by Thaddeus Williams
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
What is substitutionary atonement?
The cross of Jesus is where the substitutionary atonement happened. On the cross, Jesus served as our substitute and atoned for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
At the cross, our sin became Christ’s sin, our blameworthiness became Christ’s blameworthiness, the wrath we deserve from an infinitely just Being became the wrath He absorbed from an inﬁnitely just Being. It made salvation possible for spiritually dead sinners wrought with guilt. As if this weren’t good news enough, Christ’s blamelessness became our blamelessness, Christ’s reward became our reward, Christ’s perfection our perfection, and Christ’s conﬁdent standing before the holy and just Father became our confident standing before the holy and just Father.
We can no more improve on Christ’s imputed righteousness than we can count past inﬁnity.
“This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God…We must, above all, remember this substitution, lest we tremble and remain anxious throughout life—as if God’s righteous vengeance, which the Son of God has taken upon himself, still hung over us….[To] take away all cause for enmity and to reconcile us utterly to himself, he wipes out all evil in us by the expiation set forth in the death of Christ; that we, who were previously unclean and impure, may show ourselves righteous and holy in his sight.”
(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, pp. 506, 510)