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North Wake Church

This Sunday At North Wake

Praying Prayers of Paul for the Church You Love

Philippians 1:3-4

This week, take this prayer of the Apostle Paul and use it as a prompt to pray for North Wake.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  ~ Philippians 1:3-4

Meditation For Preparation

The Substitute

Read Hebrews 9:23-28

In the spring of 1995, I was in the stands for the decisive seventh game of the NBA's Eastern Conference championship series.  The Orlando Magic were playing the Indiana Pacers.  The series was knotted at three games apiece, so the winner that night would move on to the NBA finals.  When we arrived, well before the opening tip-off, the noise from inside the arena was crying all the way out to the lobby.  The Orlando fans were yelling, whooping, and hollering an hour before the game was to start.  AS the game got under way, they just kept at it.  I've never attended a sporting event where the fans made more noise than the crowd at that particular game.

As I watched the behavior of the people in the arena that night, I wondered what it is about our humanity that causes us to be so frenetic and so zealous about something like a basketball game.  After all, in eternity, who will care who won or lost a sports contest?  But when I looked at myself, I had to admit, "I'm here, and I care, and I'm screaming just as much as everybody else in the auditorium."

It's not unusual for us to get caught up in rooting for our favorite teams.  We don't play in the games.  We may not go to the games.  We may not even watch them on television or listen on the radio.  Even so, if we like the outcome, we have a tendency to say, "We won."  We identify so closely with our favorite teams that when they're victorious we include ourselves in teh victory.  Of course, when our teams lose, we tend to change the language we use and say, "They lost."  We let the players bear the burden and the ignominy of defeat, but we want to share in teh glory of victory.  

Why do we do this?  In a certain sense, sports fans experience a kind of participation.  We have a sense that our teams are representing our cities, our schools, and ultimately ourselves.  We may not know the players personally, but we like to think that they are doing something on our behalf, so we rejoice in their victories and agonize over their defeats.  This is what is known as a vicarious experience.  

The word vicarious is extremely important to our understanding of the atonement of Christ.  The late Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said that, in his judgement, the single most important word in all the Greek New Testament is the minuscule word huper.  This little word is translated by the English phrase "in behalf of."  Barth was clearly engaging in a bit of hyperbole in making the statement, because many words the New Testament are arguably as important or even more important than huper, but he was simply seeking to call attention to the importance of what is known in theology as the vicarious aspect of the ministry of Jesus.

We saw earlier that Jesus' atonement has been descried as a work of satisfaction.  In other words, He made satisfaction for our debt, our enmity with God, and our guilt.  He satisfied the ransom demand for our release from captivity to sin.  However, there is another significant word that is often used in descriptions of the atonement:  substitution.  When we look at the biblical depiction of sin as a crime, we saw that Jesus acts as the Substitute, taking our place at the bar of God's justice.  For this reason, we sometimes speak of Jesus' work on the cross as the substitutionary atonement of Christ, which means that when He offered an atonement, it was not to satisfy God's justice for His own sins, but for the sins of others.  He stepped into the role of the Substitute, representing His people.  He didn't lay down His life for Himself; He laid it down for His sheep.  He is our ultimate Substitute.  

26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.  (Hebrews 9:26-28)

—Written by R.C. Sproul.  The Truth of the Cross.  p. 67-70