Substitutionism Vs Propitiation
By Apostle Eric vonAnderseck
God restored the church to the covenant of Jesus Christ and once again Jesus is correctly taught to be the propitiation for our sins rather than our substitute. To many believers, these are one and the same, when in reality they are on opposite sides of the ring.
Why do Christians, who are otherwise rational and intelligent, teach that Jesus is our substitute? The truth of the matter is that they don’t know any better.
The "substitutionism mindset" ruled the church when the covenant of Jesus Christ was no longer taught. Substitutionism is a doctrine of convenience.It feels good to have Jesus take our place and to think that Jesus gave us His place… but it isn’t God.
When you hear justification explained as, “I believe in Jesus and it’s just as if I’d never sinned” and righteousness explained as a summary trade, “Jesus took my sins and I took His righteousness”, you know something is desperately wrong.
What’s wrong is the doctrine of substitutionism. On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the idea of Jesus being our substitute. But the undertow of the flesh will pull you down into troubling waters. Your faith is drowning and you need someone to throw you a life line.
The idea that Jesus as our substitute, once introduced to the church, spread like wild fire through every Christian denomination until it was assumed to be true and no longer questioned. So, what’s substitutionism and how does it differ from the true gospel of Jesus Christ?
In this study, we’re going to look at these two opposing views: Christians either believe that Jesus was their substitute, or they believe that Jesus is the propitiation for sins. Both doctrines are based on the fact that Jesus died for us. But, there are two very different ways to understand the little word “for” that is causing all this confusion.
When under the spell of substitutionism, the covenant of Jesus Christ is set aside for a summary trade. In the house of God building takes place by contact with God through Jesus Christ for the bond of faith to find completion in Him. Just as substitutionism is not propitiation, trading places is not the same as sanctified contact. Don’t settle for “trading places with Jesus” when you can experience Him through contact.
Substitutionism does not allow for the contact according to the provisions of the covenant and so the soul does not experience increase. A person wants to take Jesus’ place (this works well with one’s imagination) rather than labor with His grace. That’s just not how God works.
Learn why the Apostle John preached the doctrine of propitiation.
Understand the differences between substitutionism and propitiation.
Identify the number one danger of substitutionism.
Learn how substitutionism takes away the choices of faith!
Substitutionism OR Propitiation: Which One is God’s plan?
There are two opposing views in regards to the redemption of mankind. Christians either believe that Jesus is their substitute, or that Jesus is the propitiation for sins. These are not two sides of the same coin, they are diabolically opposed.
Both doctrines are based on the fact that Jesus died for us, but the word “for” takes on a different meaning in propitiation than it does when talking about Jesus being our substitute.
Jesus our substitute: The belief is that Jesus died for us, meaning in our place.
Jesus our propitiation: The belief is that Jesus died for us, meaning for our benefit as our advocate.
The Apostle John preached the doctrine of propitiation, that Jesus died for our benefit.
1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
Vs. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
The Apostle John set the propitiation of Jesus Christ in connection to His advocacy. Jesus shed His blood to provide the terms of the covenant which allows Him to mediate the covenant as our advocate. God’s provision for us is by covenant. God set His standard, requirements, and expectations for our faith in Jesus Christ, that by contact with Him our faith would reflect and express Him.
The False Religious System preaches the gospel of substitutionism. Under the guise of substitutionism, believers are led to believe that Jesus died for them meaning, in their place. The idea that Jesus is our substitute creates the concept that Jesus took our place and that God initiated a trade. On the basis of this trade, a person believes that Jesus took our sins and we took Jesus’ righteousness. We become what He is without covenant contact – without faith becoming active with the tools God sprinkled with the blood of Jesus.
Substitutionism is a bloodless faith – it is a convenantless faith. The word “substitute” is not found in the original King James Bible.
