Lately I received a Bible tract from a Christian and the subject of that tract was the "gospel" which we are to preach today. In that tract the following words are addressed to unbelievers:
"You can be saved right now by simply believing the Gospel, that Christ died for your sins and that His blood is the total payment for your sins."
Have the sins of the unbeliever been totally paid for?
On a Christian web site we read the following explanation as to how the Christian should preach the gospel to the unsaved:
"My friend, I have good news for you. Jesus Christ died for you. He paid the penalty for your sins."
Has the Lord paid the penalty for the sins of unbelievers?
The ideas incorporated into these attempts at preaching the gospel stem from the idea that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross as a substitute for mankind. Here is a verse that is often cited to support this idea:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Ro.5:6).
Is this verse saying that Christ died "instead of" the ungodly?
There is a Greek word that does indeed mean "instead of," and that word is anti. The following verse is a good example that illustrates that usage:
"If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for (anti) a fish give him a serpent?" (Lk.11:11).
To paraphrase, "...if he ask for a fish, will he, instead of a fish, give him a serpent?"
We can also see the same meaning in the Greek version of the Old Testament:
"And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead (anti), who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (Gen.30:2; LXX).
"Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of (anti) the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren" (Gen.44:33; LXX).
However, the verse in question does not use the Greek word anti but instead the word hyper:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for (hyper) the ungodly" (Ro.5:6).
One of the meanings of the Greek word hyper is "on behalf of," and here is a verse that illustrates that meaning:
"Ye also helping together by prayer for (hyper) us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf" (2 Cor.1:11).
To paraphrase, Paul is saying that the "prayers of the believers in the churches at Corinth are said 'on behalf of" Paul and his co-workers."
Here are some more verses which use the Greek word hyper:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for (hyper) our sins according to the scriptures" (1 Cor.15:3).
Christ died on behalf of our sins.
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for (hyper) the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (1 Pet.3:18).
The Just suffered for sins on behalf of the unjust.
In the two following verses we can see the Greek words anti and hyper used in regard to the same subject:
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for (anti) many" (Mt.20:28).
Here it is said that the Lord came to give his life as a ransom in the stead of many but not all. Here the idea is a substutionary death of Christ in regard to some but not all. Now consider the following verse which also speaks of the Lord Jesus being given as a ransom:
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;Who gave himself a ransom for (hyper) all, to be testified in due time" (1 Tim.2:6).
The Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom on behalf of all men. But He did give His life a ransom in the stead or in the place of all men.
Here is another verse which uses the Greek word hyper and I will use it to illustrate the difference between the meanings of hyper and anti:
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf (hyper) of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor.5:20; NASB).
However, the KJV of the Bible mistakenly translates the verse in the following way:
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor.5:20; KJV).
Sir Robert Anderson understands that this translation is not a correct one, writing that "An ambassador speaks on behalf of, not in the stead of, the court which accredits him" (Anderson, The Gospel andf Its Ministry, [Grabd Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996], p.95).