Posts Tagged 'Atonement'



REDEMPTION, Part 2

Christ the Redeemer

Christ, Our Redeemer

Revival and renewal. These are two words Christians love. They are two things Christians love to experience and long to experience. And the fact is, all believers need spiritual renewal throughout their lives. Sometimes difficult circumstances, trials, or times of temptation can cause us to need a personal revival. Negative circumstances, especially when they are sustained over a long period of time, can cause our faith to weaken and wane and we know we need “something” to kick-start our faith. The truth is, we all need spiritual renewal regardless of our circumstances to that our relationship with God may stay fresh and vibrant.

Spiritual renewal began the moment we became born again. We became revived creatures when Christ redeemed our lives. Before the Holy Spirit took up residence in us, we were spiritually dead. Now we are spiritually alive in Christ! Revival and renewal are really key ingredients of our redemption, so in order to understand revival and renewal, we need to better understand the facets of our redemption.

1. It’s cost

The Suffering Servant, Isaiah 53:1—12

Who has believed our message …

To the people of Isaiah’s day, the thoughts of a “suffering Messiah” were inconceivable. It is just not humanly possible to reconcile greatness with suffering. But that’s the point of this chapter: the greatness of the Messiah came by way of His suffering.

As Christians, we understand that what Jesus went through on the Cross was what set us free. He literally experienced our punishment so that our condemnation could be lifted. Literally, our salvation cost Jesus everything and that fact alone causes us to rejoice and exalt Him. Out of sheer appreciation for all He did for us—all He went through to procure our forgiveness—we love Christ even more. Not so the Jews:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (verse 3)

This was their estimation of the Messiah. It’s prophetic and was fulfilled when Jesus hung on the Cross. Why was He despised?

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

Not all the people hated Jesus, some like the apostles simply hid their faces from Him. They were ashamed. Jesus-as-Messiah didn’t fit their preconceived notions as what the Messiah should be like.

But Christ’s suffering was not to make Him great, it was for a distinct purpose:

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. (verse 5)

All of Christ’s suffering was for our “peace.” The Hebrew word means more than just the absence of strife, though; it means things like soundness, well-being, prosperity, and completeness. And He was wounded for our healing. Christ’s suffering was not only redemptive but curative as well! Yes, divine healing was provided for in our great Atonement!

Our High Priest, Hebrews 9:11—14

In the Old Testament, the high priest was the mediator between God and His people. The many priests involved in the elaborate worship and sacrificial ceremonies all functioned under the authority of the high priest. Regardless of the number of priests, there was only one high priest and he was the ultimate spiritual authority in the land.

But no matter how much authority he carried and no matter how many services he presided over, the high priest’s work never done; it was only temporary. He had to repeat his work year after year, generation after generation. Only Christ, the great High Priest, did His work once, for all people. Christ’s work of mediation was carried out one time because it never needs to be repeated. Christ’s sacrifice was the powerful and that effective.

2. Its value

The value of justification, Romans 3:21—26

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (verses 23, 24)

Man’s condition without Christ is dark and depressing; utterly hopeless. In the midst of the gloomy darkness, God’s light broke through from the Cross of Christ.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Paul quoted from Habakkuk in Romans 1. Of course, the Old Testament prophet knew nothing of Jesus Christ, but Paul did, so in Romans 3 he adds the object of faith: Christ Jesus.

The word “justified” or “justification” comes from the Greek dikaios, which refers to a pronouncement of righteousness or a declaration that one is just. In this context, justification refers to a legal declaration that a guilty person is now innocent because his debt has been paid by someone else.

The really stunning point of this verse is that our justification was “freely” provided. This doesn’t mean it was free or of no value, it means that Jesus Christ willingly, of His own accord, provided it.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Romans 3:25a)

Our Lord became a “sacrifice of atonement,” or a “propitiation,” an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. His blood was of sufficient value to give in exchange for our sins. That’s the true value of our justification.

The value of our redemption, 1 Peter 1:18—20

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Notice that not only were we justified by grace, we were redeemed by that same grace. “Free grace” might well be the most misunderstood phrase in the English language. God’s grace is anything but free; it cost Him the life of His one and only Son. It’s free in the sense that we didn’t pay for it even though we possess it.

