Luther gazed at Christ’s cross with steady joy and gloried in the fact that whoever trusts Christ can be assured of his love. He once wrote to a troubled friend, “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.’” There has been an exchange, a great and wonderful exchange (Luther actually used that phrase, a “wonderful exchange”), whereby the Son of God has taken all our guilt in order to set upon us all his righteousness.
Was there ever such love?
Rabbi Duncan was a great old Reformed teacher in New College, Edinburgh, a hundred and more years ago. In one of his famous excursions in his classes, where he would move off from the Hebrew he was supposed to be teaching to theological reflections on this or that, he threw out the following question: “Do you know what Calvary was? What? What? What? Do you know what Calvary was?” Then, having waited a little and having walked up and down in front of them in silence, he looked at them again and said, “I’ll tell you what Calvary was. It was damnation, and he took it lovingly.” The students in his class reported that there were tears on his face as he said this. And well there might be. “Damnation, and he took it lovingly.”
Amazing love indeed!
Calvin’s exposition of the clause of the creed that says “He descended into hell” related it to the three hours of darkness on the cross, when the Son felt himself forsaken of his Father because he was bearing the world’s sin. Probably that is not what the creed originally meant, but it is a correct exposition of the truth about the cross.
Deep, rich and full peace of conscience comes only when you know that your sins have been not simply disregarded but judged, judged to the full and paid for in full by the Son of God in your place.
….Here is the place of joy and glory, of thanksgiving, of the almost overwhelming delight to which scriptural meditations on Christ’s death as sacrifice, substitution and satisfaction lead us.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
J.I. Packer, Knowing Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 79-81 (emphasis and formatting mine).