. Today, let us think about Jesus Christ as the sinner’s substitute: “For Christ also died for sins … the just for the unjust.” Since God is holy, He requires a just sacrifice. Since we are unjust, our sacrifice is unacceptable. So, the perfect Son of God became a man. Being man, He could die in man’s place, as our substitute. Being God’s sinless Son, He is the perfect sacrifice, acceptable to God the Father. Because of this, a wondrous exchange takes place the moment a person turns from his or her sin to trust in Christ for salvation: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). As the sinner’s substitute, Christ allowed the weight of man’s guilt to be placed upon Him on the cross. God the Father then poured out His righteous wrath upon His Son, punishing our sin once and for all (Heb. 7:27). Jesus died as if He was guilty, though He was not.
However, there is another side to this exchange. When we as sinners turn to Christ in repentant faith, God credits the righteousness of Christ to our “spiritual bank account” and declares us righteous. We are justified in His sight, not by works, but by faith in the One who took our punishment for us. Galatians 2:16 clearly says, “… knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Jesus Christ died to satisfy God’s justice and give us life by taking away our sin and gifting us His righteousness. His death now brings us life.