The word “redeemed” comes from the Greek lytroo and hearkens back to the institution of slavery in Rome. Most first-century churches would have been made up three groups of people: slaves, freemen, and freed men. Individuals became slaves in different ways: the results of war, selling themselves to cover debts, or they could even have been sold by their parents. In this sense, “slavery” was term limited. Eventually a slave would serve their term and become free or they could exchange their money for their freedom. The price was their lytron.

We had no way to pay our “sin debt,” so Christ stepped in and paid it for us. That’s what free grace is! It is free from our perspective, but it’s value was the blood of Christ, shed for us.

3. Its results

The coming of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 3:13, 14

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

We were redeemed—bought back—from the treadmill leading nowhere by Christ becoming a curse for us. A lot of people wonder exactly when Jesus became a curse. It couldn’t have been at His Incarnation because Luke 1:35 refers to Him as “holy.” He couldn’t have become cursed as a child because, again, Luke says Jesus grew and God the Father looked on Him with favor, Luke 2:52. Nor was Jesus cursed during His ministry because God was well-pleased with Him, Matthew 3:17. He became a curse while He hung on His Cross—the tree. A lot happened while Jesus hung, dying on that tree. Among them, His death secured for us the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s how badly we need the Holy Spirit! Jesus had to endure the shame of the Cross, becoming a curse for us, so He could in turn give us His Holy Spirit.

The promise of eternal blessings, Ephesians 1:3—10

Because we have been redeemed, we have become the recipients of blessings beyond our imaginations. In Ephesians, Paul refers to these blessings as “they mystery of His will.” We can know God’s will because we have been redeemed by Him! The thing is, though, many of these blessings are in “heavenly places.” In other words, some of the blessings Paul refers to aren’t ours just yet. We have to wait for heaven, then, all will be revealed to us with perfect clarity.

Believers were chosen in eternity to be the recipients of these eternal blessings. This group of verses is not teaching that believers had no choice in their salvation. The fact is, we became one of the chosen when we accepted Christ as our Savior. At that moment, the promise of all these blessings kicked in for us. These included:

  • Our adoption, vs. 5. Paul carefully chose His words: we were adopted “as sons.” No, he’s not being sexist here. In his culture, the son had more rights and greater favor than the daughter. Far from being sexist, this is the greatest proving the equality of men and women under Christ! All believers receive the highest and the best blessings and favor from God.

  • Our forgiveness, vs. 7. This forgiveness is full and complete because it is based on God’s wealth, which is endless.

  • A revelation, vss. 8, 9. This third blessing made ours through our redemption is “revelation.” This “revelation” is wisdom and understanding right from God. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, who is always leading and teaching the Church as we allow Him to move in our midst. This is why the Gospel and the things of God make so little sense to the world; they don’t possess the Holy Spirit. We do, however, and He reveals God’s mind and sometimes, though not always, His purposes. Eventually, though, we will know all that God knows as it relates to the lives we lived on earth.

  • A gathering, vs. 10. At some point in the future, in the “fullness of times,” the final aspect of “revelation” will occur. God will literally “gather together” everything under His Lordship. He will be revealed as the ruler of all in heaven and earth (Matthew 6:10). This will be the culmination of all things when Christ becomes King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

These tremendous promises are all ours because of redemption in Christ.

HEBREWS, Part 4

The One True Man, 2:10—18

The teacher so far in his letter to the Hebrews, has given two reasons for the Incarnation. First, the Son of God became the Son of Man in order to restore man’s original purpose as the ruler of his domain. The first Adam failed in this purpose, and therefore no human being since has been able to fulfil Genesis 1:26—

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

When Jesus came as the Second Adam, He did not sin; He succeeded where the first Adam failed, therefore, in time, God’s original purpose for man will be restored.

The second reason for the Incarnation was so that the Savior could taste death one time for all men. Jesus would die the kind of death reserved for all sinners so that redeemed sinners would never have to experience it.

The third reason for the Incarnation is given in verses 10—13: He came so that He might bring many sons to glory.

