Bible Teaching about Jesus and the
Forgiveness of Sin


Men are separated from God because of sin. As a result of God’s love in sending Jesus, sins can be forgiven and men reconciled to God. This reconciliation is called the at-one-ment.

Man Needs a Saviour

We saw in the study on “the Nature of Man” that the early chapters of Genesis tell how SIN came into the world and how that DEATH was the result of sin (Genesis 2:17; 3:19-23). Paul summarises the teaching of Genesis when he writes:

“Wherefore by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12)

Since all men are sinners and therefore destined to die, they obviously are in need of being saved from sin and death.

A Saviour Foretold

In the chapter in Genesis which records man’s fall there is also revealed the way in which man would be redeemed:

“I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”             (Genesis 3:15)

The following table in which the record in Numbers 21:1-9 is compared with the teaching of John 3:14-15 will help us appreciate the significance of this passage in Genesis 3:

NUMBERS 21:1-9 JOHN 3:14-15
A race of people dying because bitten by serpents

The  human  race   subject  to death (NB: "the sting of death is sin" 1 Corinthians 15:56 - that which  bites  us and causes us to die is sin).

To look to a serpent on a pole.

To believe in Jesus  who would be lifted up on the cross.

Those who looked were healed and saved from death.

Those who  look to Jesus have life.

From the above comparison we see that the serpent is a symbol of sin. In some way the serpent would be associated with Jesus when he died on the cross, for the lifting up of the serpent on the pole pointed forward to the lifting up of Jesus on the cross. Genesis 3:15 now becomes full of meaning for it speaks of:

  • A member of the human race called the seed of the woman,

  •  Who would deal a fatal blow to the serpent (sin) i.e. would destroy sin, and

  • Who, in the process, would himself receive a bruise in the heel - i.e. an injury from which he would soon recover.

The Saviour Comes

There can be no doubt that this “seed of the woman”  is Jesus. Paul wrote:
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4)

“Made of a Woman”

Physically Jesus, being Mary’s son, was like all other members of the human race. He was mortal and was able to be tempted to sin:
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3)

If Jesus had not possessed our fallen nature he could not have conquered sin and brought about the atonement for the simple reason that the sin is in the flesh. Paul says: “In me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing”,  and he also writes of “the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:18,23).

Because Jesus had this “law of sin” in his members he was able to be tempted like every other man. It was in his own body that he fought and conquered sin. So in the letter to the Hebrews we read:
“We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”
(Hebrews 4:15)

Tempted to sin and yet sinless in character Jesus thus conquered “sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).

Thus we see how Numbers 21 pointed forward to the death of Jesus. The flesh of Jesus (in which sin dwelt but to which he had never yielded) hanging on the cross, was fittingly represented by the “serpent on a pole”. On the cross we see the serpent bruised fatally in the head -  sin destroyed.

“God Sent Forth His Son”

Although sin took hold of the nature of Jesus it did not take hold of his character. He was sinless. Temptation came but he fought and won the battle never yielding to the promptings of the flesh. He was able to do this because God was his Father (Luke 1:34-35). From his father Jesus inherited his ability to overcome - he was the man “made strong” (Psalm 80:15,17).

Note: His divine parentage made it possible for Jesus to overcome sin, it did not make success inevitable. To say otherwise would be to minimise the Lord’s sacrifice.

Jesus Himself “Saved” From Death

Jesus, being a member of our fallen race and not a pre-existent person of the Godhead, needed to be saved from death:

“In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to SAVE HIM from death, and was heard in that he feared”        (Hebrews 5:7)

When Jesus was crucified a unique situation existed:

  • Jesus was a member of our race and therefore subject to death, and he voluntarily allowed himself to be put to death  to show that God was right in requiring the death of sinful flesh.

  •  But, here, for the first time in the history of the human race was a man who was righteous and did not deserve to die, and so God raised him from the dead:

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it”  (Acts 2:24)

  • Thus Jesus was the first person to benefit from his own sacrifice:

“Now the God of peace....brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20)

  • Jesus’ death was the bruise in the heel - an injury from which he made a quick recovery, for he was raised from the dead after three days.

How Can We Obtain Atonement?

In other words - what must we do to be saved? We have already touched on this in the study on “The Bible Teaching on Eternal Life”. The answer is simple:  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Having understood the purpose of God in Jesus we associate ourselves with the death of Jesus by being baptized, or buried with Jesus:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)

We can then escape death, because God will forgive us our sins and raise us from the dead:

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.....For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:5,23)




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