by Jerry Shugart

The Significance of the Sufferings of Christ

"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Pet.1:10-1).

Here Peter is saying that the prophets searched diligently in an effort to determine what the prophecies concerning Christ's suffering did signify but it was not revealed unto them. Even the Twelve Apostles, those closest to the Lord Jesus, did not realize that He was going to die (Lk.18:31-34) or be resurrected (Jn.20:9). They certainly did not know the "purpose" of the Cross, that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet.3:18).

Roger M. Raymer writes: "Concerning this salvation (cf. 'salvation' in vv. 5, 9) the prophets...searched intently and with the greatest care their own Spirit-guided writings. They longed to participate in this salvation and coming period of grace and tried to discover the appointed time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing. The pondered how the glorious Messiah could be involved in suffering" (Walvoord & Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament [ChariotVictor Publishing, 1983], p.842).

In the Doctrinal Statement of Dallas Theological Seminary we read that "We believe that it has always been true that 'without faith it is impossible to please' God (Heb. 11:6), and that the principle of faith was prevalent in the lives of all the Old Testament saints...it is evident that they did not comprehend as we do that the sacrifices depicted the person and work of Christ. We believe also that they did not understand the redemptive significance of the prophecies or types concerning the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10-12)" [emphasis added] (Dallas Theological Seminary, Full Doctrinal Statement, "Article V--The Dispensations").

Acts 2 dispensationalist Charles C. Ryrie writes that "It cannot be implied that the Israelite understood what the final sacrifice was. For if he had sufficent insight, to the extent of seeing and believing on the finished work of Christ, then he would not have had to offer the sacrifices annually, for he would have rested confidently in what he saw in the prefiguration. If the sacrifices had given a clear foreview of Christ, the offerer would have understood the truth of a completed atonement and would not have any consciousness of sins every year. But since the Scriptures say that he did have a consciousness of sins (Heb.10:2), he must not have seen very clearly 'the same promise, the same Saviour, the same condition, and the same salvation' as the believers see today" (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, [Moody Press, 1995], p.119).

Objections

Acts 2 Dispensationalists

Acts 2 dispensationalists John McArthur writes that "In Ephesians 3:3 Paul expresses a key thought relative to the church, 'By revelation he [God] made known to me the mystery.' That mystery 'in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit' (v. 5). Verse 6 identifies the mystery: 'That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel' " (McArthur, The Believer's Life in Christ; The Mystery of the Church).

This fairly represents the teaching of Acts 2 dispensationalim in regard to the meaning of "the mystery". However, this idea is clearly in error, and that is because the Christian is not told to make known this teaching to all the nations. It is the "gospel of grace" that is to be made known to all nations:

John 1:29

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29).

Sir Robert Anderson writes that "This is not translation merely, it savours of exegesis. 'Who beareth the sin of the world' is what the Baptist said. His words were not a prophecy of what Christ would accomplish by His death, but a statement of what He was in His life. Mark the present tense, 'Who is bearing'. And while the word used in 1 Peter 2:24, and in kindred passages, is a sacrificial term, we have here an ordinary word for lifting and carrying burdens. When the Lord sighed in healing the deaf mute by the Sea of Galilee Mark 7:34, and when He groaned and wept at the grave of Lazarus, He took upon Himself, as it were, the infirmities and sorrows which He relieved, and made them His own" (Anderson, Types in Hebrews, [Kregel Publications, 1978], p.52).

Now let us look at the verse again:

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29).

This cannot possibly be speaking of the Lord Jesus' death because that death did not take away the sins of the world. Here is what the Lord said:

"I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jn.8:24).

It is only those who "believe" who have their sins remitted or taken away:

"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).

What was John really saying? First of all, one of the meanings of the Greek word translated "taketh away" is "to take away upon one's self...to bear" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

John was paraphrasing what is said at Isaiah 53, specifically what is said at verse 12: "he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

The "many" referred to here is all those in Israel (v.6). Since he was paraphrasing Psalms 53 the Baptist expanded what is said in that psalm to include the whole world. So with these things in mind we can understand that the following translation is a correct one:

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29).

