Often Christians talk about Jesus dying “for us.” We are correct to use this language because it is the Bible’s way of speaking of Jesus’ death. Just to use one example, Paul said in Romans 5:8 that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What do we mean when we say that Jesus “died for us?” What did he accomplish when he died?
Few people have done as much work in the area of Jesus’ atonement in the last century as J.I. Packer. In addition to writing the introduction to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Packer gave a lecture which was published in the Tyndale Bulletin entitled “What Did the Cross Achieve?: The Logic of Penal Substitution.” In this lecture, he gives a nine-point summary of an evangelical understanding of Jesus’ death.
1) God judges all sin as it deserves: which Scripture affirms, and my conscience confirms, to be right.
2) My sins merit ultimate penal suffering and rejection from God’s presence, and nothing I do can blot them out.
3) The penalty due to me for my sins, whatever it was, was paid for me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in his death on the cross.
4) Because this is so, I am through faith in him “the righteousness of God in him,” i.e. I am justified and pardon, acceptance, and sonship are mine.
5) Christ’s death for me is the sole ground for my hope before God. “If he fulfilled not justice, I must; if he underwent wrath, I must to eternity.”
6) My faith in Christ is God’s own gift to me, given in virtue of Christ’s death for me; i.e. the cross procured it.
7) Christ’s death for me guarantees my preservation to glory.
8) Christ’s death for me is the measure and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son to me.
9) Christ’s death for me calls and constrains me to trust, to worship, to love, and to serve.