“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins…” (1John 3:5)
“… the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…” (1Peter 2:24)
What is a sin after it has been committed? Sin is not an invisible substance, which has a permanent existence; that can be moved about, taken from here and placed there, as some people imagine. A sin is something that is done — an act — nothing more. It passes out of being as soon as it is committed. What then does the Scripture mean when it says, for example, that Jesus Christ is the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world? How can a thing be taken away that does not exist in the first place? What need is there to remove what cannot be removed, because it doesn’t exist?
We must understand that; while the act of sin disappears into the past, it leaves behind effects and consequences that endure. Among these consequences are guilt, unrighteousness, pollution, alienation from God, bondage to sin, spiritual death, liability to God’s wrath, and a state of cursedness. Hence, to “take away” sins is to remove their effects.
Each of these effects has its solution in the great work of Christ called “the atonement”, or more properly, “the satisfaction” of Christ”.
Guilt is answered by remission.
Unrighteousness is remedied by justification.
Pollution is cleansed away, by sanctification.
The answer to alienation is reconciliation.
Our bondage is broken by redemption.
Our state of death is ended by a new birth.
Our liability to Divine wrath is met by a propitiation.
The curse is removed by the blessing of our High priest.
When our sins were “laid upon” Jesus, it means that they were imputed to him; so that, for all the purposes of His work of salvation, He was reckoned to be a sinner; and thus, being regarded as one, he was treated like one and punished like one. Imputation is a legal concept. The imputation of our sins to Christ is made possible by the union of Jesus Christ with His people.
The Apostle Paul explains this in Romans chapter five, verses twelve through nineteen. According to Scripture, we sinned in Adam; that is, the sin of the first man was imputed to his posterity because of our natural union with him. Adam was our head and representative in the Adamic covenant. In a similar way (but in reverse) our sins were imputed to Jesus because of our union with Him as our covenant head; that He might bear the punishment we would otherwise have to bear. His righteousness then is imputed to us. Thus, our sins are punished, God is satisfied, and we are made fit to stand in the presence of God without shame.
The Lord Jesus gave perfect satisfaction to God for the offense offered to His honor, the transgression of His law, the provocation of His justice and the violation of His holiness. Our Savior having abundantly satisfied God in all these respects; we are reckoned worthy of all the blessings — all the happiness — that human beings could possibly receive! We are made the partakers of salvation and of an eternal life which we did not earn or in any way deserve, because Christ obeyed and suffered in our place.
Howard Douglas King