"If you want to understand theology, you had better begin here"

"All of us put together, and millions upon millions of our human race, could never equal in value the precious Lord Jesus. If you were to put in all the angels as well, and all the creatures that God has over made, they could not equal Him who is the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person.

'Yet He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.' And this is the gospel which we have to preach to you every time we stand before you, namely, that Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, was offered to God as a substitute for ungodly, unclean, unacceptable man.

That we might not die, Christ died.

That we might not be cursed, Jesus was cursed and fastened to the tree.

That we might be received, He was rejected.

That we might be approved, He was despised.

That we might live forever He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

If any man wants to understand theology, he had better begin here. This is the first and main point.

I do not think I should dispute with any of my brethren in the ministry upon what else they hold if they all hold purely and straightforwardly the doctrine of substitution by Jesus Christ on the behalf of His own elect people.

Martin Luther stood out for justification by faith, and rightly so, for in his day that seemed to be the center, where all the battle raged. I think that just now substitution by Christ seems to be the place where the garments are rolled in blood, and where the fight is thickest.

That Jesus Christ was punished in the sinner’s stead, that the wrath which was due to His people was endured by Him, that He drank the cup of bitterness which they ought to have drained, is the grandest of all truths, and so sublime a truth that if all the Christians in the world were to be burned in one dreadful holocaust, the price would be but little to maintain this precious doctrine in its integrity upon the face of the earth.

Now most men know that they are to be saved by Christ, but I am afraid, but I am afraid that it is not always preached plainly, so that men know how it is that Christ saves them.

My dear hearer, I would not have you go away without knowing this. Christ Jesus came into the world to take the sins of His people upon Himself, and to be punished for them.

Well, if Christ was punished for them, they could not be punished afterwards. Christ’s being punished in their stead was the full discharge of their debt which they owed to divine justice, and they are sure to be saved.

Those for whom Christ died as a Substitute can no more be damned than Christ Himself can be. It is not possible that hell can enclose them, or elsewhere are the justice and the integrity of God?

Does He demand the man, and then take a Substitute, and then take the man again? Does He demand the payment of our debt, and receive that payment at the hand of Christ, and then arrest us a second time for the same debt?

Then, in the great court of King’s Bench in heaven, where is justice? The honour of God, the faithfulness of God, the integrity of God are certain warrants to every soul for whom Christ died, that if Christ died for him he shall not die, but shall be exempt from the curse of the law.

'How then,' says one, 'may I know that Christ died for my soul?'

Sir, dost thou trust Him? Wilt thou trust Him now? If so, that is the mark of His redeemed.

This is the King’s mark upon His treasure. This is the mark of the great Sheep-Master upon every one of those whom He has bought with blood.

If thou wilt take Him to be the unbuttressed pillar of thy salvation, if thou wilt build upon Him as the sole foundation of thine everlasting hope, then art thou His, and as for thy sins, they are laid on Him.

As for thy righteousness, thou hast none of thine own, but Christ’s righteousness is thine. As in the case before us, the lamb was offered, the donkey was spared; the unclean animal lived; the clean creature died. There was a change of places.

So does Christ change places with the sinner. Christ puts Himself in the sinner’s place, and what do we read? 'He was numbered with the transgressors,' and, being numbered with the transgressors, what then?

Why, He was put to death as a transgressor. They crucified Him between two malefactors. He had to suffer the death of a felon, and though in him was no sin, yet 'the Lord hath made to meet upon Him the iniquities of us all.'

He was before God the representative of all His people, and all the sins of his people covered Him until He had drunk the cup of wrath, and then He threw off the horrible incubus of His people’s sins, and cast the stupendous load of the guilt of all His elect down into the sepulchre, and there left it buried forever, while in His rising He gave to them the pledge and earnest of their acquittal, and of their everlasting life.

Ah! My hearers, I wish I had a thousand tongues with which to proclaim this one truth! As I have not, I ask the tongues of all those who know its preciousness to tell it forth.

Tell the sick, tell the dying, tell the young, tell the old, tell sinners of every degree and every class, that salvation is not by what they do, nor by what they feel, but that it all lies in that Man who was once crucified, but who now lives in the power of an endless life before the eternal throne.

And if they say, 'What mean you by this?' tell them that this man is none other than God over all, blessed forever, and that He condescended to become man, and take upon Himself the sin of His people, and to be punished for their guilt, so that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.

The just for the unjust, He died to bring us to God. This is the gospel-- the core, the kernel, the marrow of the entire Bible.

You may say of all the book besides that it is but folds and wrappings; but this is what it wraps up—substitution by Christ.

Believe this truth. Believe it as a doctrine, but, better still, cast your souls on it, and say, 'If it be so, then will I trust in the power of him who loved, and lived, and died for sinners that I might go free.'"

--Charles H. Spurgeon, “Redeeming the Unclean,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 61 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1915), 61: 221–223.