By Mike Ratliff
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV)
I have been reading Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone over the last several days. He does a fine job of revealing the often-subtle aspects of what has come to be called “The New Reformation.” Along with this study, I have been reading some Bible studies put together by a man who termed himself a “liberal evangelist,” William Barclay. I find it fascinating that we can look at the Christian liberalism of over a half-century ago and then witness in our day the result as the Emergents, Purpose Driven leaders, and New Evangelicals follow suit as they liberalize the truth of Sacred Scripture in order to justify their “New Reformation.” In light of this, let us look at some of the truths these liberals seem bent on ignoring or, at best, modifying for their own purpose.
Before we begin, be forewarned that what lies ahead is considered to be offensive by those of the New Reformation so they tone these things down or replace them with anecdotes or some other distracting thing as they are afraid that the truth may drive away those who are only after entertainment and a sense of belonging in their “churches,” not a clear picture of what our Lord Jesus Christ actually accomplished at the Cross and what that cost Him.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. (Isaiah 52:13 ESV)
The servant is the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean that He shall act wisely? This speaks of The Servant, the Messiah, who will discern and perform God’s will, and as a result achieve the glorious purpose the Father had ordained for Him (Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 5:10). As a result of our Lord’s obedience, even unto death on the Cross, the Father will cause Him to be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
This is the glorious result of Christ’s obedient work, but what did it cost Him?
As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– (Isaiah 52:14 ESV)
Before His crucifixion, our Lord was beaten many times in shockingly inhuman ways, which made his earthly body a mass of wounded flesh. He was disfigured by this abuse to the point that He no longer appeared Human. He bore these wounds as part of His obedience as our Heavenly Father’s Servant in His good work.
so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 52:15 ESV)
The sprinkling is an act of cleansing. These nations will actually participate in the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. The Servant will perform a priestly work of cleansing these nations. At the end of this age as the age to come begins, our Lord’s exaltation will cause human leaders in the highest places to be speechless and in awe. Christ was debased and despised in this horrible torture and death, but these will witness the unfolding of His power and glory as they have never imagined. Think of last night’s post, The Anger of Jesus, in which He revealed His righteous anger and easily ran the moneychangers and sellers of livestock out of the Temple in terror. That was only a glimpse my brethren of His Omnipotence and glory. When we see Him as He is now my brethren, case closed. No one can utter an excuse or be able to avoid His piercing gaze into the Heart.
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:1-2 ESV)
Who is the “us” in v1? This is the believing remnant. No matter how hard people try to make the visible Church the actual Church they cannot do it. The believing remnant is only a small part of those who profess to be in Christ. This is taught throughout Sacred Scripture. Our Lord said it best.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
The key to this passage is that the way to salvation is not wide nor is it easy. It is narrow and hard to find and few actually do. Those who do are this “believing remnant,” the “us” in Isaiah 53:1. These who believe also are the only ones who recognize the mighty, incarnate power of God in the person of Jesus, who is their deliverer. Our Lord was unrecognized by the world. He arose in lowly conditions wearing none of the usual emblems of royalty. The result of this was that His identity was discernable only by the eye of faith, which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:1-10). As we carefully observe this “New Reformation” taking place all around us, we must ask, “Are these once again seeking another Messiah, another Jesus than the one whom God sent?”
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6 ESV)
The unregenerate person is a Natural Man. Who despised and rejected the Lord Jesus? How is it that the world so despised this perfect man who spoke only the truth? This certainly shows the utter spiritual blindness and depravity of the unregenerate heart. However, we must never forget that the purpose for which He came was to bear the sins of His people. He was innocent, but incurred God’s wrath for the sins of those for whom He came to purchase eternal life. God’s wrath against the sins of those redeemed was carried out against Jesus in Him being stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded and crushed for the sins of those He bought. God placed the chastisement due His people upon Jesus. In this our Lord Jesus Christ bought peace and healing to all for whom He died. Our Lord Jesus Christ was alone sinless and, therefore, uniquely qualified to bear our sins. All for whom He died contributed to His pain. However, let us never forget that He paid the price totally. There is no residual sins left to account for before our Holy and Righteous God because all in Him are Justified by faith.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 ESV)
Our Lord was totally innocent and completely fulfilled this prophecy about the nature of his trial, torture, crucifixion, death, and burial. I know that there are some “emergent” types out there who have stated that our Lord died this horrible death and was not resurrected, but his body was cast on the trash heap and eaten by wild dogs. I agree that His death was horrible and those who observed it in unbelief supposed that Jesus was dying as a common criminal and that that would have been the fate of His body, however, with the intervention of Joseph of Arimathea our Lord was buried in honor. His suffering for sinners had been finished successfully.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 ESV)
As we can see in these verses, death and burial of our Lord Jesus is most certainly not the end for He shall see His offspring. Who are these offspring? These come to life through His death (John 12:24; Galatians 3:29). You see, our salvation is a dying to self in a rebirth unto eternal life in Christ. We are new creations. These are the “many to be accounted righteous” and are the same ones for whom He bore their iniquities. These purchased ones shall divide the spoil with the strong. Our Lord’s reward for His work will be to enjoy the spoils of His spiritual victories in the age to come. Even though our Lord was sinless, He was numbered with the transgressors. This means that He assumes a role among sinful human beings. This was fulfilled on the cross as He was crucified between two criminals. Lastly, we see that our Lord makes intercession for the transgressors. This speaks of the office of intercessory high priest, which began on the cross (Luke 23:34) and continues in heaven (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24).
My brethren, Christ went to the Cross to bear the sins of His people. God the Father imputed their sins to the Son then poured out His wrath on Him at the Cross since He was the only acceptable sacrifice. Why? He was sinless (because He is God) and a Man. On the Cross He bore the sins of all those He purchased. These are, in God’s timing, effectually called to faith (through regeneration), belief and repentance. Then the Father imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to their account. They are justified by faith. He then sanctifies, adopts, and glorifies them. This is Christianity. It is not a religion where people are justified by works. No, all genuine believers are regenerate and are called to walk through this life in repentance as God matures them through their sanctification. This is the process of becoming more and more Christlike in humility. They will continue in this until either Christ returns or God takes them home. In any case, this is genuine Christianity; accept no substitutes.
Soli Deo Gloria!