Good stuff from Martin here, pertinent with all the confusion on the atonement floating around in evangelicalism today. Get rid of penal substitution and Christ as priest, and you get rid of everything. This is from Martin’s commentary on Jonah (pg. 335) and is worth reading on from where this quote leaves off.
Let it be observed very specially that it is “Christ crucified” that is the Power and Wisdom of God. It is Christ in the fundamental act of His priesthood; offering Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God. This is indeed remarkable. Would we not have thought that when Christ was to be called the Wisdom of God, we would have been asked to contemplate His Prophetic office? and when Christ was to be called the Power of God, to contemplate His Kingly office? As a teacher, He might have been called God’s Wisdom; and as a prince, God’s power. But not so. He is a wise teacher; and He is a powerful prince. But it is as a priest on His Cross that He is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.
As a Teacher, He might have taught us many truths; but there could have been no power in them but for the Cross. Gospel morality might have been very beautiful–but weak. It might have been very acceptable to the Greeks in their search for wisdom. But oh! the folly of being followers of a dead, a murdered Teacher! Yes; and that folly is undeniable, if the sufferer be not a Priest.
And so, as a King, He might have done many great and powerful things; but there could have been no wisdom in them; no adaptation for the cancelling of guilt; for reconciling men to God; for giving peace of conscience and power over Satan and death:–none but for the Cross. The astounding signs and wonders might have been very acceptable to Jews. Gladly would they have accepted Him as king; taken Him by force and made Him a king. But oh! the shameful Cross! The King of the Jews crucified! Write not, “the King of the Jews,”–but only that he said it. Our king crucified! They stumbled at that stumbling stone. A king should be with great power and observation.
Yet not in the kingly office are we to look for all the power of God; and not in the prophetic for all His wisdom. It is the priest,–the sacrifice,–the Lamb of God,–Christ crucified,–who is the power of God, and the wisdom of God unto salvation. If He is not a priest, the Greek may rightly reject Him as a teacher, and call the whole exhibition folly; and the Jew reject Him as a king, and call it weakness and unprofitableness unto the uttermost. The Greek inevitably falls into his error, and the Jew into his, because they both are blind to the priestly nature and glory of His death. The Greeks seek a wise teacher–and the Jew a powerful king. A crucified king and teacher seems absurdity and imbecility. And it really is so, except upon the ground that Christ crucified is an atoning priest for ever after the order of Melchizadec. As a prophet, there is wisdom in His instructive voice. As a king, there is might in His majestic arm. His Cross may cast a cloud over His wisdom; and cast more than a doubt upon His power; yet, rightly seen, the Cross, as the alter of eternal propitiation, proves that He was not merely powerful and wise, but the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.