1 Peter 3:18-20
For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh…
I. THE NEED OF PARDON, suggested by the word in our text — "sins." Unless you come to know and feel your need of a thing, you will never desire or welcome it. If I wished to convince you that you needed pardon, from your father, for instance, in an ordinary matter, I should first have to show you your offence. I am afraid many young people do not feel their need of pardon in a far higher sense. I wish I could write the word "sins" on your hearts today. This is one of the greatest words in all the Bible — in all the world. It tells about our offences against God — about our breaking of His holy law — about the evil we have done against our loving Father in heaven. And when once we come to get a sight of our sins as against God, we never can rest until we have got His pardon.
II. THE GOSPEL WAY OF PARDON. Some people think it is enough to ask pardon. Others think the way of pardon is to be sorry for their sins. Others think the way of pardon is trying to be as good as they can — saying their prayers, and striving to do what is right. Now the gospel way of pardon, though it might be said to include all these, is yet different from them all. It is very simple. It is very shortly told. I have heard an esteemed Edinburgh minister tell of his visiting an aged Christian man on his deathbed, and saying to him, "Is it not a happy thing that we have the gospel set forth in so few and in such simple words?" The old man looked up and said, "One word, sir!" His friend said, "What is the one word?" He replied, "Substitution!" The whole gospel in one word — substitution! If anyone were to ask me, "What is the way of salvation?" and I wanted to put it as shortly and as fully as possible, I would say, "It is the immediate, present acceptance of Christ as the substitute on the authority of God's word and offer." There is a touching story told regarding a body of men who had taken part in a rebellion, and were sentenced to have every tenth man of their number shot to deter others from doing what they had done. Among these were two, a father and son. We can fancy we see the men drawn up in a long line. Fixing, perhaps, on the first man by lot, he is marked out for death, and every tenth man thereafter, counting from him. The father and son stand together, and as the son runs his eye along the line he discovers that his father is a doomed man. He realises what it will be to have their family left without a head, his mother a widow, the old home stripped of its light and joy, and, quick as thought, he steps in where his father stood, and falls in his stead. He becomes his father's "substitute," and, if you ask the father in after years how he was saved, with the tear in his eye and a quivering voice, he will tell you he was saved by a substitute — that substitute his most loved and loving son. This, then, is what I want to bring out as the most important thing. The gospel way of pardon is by substitution — by One taking the place of another, by the Just taking the place of the unjust — the Good taking the place of the evil — the just Jesus, the good Jesus, taking the place of the unjust and the evil. God is just and holy, as well as merciful and loving. He is a King and Judge, as well as a Father. The authority of His law must be maintained. His justice must be vindicated. The law in its precept and penalty must be satisfied. It must be perfectly obeyed; and in the event of disobedience, the penalty of the broken law — death — must be suffered, either by each man himself, or by another in his room. We have all disobeyed, and so there is no hope for any one of us, except in the obedience and death of Christ. I would come to each of you and say, "You are lost, and unless you get pardon you will be lost forever. The Lord Jesus Christ is willing to be your substitute now and here, and in God's name and on the authority of His own Word I offer Jesus Christ to be your substitute. Here is One willing to take your place. Will you have Him? If you take Him you are saved, you are pardoned." When visiting our Jewish Mission Schools at Pesth, the capital of Hungary, a few years ago, I heard the truth on which I have been dwelling strikingly brought out by one of the pupils. The lesson was about the crucifixion of Christ, and the teacher asked, "What connection have we with the work and death of the Lord Jesus?" A young Jew held out his hand, as being prepared to give an answer, and said, "It is just as if we had the merit; it is just as if we had been crucified!"
III. THE RESULTS OF PARDON — that is to say, the consequences of being pardoned through the substitution of another — through the Lord Jesus taking our place.
1. The first thing that follows gospel pardon is safety. There is no more danger. There is no condemnation to them who are thus in Christ Jesus.
2. There is happiness.
(1) This is the secret of happy living. A young friend, who had been in much anxiety about her soul, was shown into my study one night. Her face was quite radiant. It was such a change from what had been before that I could not help asking, "What has happened tonight?" The brief but expressive answer was, "I have taken Him to be my substitute!" That explained all.
(2) This is the secret of happy dying. Dr. Carey, the great Indian scholar and missionary, tells of his visit to one of the wards in an Indian hospital. On a bed, in a corner of the room, lay a dying soldier. Stepping gently up to him, he knelt at his bedside, and whispered into his ear, "My dear brother, are you afraid to die?" Looking up with a smile, the dying man answered, "Oh, no, sir; I have died already!" He meant that Jesus, his substitute, had died for him, and he had not to die, but only to fall asleep in Jesus.
3. There is gratitude — thankfulness.
4. There is love.
5. Lastly, there is service. It is told of the Duke of Orleans ("Philip Egalite"), father of Louis Philippe, the last king of the French, that on one occasion he was out riding, followed by his servant, who was also on horseback. The Duke had crossed an old bridge over a rapid stream in safety, but when his man servant was following, the bridge gave way, and horse and rider were thrown into the river. In a moment the Duke leaped from his horse's back, plunged into the stream, and with considerable difficulty succeeded in saving the drowning man and bringing him to land. Need I describe the scene that followed? All dripping as he was, you might have seen the grateful servant prostrated at his master's feet, promising the gratitude and service of a lifetime, and asking what he could do to serve one who had done so much for him. You know the story of "The Heart made Captive" — the slave bought with British gold, who vowed he would never serve his purchaser. But when he learned that the stranger had bought him to set him free, there were no bounds to his love and gratitude, and no limits to his service. When asked as to the secret of his constant and devoted service, there was but the one answer, "He redeemed me! he redeemed me!" Such is the secret of all right-hearted service done for Christ, as well as of all holy living. "He is my substitute. He suffered for me. He died for me. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits unto me?"
(J. H. Wilson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: