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The Most Important Word in the Bible


The theologian Karl Barth was asked what was the most important word in the Bible. The great thinker replied, “Hyper.”

You might have thought he would have said, “love,” or agape, but he didn’t. He chose a Greek preposition used in the New Testament meaning “on behalf of,” or “in place of” another.

This is the most important word because it signifies that the death of Jesus was in our place and for us. He died so that we might not have to die spiritually and be eternally separated from God in hell.

Why is this word so important, and why should we remind ourselves of it often?

Jesus Christ died for me. He died on “behalf of” or “in place of” the believer.

The many passages where this preposition is used declares, “You did not have a problem too great for the power of Christ to conquer. . . You did not have a sin too deep for the atoning blood of Christ to cleanse.”

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). In verse eight the apostle Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Clearly Christ’s death was a substitutionary death, a death in place of others as indicated in these verses. Jesus Christ died “on behalf of” or “in the place of” the sinner. He died as our substitute. There is no doubt that that is the significance in these verses. It occurs four times in vv. 6-8. The one who acts on behalf of another takes his place. That is exactly what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross. In fact, the apostle Paul often uses the preposition huper to express the truth that Christ’s death was substitutionary (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Thess. 5:10; Gal. 2:20; 3:13; Titus 2:14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:3; Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:15, 21; Rom. 8:32; Eph. 5:2, 25, and many more).

John 11:50-52; 18:14; 10:11, 15; 15:13 all refers to the saving death of Jesus as our substitute. John 11:50 reads, “nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50).

“The death of someone for someone else can be understood only against the background of the sacrificial concepts of the Old Testament” (TDNT).

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 the apostle Paul develops the atoning significance of the death and passion of Jesus. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Galatians 3:13 he develops the liberating effect of salvation as corresponding to the redemption of a slave. The salvation work is equated with the payment of a ransom consisting of the death as a sacrifice and vicarious acceptance. The ransom price is substitutionary in character.

The Law thundering from Mt. Sinai was like a black thunder cloud hanging over sinner's heads. They lived in fear of divine judgment flashing down upon them any moment. The apostle Paul tells us God took the initiative to save us from the wrath of God. Christ came and on the cross took upon Himself all the condemnation for sin which we deserved. He bore the full penalty which we ought to have born. The Law declared, "The wages of sin is death." God in grace and love paid the debt in full and declared, "Yes, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Christ bore what we should have borne; He is our substitute. Christ paid the price of our redemption. To the extent that the price must be adequate for the purchase in question indicates a substitution.

The apostle Peter wrote, “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).



Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006





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Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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