Christ – Our Substitute & Surety
The suretyship of Christ is a branch of His mediatorial office. As you know Christ is called the Mediator of the Covenant (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Here He is called the Surety of the covenant. In the last lesson we learned of His representative headship in which He engaged to represent all whom the Father had given Him before the foundation of the world and act on their behalf. In this capacity, as the Representative of the covenant, Christ also became our Substitute and Surety. A mediator and a representative by definition are the same thing. A proper mediator must represent in some ways both parties who have entered into a covenant. But a mediator and a surety are not the same thing. We spoke of how our elected officials represent us in the federal government. No elected official stands as our surety. They may vote to raise our taxes, but it is very doubtful that they will agree to pay them for us.
A mediator does not necessarily have to be, nor necessarily can be, a surety. For example, Moses was a mediator of the Mosaic covenant, but he was not nor could he have been a surety for the people. A surety does more for the ones whom he represents. A surety, by definition, guarantees that all the debts and obligations are met for the ones whom he represents. Moses could represent Israel, but he could not take upon himself the responsibility to see that Israel obeyed the law. Israel broke the law. Moses could not satisfy law and justice for them. Here is where we see another glorious truth that tells us the kind of mediator our Lord is on our behalf.
As our Representative, Substitute, and Surety, Christ has engaged Himself on our behalf as sinners to do and suffer everything God’s law and justice requires of us, to make satisfaction for our sins. God the Father appointed Him, and He voluntarily agreed to be our “high priest in things pertaining to God,” and what He did for us towards God was the fundamental part of His mediatorial work. As our Substitute and Surety, Christ agreed to take our place and render perfect obedience to God’s law and to take our place before the bar of divine justice. He agreed to fulfill all the conditions of our salvation by establishing a righteousness that would enable God the Father to be just and to justify the ungodly. This is the kind of mediator Christ is. He became Surety for the debts of His people when they were bankrupt and had nothing with which to pay their debt.
I. IN WHAT SENSE IS CHRIST NOT THE SURETY OF THE COVENANT?
A. He is not the surety for His Father to His people making sure that the promises made by the Father in the covenant shall be fulfilled. The faithfulness of God is sufficient for that. He is Surety for His people, God elect, to His Father. They owe a debt to God’s law and justice they cannot pay. He is their Surety engaged on their behalf to satisfy the debt owed to the Father. Therefore, all the promises of God IN HIM are sure and certain (2 Corinthians 1:20). When He agreed to become our Substitute and Surety, He agreed to become incarnate, to be humiliated, to be made under law, to obey the law, to suffer and die on our behalf, to be risen from the dead, ascend to His Father, and ever live to make intercession for us. All of this was included in His duties as our Surety. This was all the work assigned to Him as our Surety.
B. He is not such a surety who is jointly engaged with His people to pay the debt. He does not say, “I will pay part of it if you will do your part.” He has taken their whole debt upon Himself. The need for a surety in salvation arises from two things:
(1) God’s holy law and justice requires perfect satisfaction; and
(2) God’s elect are totally unable to pay even the least part of this debt (Romans 3:10-12).
Consider the following:
1. Christ engaged Himself as our Surety to pay our debt in full and satisfy God’s law and justice completely. This is illustrated in Paul’s epistle to Philemon (Philemon 18-19). As Paul became responsible for Onesimus’s debt to Philemon, Christ became solely responsible for our debt to God. He engaged to fulfill all the conditions of our salvation so that no conditions are left to us for salvation. He engaged to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf so that we are not obligated in the least to establish a righteousness of our own as to the ground of salvation. In fact, a sinner who thinks salvation is conditioned on himself (his faith, repentance, perseverance), or one who is trying to establishing a righteousness of His own, is denying the suretyship of Christ. This is unbelief. It is dishonoring to every attribute of God’s redemptive character, and it totally devalues the mediatorial works of Christ.
2. When Christ became a Surety for His people, their sins were no longer imputed to them but were imputed to Christ. They were placed to His account and He became responsible for them (2 Corinthians 5:19). All of this must take place in time as God the Son incarnate would die under the justice of God for the sins of His people. And it must be applied to the persons of each and everyone of God’s elect in time, but it was purposed and fulfilled in the Person of Christ as our Substitute and Surety. Even the Old Testaments saints were saved as they looked to Christ as their Surety and trusted His righteousness to be their ground of salvation. They looked forward to His coming to fulfill the duties of His suretyship. They saw, as do all believers, that from His suretyship arises both the imputation of sin to Christ and the imputation of His righteousness to all who believe the gospel (Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:1-6).