In what sense did the Lord Jesus bear the sins of the world? It was by bearing the consequences of the sins of the world. Here is an example of the phrase "bear your iniquities" referring to bearing the consequences of iniquities:

"After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise" (Num.14:34).

The consequences of the iniquities of the Israelites was that they were not to enter Canaan for forty years. So when it is said that they were to bear their iniquities the meaning is that they were to bear the consequences of their iniquities. So when the Baptist spoke of the Lord Jesus bearing the sins of the world he was referring to the fact that while on the earth the Lord Jesus would bear the consequences of the sins of the world.

Acts 8:32

Maurice M. Johnson: "When Philip was led by the Spirit of God down into a desert place, and then when he got down there was shown a man in a chariot (the Ethiopian eunuch), he was told to join himself to that man, and the eunuch was reading out of Isaiah 53, "As a lamb before his shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth." Philip said, "Understandest what thou readest?" "How can I lest thou explain it." And beginning at that place Philip preached unto him Jesus. You think he told him how to be saved? You think anybody could spiritually expound Isaiah 53 and not say anything about the shed blood of Jesus Christ? You think ("a lamb before his shearers is dumb"), you think anybody could expound, spiritually expound Isaiah 53 and say nothing about Jesus Christ bearing our sins? "We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and that with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. God will see the travail of His soul and be satisfied." Philip began at that place and preached unto him Jesus" (Johnson, The Gospel of the Grace of God Vs. Bullingerism, Stam & O'Hair).

The verse from Isaiah 53:7-8 was perplexing the eunuch and he asked Philip to guide him as to its meaning:

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isa.53:7).

Sir Robert Anderson says, "'He was oppressed, yet He humbled Himself and opened not His mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb, yea He opened not His mouth' (Isaiah liii. 7, R.V.). There is a general consensus of opinion that to this passage it is that the Baptist�s words refer (Jn. i. 29). And it is noteworthy that it contains no sacrificial language ; for, in the Hebrew, 'slaughter' is a common word that points to the shambles. It foretold the Messiah�s earthly life of humiliation and suffering" (Anderson, Misunderstood Texts of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1991], 59).

There certainly is no indication that the eunuch ever understood that Isaiah 53:7-8 was showing that Christ would die for our sins after Philip "preached unto him Jesus". He asked to be baptized, and Philip told him that he could if he believed. In answer, the eunuch did not say, "I believe that Jesus died for my sin" but instead replied that "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).

Matthew 26:27-28

"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mt.26:27-28).

There is no evidence that the Apostle understood the meaning of the Lord Jesus' words here on the eve of His crucifixion to be referring to the fact that "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor.6:21).

Instead, the Apostles would be aware of the Scriptures that promises to the house of Israel a "New Covenant", and according to that promise the Lord would "remember their sins no more" (Jer.31:34). Therefore when the Lord Jesus said that "This cup is the new testament in my blood (Lk.22:20) they would understand that His death was the "earnest" or "surety" of the New Teatament. Charles Spurgeon said that "the blood is the symbol, the token, the earnest, the surety, the seal of the covenant" (Spurgeon, Sermon delivered on September 4th, 1859,#273).

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor.15:3-4).

Some believers say that the OT Scriptures revealed that Christ "died for our sins" because Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus died for our sins "according to the Scriptures". Notice that Paul also says that He rose again the third day "according to the Scriptures." The OT Scriptures will be searched in vain for any testimony that the Messiah would be buried and then rise from the dead "the third day". What Paul is saying is that the evidence of these things can be found in the "types" of the OT but these truths were not openly revealed. It was not until the Lord Jesus said that "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Mt.12:40) that anyone understood that the Scriptures in regard to Jonas were a "type" of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was not until after the Cross that anyone understood that the OT sacrifices were a "type" of the Lord Jesus dying for our sins.

Adam Clarke wrote: "It is not said anywhere in the Scriptures, in express terms, that Christ should rise on the third day; but it is fully implied in His types, as in the case of Jonah, who came out of the belly of the fish on the third day" (Clarke, The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, II, p.280).

Colossians 1:26-27

"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col.1:26-27).

Some believers say that "the mystery" is "Christ in you, the hope of glory". However, here Paul is speaking of the "riches" that flow from the "mystery", and among those riches is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

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