“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name”
The doctrine of substitutionary atonement continues to undergo criticism and redefinition. Many are buying into a watered down interpretation of this doctrine, while others simply ignore this valuable doctrine and emphasise “user-friendly” doctrines. Is this even an important issue? Does there need to be entire books discussing the issue of the atonement? It is the argument of the authors of The Great Exchange that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is the centre of the gospel. Therefore, it is of paramount importance. This book was written back in 2007, but it continues to be an important and valuable book on this topic.
This book is co-authored by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. They make it clear that “this book is first and foremost about the gospel” which is defined as, “the good news that Jesus Christ is the sinless sin bearer of all who are united to Him by faith” (p. 14). The authors’ set out to make this definition clear by unpacking what they call the key verse of their book: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (). The means in which this task is accomplished is by surveying the doctrine of the atonement from Acts to Revelation. This approach is patterned after the second of two volumes by nineteenth century author George Smeaton. His second volume was titled, ‘The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement’.
Before considering the biblical texts (between Acts and Revelation), the authors’ begin by discussing the unique qualifications of the apostles (). This chapter is very helpful and strategic, as it reminds the readers that these men (the apostles) spoke with the authority of God and should be listened to (p. 29). Their writings were inspired by God and should be trusted and considered inerrant (p. 33). is a helpful summary of the Apostles doctrine of the atonement. and 4 conclude part 1 of the book by going back to the Old Testament. The reader sees how the sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadow the atonement (ch. 3), and how the prophets announce with expectation the atonement (ch. 4).
Moving on to part 2 (the larger portion of the book), the authors’ begin their survey from Acts to Revelation. This particular approach is very helpful to the reader as it exposes you in a repetitive manner to all that the apostles taught and said regarding the atonement. It becomes evident that the doctrine of the atonement was key to many of the New Testament books.
What also becomes abundantly clear in these chapters is that God is Holy and man is sinful. Therefore, in harmony with His nature God must unleash His judgment on mankind. But by God’s grace, the Lord Jesus Christ takes the place as a substitute for His people. By merit of His perfect life and perfect death (pp. 107-111), Christ took the place of those who would believe by receiving the just judgment of God for their sin. In this act, the sin of His people is exchanged for His righteousness. So by means of faith alone in Christ, God declares the sinner righteous. His righteous standing has nothing to do with self-achievement or merit, rather it is righteousness from outside of him – it is from Christ. The atonement of Jesus Christ was not a mere example of love and sentimentality; rather it reveals the wrath of God towards man and sin. It “is an active initiative” (p. 270). In addition to this, the grace and love of God are evident as God provides a way man can be right with Him.
A helpful practical truth taught in this book is serving God on the basis of gratitude rather than legalism or guilt. The authors’ stated, “His blood sets us free from guilt, and we are now free for gratitude-centred service that truly seeks to praise and magnify his glorious grace” (p. 215). The blood atonement of Christ serves as an amazing incentive for holiness.
I agree with Alistair Begg when he says, “The next time I am asked for my top-ten reading list, this will be included” (back cover). Though this book deals with a deep theological subject, I appreciate the effort the authors’ have made in making this topic simple in a clear, bold and passionate way. I believe that this book is exceptional and I trust that it will be a means of driving many people to the cross of Jesus Christ. So for those who want to learn more about the cross of Christ, or would like to earnestly contend for this doctrine, please take the time to read this book!
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— 14 just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.