We learned that Jesus Christ is the anti-type upon which the Old Testament sin-offering points to. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were only shadows or types that pointed to and found their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Now, let us study some important passages that speak about the truth that the Son bore the sins of His people as their substitute.
THE SON IS THE SIN-BEARER: Isaiah 53:6
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray,Isaiah 53:6 NASB
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all
To fall on Him.
This text is one of the most important old testament passages that point to the suffering servant who bore that sin of God’s people. The LORD [Heb: Yahweh] imputed the sins of His people to His only begotten Son.
The last phrase has the word הִפְגִּ֣יעַ (hip̄·gî·a‘)“fall” that indicates falling upon or striking. According to Spurgeon, we can translate it as “The Lord hath focused upon him the iniquity of us all.”1 In this translation, we see that the Lord isolated him for an awful task, as Alec Motyer puts it in his commentary on this passage. Spurgeon writes, “Sin was scattered as abundantly as light, and Christ is made to suffer the full effect of the harmful rays which stream from the sun of sin” (see also Isaiah 53:11-12).
Another way to translate this passage which most of the translations render it is, “The Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” Paul Washer states that, The sins of God’s people fell upon the Christ with an overwhelming, rushing violence, as an attacking army or a sudden and relentless storm.” It was laid upon Him. Remember the scapegoat where the burden of sin was laid upon it to be carried and be sent away into the wilderness.
Again, it doesn’t mean that the Son became sinful when He bore our sins. According to Benson Commentary, It is “not properly, for he knew no sin; but the punishment of iniquity, as the word עוןis frequently used. That which was due for all the sins of all mankind, which must needs be so heavy a load, that if he had not been God as well as man he must have sunk under the burden.“
In 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith chapter 8 para. 4, we see this truth articulated,
This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that He might discharge He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, and remaining in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption:
THE SON IS THE SUBSTITUTE: II Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
First, observe that it is God’s doing. God made Him sin. We cannot impute our sins to Christ. It must be done and can only be done by the divine initiative. God is the disposer of all things (Acts 2:22-23, 4:26-28).
Second, let us clear some misunderstandings about this passage. Some say that it can be translated as a sin-offering, that God made Christ a sin-offering. Though that is true, it doesn’t hold justice to the sense of the passage. If we consistently apply that. The second usage should also be translated as such which won’t make sense. It can be translated this way “God made him who knew no sin-offering to be sin-offering for us.”
Another common misconception is that Christ Himself became sin. This blasphemes the Son since He is sinless and impeccable. Martin Luther is reputed to have broadly said that, although Jesus Christ was sinless, yet “he was the greatest sinner that ever lived, because all the sins of his people lay upon him.” We don’t want to go that far. We affirm the latter but deny the former.
The key to understanding this properly is to read the passage completely so we can say that Christ was made sin in the same way that the believer is made “the righteousness of God.” The moment a person believes in Jesus, he is pardoned of his sin, and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him or placed in his account. God legally declares the believer to be righteous and treats him as righteous.
Let us listen to Spurgeon once again,
Jesus Christ was made by his Father sin for us, that is, he was treated as if he had himself been sin. He was not sin; he was not sinful; he was not guilty; but, he was treated by his Father, as if he had not only been sinful, but as if he had been sin itself. That is a strong expression used here. Not only hath he made him to be the substitute for sin, but to be sin. God looked on Christ as if Christ had been sin; not as if he had taken up the sins of his people, or as if they were laid on him, though that were true, but as if he himself had positively been that noxious—that God-hating—that soul-damning thing, called sin. When the Judge of all the earth said, "Where is Sin?" Christ presented himself. He stood before his Father as if he had been the accumulation of all human guilt; as if he himself were that thing which God cannot endure, but which he must drive from his presence for ever.2
Imputation is an accounting term. It means”to credit something to someone”, “to charge to one’s account” and “to reckon.” In Philemon 1:18, Paul says to Philemon concerning Onesimus, “but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” This is the sense of imputation. We have a great debt that we cannot pay and it was charged to the Son of God.
