Gospel Leaks, part 4

[continuation of part 3]

3. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”

So Christ died and he did so for our sins. However, we should not be tempted to think this was an unfortunate accident or an afterthought in the plan of God. Paul points out for us that the horrific event that happened on that cross two-thousand years ago was actually foretold in “the Scriptures.”

This phrase is a term that generally refers to the entire Hebrew scriptures, and there are a many places in the Old Testament that speak of people’s sins and how they can be atoned. Indeed, the entire sacrificial system was for this purpose. However, this system usually involved animals like doves, lambs, and bulls. Where in the Jewish Bible does it speak of a person dying for the people? What passages of the Bible could Paul be referring to?

Although there are several possibilities (e.g. Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 13:7), it is likely that Paul has in mind the “Suffering Servant” described in Isaiah 53:

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with 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” (Isaiah 53:5–6 ESV).

The fact that this was done for “us” is emphasized with the repeated use of the first person plural pronouns (which in Hebrew occur eight times in these two verses alone!). It was this larger passage of scripture that the disciple, Philip, overheard the Ethiopian eunuch reading as he was riding in his chariot (Acts 8:26–40). When the eunuch asked Philip about the identity of this suffering servant, Philip was ready to explain:

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35 ESV).

This “good news about Jesus,” namely that he was to suffer for our sins in our place for our peace with God and our healing, has always been part of the promise and plan of God.

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