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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 8, 2009

“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” (I Peter 3:18).

Last Sunday night I gave a sermon on “Preachers Who Were Strangely Different.” It ended with several quotations from Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who said that the real Christians in China are suffering deeply for their faith. Pastor Wurmbrand said that the “nominal,” name only Christians in the official Communist churches do not suffer. The “house churches” are suffering because they want real Christianity – which they don’t find in the state-run Communist-sponsored churches. So they have gone underground, meeting secretly in people’s homes. Hence, the underground churches are called “house churches.” I said that the real Christians were willing to suffer torture and imprisonment rather than submit to the Communist-run Three Self Patriotic Church. I told you what happened to them for going outside the Communist churches to evangelize freely and worship God truly. I said these “house church” Christians are called “evil cults” for doing this, and that many of these good Christians have suffered, been tortured, and imprisoned, for their zeal as real Christians, by the Communist government in China.

Then I read what Tom White said about what has happened to the real Christians in China. As I said, the Communists call these “house church” Christians members of an “evil cult,” although they are simply Bible-believing Christians, strong, evangelistic evangelicals. I read what Tom White, director of Voice of the Martyrs, wrote about what happened on October 29, 2008 – that 32 “house church” leaders were put in prison and are still being held there as “evil cult members.”

Pastor Wurmbrand has said these faithful Christians have been horribly tortured in prison. Some of them have been burned with red hot irons. Others have had their eyes gouged out, and their tongues cut out at the root. Others have been beaten mercilessly. These reports come from Pastor Wurmbrand himself, in his book, Tortured For Christ, and from current Voice of the Martyrs sources in China. They are true reports; nothing has been falsified.

One young man who recently came from China to study in America was very angry when I read those quotations in the sermon last Sunday night. After the service he told several of our people that these reports were lies. He said, “There is no persecution of Christians in China.” I heard that he said this after he left our church building, so I sent a little red book on China, published by The Voice of the Martyrs, with one of our boys. He gave it to the young man from China and asked him to take it home and read it. I hope he did, because that little book gives proof after proof that horrible persecution is going on against Christians in China right now. Of course this young man had never heard of it. He had attended a Communist-backed school in China where these persecutions were never mentioned – so naturally, since he only heard what the Communist teachers taught, he did not know about these brutal attacks on real Christians.

But this young man is now studying in the United States – and he is now learning the truth in the Free World, the truth that the Communists are trying their best to wipe out real Christianity in China. The Communists do everything they can to keep people like this young man from knowing the truth – that thousands of real Christians are being severely persecuted for believing in Christ. The purpose of the Communists there is to wipe out the house churches, and destroy serious Christianity.

Yet these underground “house churches" are growing rapidly. It is estimated that one thousand Chinese people are being converted in the “house churches” every hour, night and day. An explosion of real Christianity is taking place in China today – even though the Communist government is trying to wipe them off the face of the earth! Click here to read reports about these persecutions at Voice of the Martyrs:

Why would so many young people risk being put in prison and tortured for being real Christians in China? The answer is simple – they have discovered that Christianity is true! Therefore they are willing to give up their lives for Jesus Christ. They would love to be able to hear a sermon like the one I am going to give tonight from Dr. John Owen, but most of them cannot hear such a sermon without risking their welfare, and even their lives. May you, who are here, under the religious freedom of America tonight, listen with eager ears to the great substitutionary work of Christ - that He gave up His life to save your soul.

Mr. Song has translated this part of the sermon into Chinese. He will now go to the back of the room to translate John Owen’s sermon. If English is your second language, put on your headphones and Mr. Song will translate the rest of the sermon in Chinese for you over the headphones, while Mr. Mencia comes to translate Dr. Owen’s sermon from the pulpit in Spanish. Put on your headphones to hear the Chinese translation now, as Mr. Griffith comes to sing for us.

I saw One hanging on a tree, In agony and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me, As near His cross I stood.
Oh, can it be, upon a tree The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, My heart is filled,
To think He died for me!
   (“He Died For Me” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Please turn to our text, in I Peter 3:18. 

“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” (I Peter 3:18).

Saturday evening I gave you part I of Dr. John Owen’s message, “Satisfaction and Substitution Outlined.” Dr. Owen gave eight points, showing that man sinned in Adam, and sin passed from Adam to all mankind, so that all human beings became “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). In this state of sin, “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Therefore all men are under the curse of the law of God (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:13), and subject to the wrath of God. In this condition all mankind would have perished eternally, if Christ had not come to die in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. God, out of His infinite goodness, grace and love to mankind, sent His only begotten Son to save and deliver men out of this condition. Our text plainly gives this truth.

“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” (I Peter 3:18).

