Who Numbered Christ with the Transgressors?
I recently received a comment that stated:
It is not the Father reckoning Christ as a transgressor, but rather the Jews and Romans sinfully reckoning Christ as a criminal, among the two other robbers on the crosses. This is a situation of someone reckoning *incorrectly*, and thus sinning. Compare this to other places where the Greek term for “reckon” is used sinfully, for example Romans 2:8 (sic – Romans 2:3 perhaps?) the hypocrite reckons he wont be punished for committing the same sin as he condemns others for committing. Another example is Romans 8:36 where Christians are “reckoned as sheep for slaughter,” meaning persecutors are reckoning Christians as criminals worthy of death. In these cases, the one “reckoning” is doing so contrary to the truth and thus is actually wrong and sinning in doing so….
In light of this comment, I wanted to consider who is doing the reckoning, or numbering, in Isaiah 53:12 / Mark 15:28 / Luke 22:37. Consider the root text at issue:
Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53 as a whole
The entirety of Isaiah 53 deals with reality. Consider the following:
- The Lord Jesus actually grew up before the Father as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground (Isaiah 53:2);
- The Lord Jesus actually had no form nor comeliness; and when they saw him, [there was] no beauty that they should desire him (Isaiah 53:2 — i.e. there was nothing in His physical form, no great physical beauty, that would appeal to the natural interests and lusts of mankind);
- The Lord Jesus was actually despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3);
- The Lord Jesus was actually a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3);
- The Lord Jesus was actually acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3);
- The Lord Jesus was actually despised and not esteemed (Isaiah 53:3);
- The Lord Jesus actually bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4);
- The Lord Jesus actually esteemed stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (being actually stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted – Isaiah 53:4);
- The Lord Jesus actually was wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4);
- The Lord Jesus actually had all of our iniquity laid on Him by the Father (Isaiah 53:6);
- The Lord Jesus actually was oppressed and afflicted (Isaiah 53:7);
- The Lord Jesus actually did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7);
- The Lord Jesus actually was brought as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7);
- The Lord Jesus actually, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7);
- The Lord Jesus actually was taken from prison and from judgment (Isaiah 53:8);
- The Lord Jesus actually was cut off out of the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8);
- The Lord Jesus actually was stricken for the transgression of His people (Isaiah 53:8);
- The Lord Jesus actually made his grave with the wicked (Isaiah 53:9)
- The Lord Jesus actually made his grave with the rich in His death (Isaiah 53:8);
- The Lord Jesus actually had done no violence (Isaiah 53:8);
- The Lord Jesus actually had no deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:8);.
- The Lord Jesus actually was bruised and put to grief of the LORD (Isaiah 53:10);
- The Lord Jesus actually, in His soul, was made an offering for sin, having been made sin (Isaiah 53:10);
- The Lord Jesus actually, saw [His] seed, and prolonged [his] days, and the pleasure of the LORD prospered in His hand (Isaiah 53:10);
- The Lord Jesus actually saw of the travail of his soul, [and] was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11);
- The Lord Jesus actually justified many by His knowledge (Isaiah 53:11);
- The Lord Jesus actually bore their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11);
- The Lord Jesus actually had a portion divided unto Him with the great (Isaiah 53:12);
- The Lord Jesus actually divided the spoil with the strong (Isaiah 53:12);
- The Lord Jesus actually poured out his soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12);
- The Lord Jesus actually bore the sin of many (Isaiah 53:12); and
- The Lord Jesus actually made intercession for the transgressors
Yet we are to believe that He was not actually reckoned/numbered/counted with the transgressors, but that only the Jews and Romans sinfully reckoned (i.e. incorrectly thought) Him to be? The entire context of Isaiah 53 deals with the reality that He was reckoned amongst the transgressors because, in bearing our sin in His own body on the cross, He was made both the Transgressor and transgression. He did not become a transgressor by sinning, or having any sin of His own. However, by bearing our sin willingly, and in obedience to the Father, He was a transgressor because He was made sin on our behalf (as per II Corinthians 5:21). He took our sins so that we, His eternal elect, could have His righteousness, being made righteous in Him.
I know that many reject these truths; nonetheless it is what the Bible declares. For a detailed, though not exhaustive, study on the matter, please see my article titled Substitution; in it, I go into significant depth regarding the Greek and Hebrew words at issue, and more importantly, how God chose to use those words to bring about His truth. I encourage you to go through the article, consider it for yourselves, and then see whether Christ was reckoned/numbered with the transgressors by the Jews and Romans only (and that, sinfully) — or if He was reckoned by God the Father as a transgressor when He was made sin by Him and bore our sins in His body. As you read it, I think (and pray) that the correct answer will be clear.