The False Doctrine of Substitutionism is Based on a Summary Trade
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The false doctrine of a substitutionary work claims that Jesus became literal sin so that God can punish Jesus instead of punishing us. It is therefore preached that Jesus also went into the flames of hell in our place until God’s justice was satisfied and He cried, “Enough!” And then Jesus is said to have snatched the keys out of the hands of the devil for our release. This makes for good drama and this is in part why it has been accepted for so long—it satisfies the imagination, but it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is our righteousness. But did He have to become sin to make us righteous? No, He only had to shed His blood and die on the cross and rise from the dead for our benefit. Through His blood, Jesus provided the terms of the covenant for our acceptable contact with God. God set the standard for faith to reflect Him; this is why Jesus is our righteousness. God did not initiate a trade—He initiated contact!
Let’s examine the substitutionary trade to see what God is getting in return. In this trade Jesus is said to take our place so we can take His place. The problem is that there is nothing of man that God wants or needs. God did not need man's sin in order to create righteousness.
This unequal yoke (trade) summarily dismisses the terms of the covenant on which God bases His expectations and requirements for faith to reflect and express Jesus Christ.
Under the heavy yoke of a substitutionary trade the natural man is seen to initiate towards God what he believes God desires (faith, love, joy, peace, contrition, forgiveness). The natural man approaches God on the conditions of his own needs, wants, desires, regrets, political climate, current threats, and lack; in other words, the themes and issues of life – Themistic Law – which is worked out through the law of one’s own principle.
The carnal mind, using substitutionism as leverage, believes that God is waiting for us to act so He can act. If you desire healing and miracles and financial increase (approaching God on the basis of need/Themistic Law) you state what you believe the scriptures say about these desires. Do you see how the natural man wants God to reciprocate on the level of the flesh?
A person can say many factual things about Jesus (what the Bible states), but not the function of Jesus (how Jesus is expressed through covenant tools and contact) so a relationship with God is based on what you want to initiate: pageantry, music, healing lines, anointing oil to get God involved with their life (needs).
These are all tokens of substitutionism. It is lifeless legalism in that it stands in one’s principle. As you stand in this perspective to gain the consent of the Lord (you want God to consent to this), you’re loving God with these tokens you’ve selected so that God will reciprocate in kind to you and fulfill your desires. That’s legalism. When you talk about legalism, you’re talking about human principles working through substitutionism.
God’s plan is that we love Him because He FIRST loved us. This means that we reciprocate based on what He first gave us. I John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”
What’s the opposite? God loves us because we first loved Him. This is faith initiating towards God on the conditions of the flesh; this is the unconditional love that is put under the guise of grace: God loves me as I am, meaning I’m stepping forward “God, here I am!” But God says, “I didn’t ask you to do that.”
The substitutionary trade removes the fear of God by stepping forward to play the part of the unworthy servant. A person is taught to say, “Lord I are unworthy, but this is what I’ll do” and they go through a list of commitments and mental flagellations to appease their conscience.
When Jesus is understood as our propitiation, setting the terms of contact in Himself, we learn to depend upon His love and gifts to multiply His grace and increase in His fruits as He cleanses the conscience by establishing His virtues as the power and throne of the will.
Now we understand why a substitutionary trade is such a heavy yoke. Your faith is made to labor with Themistic Law to see yourself in a better place, under better circumstances, doing better, being better.
Substitutionism is further seen as a heavy yoke in that your soul is not increasing with the fruit of Christ (as it would under the propitiation of Jesus Christ) so increase has to be initiated by the natural man who looks within himself for the raw material to increase. While he says he is doing it for God, he’s actually consenting to his principle as the virtue and throne of the will.
Propitiation is quite different. Under the easy yoke of propitiation, the spiritual man is seen to accept the knowledge and tools God initiated for faith to engage God on His level.
A substitutionary trade is the divine exchange gone wrong – it is the counterfeit. Reciprocation is taking place on the level of the flesh.
