The Oxford English Dictionary defines substitution as ‘the putting of one person or thing in the place of another’. One oddity of contemporary Christian talk is that many who affirm that Jesus’ death was vicarious and representative deny that it was substitutionary; for the Dictionary defines both words in substitutionary terms! Representation is said to mean ‘the fact of standing for, or in place of, some other thing or person, esp. with a right or authority to act on their account; substitution of one thing or person for another.’ And vicarious is defined as ‘that takes or supplies the place of another thing or person; substituted instead of the proper thing or person.’ So here, it seems, is a distinction without a difference. Substitution is, in fact, a broad idea that applies whenever one person acts to supply another’s need, or to discharge his obligation, so that the other no longer has to carry the load himself. … In this broad sense, nobody who wishes to say with Paul that there is a true sense in which ‘Christ died for us’ (huper, on our behalf, for our benefit), and ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (huper again) (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 3:13), and who accepts Christ’s assurance that he came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (anti, which means precisely ‘in place of’, ‘in exchange for’), should hesitate to say that Christ’s death was substitutionary. Indeed, if he describes Christ’s death as vicarious he is actually saying it.J. I. Packer, What Did the Cross Achieve?
“He himself experienced our sin, he himself gave his own son, a ransom on our behalf, the Holy for the lawless, the innocent for the guilty, the righteous for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else than that one’s righteousness could cover up our sin? In who else than in the Son of God alone could our lawlessness and ungodliness possibly be justified? Oh, the sweet exchange! … Oh, the unexpected benefits that the lawlessness of many should be concealed in the one righteous, and righteousness of the one should justify many lawless.”“Epistle to Diognetus,” in The Apostolic Fathers in English, trans. Rick Brannan, 9.2–5. A letter from the late second or possibly early third century.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ did not die merely as a martyr, or as a splendid example of self-sacrifice and self-denial. Those who can see no more than that in His death, fall infinitely short of the truth. They lose sight of the very foundation-stone of Christianity, and miss the whole comfort of the Gospel. Christ died as a sacrifice for man’s sin. He died to make reconciliation for man’s iniquity. He died to purge our sins by the offering of Himself. He died to redeem us from the curse which we all deserved, and to make satisfaction to the justice of God, which must otherwise have condemned us. Never let us forget this!”J. C. Ryle
The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1867), 5:101.
Jesus Christ did feel and suffer the wrath of God which was due unto us for our sins. The prophet Isaiah, chap. 53:4, saith, ‘That he was plagued and smitten of God’; and ver. 5, ‘The chastisement of our peace was upon him.’ To be plagued and smitten of God is to feel and suffer the stroke of his wrath; and so to be chastised of God, as to make peace with God or to appease him, is so to suffer the wrath of God as to satisfy God and to remove it. And truly how Christ should possibly escape the feeling of the wrath of God incensed against our sins, he standing as a surety for us with our sins laid upon him, and for them fully to satisfy the justice of God, is not Christianly or rationally imaginable.
And whereas some do object that Christ was always the beloved of his Father, and therefore could never be the object of God’s wrath:Thomas Brooks
I answer, By distinguishing of the person of Christ, whom his Father always loved, and as sustaining our sins, and in our room standing to satisfy the justice of God; and as so the wrath of God fell upon him and he bore it, and so satisfied the justice of God, that we thereby are now delivered from wrath through him. So the apostle, Rom. 5:9, ‘Much more, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath by him;’ 1 Thes. 1:10, ‘And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.’
The awareness of God’s wrath makes us thankful for his loving act in Christ. …
Suppose someone is told: “If God hated you while you were still a sinner, and cast you off, as you deserved, a terrible destruction would have awaited you. But because he kept you in grace voluntarily, and of his own free favor, and did not allow you to be estranged from him, he thus delivered you from that peril.”
This man then will surely experience and feel something of what he owes to God’s mercy.
On the other hand, suppose he learns, as Scripture teaches, that he was estranged from God through sin, is an heir of wrath, subject to the curse of eternal death, excluded from all hope of salvation, beyond every blessing of God, the slave of Satan, captive under the yoke of sin, destined finally for a dreadful destruction and already involved in it; and that at this point Christ interceded as his advocate, took upon himself and suffered the punishment that, from God’s righteous judgment, threatened all sinners; that he purged with his blood those evils which had rendered sinners hateful to God; that by this expiation he made satisfaction and sacrifice duly to God the Father; that as intercessor he has appeased God’s wrath; that on this foundation rests the peace of God with men; that by this bond his benevolence is maintained toward them.
Will the man not then be even more moved by all these things which so vividly portray the greatness of the calamity from which he has been rescued?John Calvin