OUR SUFFERING SERVANT
Isaiah 53: 5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
In the atonement of Christ, God substituted the sufferings of Jesus for the penalty of sin, which is death that is eternal separation from God. Christ’s sufferings were not a punishment from his Father; for it would not have been just for God to punish an innocent man. But innocent men frequently suffer over the sins of others. Adam’s bad example has brought much suffering to the human race as men have followed him in sin.
Peter applies Isaiah’s vision in his first letter: Christ “his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:24).”
Christ suffered the shame of being regarded and treated as a sinner by evil men, when in fact he was a guiltless man. God’s purpose in sending Christ to atone for the sins of mankind was to change and transform men from sinners to saints. One is either dead to sin; that is sin no longer engages him or else he is dead in sin. As Paul writes, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18),” through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Although the Father put his Son in harm’s way by sending him into the world, the chastisement of Christ was inflicted by sinful men, not by his heavenly Father. The Father did not chasten the Son in the sense of punishment but in the sense of discipline. Obedience was not automatic for Jesus in that he had “to learn obedience by the things which he suffered; being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9).”
John Miley wrote, “Christ was made a curse by being exposed to reproach and shame on a cross. The sufferings of Christ were substituted instead of inflicting the chastisement due to us; and that they are called by this name, because they answered the same ends, as if our chastisement had been literally inflicted upon us.”
After his baptism in Jordan where the Father pronounced his pleasure over his Son, Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt 4:1).” Thus we have the beginning of his sorrows in his fasting for forty days and nights. And after enduring Satan’s temptations, the devil left Jesus for a season and the angels came and ministered unto him. Satan attacks him again in Gethsemane where Jesus fell into such heavy temptation that he sweated blood and almost died. But the experience strengthened him to endure the even greater test of Mt. Calvary, where in death he was finally perfected (Luke 13:32).
Christ desires to heal the whole man, body, soul and spirit. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all they diseases (Ps 103:32-3).”
What a great provision of salvation God has made for those who believe! No wonder Isaiah questioned, “Who hath believed our report? Who would think that God’s love would be so great that he would give his only begotten Son to endure such great infliction on the behalf of mankind? The Jews should have known; they should have believed from Isaiah’s prophesy and other Hebrew Scriptures, which spoke of the Messiah’s afflictions. But, alas, they were blinded by sin and the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4).
WHAT HAS GOD WROUGHT IN CHRIST?
Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The prophet says all have gone astray and everyone has turned his own way. Scriptures do not teach that men are born sinful. Children are not born with a sinful nature; they are born with a human nature that has the capacity to do good or evil, to live selfishly or unselfishly. Alas, all have chosen to abuse their freedom by choosing to be selfish and thus they become sinful, which eventually becomes their nature until they experience the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Cor 5:17).” Sin is now dead and righteousness is now alive in the one who is in Christ.
“For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5:21).” To be made “sin for us” does not mean that Jesus ever became a sinner, nor did God regard him as a sinner when he was on the cross. Isaiah could not mean that he became sinful, since in the same sentence he declares that Jesus “knew no sin.”
How has “the LORD laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all?” Jesus became a sin offering in order to demonstrate that sin results in suffering, humiliation and death. Upon the conditions of repentance and faith in Christ’s work of reconciliation, God could now offer us forgiveness and secure a suitable motive for our future obedience. After realizing the great cost in securing salvation, how could those who loves their Lord return to the sin from which they were once delivered? That would be to “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6).”
Some teach a legal fiction that our sins are transferred to Christ without him becoming a sinner and his righteousness is transmitted to us without us actually becoming righteous in this life.
Thomas W. Jenykn refutes this notion, “The substitution of Christ was twofold,–a substitution of his person instead of the offenders; and substitution of his suffering instead of their punishment. In this substitution there was no interchange of character, nor transfer of blame-worthiness; the innocent [Jesus] was innocent still, the offender [mankind] was an offender still.”
The blood of Jesus cleanses from sin. The Old Testament sacrifices merely covered sin for the time being. The dumb animals going to the slaughter could not provide the moral influence necessary to cleanse the consciousness of sin (Hebrews 10:2). Jesus appeared in order “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).”
Those who claim that a believer remains a sinner after the cross in fact have an Old Testament relationship with God. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin; however, by the offering of his blood Jesus “hath perfected forever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).”
Why should Christ go through all his sufferings if he is not able to change the nature of man from a selfish to a benevolent nature? If we remain sinners after the cross, the LORD might as well have just left the O.T. sacrificial system in place. Alas, many who claim to have fellowship with Jesus Christ do not believe Isaiah’s report of a New Covenant coming in place with better promises than that of the Old.