Christ suffering on behalf of his people
The Bible teaches us that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Yet eternal life is the gift of God which he offers to sinners in the gospel (Romans 6:23). Rev. Douglas Somerset, in preaching on Colossians 1:21,22, makes clear how this paradox is resolved in Christ’s suffering on behalf of his people:
…There is this connection then between the sins of the people of God and the sufferings of Christ. The justice of God, we may say, relented enough with regards to the sins of the people of God, to allow another person, one legally joined to them, to suffer in their place. The ordinary rule is that “the soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The only way that that can be changed is by changing the identity of the person, the identity of the soul that sinneth. Let some change be made there and that soul be joined or married to Christ: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Here is the way to resolve this matter. The soul that sinneth it shall die; it shall die in the person of the one whom the gospel puts forward. It will die the Person of the Son of God. He will come forward. So in Psalm 69 and Psalm 40, he speaks of his own sins. These are not the sins that he committed, but the sins that were imputed to him and which were laid upon him. “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Christ will represent his people, he will die for them, he will die for their sins, the justice of God will treat him as if he was the sinner himself. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found I his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). Yet he is treated as the sinner: the anger of God, the holy vengeance of God, turns upon him and he suffers in their place. He suffers in his body and in his soul, what they deserved to suffer in their body and their soul. He suffers for their sins what was due to them, what the justice of God demanded. So it is “in the body of his flesh through death” that this reconciliation comes. The justice of God is thus satisfied: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
Listen to the whole sermon here.