The Death of Christ a Propitiation for Sin
Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.…

Two things are asserted —

I. THAT THE MESSIAH SHOULD SUFFER NOT FOR HIS OWN SINS, BUT FOR OURS (vers. 4-5). This indeed is what His enemies would deny, esteeming Him "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted," for His own sins, His imposture, usurpation and blasphemy. But if we peruse the history of His life we shall find that the sum of all they had to lay to His charge was His presuming to act in a character which really did (but which they would not believe did) belong to him: that the whole course of His behaviour exemplified the most perfect integrity of heart and life, and showed Him to be the spotless Lamb of God, in whom there was no sin. Hence it follows that He must have suffered for the sins of others.

1. Some have put this gloss upon the words, "He was wounded for" — i.e., (they say) "by our transgressions," and "bruised by our iniquities." Or, that it was owing to the sins of the Jews that He suffered so much as He did. It was their malice, unrighteousness and envy that was the cause of all His suffering. But this construction is not only apparently forced, but is confuted by the whole scope and tenor of the prophecy. For He is not said to be smitten by the Jews, but for them; nay, that He was smitten of God for them, for it was "the Lord that laid on Him the punishment of their iniquities.

2. Others say that He bore our sins by imputation, and was wounded for our transgressions, because our transgressions were imputed to Him, or reckoned as His. But you will say, perhaps, "Were not our sins then imputed to Christ?" I answer, I find no fault with the word, provided it be rightly understood and explained. If by "imputation" be meant, that our sins were actually made over or transferred to Him, so as to become His, I do not see how this can be conceived possible. "But might they not be reckoned His?" No, for that would be to reckon them what they were not, and what it was impossible they should be. But if by our sins being "imputed" to Christ be understood no more than that the punishment thereof was actually laid upon Him, this is easily conceived, and readily granted: that is what the sacred Scriptures everywhere say. If anything further be necessary to illustrate this affair, we may explain it by the case of the propitiatory sacrifices under the law, all which pointed at or prefigured the great Christian sacrifice under the Gospel. Those piacular victims were of Divine appointment. The sin-offerings, over the heads of which the priest was to confess the sins of the people, were substituted in the room of the offenders, and died instead of those sinners for whom they were offered. The sins of the people were not transferred over to the victim, but the victim was slain for the sins of the people. Leviticus 16:21, 22 must of necessity be taken in a figurative construction: because the sins of a man can in no other sense be transferred to, or laid upon a beast, than by transferring upon it the punishment of them.

3. Others there are who acknowledge that Christ died for us, meaning thereby that He died for our sakes or for our good, and to set us a perfect example of patience and submission under sufferings; but not for our sins, or in our room and stead. But if Christ died for us as our Sacrifice, or as the sacrifices under the law died for the offenders (as He certainly did if they were proper types of Him), then He must have died in our room, and as substituted in our place.

4. Others think, that all those places of Scripture which speak of Christ's death as a "propitiation are to be explained in a figurative sense: that the apostles borrowed those sacrifical terms from the Jewish law, and applied them to the death of Christ, only by way of accommodation or analogy, not that the blood of Christ did really and properly expiate or atone for sin, any more than that of the Jewish sacrifices; but that He only died for us as a pledge to assure us that God would pardon and accept us upon our repentance. To which it may suffice to say, that the apostle does not speak of the death of Christ merely by way of analogy to the Jewish sacrifices, but as typified, represented and prefigured by them (Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:13, 14; Hebrews 10:4).

II. THAT THE GREAT END AND DESIGN OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING FOR OUR SINS, WAS TO MAKE OUR PEACE WITH GOD. "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him," etc. These words plainly intimate to us the way whereby our peace is made with God, viz. by our justification and sanctification.

(J. Mason, M.A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

WEB: Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted.

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