1 Peter 2:24

1 Peter 2:24  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 10
At this point the apostle turns from the more general reference to the Lord's sufferings for us, the peerless example of un-repining love and unswerving yet patient righteousness in a world of evil, to that which stands alone from all before and after in the expiation of our sins, here expressed in terms of extreme simplicity. In atonement Christ had no companions and no followers.
“Who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed (ver. 24).
Both our text and the Epistle to the Hebrews (ix. 28) make certain the strict sacrificial sense of ἀνήνεγκεν (“bore”) when connected with the object, “our sins."1 So joined, this is the simple and sole sense of the word. Such too is the regular, if not invariable, employment by the LXX, as any Scholar may satisfy himself. The notion of a pregnant sense “bringing up to,” and “bearing on” the tree, equivalent to the altar, is as certainly a mistake as anything can be. For to express the former, the usage is προσφέρειν or προσάγειν, as opposed to ἀναφέρειν. Thus we read in Lev. 1:2, 3, 52Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. 3If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. (Leviticus 1:2‑3)
5And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Leviticus 1:5)
(as in the corresponding cases), with the distinct term ἐπιτιθέναι which answers to the latter in 9. The same fact occurs in Lev. 2:11And when any will offer a meat offering unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: (Leviticus 2:1) compared with 2, as in 16 ἀνοισει is given, the exact term instead of its substitute. Compare also Lev. 3:11And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. (Leviticus 3:1) with 5; 6, 7, 9 with 11, and 12 with 16. The Hebrew is always exact, and does not warrant the weak confusion of the LXX. in 14. The due distinction reappears in Lev. 4:11And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, (Leviticus 4:1) contrasted with 10, though the high priest himself was in question; and so for the whole congregation, 14 with 19; again the ruler, 23 with 26; and one of the people, the simple ὀίσει is used in this case, and the proper ἀνοίσει in the other. In the intermediate mixture of sin and guilt, as well as the full guilt-offering, there is at least no violation of the usage, though other terms displace the latter; and so it might be shown from Genesis to Ezekiel that ἀνήνεγκε (“bore”) expresses the final sacrificial act, and not the preparatory “bringing up” which also some have sought to attach to it. This, as we have seen, has its own distinct and appropriate expression.
Our apostle and the still greater one to the Gentiles cite Isa. 53:1212Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12); which stamps these words of the Septuagint with divine authority. Heb. 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28) has the deeper use of exhibiting in the same verse the exact distinctiveness of the two words (προσφέρειν and ἀναφέρειν), which many scholars have confounded, and incomparably more who were far from being scholars. In the Epistle to the Hebrews is no wavering, as in the Septuagint though generally correct. Both terms are used with strict accuracy, as for instance Heb. 7:2727Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:27) for the closing act, and ix. 14 for what preceded it. Heb. 11:1717By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (Hebrews 11:17) beautifully shows the proper word2 in the great trial of Abraham's faith, and with the added exactitude of the perfect and imperfect tenses, of which none perhaps but the inspiring Spirit would have thought, but which when revealed is appreciated by every Christian who understands it.
Does it surprise any reader that so plain a point should be proved so elaborately? Look at the margin of the A.V. and especially of the Revisers. And who does not know. the bitter zeal of too many in our own day to found, on the gross ignorance of that mistranslation, the dangerous misconception of Christ's work involved in Christ's bearing “our sins in His body to the tree?” To translate competently one must know a great deal more than a grammar and a dictionary; one needs to consider the varied usages of the language as modified by its application, and especially the scope and requirement of the context. Who but a tyro could write, “It is the same word that in the verse before us is rendered on, that in the following verse is rendered to, ‘Ye are returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls.' This, then, we apprehend, is the apostle's statement, ‘He himself bare our sins in his own body to the tree.'“ 3 The blunder led him and many another to the utterly false doctrine, that Christ “as really, though not so obviously, bare our sins when he lay a helpless infant, in the manger in Bethlehem, as when he hung, an agonized man, on the accursed tree.”
O foolish theologians, who bewitched you? One may not expect all to read the Greek Testament with intelligent and reverent care, especially if persons doubt that “every scripture is inspired of God.” A single word of the text before us upsets bushels of essays, sermons, and expositions. The dark and perilous hypothesis would require the imperfect tense to give continuity of bearing our sins, which men have imagined and reasoned on. It is the aorist, on the contrary, which above all shuts out relative duration, continuity, repetition, or action commenced and not accomplished. Here it is a simple fact of the deepest moment for God and man, for time and eternity.
The hypothesis is incompatible, not merely with the word used by the Holy Spirit here and everywhere else, but with the broadest and most solemn facts which the most unlettered of believers, taught of God, receive with awe and adoring gratitude. What meant that supernatural darkness which in the hours of broad daylight wrapt up the cross from a certain point? What the cry of Him who had ever, in the fullest enjoyment of love, said “Father,” but now “My God, my God, why didst thou forsake me?” Had He not, when His baptism might have raised a question, received the testimony of the Father's absolute complacency in Christ as His beloved Son? How strange bearing up our sins in His body to the tree! Undoubtedly Christ did never so profoundly glorify God; but His bruising, His stripes, His being made sin and curse, were they all while He was enjoying His Father's love? His suffering for our guilt and God's face, shining at the same time! If He had been all His life bearing our sins, He must all His life have been abandoned by God who cannot look on sin with the least allowance. But no: Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6) attests that Jehovah laid our iniquity on His Anointed when He hung on the tree: nothing more characteristic of the atonement, or more opposed to the perfectly enjoyed communion of His life.
Christ's work on the cross, then, is here before us, the answer of divine grace to man's need and danger, and the base of divine righteousness; but this last was left for another, Paul, to treat formally and fully. The practical aim was that which fell to the fervor of Peter, “that, being dead to sins, we should live to righteousness.” Both apostles delighted in these wondrous antitheses which gave glory to God and to the Lord Jesus, His Son.
The word ἀπογενόμενοι, “being dead,” is so uncommon in the N. T, that this is its only occurrence. It occurs in the best classic authors, and answers to our “deceased,” rather than the ordinary word for “dead.” This the apostle Paul used for the privilege into which the Christian is let in order to know his deliverance from sin, as distinguished from the remission of his sins. The further privilege he treats from chap. v. 12 of his Epistle to the Romans to the end of chap. 8. It is too often confounded with what goes before, though it is clearly a grave question of the Christian's state which arises generally for the soul when he knows his sins forgiven. But our apostle speaks of “having died to sins,” which is quite another thing from Paul's doctrine. It is simple and practical (having done with sins), as was his province generally. It is true that the word sometimes means “having taken no part in,” and “being absent or aloof from “; but the context of any correct writer always suffices to fix what is intended. Here it proves that death spiritually is meant, because it is that we may live to righteousness. No other sense would apply here. It never implies “being freed from,” as some have said. The apostle adds a gracious encouragement as the result already achieved by Christ and given to the believer, for which he borrows the language of Isaiah, in the same chapter but a different verse, yet as exclusively descriptive of Christ's expiatory sufferings: “by whose stripes ye were healed.” Strange paradox, but no less blessedly true! It is literally the weal or rising left by the lash which many a slave knew well. How comforting to the Christian, slave or not, who rests with assurance, not on the puerile use made of Pilate's unprincipled indignity (whatever general custom might be pleaded in excuse) to the Lord of glory, but to that which God wrought for the ungodly through the ignominious but glorious death of His Son.