When foolishly accepting a substitutionary trade, Christians are ignorantly accepting the paradoxes that go with it. Let me explain what a paradox is. We know, for example, that sanctification and holiness are words in the Bible and that these words are important to God and play an important role of living out a Christian life, yet because faith is focused on substitutionism (the counterfeit trade) a person is not schooled in the true faith and covenant terms, and does not know Gods requirements for sanctification and holiness to become a reality.
How do we know this to be true? Look at all the how-to books peddled by Christian authors: how to make faith living, how to make worship meaningful, how to relate to God as a father, mentor, brother, etc. The trade does not create the reality of Christ and so one is forced to keep looking for it. Truth in the current Christian culture has always held a familiar “are we there yet?” feel to it.
Sanctification and holiness became ideals to strive after rather than a reality abided in; they were presented as a level of maturity and fullness that is always out of reach while one is honored for the pursuit of something noble. This double standard (saying one is serving God while at the same time working faith from the natural man) and confusing paradoxical outcomes are the trace evidence of the heavy yoke found in substitutionism.
Let’s recap: Jesus, fulfilling the scriptures, bore our infirmities but did the Lord become that which offended His Holiness? In resisting the devil did the Lord of Hosts finally capitulate to Satan’s wiles? Substitutionism seeks to grasp the promise of good will and at the same time deny the source.
This clever paradox keeps the soul in the journey seeking holiness while keeping holiness itself out of arms reach; while Jesus’ propitiation for us puts holiness in the works of faith which requires the tether of grace for holiness to be a present experience.
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) To love God in word means to quote what the Bible says about sanctification, holiness, grace, truth, regeneration, charity (the elements of the gospel), but not connect them to the covenant where they are lived out by the deeds of the covenant—contact with Jesus to experience the divine reciprocation.
When the Spirit of God, through Apostle John, bears out that for some loving God is in word only, the Holy Spirit is pointing to the natural man working with the devil’s triad to take ownership of the elements of the gospel to play them out through one’s aspiration, principle, and imagination.
Focus Creates Value
Focus creates value. The focus of Jesus as our substitute created a gospel in which Christ is not valued, nor are any of the terms of the new covenant valued; therefore Jesus cannot advocate the terms God set for contact.
Missing that much needed contact, reciprocation, living witness in the anointing, healing of the soul and fruit bearing, a Christians sets out on a journey to get these things. This sad state of affairs (faith being separated from Christ) was not identified as being a bad thing because it was justified by saying, “We’re just trying to get closer to Jesus”.
This language “getting closer” is a yet another tell tale sign of the typical void that is experienced on account of the doctrine of substitutionism.
Further tell tale signs of faith having gone wrong under the flag of substitutionism: Christians are seen looking for the well of the Spirit because they feel dry; they look for the anointing because they feel uninspired.
As I said earlier, substitutionism created many painful paradoxes. One of the most distressing yokes of substitutionism is the paradox of works. While God requires us to love Him in word AND in deed, works are not required in a substitutionary trade. God is said to summarily take our sins, and in return gives us the righteousness of Christ.
It is emphasized over and over that there are no works which enter into your faith and so it is little wonder that after all that is said and done, you’re left with the same question, “So, how do we increase; how do we become Christ-like; what are we supposed to do?”
The Paradox of Substitutionism: The Sliding Scale
The paradox is that when the gospel of substitutionism is preached, works, while adamantly declared to be not required – are adamantly declared to be required. The lifestyle of a believer is required to be as Christ-like as possible. The Sermon on the Mount is used as a means of conveying the life principles that God would like us to imitate.
Yet, these qualities are foreign to the nature of man which is ruled by sin. How am I going to do that? What happens if I fail? The typical response is, “Well, we all fail! God doesn’t judge your failures, but your motive.” We’ve all heard this line of self questioning and examination leading to thoughts of justification.
Some believers try to nip this line of questioning in the bud. They confess a new nature is given to them the moment they say “I do” (confession Jesus as their Savior). They’d like you to believe that they are not troubled at the contradiction they see played out in their thought life and how they struggle to get in line with what the Bible says Jesus is. The summary trade did not deposit into man a new nature or change the inherent struggle.
