In 2017 I had the joy of preaching through the book of 1 Peter at our church. It is amazing how Scripture continues to shape and transform us as we gather around it each week eager to hear from God’s Word. We were going along at a pretty good pace until we hit 1 Peter 2:24 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
As I studied this verse I felt like it would be a good time to slow down and walk slowly through the mountains of richness this particular passage contains. I decided to break down this verse piece by piece as we sought to plumb the depths of the gospel and anchor all of our hopes in the magnificent truth of what Christ has done for us. I’d like to share some of that insight in today’s post.
Peter tells us that Christ “bore our sins” (see also Isaiah 53:3-11). In order for us to understand the full weight of such a statement, we need to think biblically about sin. This is not an easy subject. In fact, it is often one rejected by our society and sadly, it is even obscured in many pulpits today. The purpose of Christ’s work was not to bear our ‘non-Fridays’, our ‘flat-tires’, or our failure to get the next promotion. God was after our most fundamental need in the atonement: our sin debt. Therefore, Christ bore our sins.
What Is the Essence of Sin?
The word from 1 Peter 2:24 (used twice) carries the idea of ‘missing the mark.’ Isaiah 53:5 uses the English words ‘transgressions’ and ‘iniquities’ carrying the idea of rebellion and misdeeds respectively. In 1 John 3:4, John tells us plainly that “sin is lawlessness.” With those truths in mind, consider what others have said about the essence of sin:
- “Sin is high treason against heaven.” Thomas Watson
- “Sin is any lack of conformity to God’s will in attitude, thought, or action, whether committed actively or passively. The center of all sin is autonomy, which is the replacing of God with self. Always closely associated with sin are its products – pride, selfishness, idolatry, and lack of peace.” John Macarthur
- “What is sin? Sin is saying, I renounce the God who made me; I disallow His right to govern me. I care not what He says to me, what commandments He has given, nor how He [disapproves]: I prefer self-indulgence to His approval. I am indifferent to al He has done to and for me; His blessings and gifts move me not: I am going to be lord of myself. Sin is rebellion against the Majesty of Heaven. It is to treat the Almighty with contempt.” A. W. Pink
- “Sin: Any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Wayne Grudem
- “Sinning is a discounting of the value of the glory of God.” John Piper
The children’s Sunday School answer of sin being the ‘bad stuff we do’ doesn’t quite capture the full essence of sin, does it? It’s not merely the ‘bad stuff’ we do, but all that we do in a life outside of Christ. The essence of sin is a life of rebellion.
What are the effects of sin?
How has sin affected man? Only in every conceivable way.
- It has affected our minds (Titus 1:15)
- It has affected our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9)
- It has affected our wills (Romans 3:11)
- It has rendered us unwilling and unable to submit to God (Romans 8:7-8)
- It has left us in a state of spiritual deadness (Eph. 2:1)
The Bible teaches us that every single part of a person is tainted by the effects of sin. Furthermore, this has obliterated our relationship with God. Psalm 5:5 and Psalm 11:5 both use strong language for God’s disposition toward sinners. This isn’t because God is mean or that He is a tyrant. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Because God is good, He has a holy and righteous hatred toward sin. It is true that He has no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), but this doesn’t mean He will compromise His own holy character. He will one day righteously judge the nations and in so doing will send many to a just eternity in Hell.
Here’s what we’ve seen thus far: The essence of sin is rebellion. The effect of sin is we are guilty, vile, helpless, and hopeless. We have been rendered unable and unwilling to do the slightest thing about our sin problem. Mankind is spiritually dead and morally bankrupt.
This isn’t necessarily a self-esteem booster, is it?
But it is critical we understand the human condition.
- It helps us to understand how to raise our children.
- It helps us to understand why marriage is so hard sometimes.
- It helps us understand why society is the way it is.
- It helps us understand why people inexplicably do some sort of heinous crime.
The Most Important Reason to Understand Sin
Mankind is sinful, rebellious, and has woefully missed the mark of God’s perfect glory. But do you know why it is most critical that we understand the human condition? Because it helps us understand the full weight and beauty of the gospel. When we are soft on preaching about sin, we are soft on the gospel. When we rightly expound upon the black canvas of our sin, it makes the diamond of the gospel shine all the more brightly.
Do you see the glory of 1 Peter 2:24? Jesus bore our sins.
Oh, how short we’ve fallen of God’s glory. How hateful we’ve been to one another. How lustful and idolatrous our hearts have been. How self-seeking, self-serving, self-glorying our actions, attitudes, and motivations. Oh, the pride! The lying. The stealing. The quest for happiness, joy, and satisfaction outside of God and His holy will. The gossip. The slander. The half-truths. The failure to care about scripture, prayer, giving, evangelism, and the people of God. The deaf ear to the least of these. The lack of concern for God’s glory. The vile thoughts we’ve harbored deep within us that no one knows. The drunkenness, sexual immorality, laziness, hypocrisy. The worship of false gods and idols.
How could we ever hope to be accepted by God based on our sin? How can we who are so wicked enter into eternal fellowship with a perfectly holy and righteous God? 1 Peter 2:24 has the answer.
Christ Bore our Sins
On the cross, Jesus took our sins and said “MINE”. He who committed no sin bore ours. The righteous one was treated as unrighteous. This is the only hope of the world. Jesus didn’t bear our ‘mistakes’. He didn’t bear our ‘tried our best’. He didn’t bear our poor decisions. What did He bear? Our sins.
He didn’t merely bear “sin” in general. But He bore our specific sins. The sins of His people. The greatest problem we have in the universe is not that we need more money or our kids to behave, or that we need a better marriage. Our greatest problem is our sin against a holy God.
The gospel is God’s solution to that problem. Christ was our sin-bearer so that we would not have to bear the penalty of our sin against the wrath of God in hell forever. The essence and effects of sin have eliminated any chance of our making reconciliation with God in and of ourselves. But God! God has made a way in Christ: a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. If you die and go to Hell, it’s not because there was something lacking in Christ’s work. It is because you refused to ever lay hold of these glorious promises that can be yours by faith. You chose sin over the sin-bearer.
But oh, if you lay hold of Christ, a Divine transaction has taken place! He took our sins. Now, there is another aspect of this by which we also receive Christ’s righteousness, but that’s for another post. Today, let’s end by asking this question:
How should we respond to such an astonishing claim?
- Believe it — Do not delay! If the text says Jesus bore our sins, why are you still bearing them? Why would you bear them for all eternity in Hell since a substitute has been provided? If the Bible says “Whosoever believeth” may have eternal life, what bars you from being a whosoever? It is only your cold heart. Repent and believe today!
- Live it — Christians don’t have to live out the reality of who we once were. We are new in Christ! As we go forward in life, we rest in this truth: God loves us and He is for us in Christ! If He has taken care of our greatest need, can’t we be certain that He has our best interest at heart even if that means facing trials in this life? Your sins have been atoned for if you are in Christ. Do not live in them! Strive for holiness.
- Share it — Christ is our sin-bearer. Proclaim it to the nations!