I have been a fan of Jerry Bridges for several years. I was first introduced to Bridges when I picked up Transforming Grace—a warm and refreshing treatment of the grace of God and how we can practically apply the liberating truth of God’s grace to our daily lives. Then I read The Pursuit of Holiness, followed by Discipline of Grace and then The Gospel for Real Life. Needless to say, I quickly learned that Jerry Bridges is not only doctrinally in-tune with the truths of the gospel; he is relentlessly passionate about the gospel. When I heard that Bridges was teaming up with a close friend (Bevington) to write a thorough and accessible treatment of Christ’s atonement, I was excited to devour the truths I knew would be clearly and practically expounded in their work. I was not disappointed.
The Great Exchange is, in simple terms, a book about the gospel. More specifically, it is a book that explains what the Bible teaches about Christ’s substitutionary atonement, and how this atonement makes us right with God. The theme verse of the book is II Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In chapter after chapter, Bridges and Bevington explain, from from many Old and New Testament passages, what it means that Christ became sin on our behalf so that we could become the righteousness of God. In a word it means that Christ, the sinless one, was charged with our sin, while we, in the Great Exchange, received Christ’s perfect righteousness. This truth is summed up well by the musical artists, Shane and Shane:
The one on which he cried not for his pain but for our debt
The very same tree that He conquered death
It was an unfair deal on the part of Christ
He got my sin, I got eternal life (emphasis added)
Bridges and Bevington also focus on the representative life of Christ, explaining that the fullness of Christ’s atonement not only happened at the cross; it was occurring over the course of his whole life, while Christ was walking in perfect obedience to God’s law on our behalf. Christ was our substitute, not only in his death, but also during his life—he lived a perfectly righteous life in our place and died the death we deserved. As a result, God can now justify those who trust in Christ because he credits Christ’s righteousness to them, while transferring all their guilt to Christ; a guilt that has been fully paid for at the cross. God remains just and we receive pardon from sin and perfect righteousness.
Bridges and Bevington also emphasize the truth that the work of Christ’s atonement is not a work that happens on the inside of us (although it is the grounds for God’s work on our hearts), it is an external, finished, objective, historical work that has already fulfilled the law of God in our place. There is no work left to do; that is why faith is the instrument by which we receive the benefits of this great atonement.
In the latter two-thirds of the book, Bridges and Bevington take the reader through every major passage in the New Testament that speaks of Christ’s work of representation and atonement, mining each text for precious truth. Major passages from the book of Acts, all of Paul’s epistles (excluding Philemon), Hebrews, I Peter, I John and Revelation are examined and proclaimed. The final product is a Scripture saturated exposition of Christ’s work for our salvation (there are over 1000 Scripture references in the book, and only five references from other sources). Well-written and throughly grounded in Scripture, this book is one that deserves to be read and reread.
I know how easy it is to be tempted to think that we, at some point in the Christian life, get beyond the gospel. When I oblige this temptation, I am usually led into paths of self-righteousness and spiritual frustration. On the other hand, when my mind is enraptured by the fullness of Christ’s work on my behalf, I find what Christ calls, “rest for [our] souls” (Matthew 11:29) and power for obedience. For these and other blessings, I recommend this book to you.