There is a lot of pressure upon Christians to live up to the demands of a “Christian Life.” These demands are not based on the covenant of Jesus Christ, they are demands placed upon the soul through Themistic Law (faith follows the themes and issues of life rather than the covenant).
To fix the paradox, believers are taught how to use three separate scales to verify a form of correctness for the conscience and to help feed the appetite of the God-Code to see progression. Each scale is used to weigh reason and experience against a selected baseline. When you fail to measure up to expectations, you take another look at the scale. You don’t know what went wrong, but you’re determined to try again. You give yourself permission to slide the scale to the right.
Politicians are often accused of using a Sliding Scale because they are quick to tip the political scales in their favor. If justices said to slide to the right or to the left at one’s convenience we are describing a conviction that adjusts to personal needs rather than to the standards of the law. Christian authors, lecturers, and teachers do the same thing.
The first scale represents a very familiar message that is preached from almost every pulpit. That message states that once a believer makes a confession of faith in Jesus Christ, God accepts you the way you are – without covenant contact. There are no goals, there is no performance, and each Christian meets this benchmark of faith.
The mind accepts this as not having done anything to have contributed to one’s salvation – Jesus did it all, not understanding that there is a part we play for the divine exchange to happen. A person thinks that salvation is getting their foot into the door of heaven, when in fact, salvation is the joining of the soul to God in covenant to be equipped with the knowledge and tools you need to serve God, and the ongoing work of Christ within the soul to heal the soul and create in the soul the divine nature.
While the mind can agree to the very simple and tidy package substitutionism presents, the conscience starts to fight back and cries out against you because the conscience has not been purged. Sins have been forgiven, but the soul is still in bondage. In addition, the grace that was present for salvation isn’t available for growth, so you’re wonder why you don’t feel the same power and you’re wondering what you have to do to remove the barriers. Add to that frustration the knowledge that your soul was designed for increase after God’s likeness and that isn’t happening, you’re also wondering why you’re not increasing and again wondering what you have to do to remove perceived barriers.
You begin to see the picture, don’t you? Not only do Christians suffer shame, guilt, remorse, and depression because the conscience is not purged, but they also suffer frustration and confusion because they are not able to experience the ongoing power of grace nor increase with the increase of God.
To top it off, as if this was not enough, ministers preach a paradoxical message by stating that although God accepts you the way you are, you now have to make some suggested changes.
You don’t have to be perfect, but maybe it’d be a good idea if you did not lie.
God accepts you as you are, but maybe it’d be a good idea if you thought about others once in a while. After all, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did that and wouldn’t that be what God wants?
This message is born of the need to quiet the conscience. These new demands lead both the preacher and believer to slide the scale towards finding a moral code to guide them. The soul is hoping you’ll measure up a bit better against the new demands.
There are three main branches of moral conduct that Christians use as a new benchmark for faith (1) the Ten Commandments, (2) the Beatitudes, and (3) the Good Samaritan. The exercise of the will with these branches of conduct addresses the flesh and sets a standard for the flesh thus obligating the conscience to fulfill a debt: you should not lie, you should be kind, you should forgive others, you should forgive yourself.
These firm guidelines promise to deliver a form of correctness that is clear, sound, and pure. Ministers make new promises and teach new ways for you to engage God using these guiding principles to benchmark faith and adjust the imbalance of the first scale.
Scale #2 promises believers a moral guide to quiet the conscience. Books and sermons that utilize the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Good Samaritan focus on Christian living, subduing and overcoming bad habits of the flesh, learning new life skills and spiritual warfare skills when you feel overwhelmed; and yet Christians continue to live a defeated life and suffer that “let down” feeling in their walk with God because the activity of faith did not translate into the expected outcome.
