1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)
In speaking of Christ, this passage says, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” Although huper is not found in this verse, it is in use in the immediate context. Verse 21 reads, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us [huper hēmōn], leaving us an example, that [we] should follow His steps” (emp. mine). And of what “steps” here is Peter speaking? Imitating Jesus, of course, who had “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (vv. 22-24a). Again, to what end? “[T]hat we, having died to sins might live for righteousness” (v. 24b). “Living for righteousness” is not an effort to be saved through a system of justification by perfect law-keeping, but is, instead, part and parcel of the initial life-giving work of regeneration coupled with the ongoing curative work of sanctification. There must be no mistake about it, then. Jesus, via His cross work, did great and glorious things that were not only “for us” and “on our behalf,” but “in our stead” as well—things which had been detailed some 700-plus years before our Lord would experience them in the flesh (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12). When Peter wrote about these actual events some 30-plus years after they occurred, it is certain he alluded to the very things Isaiah had prophesied all those many hundreds of years before (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24). Thus, it is to the work of Isaiah’s suffering Servant that we now turn our attention.
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. (14) Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men; (15) So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider. (53:1) Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (2) For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. (3) He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. (9) And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. (12) Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
I have often said that if these were the only verses where the idea of substitution is taught, I’d still be convinced of it. Thankfully, it’s not. Isaiah’s suffering Servant, who we now understand to be Jesus of Nazareth, graciously “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24a). It was by His “stripes [we] were healed” (v. 24c). As such, Jesus not only suffered and died “for us” or “on our behalf,” but “in our stead” as well. He did this not just for the elect, “but also for the whole world” (cf. Jn. 3:16-17; 1 Jn. 2:2b; 1 Jn. 4:14, etc.). This is, of course, inimical to Calvinism’s contention that Jesus died only for the elect. Thus, I find it more than a bit ironic that some of my non-substitutionary-death-of-Jesus brethren make a defense of their doctrine by arguing that if Jesus did, indeed, die vicariously for all mankind, then everyone will be saved and this because Jesus already suffered in their stead, paying the price and suffering the penalty for their sins, thus making the case for universalism’s claim. With this “established,” they then claim Jesus’ vicarious death cannot be true. They are wrong, and this because their fanciful man-made scenario leaves off the role of faith: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). We are, the Scriptures make clear, saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Without it, we are lost (Mk. 16:16). This means that although Jesus’ substitutionary death was certainly sufficient to save the whole world (cf. I Jn. 4:14; Jn. 3:16-17, along with those passages mentioned previously), it benefits only those who respond to the gospel’s grace conditions (viz., faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and the continuing need to meet the grace conditions laid out in the Scriptures). But, intent on denying the obvious, those who make the argument outlined above, if consistent, would be forced by the very nature of the argument itself to acknowledge that the only viable alternative to their fanciful scenario would have to be Calvinism’s limited atonement, and this is, as I said above, most ironic, given it is their desire to eschew Calvinism that forced them into such an argument in the first place. Nevertheless, the doctrine of limited atonement, like universalism, is completely unscriptural. Jesus did not die only for the elect, as Calvinists contend. On the contrary, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2). In other words, “if One died for all [huper pas], then all died; and He died for all [huper pas], that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them [huper autós]and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14b-15, emp. mine).
Both High Priest And Sacrifice
But it doesn’t stop there. In their effort to avoid the substitutionary implication of Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 2:24, which is such an obvious allusion to Isaiah 53:4-6, some argue these verses refer solely to Jesus’ work as our great High Priest, particularly as He “bore” (carried) the sacrifice of His blood into the “Holy of holies” (Heb. 9:3, ASV). The fact that Jesus is our great High Priest and, as such, carried the “offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18), which was His own blood, into the “Holiest of all” is unassailable (cf. Heb. 8:1-9:14). However, and herein lies the rub, such an interpretation—viz., that this imagery exhausts the meaning of the verb anaphérō (“bore”) in 1 Peter 2:24 and phérō and anaphérō (“borne,” “bear,” and “bore”) in Isaiah 53:4,11-12 (LXX)—fails to exegete fully what Yahweh said via Isaiah and Peter, as I will now attempt to demonstrate.
As stated already, I have no objection to the idea that the use of the verb anaphérō (“bore”) in 1 Peter 2:24 is an allusion to the carrying of the sin offering into the “Holiest of All” by our great High Priest (Heb. 9:3). However, there’s clearly more to this verse than that, for Jesus was not just our High Priest entering into that true tabernacle above, but was, Himself, the all-important sacrifice as well. If Paul’s point had been to speak only of what Jesus did as our High Priest, then there would have been no need for him to say anything about Jesus having “[borne] our sins in His own body,” or that “by whose stripes you were healed.” Under the Mosaic system, the high priest, functioning as the people’s representative, did not “bare [their] sins in His body” (ASV), which is totally foreign to the type-antitype construct being touted. So even though I have no problem with the high-priest imagery, which is more fully exploited in other passages, I’ve concluded the Lord’s high priesthood isn’t the primary point under consideration in 1 Peter 2:24. As I understand it, the primary point is that Jesus, as the sin-bearer, took our sins upon Himself (i.e., “in His own body”)—viz., He who knew no sin, became sin in our stead (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Keep in mind here that it was not “sin” or “iniquity” that the high priest bore to the altar on behalf of the people, but the atoning sacrifice itself. So even though I have no problem with the high priest imagery that some believe is in exclusive use in 1 Peter 2:24, I’m convinced it’s not the main point under consideration. As I understand it, the main point is that Jesus, as our sin-bearer, took our sins on Himself. He who knew no sin became both “sin” and “a curse” in our stead (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13), which is just another way of saying:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:4-6).
