1Pe_2:24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
AN attentive reader of the New Testament cannot but have observed, that there is one subject in particular to which the Apostles frequently recur, and on which they delight pre-eminently to dwell: and that is, the great work of redemption. St. Paul scarcely ever has occasion to mention the name of Christ, but he digresses from his main subject, to indulge the feelings of his heart in expatiating upon the glory and excellency of his Divine Master. It is the same with the Apostle Peter. He has been speaking to servants; and instructing them to bear with meekness and patience any injuries that may be inflicted on them for the Gospel’s sake: and he has proposed to them the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose patience, under the most painful sufferings, was altogether unmoved and inexhaustible. But he could not be satisfied with the bare recital of the Saviour’s excellence. Having touched on the subject, he must enlarge upon it, and not leave it till he has more fully declared the greatness of our obligations to him. Yet was this digression not by any means irrelevant to his purpose. It had a manifest bearing upon his main subject; and was, in that view, capable of the richest improvement.
In opening to you his words, I will,
Consider the work of redemption, as here set forth—
And, that we may enter the more fully into it, let us distinctly shew,
Who is the person here spoken of—
[He was a man: for what he did, he did “in his own body.” But was he a mere man? No: he was God as well as man, even “Emmanuel, God with us [Note: Mat_1:23.].” He was “Jehovah’s Fellow [Note: Zec_13:7.];” “the Mighty God [Note: Isa_9:6.];” “God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Rom_9:5.].” He it was, “who, being in the form of God, and thinking it not robbery to be equal with God, yet made him-self of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Php_2:6-8.].”]
What he did for us—
[He, “his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” What this imports, will be understood by referring to the rites by which it was shadowed forth. Under the law, sacrifices were offered. The victims were beasts: to them were transferred, by the imposition of hands, the sins of the offender: in the offender’s stead they died; their flesh was consumed upon the altar: and, through the sacrifice thus offered, the sins of the offerer were forgiven.
But Jesus, who came down from heaven to redeem us, had no other offering to make but his own body: on him, therefore, our sins were laid: and the cross was, as it were, the altar on which he was placed; and the fire of God’s wrath, the flame with which he was consumed.
Stupendous mystery! But “it is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation.”]
For what end he did it—
[Doubtless he did it, in the first place, to effect our reconciliation with God; as St. Peter says, in the very next chapter, “He died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God [Note: 1Pe_3:18.].” But he had also a further end in view; namely, to destroy in us the power of sin; and to restore us to that life of righteousness which is indispensable to our happiness, either in this world, or in the world to come. In truth, if this were not effected, it would be to little purpose that an atonement had been made for sin: for as long as sin retained its dominion over us, we must of necessity have a very hell within us: nor would heaven itself be any source of blessedness to us, for want of a disposition suited to it, and a capacity to enjoy it.]
What is already the issue of it to every believing soul—
[“By his stripes” every believing soul “is healed.” The whole elect world was virtually healed in him, as soon as ever his sacrifice was offered; even as a debtor is absolved, the very moment that his debt is discharged; or a captive is liberated, the very instant that the redemption price is paid for him. But really, and in fact, our souls are healed, the very instant we believe in Christ: “our sins are blotted out as a morning cloud,” and are “put away from us as far as the east is from the west;” “nor shall they be remembered against us any more for ever [Note: Heb_8:12.].” A principle of grace, too, is infused into the soul, just as the cruse of salt was into the fountain by Elisha the prophet [Note: 2Ki_2:19-22.]; and by it are its deadly qualities corrected; so that whatsoever proceeds from it in future is, comparatively at least, salubrious: the Holy Spirit in him is “a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life [Note: Joh_4:14.].”]
That we may not lose sight of the objects for which this mystery is here adduced, we shall,
Improve it in the precise view in which the Apostle intended it to be applied—
We must bear in mind, that he is speaking to servants, and exhorting them to take patiently whatever injuries they may be called to sustain for righteousness’ sake. For their direction and encouragement, he proposes to them the example of our Lord Jesus Christ: and, not content with specifying his conduct under the most cruel injuries, he suggests the ulterior ends of his sufferings, and the benefits which we derive from them; intending thereby to fix our attention on that mysterious subject,
As a balm for all our wounds—
[Be it so; we are suffering wrongfully, and because we endeavour to maintain a good conscience towards God. But what are our sufferings, when compared with those which our blessed Lord endured for us? Hear the revilings that were cast on him: “Say we not well, that thou hast a devil, and art mad [Note: Joh_7:20; Joh_8:48; Joh_10:20. Nothing less than this would sufficiently express their contempt for him.]?” Behold the sufferings inflicted on him! Go into the hall of Pilate; and there see the thorns driven into his temples, and his sacred body torn with scourges, “the ploughers ploughing on his back, and making long their furrows [Note: Psa_129:3.]!” Behold his meekness and resignation; and will not you be ashamed to complain? Will you not rather take up your cross with cheerfulness; and “rejoice that you are counted worthy to partake of his sufferings, and be conformed to him [Note: 1Pe_4:12-13.]?” If he submitted to “stripes, that you might be healed,” will not you welcome them, if by any means “he may be glorified [Note: 1Pe_4:14.]?” Surely, if you reflect aright on this subject, you will regard the sacrifice even of life itself as a small matter, or rather as a ground for self-congratulation [Note: Php_2:17-18.], and for thankfulness to God, who has conferred upon you that high honour for Jesus’s sake [Note: Php_1:29.].]
As an incentive to every duty—
[What shall “constrain you [Note: 2Co_5:14-15.],” if this do not? or what other motive can you wish for, than that which this stupendous mystery affords? Will you hesitate to forego any thing for Him who gave up all the glory of heaven for you? or to endure any thing for Him, who endured the penalties of God’s broken law, and “became a curse for you?” Methinks, the more arduous the duty is, the more eager you will be to perform it; and the more self-denying your labours be, the more will you account yourselves honoured in being called to sustain them. Nothing will be any obstacle to you, if only his will may be done by you, and his glory be advanced [Note: Act_20:24.].]
As a pattern of every grace—
[In all that Jesus did, he intended “to set you an example, that you should follow his steps.” Mark his steps, then, from the cradle to the grave. Mark him, especially under those peculiar circumstances referred to in my text. See how he held fast his integrity, amidst the fiercest opposition. Do ye the same: nor let all that either men or devils can effect, ever divert you from “well-doing;” or cause you to violate, in the slightest degree, the dictates of your “conscience before God.” Mark what returns he made to his persecutors: never, for a moment, did he render evil for evil; or cease to seek, to the uttermost, the welfare of his very murderers, praying to his “Father to forgive them.” Let this be your invariable line of conduct also; “blessing them who curse you, and praying for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you [Note: Mat_5:44.].”. There is no grace which you may not see exercised by him, during his last hours, in the highest possible perfection. Set him then before you, under all those circumstances; and endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked:” so will you have an evidence that you are his, and that your hope in him is well founded; seeing that “you have the same mind that was in him,” and “purify yourselves even as he was pure [Note: 1Jn_3:3.].”]