The bar is set pretty high on scale #2. The mind agrees to what is read in the Bible, but the soul demands experience to weigh reality and the experience of the soul is not Christ. The soul has not been prepared with the tokens of Christ to reflect Him and express Him.
See how much lower the average performance of Christians is in regards to these goals? It’s quite a bit lower. There’s a disparity between what you thought you could do with the help of the Holy Spirit and where you continue to find yourself.
This is where most believers crack open the various books they’ve purchased from other believers who experienced the same thing and using the media to share their struggles, self questions. The benchmark was used to set the bar for holiness yet holiness is still elusive. The commandments against sin are clear, but the will does not find in the Ten Commandments the power to reflect Christ. The activity of the flesh with the law of sin could be restricted for a short time, but these efforts could not be sustained.
Jesus paid the debt for sin with His own blood. However, the continued witness of sin by the conscience speaks of that debt not being paid. The conscience not being purged bears witness of the record of sin in the soul rather than the virtues of Christ. You’ll hear this sad confession from most believers who shamelessly state that they are “sinners” saved by grace. They still identify themselves with the kingdom they are still citizens of. Only covenant contact with God makes you a citizen of heaven.
Believers do not realize that the promise of life is not carried by the flesh through the law of Moses, it is carried by the Spirit through the law of grace and truth Jesus mediates. The angel of the Lord that worked with Moses to confirm the coming of Jesus Christ through the old covenant knowledge now works to confirm Jesus Christ with the new covenant knowledge.
When Jesus spoke of what was correct people mistook that message as a pattern to follow (the Beatitudes). This became an opportunity for human aspiration and principle to find fulfillment through a form of correctness. Instead of following Christ, believers followed the Beatitudes. “You can be like this—Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The Beatitudes became a set of praiseworthy virtues that the world attached to themselves for righteousness. “Thou shalt not steal” is another praiseworthy virtue. “I don’t steal, so I’m going to heaven.” Your thinking is correct concerning not stealing, but faith is not born in the heart by observing this law.
The need for moral guidelines has been evident from the dawn of civilization. Many cultures therefore have developed laws for morality. Christians think that God is in favor of their actions because the principles speak in favor of their conscience once a moral message is uncovered and understood.
When this false message is overlaid onto the gospel of Jesus Christ a person is heard to say, “Jesus came to earth to give us a message, and then He died for the message” Or, “Jesus died on the cross so we could have the good life”. Both of these statements reflect the gospel of Themistic Law, not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A seducing spirit works with the legalism of Themistic Law. That is the spirit of this world, the spirit of antichrist. New paradoxes are introduced every time there is a disparity between what the Bible says our experience should be and what reality states.
The need to quiet the conscience and meet these new demands leads a person to slide the scale once again towards finding a means to supplement the moral code with something that is more within the grasp of the common person. The soul still needs to increase after the likeness of God and still needs to enter into rest. A person hopes for new opportunities for increase and completion with the new standards illustrated in scale #3.
Unable to create a witness for the conscience with the law of Moses, the will then looks within for a record and witness for one’s completion and increase. The record of the signature of the soul is always readily available. The hope is that one can supplement the law of Moses with the works one can generate from signature skills and talents and so the bar is again set very high.
Using one’s signature as a benchmark for faith would appear to have several personal advantages. When saying that Jesus is your “personal” Savior, you’re not really thinking about Jesus and what is unique to Jesus (His record and pattern for faith), but what is personal to you (your life, your needs, God’s plan for you, your struggles) and a relationship is built on this faulty foundation.
God is thought to meet you where you are, which is understandably a very attractive alternative to the dry, lifeless dogma most came out of inside the walls of institutional religion.
These seemingly huge advantages to making God speak personally from the voice of your own record carries a hefty price tag. Ministers can engage Christians on the level of their talents, skills, time, and money. People can identify with this benchmark and give of themselves. The result is a flexible Christ-like system of self-transformation that can be personalized to one’s own liking.