Doubtlessly, and as the Lord said, “For the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isa. 53:8c). And don’t forget that in making Jesus “an offering for sin,” it was the Father Himself who “bruised Him” and “put Him to grief” (Isa. 53:10). But for those who reject Jesus’ vicarious death, the fact that Jesus suffered the wrath of God is unacceptable. Why is this? Well, if they admitted Jesus suffered the wrath of God, it would seriously damage their non-vicarious claim, as such wrath directed at the perfectly sinless Jesus, even though only judicial (i.e., penal in nature), literally screams (figuratively speaking, of course) of SUBSTITUTION, a doctrine they have chosen to reject because they have erroneously believed it inevitably leads to either universal salvation or limited atonement. Such a conclusion, as I’ve demonstrated here and elsewhere, is scripturally untenable. This brings us, then, to “the tell.”
“The tell” is that which reveals what’s really going on. Thus, when it comes to exegesis, the tell of any misinterpretation of Scripture is what it forces the determined eisegete to do; namely, to begin the process of “messing with” (i.e., reinterpreting) any and all passages that do not jibe with one’s erroneous interpretation. This, I believe, is what has happened to some in the current debate. But it can be much worse than this, for some did not start, or so it seems to me, with an incorrect interpretation of a passage or two. Instead, they began with the presupposition that any mention of Jesus’ substitutionary death borrows, whether one realizes it or not, from 16th-century reformational theology (viz., Calvinism). This causes me to believe there are brethren who talk a lot about Calvinism who actually know less about it than they think. They hear “predestination” or “foreordination” (cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5,11) and immediately think “Calvinism.” They hear “imputation of righteousness” (cf. Rom. 4:8,11,23-24; 5:13) and quickly think “Calvinism.” They hear someone mention “the elect” (cf. Matt. 24:22,24; Rom. 11:7; Col. 3:12) and think “Calvinism” is being introduced, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. They hear their fellow Christians affirm their belief in Jesus’ vicarious death and at once assume they are, either ignorantly or deliberately, buying a big bouquet of TULIPs. As I’ve already said, this happens over and over and over again ad infinitum.
Now please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I realize Calvinism will invariably come up in a discussion of this sort. However, when it has been demonstrated that Calvinism is not being espoused, then it would be most helpful if all such claims and charges were dropped so we could get on with a meaningful discussion about what we believe the Bible teaches and why. This way, we would actually have to be listening to one another in order to formulate a cogent response. Therefore, I fail to see how any honest student of the Scriptures would think this a bad idea. At the same time, if it can be demonstrated (not just assumed) that one has fallen victim of Calvinism, then by all means point, being as specific about it as you can. If I’m wrong, I want to know it, and I assume this about others until I know otherwise. As Alan Williamson has noted, we should all expect to be pressed on what we believe to be true, particularly when we preach and teach it publicly. A study of this sort is no place for girly boys who’ve been feminized by a lost and dying culture. If this seems too harsh, then perhaps I’ll not be able to make a go of it in this group after all. Indeed, “iron sharpens iron,” but enough with the innuendo, brethren.
When I take into consideration just those scriptures I’ve covered in this four-part series (and there are certainly other ones which could have been used), I remain convinced that Jesus died both “for us” (i.e., “on our behalf”) and “in our stead.” Do I believe this settles the matter? Well, for me, for now, it does, but this does not mean I cannot be convinced otherwise. If I become convinced I’m wrong, then I would want to do so just as openly as I have here argued. For those of you who have conceded a point here and there, I want to remind you the onus on you is to act like it. In other words, if you have concluded there’s a sense in which substitution is in play, then this must be factored into the discussion. Now, I’m certainly not saying the debate is over by any means, for there are other factors that are still very much in play. What I’m saying is that once “substitution” has been acknowledged, we ought not to be continually challenged with, “Where in the Bible does it say anything about substitution?” However, whether the idea of substitution implies what some of us think it does is still very much in play. So, for instance, and I’m not trying to pick on anyone particularly, for it to be claimed that none of us believe Jesus was “really forsaken” when He bore our sins in His body on the cross does not, in my opinion, advance this discussion. On the contrary, it appears to be, and again this is my opinion, an attempt to squash legitimate debate over a contended issue for the sake of unity. I have read such statements several times in this group and previously when this was discussed in the “Preacher Talk” group.
I said all that to say this. I held off on this post based on what Scott Smelser asked for—namely, a pause to determine what we basically agree on before proceeding any further. That was hard for me to concede based on the discussions that were already going on. But when I thought about his request, with the point that such an effort would help be more focused on those things where we disagreed, I placed this post on the back burner, so to speak. As activity has since slowed down and Scott hasn’t come forward with his usual yeoman’s work of articulating such things, I decided to go ahead and post this conclusion. As noted, I believe 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24, and Isaiah 53, although not the only ones which deal with this subject, are important to this discussion. Thus, if my understanding of these passages is flawed, then I would appreciate you pointing this out instead of just saying so.
 I see Romans 6 as the pivotal point between the initial work of justification/regeneration and the on-going work of sanctification—a process that moves from wrath → grace, and from grace → glory.↩
 Universalism says all mankind will be saved as a result of Jesus’ vicarious suffering and death. Although there must be no doubt that all could be saved as a result of Jesus’ cross work (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14), all won’t be, and this because it is impossible to gain the efficacy of such work without faith (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:20; Php. 3:9).↩