Christ was sent by God to suffer for our sins, “the just for the unjust.” We are unjust, sinful, not worthy to be forgiven. But Christ was “just,” perfect and sinless, the only begotten Son of God, “who knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21). Christ suffered, sweating “as it were great drops of blood falling down,” in the Garden of Gethsemane, when our sins were placed on Him (Luke 22:44). Christ was then arrested and beaten, scourged with a Roman whip (John 19:1), “bruised for our iniquities…and with his stripes [His scourging] we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Then they took Christ and nailed His hands and feet to a cross, and He “died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3); as our text says, “being put to death in the flesh” (I Peter 3:18). He died “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” In our sinful state, we could never come to God, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). We can only come to God because Jesus died t1o pay for our sins, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

We can only come to God through Jesus, the mediator, who “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). He was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened [made alive] by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18); that is, the Spirit of God caused Him to rise up to life from death. Christ is now living in His resurrected body, at the right hand of God in the Heavenly Place.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” (I Peter 3:18).

Dr. Owen said that this verse, and many other Scriptures, clearly show Christ’s substitutionary work, Christ suffering in the place of them whom He was to save. [This is] what we [mean] by His satisfaction, namely that He was made “sin for us,” a “curse for us,” “died for us,” that is, in our [place] that we might be saved from the wrath to come. This method of Christ saving sinners is expressed several ways in the Bible.

1.  First, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to God to make atonement for our sins by His death and sufferings. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). “…to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17)…. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

2.  Second, Christ redeemed us by paying a price, a ransom, for our redemption. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “For ye are bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). “Who gave himself a ransom for all…” (I Timothy 2:6). “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:14). “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…But with the precious blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:18, 19).

3.  Third, Christ bore our sins [and] the punishment due for them. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all…For he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53: 5, 6, 11). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (I Peter 2:24).

4.  Fourth, Christ satisfied the Law and the penalty of the Law for sin. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “God sent forth his Son…To redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).

5.  Fifth, Christ died to expiate [to pay for] sin in our place. “[He] was delivered for our offences” (Romans 4:25). “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3). “One died for all” (II Corinthians 5:14).

6.  Sixth, we are told that God spared Him not, “but delivered him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). God caused all our sins to be laid on Christ when He suffered and died on the Cross.

7.  Seventh, the effect of Christ’s suffering and death was (1) That the righteousness of God was glorified. “Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins” (Romans 3:25-26). (2) The Law of God was fulfilled and satisfied, as in the places quoted before, Galatians 3:13; 4:4-5. (3) God was reconciled. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19)… (4) Atonement was made for sin: “By whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:11)… (5) He made an end of sin. “To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24).

Christ was punished so that we could go free. These are the things that we must believe – Christ was substituted and substituted Himself as the mediator in the place of sinners, so they could be saved. Christ bore their sins, and the punishment they should have received for their sins, by undergoing the curse and penalty of the Law of God. He offered Himself up to make atonement for sin and reconciliation for sinners, so the justice of God could be appeased and the Law fulfilled, so sinners could go free and be delivered from the wrath to come. Christ paid the real satisfactory price for man’s redemption, and made satisfaction to God for sin. These are the things that we mean by satisfaction and substitution.

Once it was mine, the cup of wrath,
    But Jesus drank it dry,
When on the cursed tree transfixed,
    He breathed the expiring sigh.

No tongue can tell the wrath He bore,
    The wrath so due to me,
Sin's just desert; He bore it all,
    To set the sinner free!

Now not a single drop remains,
    "'Tis finished," was His cry;
By one effectual draught, He drank
    The cup of wrath quite dry.
("The Cup of Wrath" by Albert Midlane, 1825-1909).

Dr. John Owen lived from 1616 to 1683. He graduated from Queen’s College, Oxford, where he was ordained. Oliver Cromwell took him as his chaplain to Ireland and Scotland. He was appointed dean of Christ Church, Oxford in 1651. In 1660 he moved to London, where he was active in preaching and writing until his death. He turned down an invitation to pastor in Boston. He also turned down the presidency of Harvard. Owen has been called “The Prince of the Puritans.” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of him,

He had a deep spiritual experience and all that he wrote is the outcome of this…After hearing John Bunyan preach…he said that “he would give everything if he could [only] preach like that tinker.”

Owen said,

I myself preached Christ [for] some years when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance…with Christ; until the Lord [gave me] sore affliction...under which my soul was oppressed with horror of darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit in a powerful application of Psalm 130:4… From [that time] I received special…peace and comfort in drawing near to God through the Mediator [Jesus Christ], and [I preached on Christ] immediately after my recovery (Comments of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, front jacket cover, Communion With God, by John Owen, Banner of Truth Trust, 2004 edition).

Have you felt the “horror of darkness”? Have you been convinced of your sin-nature? Have you been saved by Christ’s suffering and substitution – in your place, on the Cross? Have your sins been cleansed by His Blood? 

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 53:4-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“He Died For Me” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).