The average Christian is able to reach their expectations a little better on this scale yet the paradoxes are not removed from faith. One can give, but pride is attached to their giving and contradicts their efforts to give without notice. One can exercise their will with their talents, but their need for affirmation contradicts their efforts to not take this to their own honor. There’s always going to be a disparity between the set bar and the contradiction seeded within the soul.
When in a covenant relationship with God that is based on the record of Jesus Christ and the proper use of His spiritual tools and function of faith walked out in a daily priesthood, a believer gets to know his own growth cycle and works with the Spirit of God to overcome self, the world, and the devil on the battlefield of faith.
He learns how to work with the anointing, how to increase with and in the grace of God, and how to steward the grace of God to others. The Christian life is vibrant and one meets God’s expectation 100% because faith is made perfect in Christ, not in the record of man.
When trying to develop a personal relationship with God based on the record of man (signature skills, moral code, and God-Code) you can exercise your will doing good things for others, but the sense of competition and envy contradicts the desire to give without these carnal identifiers of the flesh. A battle is waged to subdue the flesh and overcome the voice of the enemy.
In that you don’t possess the knowledge, tools, and priesthood of Jesus Christ, the battle isn’t fought on the battlefield of faith, but rather on the battlefield of the flesh. All that is born of the flesh (the record of man) will bear witness to the flesh. One cannot escape the inertia of that kingdom. One does not go through this battle of the flesh alone, but the devil’s triad – aspiration, principle, and imagination are companions in labor.
One cannot expect to sow to the flesh and not reap these carnal benefits. There is no such thing as “being spiritually minded about one’s signature”. The witness of the Spirit is not present with the human signature because the record of the soul cannot be used for faith to reflect and express Jesus Christ. The kingdom of the flesh is hostile against the kingdom of God.
Believing Jesus to be your substitute, believing you are to take His part (while drawing from the record of the flesh) means that faith is benchmarked with human skills and talents. This does look promising because it seems reasonable that we could reach that bar and it seems like a good thing to do for God, but the soul can’t increase in the likeness of God and you can’t experience completion in Christ when using your own record for faith.
The soul is made to wrestle with hypocrisy. Christians say, “I have faith in God”, yet resource the law of Moses or the Beatitudes or their signature as a record for faith and give witness to this record through earthly agreements. The conscience is daily convicted of the debt of sin because Jesus is not mediating the covenant.
With so many discipleship models on the market today is it any wonder that Christians have difficulty identifying the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ? Is it any wonder that Christians find themselves on a journey in search of truth and in search of holiness?
The constant shifting of the scale followed by new disappointments are mitigated through Sliding Scale once again to try to remove the contradictions and bring the soul into harmony with God. Efforts with the 10 commandments, with the Beatitudes, and WWJD merely wearies the soul and forces the soul to begin a new journey to mask present disappointments and failures.
The journey masks faith failure. Ministers mitigate faith failure by telling believers that life is about the journey, not the destination. They’re not speaking of the journey of covenant faith, they’re talking about the journey in search of faith, thus moving the focus of faith from Jesus Christ onto the psychology of one’s own life (Themistic Law).
The soul looks for completion through Themistic Law, looking towards God to further that journey and inspire a better way of life. This act, to bring Christ down to our level to serve the creature, rather than raise up God’s children to behold Christ and serve Him in righteousness, brings faith into crisis and burdens the soul with the cares of this life. [Continue reading
[Eric vonAnderseck serves the Body of Christ as a confirmed Apostle in the government of God. He is the founder of Second 8th Week Ministries & founder of the Network of Apostles Today. He is the IDCCST® Christian Education Curriculum author and author of over 100 ground breaking books and articles, spearingheading the return of the apostolic calling and anointing to the church.
Apostle Eric ministers extensively nationally and internationally. He is the pioneer of the new apostolic age and recognized as the leading authority in the fields of church growth, foundation building, spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare, and the leading voice in the transition of the church into the new apostolic season and reformation.]
Last Revised: 2016-06-19