The Prince of Preachers again cries out with this words, “We ourselves, brethren, impure though we be, could not bear this; how much less should God with his pure and holy eyes bear with that mass of sin, and yet there it is, and God looked upon Christ as if he were that mass of sin. He was not sin, but he looked upon him as made sin for us. He stands in our place, assumes our guilt, takes on him our iniquity, and God treats him as if he had been sin.”2
THE SON WAS LIFTED UP
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him.John 3:14-15 NASB
Jesus’ words must be understood in the context of Numbers 21:5-9. Israel rebelled against the Lord and they rejected the Holy One of Israel and His gracious provisions, so God sent “fiery serpents” among the people, and many died. However, humanly speaking, as a result of the people’s repentance and Moses’ intercession, God once again graciously made provision for their salvation. God granted repentance that they make seek the LORD. One look at the bronze serpent, they will live. This points to the cross of Christ. The Son was lifted up so that those who turn their eyes upon Him will live.
…and He Himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you were healed.1 Peter 2:24 NASB
Much can be said about this text on the crucifixion of Christ but we will reserve it for our next lesson. The word “bore” comes from the Greek word anaphéro (see also Hebrews 9:27-28), which means literally, “to lift up.” Paul Washer writes, “The cross was the cruelest instrument of torture ever conceived by depraved humanity, yet this was the altar upon which the Son of God made His sacrifice.“
Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5, not with reference to physical healing, but to healing from sin and its consequences, to show us the real significance of Christ’s death on the cross when He bore the sins of His people.
THE SON BORE OUR SINS FOR US
Christ was set forth and died on the cross not only to restore us to a right relationship with God, but also to enable us by the power of God to die to sin and live to righteousness.
When Christ hung upon the cross, He did not actually become corrupt or unrighteous; but God imputed our sins to Him, legally declared Him to be guilty, and treated Him as guilty.
The verses above clearly teach double imputation and penal substitution (we will discuss this in-depth in our future lessons) and other passages. It means that Christ bore our sins and suffered the penalty of our sins under the divine judgment and His righteousness is transferred to those who put their faith in Him. This is the great exchange! Many deny this to the peril of their souls. If Christ didn’t carry your sin on the cross, you have no part in His righteousness.
Francis Turretin in the 17th century affirmed this doctrine against the Socinians on the question “Did Christ truly and properly satisfy God’s justice in our place? And he proved the truth of satisfaction of God’s justice since our sins were the moving, meritorious cause for Christ’s being delivered up to death that He might suffer the punishment due to them and take away their guilt. For He is said to have been delivered for offenses, as sacrifices were offered for sin, doubtless on account of their guilt and to take it away.3
RC Sproul writes, “Of course, Protestantism really teaches a double imputation. Our sin is imputed to Jesus and his righteousness is imputed to us. In this twofold transaction, we see that God does not compromise his integrity in providing salvation for his people. Rather, he punishes sin fully after it has been imputed to Jesus. This is why he is able to be both ‘just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ as Paul writes in Romans 3:26. So my sin goes to Jesus and his righteousness comes to me.”4
THE SON AND OUR SINS
After all that we have learned and heard and read from the Scripture if it does not move us to hate our sins all the more, then we do not have the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must treat sin as sin.
Isaac Ambrose, knowing the depth of his sins that crucified the Savior exclaimed, “Oh! what is that cross on the back of Christ? My sins; oh! what is that crown on the head of Christ? My sins; oh! what is the nail in the right-hand, and that other in the left-hand of Christ? My sins; oh! what is that spear in the side of Christ? My sins; what are those nails and wounds in the feet of Christ? My sins…oh my sins, my sins, my sins!“5
Oh, Christian, Christ bore your sins, would you love the sins that brought your Savior to the cross?
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
1 Charles Spurgeon, Sin Laid on Jesus
2 Charles Spurgeon, Christ our Substitute
3 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol.2 (4th topic, 11th question, sec. XIII)
4 RC Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism, 43-4.
5 Isaac Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 372
2 thoughts on “The Son Bore Our Sins II”
So thankful Jesus paid the price for us and has reconciled us to God.
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