John Gill on Isaiah 53:12
And he was numbered with the transgressors;he never was guilty of any one transgression of the law; he indeed appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was calumniated and traduced as a sinner, and a friend of the worst of them; he was ranked among them, and charged as one of them, yet falsely; though, having all the sins of his people upon him, he was treated, even by the justice and law of God, as if he had been the transgressor, and suffered as if he had been one; of which his being crucified between two thieves was a symbolical representation, and whereby this Scripture was fulfilled.
Dr. Gill states the truth here; Christ had all of the sins of His people laid upon Him and thus He was treated as if He was the actual transgressor because He bore those sins (making Him the Transgressor for His people, in their stead). Was He treated as a transgressor by the Romans and Jews only? No! This has nothing, ultimately, to do with the Romans and Jews. It has everything to do with the fact that the Father dealt with the transgression (sin) of His people by dealing with the Transgressor (i.e, with the Lord Jesus Christ who, though without any sin of His own, bore our sins in His body as a willing Substitute and Sacrifice).
Robert Hawker on Isaiah 53:12
“Look up, my soul, to the cross, and behold thy Lord hanging with two thieves; yea, in the middle of them, as if the greatest malefactor of the three; and, what is the most awful part of the subject, not only was he thus considered by the Jewish rabble, but as the sinner’s representative, Jesus was thus beheld in Jehovah’s view; “numbered with the transgressors,” and virtually, the great surety and sponsor of them all. Pause, my soul, as thou readest this scripture and as thou beholdest it fulfilled on the cross. Will it not undeniably follow, that if Christ was so reckoned, and so numbered, then must it have been, not for himself, for he had no sin, but for his people; and if made sin and a curse, surely he hath taken away both sin and the curse, by the sacrifice of himself, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him?”
So that Jesus needed not to go down into hell to suffer the torments of the damned; for being numbered with the transgressors, and standing forth to the view of Jehovah, as sin and a curse for his people. The waters of the great deep were broken up, to overwhelm his precious soul; and in those tremendous hours, all the cataracts of divine wrath were poured out upon him, until the holy patient sufferer was constrained to cry out in that dolorous cry, “All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me!” Psalm xiii. 7.
Lamb of God! is it thus at Golgotha thou wert numbered with the transgressors? And was it thus that the scripture was fulfilled? Oh, for grace so to behold thee, so to fix and feast my soul upon thee, that, while conscious that thy holy soul knew no sin, though made sin for me, I, who know no righteousness, and truly have none, may be made the righteousness of God in thee!
What a wonderful event! Who, but for the scripture, and the teaching of the Holy Ghost, would have been able to trace the affinity? “My righteous servant,” saith Jehovah, ” shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” He is therefore numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah liii. 11,12…
Gilbert Beebe on Isaiah 53:12
What a wonderful event! Who, but for the scripture, and the teaching of the Holy Ghost, would have been able to trace the affinity? “My righteous servant,” saith Jehovah, ” shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” He is therefore numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah liii. 11,12… This recompense he receives because of his Mediatorial work; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. In their salvation he poured out his soul. His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin. Though in his own immaculate person he was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, in that he had done no violence, nor was there any guile found in his mouth, yet in the wondrous economy of grace, the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of all his people, and so he was numbered with the transgressors, and all their sins were found on him, and he bare the sins of many, he bore them in his own body on the tree, and put them all away by the sacrifice of himself; and by his one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified, or set apart to him as his portion. But through his death he has destroyed death, abolished death, and brought immortality to light; and rising from the dead has ascended up on high, and forever lives to make intercession for the transgressors.
The Lord Jesus Christ was indeed numbered with the transgressors by the wicked Jews and Romans. They indeed acted cruelly, erroneously, and sinfully towards the Lord. Nonetheless, if the Lord Jesus Christ was not numbered with, reckoned as, deemed to be, or counted as a transgressor by God the Father, then His people are yet without hope. By being made sin, by being reckoned of God to be a transgressor in our stead, by having our sin imputed (same word) to Him (as He was made sin for His elect), His people have a perfect hope. They are free, without sin, and perfectly righteous. They are not just legally righteous, but they are actually righteous. Moreover, they are not just actually righteous, but they are made the very righteousness of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.