The Sacrifice of Christ!
William Nicholson, 1862
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed!" 1 Peter 2:24
These words are full of joyful interest to the people of God. They contain the sublimest doctrine of the Gospel — the sacrificial death of Christ! To this subject the believer can apply in every moment of spiritual anxiety and embarrassment, and find strong consolation.
Vain are your accusations Satan, vain are your lightnings and thunderings O Sinai, and vain are your scoffs O children of sin and folly! Christ is mine! He undertook my case of guilt and condemnation; he voluntarily became my surety; he stood in my place, and "bore my sins in his own body on the tree."
The design of Christ in coming into the world, was not merely to become an example of virtue, or to die as a martyr for the truth — as some affirm who deny his Divinity and atonement. What a meager view is this of Christ's work!
It is impossible to consider, with unbiased mind, the phraseology of the text and context, without considering that the death of Christ was sacrificial. Contemplate,
I. Christ as a Sacrifice for Sin.
Our redemption was mercifully purposed and devised by Jehovah. It existed in the fathomless depths of Infinite wisdom and love. The Son of God is the great efficient and meritorious author of our redemption. God redeemed us by the righteousness of his Son. "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law." Galatians 4:4
1.Christ was possessed of the highest dignity and glory. He was the Son of God, co-equal with the Father, infinitely endeared to him by an ineffable union, and a full participation in all the attributes of a Divine nature — and therefore must be infinitely superior to, and higher than angels. Yes, he is the object of angelic adoration, Hebrews 1:6. He is represented as being one with the Father, "In whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead," etc. He is called the Creator of the universe — the ruler of worlds — the Lord of Providence, and the Judge of all! Hebrews 1:2, 3.
The works of Christ on earth proved that he was more than man. Witness,
you blind, whose eyes he opened;
you deaf, whose ears he unstopped;
you paralyzed, whose legs he made whole;
you demon-possessed, who were saved;
you stormy winds, which he calmed;
you raging sea, whose rolling waves he stilled;
you grave, whose barriers he burst, etc.
2.Christ, that he might offer himself as a Sacrifice, became incarnate, Hebrews 10:4-8. "The word was made flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:14. And this was absolutely necessary, that he might have blood to shed, "for without shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin." This was absolutely necessary, that he might enter into the feelings and trials of his people, weep with those who weep, etc. Hence he was in all things, excepting sin, made like unto his brethren. He was seen and conversed with, as a man. He had all the members and faculties of a man; all the appetites and infirmities of a man. He was God manifest in the flesh. That body which was prepared, was the temple of God. As a Sacrifice,
3.As a Sacrifice, Christ was perfectly holy, "Such a high priest meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens!" Hebrews 7:26. ""He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 1 Peter 2:22. His friends ever beheld him as sinless; his bitterest enemies could never accuse him of one sin; he always did those things which pleased his Father, and the infinitely holy Jehovah announced from the most excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Therefore the death or sacrifice of Christ, was associated with perfect innocence. In every other instance, death dips his darts in guilt, before they can inflict a wound — but in the impeccable Savior, he found none. Where then, O where, did death obtain the poison which rankled in the heart, and caused the death of him who expired on the cross? The only answer that can be given, is the sin of others — this it was that furnished the weapon by which the Lord of Life was slain. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree!" "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed!" Isaiah 53:5. This leads us to observe that,
4.Sin was the cause of the Savior's sacrifice. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree!" The sin and guilt of the transgressor, separated him from God, and exposed him to the curse.
There is an evil in sin which no language can describe. It is more deadly than the venom of the adder, or scorpion. It is more ruinous than the famine or pestilence. What myriads of souls has it consigned to damnation! Sin has insulted the Divine Lawgiver by breaking his laws, and despising his authority. Sin incurs his righteous displeasure, and binds over the impenitent, like a criminal condemned by law, to the day of deserving punishment.
Behold, what sin has done!
The image of God has departed from your soul,
your affections are sensual,
your will is stubborn,
your heart is callous,
your mind is dark,
your judgment is erroneous,
your whole soul is deformed and defiled,
and you are treasuring up wrath!
Hence the unparalleled nature of God's love in delegating his only begotten One to die for the lost, the ungodly, the perishing! "Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:6, 8
From this mass of evil, remember man could not emancipate himself.
5.Christ, as a Sacrifice, stood charged with the sins of his people, as one who had undertaken to put them away by the sacrifice of himself. In fact, he took the sinner's place, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all!" Isaiah 53:6.
