REDEMPTION AND SUBSTITUTION
Now we have to ask one question. Since the Lord Jesus died on the cross and since God made Him the propitiation place, how can we be saved? What is the difference between redemption and substitution? Are they similar in any way? We have to realize that the work of the Lord Jesus is a work of redemption. But the result of this redemptive work is substitution. Redemption is the cause, and substitution is the result. The scope of redemption is very large. But the scope of substitution is not quite as large. It is quite interesting that the Bible never says that the Lord Jesus died on behalf of the sins of all. It only says that the Lord Jesus died on behalf of all (2 Cor. 5:14). His redemptive work was to satisfy the righteous requirements of God. When the Lord accomplished redemption on the cross, this work of redemption had absolutely nothing to do with man. I want to impress you strongly with this word. Redemption is absolutely not related to us. The work of redemption is between God and sin. What is the work of redemption? It is God Himself coming to the world to solve the problem of sin. Once the problem of sin is solved, the work of redemption is done.
The blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled on the side posts and upper posts of the doors (Exo. 12:7). God said that when He saw the blood, He would pass over the house (v. 13). The blood was for God to see. It was not for the firstborn to see. The firstborn did not need to see the blood; they stayed in the houses. The blood was to meet God’s righteous requirements; it was not to meet the requirements of the firstborn. With the firstborn, there was no such thing as redemption. If we read the Old Testament, we will discover that the blood for the atonement (i.e., redemption) of sin was brought into the Holy of Holies. It was sprinkled on the veil seven times (Lev. 16:14-15). On the day of Atonement, the high priest had to take the blood and sprinkle it on the mercy seat of the ark. The blood was offered to God. It is true that the blood had to be smeared on the thumb, the ear, and the toe of a leper. But that was done with respect to consecration. It was a matter of consecration to God. Man had no such requirement. Redemption has to do with God; it is God coming in to solve what man cannot solve by himself. This is why the Bible says, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Redemption includes the whole world. In such a redemption, everyone, even those that have not been saved, are included.
God has come and dealt with our sins. The Lord Jesus has satisfied God’s righteous requirements so that we can receive the substitution of the Lord Jesus. His redemption is an abstract preparation. By believing in Him, this redemption becomes a substitution to us. Before God, it was not a substitution, but a redemption. It is important to know this. If we are not clear about this matter, we will be confused about many other doctrines. Redemption is before God, and substitution is for us. Redemption is to satisfy God’s requirements, and substitution is for us to receive the benefit. What He accomplished was redemption; what we have received is substitution. I do not mean that there is no such teaching as substitution in the Bible. There is indeed such a teaching. But all the teachings in the Bible concerning substitution are written for Christians. They are not written for unbelievers. To the Gentiles we say that Jesus has died for them and accomplished redemption. To the Christians we say that the Lord Jesus has substituted them in bearing their sins.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)