This is another updated and reposted piece from an old series of posts examining the purpose statement that scripture gives us regarding the death of Christ.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
The purpose statement in this verse is “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Christ’s death was designed to cause a change of behaviour in those to whom it is applied.
Christ took our sin upon himself when he died on the cross (a clear reference to the substitutional nature of his death), and this makes a new way of life a reality for us. From the ESV study notes for this verse:
Jesus’ death should lead to a profound change in the lives of believers, so that they now sever all ties with evil (die to sin) and devote themselves to living in a holy manner (live to righteousness).
Because Jesus died in our place, sin no longer has power over us and so we begin to live righteously. Another scriptural way to express this is to say that those who die with Christ — or those for whom Christ died — rise with him to new life, a life in the Spirit (see Romans 6:1-10).
Some people use this verse to prove that Christ’s death brings us physical healing, but I don’t think that’s the kind of healing Peter had in mind. “By whose wounds you have been healed” is sandwiched between two statements about spiritual change — living to righteousness, and returning ‘to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” The healing refered to is not physical, but spiritual.1 It is freedom from sin’s power resulting in a new righteous way of life, and this inner healing that works righteous behavior is one of the planned consequences of Christ’s death.
Another purpose of Christ’s death is to cause those united with him to stop sinning and live righteously.
1Although this verse does not refer to physical healing, Christ’s death does result in physical healing for those united with him. This will happen in the future when they are glorified.