This undertaking was a voluntary one, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." John 10:18. It is as if he had said, "Let me be bound for the vile criminal — let me suffer for him! Let the sword of justice pierce my heart — and not the sinner's heart! Let me drink the bitter cup for him, and suffer the vengeance of eternal fire for him!" Yes, and the awful mandate was given, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me! Strike the shepherd! declares the LORD Almighty" Zechariah 13:7
What a burden he sustained! It was the heaviest burden that ever was carried — heavier than the weight of the universe — heavier than holding up the pillars of a boundless creation — so heavy that its weight was sufficient to have sunk unto endless perdition, all the sinful subjects of the Divine dominion. But, amazing love and power! He "bore our sins!"
He bore them His Own Self. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree!" This expression is very emphatic, and necessary to show that he fulfilled all the ancient prophecies — and also to distinguish him from the Levitical priests, who offered the blood of other sacrifices. But Christ shed his own blood, and offered himself as a sacrifice. "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption!" Hebrews 9:12.
The language also indicates that no other participated with him in his work. It was done by his own self! "Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? 'It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.' Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? 'I have trodden the winepress ALONE; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing!'" Isaiah 63:1-3
Hence it is said, "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." He became our substitute, but by so acting, he subjected himself to degradation, extreme sufferings, and an ignominious death. The death of the cross was the most dreadful of all others, both for the shame and pain of it. The death of the cross was so scandalous, that it was inflicted as the last mark of detestation upon the vilest of people, robbers, and murderers.
The manner in which Christ interposed for man was by suffering. This is corroborated by multitudes of Scriptures. Types and sacrifices prefigured this — prophecies foretold it, and the narrations of the Evangelists confirm it.
"Christ suffered for you" 1 Peter 2:21
"When he suffered, he made no threats!" 1 Peter 2:23
"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body." 1 Peter 4:1
His sufferings were most acute and overwhelming. "Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness!" Isaiah 52:14. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death!" Mark 14:34. "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground!" Luke 22:44. See Psalm 22.
6.The Sacrifice of Christ was effectual. This is proved by the testimony of his Father, "This is my beloved Son," etc. Also by his resurrection by his exaltation by his intercession and by the determination of Jehovah to crown his undertaking with the possession of universal empire. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.
The death of Christ shook the empire of sin, and insured its final destruction. "The Son of God was manifested," etc., and the day of vengeance was in his heart when he died for the redemption of his people. The crucifixion, by which the enemy hoped to overwhelm the illustrious Sufferer — became the serpent's defeat. No sooner was the doctrine of the cross proclaimed, than Satan fell, like lightning from Heaven, and the descent of this fiery meteor shall still be continued with increased velocity, until it reaches the deepest point of perdition! Briefly consider,
II. The DESIGN of Christ's Sacrifice:"So that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed!"
The design was great and glorious, being no less than to rescue the deathless soul from the defiling, withering, destroying, and damning effects of transgression; and by its effectual power, to clothe it with Divine "righteousness" here, and then to present it faultless before the eternal throne.
The fruits of Christ's sufferings are,
1. JUSTIFICATION. Christ was bruised and crucified as an expiatory Sacrifice, and by his stripes we are healed. Whatever guilt, condemnation, and misery sin has produced — it is all destroyed by the sacrifice of Christ. The children of God die legally to sin in their justification. By the exercise of faith in the Redeemer's sacrifice, their sins are blotted out — the guilt is removed — they are made free from condemnation. Romans 5:1; 8:1; etc. There was a very remarkable type of this under the law. Leviticus 16. "Your sins and iniquities will I remember no more."
2. SANCTIFICATION. Having been the servant of sin, the regenerated is now set apart to a life of "righteousness." This implies the mortification of sin, and a new, holy life of righteousness, according to the example which Christ left, that we should follow his steps.
Principles of a new life are communicated to the believing soul in the day of conversion — the principles of "righteousness," or in other words, of holiness, of love, heavenly-mindedness, confidence in God, and a reverential, filial awe of his Majesty.
Thus the guilt of "sins" is forever removed from true believers when they are justified — but the power also is taken away by sanctification. He who gave his Son for us, gives also his Holy Spirit to us. He will not allow sin to rule over his people. They are united to Christ by faith, and "sanctified by the faith that is in him."
Finally, he will finally remove sin altogether, its existence, as well as its effects! "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4
1. Behold Christ as the only Source of salvation. "By his stripes we are healed!" By his sufferings and death . . .
the legal wound of guilt is healed,
the spiritual wounds of the soul are healed,
and also its spiritual sorrows and sufferings.
2. Behold the amazing love of Christ. "He bore our sins in his body on the tree!" "By his stripes, we are healed!" What love! Comparisons can give but a very imperfect view of this love which surpasses knowledge. Though we should suppose all the love of all the men that ever were, or will be, on the earth, and all the love of all the angels in Heaven, united in one heart — it would be but a cold heart, compared to that which was pierced by the soldier's spear!
3. Show your gratitude by a life of righteousness. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed!" 1 Peter 2:24