II. IN WHAT SENSE IS CHRIST THE SURETY OF THE COVENANT?
A. Christ stands surety for the people of God, the elect of God, not for all without exception. This is difficult for most to get in their minds because it seems to suggest that God discriminates. God does exercise distinguishing grace, and if that offends people, then I am sorry. I hope they will think it through and seek God’s testimony on this subject. God does not distinguish between any sinners based on character and conduct, personality, or anything in sinners. God distinguishes on the basis of His own sovereign will. Nothing outside of God Himself had any influence upon God’s distinguishing grace. In fact, if God had been influenced by anything in us, we would all be damned for eternity. Remember, we are fallen, guilty, condemned sinners who by nature want no part of God’s grace and who by nature care nothing for the redemptive glory of God in Christ. By nature we are under the powers of darkness (self-love, self-righteousness, and pride), and refuse to believe the Gospel.
So the fact that God sovereignly exercises distinguishing grace is not our problem, and it does not make God a villain. It does not make God the cause of our condemnation and rebellion. God commands us to believe the gospel and trust Christ as our Surety. God commands us to stop our wicked ways of trying to establish our own righteousness and receive Christ as our only righteousness. God forbids us to expect salvation based on anyone or anything else. He promises the certainty of salvation based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Why do sinners refuse this?
Certainly God is not at fault if He sovereignly chooses to save some out of this mess and leave others to their own sinful, religious pride.
If Christ stood Surety for all without exception, then all without exception must be and would be saved. If He is our Surety, He paid our debt in full by establishing a righteousness that demands our eternal salvation and final glory in heaven. If He did not pay our debt in full, then He is a failure, and we are all doomed to eternal damnation. If one sinner for whom Christ stood as Surety could perish in hell, then Christ was not a real surety. He either could not or would not pay the debt. If the Gospel presents a surety who is either unwilling or unable to fulfill the conditions of our salvation, then we have no reason to trust him. But we no that the Gospel present no such mediator. We know that the Gospel presents Christ, the one Mediator between God and men, as our Surety, one who is both willing and able to save us completely (Hebrews 7:22-25).
B. So, Christ as our Surety has engaged Himself to bring all of God’s elect safe to heaven’s glory (John 6:37-39, 44-45; 10:11,14-16,27-29; 17:2-3,24). There is an Old Testament illustration of this in the story of Joseph and his brethren (Genesis 43:8-9). All who believe the Gospel, who see their need of God’s grace, and who trust Him to be faithful and willing to save them based on the righteousness of Christ, can be certain eternal glory in heaven because Christ as our Surety has settled all accounts with God. Someone might ask, “If He is not the Surety for everyone, how can I know that He is my Surety?”
The Bible tells us plainly that all for whom He stood as Substitute and Surety shall come to Him, shall call upon Him, shall believe in Him. They shall all repent of dead works and see the uselessness, the wickedness, of trying to establish their own righteousness.
What did Hebrews 7:25 tell us?
“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.”
Have you come unto God by Him?
This means to come unto God who justifies ungodly, unrighteous sinners based on the blood and the righteousness of Christ as our Surety! It is true that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
It is true that all by nature and by practice deserve eternal damnation. But is also just as true that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Now, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
In order to believe, we must hear of this specific Mediator, this Representative, Substitute, and Surety. These specific truths show us what kind of mediator we have so that we can put our total trust and faith in Him. When the Arminians preach their version of a mediator, they reveal what kind of mediator they have faith in — one who made salvation possible but who did not as surety secure the salvation of any one sinner. Their version of a mediator is one who took on part of the debt but who left the rest to ungodly sinners. This is not the one Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus our Surety.
Which would you rather put your trust in — a mediator who is not a true surety, or one who as surety paid all your debt and secured full pardon of all your sins, full acceptance into the Father’s favor and kingdom, and full entitlement to the whole inheritance of grace?
We need a mediator who is a surety, and God has provided one by His grace in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.