#37 HE HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS

In trying to get us to understand the concept of submission Peter referred to submission of Christ displayed in his sin-bearing, substitutionary death:

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ [2:24].

This verse has become one of the most frequently quoted verses of the Bible. It sums up the Gospel in a few simple words.

It tells us, firstly, who it is who did this amazing thing. It was ‘he himself’ – the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious and eternal Son of God. Our salvation does not depend on some lesser being, but on the Son of God. This truth of who it is who bore our sins makes his action all the more significant, and our salvation all the more amazing and secure.

It is the Lord of glory who was arrested in Gethsemane.

It is the Lord of glory who was wrongly accused in an illegal trial.

It is the Lord of glory who was mistreated and ridiculed by the soldiers.

It is the Lord of glory who carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem.

It is the Lord of glory who was nailed to that cross and mocked by the crowds.

It is the Lord of glory who died there.

He deserved none of this. Yet he willingly endured it all. He could have annihilated his oppressors with just a word. But he chose not to.

But there is something even more amazing than his non-retaliation: He bore our sins.

As Peter says later ‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous’ [3:18].

Here is the concept of substitutionary atonement which was embedded in Old Testament history and ritual: that a perfect substitute dies in the place of the guilty and condemned. Death is avoided by the giving of a life.

We see it in God’s provision of a ram, as a substitute for Isaac [Genesis 22].

We see it in the Passover lambs, whose blood on the doorposts averted death [Exodus 12].

We see it in numerous sacrifices described in Leviticus 1 to 7.

We see it in the Day of Atonement [Leviticus 23].

He, the righteous one, bore the sins of us, the guilty. He took upon himself the full burden of our sins, our guilt, our condemnation. As Paul taught:

‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ [2Corinthians 5:21].

And as Isaiah foretold:

‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him ...

the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ [Isaiah 53:5,6].

In this incredible substitution he, the Lord of Glory,

Bore the guilt of our sins so that we may be acquitted.

Bore the condemnation of our sins so that we may be forgiven.

Was rejected by God so that we may be reconciled to God and accepted by God.

How did he do all of this? He did it in his body.

Here Peter acknowledges that this amazing substitution could only be achieved by a real human being. To do this, to save us, the Son of God had to become a real human being, live an authentic and sinless human life, and die a real human death. He had to be one of us. Only as one of us did he qualify to substitute for us. [Read Hebrews 2:5-18 and 4:14-5:10.]

And Jesus Christ accomplished this on the tree.

Even this detail of the method of execution is significant. As Paul explains:

‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”’ [Galatians 3:13].

That curse that hangs over everyone who does not keep God’s law is here borne by Christ. And that curse that has hung over the whole human race since Genesis 3, is here by Christ reversed and undone for all who believe in him.

Let our hearts overflow with gratitude as we contemplate these few simple words: ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’!

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018