The Gospel In Isaiah

There are those who believe Adventists are under the ‘Old Testament’, meaning, Adventists are under the Law of the Old Testament as a means of salvation, whereas Bible believing Christians are under the Grace of God provided through the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament. There is the inference that people in the Old Testament were saved under a different system from those in Christ’s time and onwards. In the Old Testament salvation was by works, whereas in the New Testament salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8). But Jesus chided the two disciples he met along the Emmaus Road for being so downhearted about his death, where did he point them to as a source of their salvation? We read of Jesus saying to them in verses 25-27:

How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

It was the Old Testament to which the Apostle Paul directed his readers when he said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And the Apostle Peter affirmed the same for his readers when he wrote in 2 Peter 1:19-21 that,

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

So the Scriptures is seen as ‘God’s Word’ to humankind, used by the human instrument to convey his word in human language. But it’s a little puzzling when some fellow believers, (far from all), are critical of Adventists because they see us as ‘under the Old Testament’ as if the New Testament has replaced the Old. The Old Testament was the Bible of the early Christians!

Notice that Jesus didn’t reveal who he was until he had re-established the disciple’s faith in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus then went on to show that those Scriptures taught about him and his plans to bring salvation to humankind. The New Testament wouldn’t make sense without the Old Testament, and the story of Old Testament would not be complete without the explanation we find in the New Testament. Salvation is by God’s pardoning grace from Genesis to Revelation.

I’m sure many have wondered what Gospel passages Jesus might have included in the Old Testament study along the Emmaus Road. Whatever those selected Scriptures Jesus expounded on, verse 32 tells us the hearts of those two disciples more than just warmed, they experienced a ‘burning within’! We can make some educated guesses about what passages Jesus might have included, but I feel quite sure that Isaiah 53 would be one of them for sure. Take verses 1-6 for instance:

“Who has believed our message

and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,

a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus came to our world to take the consequences of human sin and rebellion upon Himself (Philippians 2:6-8). The idea of substitution has been an established teaching of the Christian church down through history. We are not saved because of our goodness, or even through our obedience! We are saved because of our acceptance of His goodness and His obedience. It doesn’t mean we have a lower moral or ethical code. In fact we should have the opposite because of our regard for Jesus Christ. It was a delight to the Apostle Paul that God should love us that much that, as he says in Romans 5:8, “while we were sinners Christ died for us.”

The substitution idea is the crimson thread running throughout the Bible. It begins from the instruction given to our first parents with regard to the slaying of a lamb, for which Abel was killed (Genesis 4:1-8; Hebrews 11:4),- through to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah, in intention anyway, (Genesis 22:1-12; Hebrews 11:17-19), – through to the meaning of the blood on the doorposts of the Israelite homes before the Israelites left Egypt (Exodus 12:7, 12-13, 21-27), – through the whole sanctuary system and the sacrificial offerings of the Old Testament, right up to their fulfilment in the death of Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 9:1- 28).

The Old Testament sacrifices were a type of what the Book of Hebrews calls the “Once and for all” sacrifice made by Jesus (Hebrews 9:24-26; 10:1-14; cf., 1 Peter 1:18-20). His was a sacrifice that would not need repeating; it was complete and sufficient for all it was intended to accomplish.

One theologian remarked, “This was no mere moral influence to change human perception of God, that we might appreciate Him. This was the horror of plunging into eternal separation from God! Jesus knew that God, who forgives sinners, never forgives sin.” And so his cry of dereliction on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He suffered the forsakenness that all mankind must suffer who have not put their trust in him and accepted his sacrifice on their behalf. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

There are several theories for the sacrifice of Jesus, and Isaiah 53 is one that supports what we call The Substitutionary Theory. As verses 5 and 6 puts it:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

In verse 26 of Luke 24, the Greek verb is in the imperative. When Jesus said to those two disciples on the Emmaus Road, “Did not Christ have to suffer these things,” it was something Jesus had expected of Himself from the time He understood what his mission and ministry was about. It was all symbolised there in the sacrifices in the Temple services in Jerusalem.

Jesus did try to tell his disciples about what had to happen to Him before He should leave this world. In Matthew 16:21 we read that, “from that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life.”

It was predicted in the Old Testament. This is how the disciples later came to see it when in Acts 2:22-24, the Apostle Peter told the Jewish leaders it had been in God’s set purpose and foreknowledge to hand Christ over to them to be killed (Acts 3:18; 4:27,28).

In Acts 17:2,3 the Apostle Paul is found “explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.” One can think of a whole list of Scriptures that talk about this aspect of Christ’s life and ministry.

There are Christians who balk at the idea of Christ dying for the sins of humanity, the innocent for the guilty. But substitution has been a teaching down through the history of the Christian church. We read it in the Scriptures. It is preached in sermons. We give thanks for it when we take part in the Lord’s Supper. We express gratitude for it in our prayers. We sing it in our hymns.

Think of the power that motivated the Wesley’s in their preaching and song writing. We have Wesley hymns such as:

“Amazing love, how can it be,

that thou my God should die for me.”

And then the hymn:

“O Love divine what hast thou done!

The incarnate God hath died for me!

The Father’s well beloved Son

Bore all my sins upon the tree!

The Son of God for me hath died;

My Lord, my Love, is crucified.”

Think of the popular hymn writer, Fanny Crosby with the hymn,

“Redeemed how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed through His infinite mercy,

His child, and forever, I am.”

And again in the hymn:

“My song shall be of Jesus,

the precious Lamb of God,

Who gave Him-self my ransom,

and bought me with His blood.”

Think of that great churchman Isaac Watts. We find echoes of Isaiah 53:3 in his:

“Man of sorrows, wondrous name,

For the Son of God who came,

Ruined sinners to reclaim,

Hallelujah, What a Saviour.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned he stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood,

Hallelujah, What a Saviour.”

Isaiah 53 finds its place of course in Handel’s Messiah.

Now there have been difficulties in the idea of substitution, which I hope, are not difficulties for us today. It has been thought by some that God has ransomed us from the devil. And 1 Corinthians 6:20 does speak about us being “bought with a price” and that we are not our own. But God owes nothing to the devil, except the judgement.

Again, while the Bible uses the Ransom symbolism, it does not tell us who receives the ransom. If you think about, it is we who are the beneficiaries of this ransom. Think of the exchange God gives to us when we give ourselves to Him! Says the Apostle John in 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life“! Eternal Life now, and Immortality at the ‘last day’.

One thing is sure, Isaiah 53 makes clear to us to what the Old and New Testament writers thought they were referring. There is just One who became the Suffering Servant on behalf of human-mankind.

I’ll close these reflections on Isaiah 53 with the thought expressed in verse 11:

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

To justify means to put us right with God. That is all of God’s doing through Christ. We can delight in the Gospel for all that Christ has done for us.

Secondly, he says that “he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” That reminds me of Hebrews 12:2 where the writer exhorts his readers to:

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Both Old and New Testaments speak of only one way of salvation, it is by faith in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does Christ’s commitment on behalf of fallen humankind have its appeal for us as it did for the great hymn writer who wrote: (317)

“King of my life I crown Thee now, Thine shall the Glory be; lest I forget Thy thorned crowned brow, Lead me to Calvary.”

Fixing our eyes on Jesus can be life changing, and life enhancing – here in the now – and for the eternity to come.

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