Reformed Theology

Jesus died for our sins

The Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah, especially chapter 53, is perhaps the most significant passage in Scripture, because the entire gospel is revealed in it. It is well-known and worth memorizing. That is an understatement. There is such a wealth of doctrine in the passage, but right now I’m just going to focus on one verse.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11, ESV)

“Jesus died for your sins” is a common phrase known well to evangelicals. As long as I can remember in my walk, when I thought of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross, I thought of him as really, truly thinking of me and all the sins I would ever commit. Sometimes, after decades of listening to sermons and daily Bible reading, you know things, but you don’t remember why you know them. Maybe it’s just because you have matured to a certain level in your walk with the Lord that you don’t need to know the chapter and verse in order to know the truth of the doctrine. Despite this, however, I found it very encouraging to come across this verse in my current iteration of reading through the Bible.

Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. That joy, Isaiah says, was to “see his offspring,” or all those who would believe in him and receive the benefits of his suffering. This joy, he actually saw from the cross, even in the anguish of his soul, as he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He saw us from the cross, and he sees us now. Though we are the invisible church, we are not invisible to him.

“By his knowledge…” Jesus had knowledge of the divine plan, because he is its Author. He is also its Perfector (Heb. 12:2). He knew, and saw, exactly what he was doing on the cross. Furthermore, he knew exactly for whom he was doing it!

We see here in this verse the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement. He wasn’t thinking of the world in general when he died on the cross, but he was thinking of each of us personally: each of us who believe, each of the elect. This is why Isaiah said he shall “make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” He did not account all as righteous, but many, and it wasn’t just anyone’s iniquities that were borne on the cross, but the particular iniquities of those for whom he was dying.

The sacrificial rituals of the Torah were given as types and shadows of the Messiah who was to come, and this includes the scapegoat in Leviticus 16:

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. (Leviticus 16:21, ESV)

Though I will admit that Aaron probably did not have time to list all of the sins committed by the children of Israel, the text is clear: the sins which the scapegoat bore outside the camp were particular sins of the congregation.

Beloved, if you believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can truly say, “He really did see me and my sins on the cross, and he really did die for them!” Amen! “It is finished!” This is good news! It is a joy that can help us through our darkest times. Though I am nothing, completely worthless, prone to wander and to dishonor him with my sins, he still died for me.

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