One of the doctrines which still have a prominent position in today’s Christendom states that Jesus died in our stead or suffered in our place, and hence it perpetuates the fallacy that He died to placate an angry God. Everything which led to the crucifixion of the innocent Jesus was put in motion by the free infinite love and goodness of God towards fallen man. William Law insists: “Christ did not suffer, to quiet an angry Deity, but merely as co-operating, assisting, and uniting with that love of God, which desired our salvation.”
Jesus did not die in our stead, but only on our account which is a quite different matter. To maintain that he died in our stead is just as absurd as saying that He rose from the dead, and ascended in our stead so that we could be excused from taking part in His victory. His sufferings, resurrection and ascension were all for us so that we could follow in His tracks and experience every benefit of what He accomplished on our behalf. If we continue to carry in our minds an image of a wrathful deity all kinds of fears can and will be wrought in us and Christ’s perfect sacrifice will be of far lesser effect to us.
In the epistle to the Hebrews we find the following word: “The captain of our salvation was to be made perfect through sufferings.” If Jesus as the Son of Man was to restore mankind to perfection He himself had to be a perfect representative of those He was to liberate and redeem. His perfection was attained when He withstood every fierce attack from the powers of this world, that is, everything originating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He overcome the world and hence forever demonstrated that the Son of Man when united as one with the living God is greater than the world.
William Law puts it like this: “ But had there been any Evil in all fallen Nature, whether in Life, Death, or Hell, that had not attacked Him, with all its Force, He could not have been said to have overcome it. And therefore so sure as Christ, the Son of Man, was to overcome the World, Death, Hell, and Satan, so sure is it, that all the Evils which they could possibly bring upon Him, were to be felt and suffered by Him, as absolutely necessary in the Nature of the Thing, to declare his Perfection, and prove his Superiority over them. Surely, my Friend, it is now enough proved to you, how a God all Love toward fallen Man, must love, like, desire, and delight in all the Sufferings of Christ, which alone could enable Him, as a Son of Man, to undo, and reverse all that Evil, which the first Man had done to all his Posterity.” (The Spirit of Love)
Jesus explicitly expresses the desire which was the sole reason for His willingness to suffer so that we would be empowered to follow our Captain into newness of life: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24 ESV) As one with His Father Jesus only did what He saw His Father was doing. Hence it was the Father’s love towards all mankind which welled up in Him, and in unison they desired to see all men to be with them partaking in the triune life, peace and joy which transcends understanding.
To this end Jesus came, suffered, rose again and ascended: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:25 ESV) The pinnacle of our salvation is that the love that God has for His son may be in us and the Christ Himself may be in us. There is no room for wrath in this equation. Every factor is love and hence the equation cannot yield anything than love.
Christ obtained perfection through what He suffered and hence the perfection that He obtained is an inextricable part of us by virtue of the magnificent fact that He Himself now lives in us. John couldn’t contain himself when he triumphantly exclaimed: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 ESV)