1. Jesus and His family, 2:10—13

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says,

I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

And again, I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says, Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

In verse 9, the author stated that Jesus suffered the pains of death for everyone. In verse 10, he describes precisely who “everyone” includes: sons and daughters, the saved. It may seem odd that something is described as being “fitting” for God to do, but the way of salvation is not arbitrary, but totally befitting the character of God. Since all things were created for Him and since through Him all things exist, then it makes sense that God would do anything in keeping with His character to save what He has created. Therefore, all the sufferings and humiliation of His Son did not take happen by chance; they, in fact, proceeded from His eternal purpose for man.

It’s important to note that the subject of verse 10 is God. The plan of salvation was His. It was not Jesus’. The suffering and death of Jesus was not the Devil’s idea. It was God’s.

Jesus is referred to “the pioneer” of our salvation. The ESV calls Him “the founder” of salvation, and the KJV says that our Savior is “the captain” of our salvation. What does this say about Jesus? Simply this: Jesus went ahead of us. God made Him experience awful suffering to bring about our perfection. It was God’s will for Him to suffer in order to bring about the salvation of “many sons and daughters.” When the Son completed His assigned task, He became the founder of our salvation. He alone was given the responsibility of leading the elect out of a life of bondage to sin to a life of eternal happiness. Or, as Theodore Epp once wrote:

Christ was not content to be crowned alone with glory and honor; He desired to bring many to share His glory with Him.

The “perfection” the writer refers to does not mean that Jesus was ever imperfect and that His work made Him perfect. It simply means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, completed His work. The eternal purpose of the Incarnation was finally accomplished.

In verse 11, the writer to the Hebrews links the Savior to those He came to save. It was God’s eternal purpose to identify as many sons and daughters with His Son in glory; and through the great Incarnation of the Messiah, He so identified Himself with mankind that He could consider them HIS brothers and sisters.

But this incredible union between the saved and their Savior is not something new to the New Testament! In another stroke of genius, our teacher quotes a couple of Old Testament verses that actually anticipated the glorious Incarnation:

I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. (Psalm 22:22)

I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:17, 18)

The quote from Psalm 22 is a direct reference to the Messiah, and the two quotes from Isaiah are indirect references. In those verses, the prophet Isaiah identifies himself with the very people who have rejected the Lord and rejected him as a messenger from the Lord. Isaiah chooses to identify himself with his people in spite of their rebellion. The writer to Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes Isaiah’s verses about himself as a foreshadow of Christ’s identification with people, sinners, who are in rebellion against God.

2. Jesus’ 6-fold purpose, 2:14—18

Jesus not only identified Himself with human beings in the Incarnation, but He managed to accomplish no less than six significant things.

a. To destroy the devil, 2:14

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a divine judgment on Satan. But make no mistake about it, this world and the world system is, at this present time, Satan’s territory. Remember, we have not been restored to our original purpose yet. Ever since the Fall, mankind has been living on Satan’s land. He is the prince of the power of the air, the god of this age. He is a defeated foe, but he is still on the loose, “seeking whom he may devour.”

This is why any and every worldview apart from a biblical worldview ultimately opposes the plans and purposes of God. This is why believers, when they live lives wholly committed to Jesus Christ, sometimes feel out of place on this earth. Christians, for the time being at least, are “strangers in a strange land,” often living under hostile rule.

But this verse makes it plain: Satan has been defeated by Jesus Christ. He has not been annihilated, but his power was broken—annulled, legally canceled. The Incarnation actually lured Satan into defeating himself by using own weapon! By killing Jesus, the Devil forfeited all his legal rights, for he killed the only One he had no claim on, the only One who had never sinned. And by His resurrection, the power of death was decisively broken. The first Adam gave Satan the advantage by selling the human race into slavery to Satan. The glorious Second Adam overturned Satan’s advantage and He rescued the human race from its slavery.

b. To deliver those in bondage, 2:15

...and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

In human experience, man’s fear of death is related to Satan’s power of death. With the end of Satan’s power, comes the end of man’s fear of death. And this is such a pitiful kind of bondage. It causes man to do all kinds of strange things to try and extend or preserve his puny life. But because Jesus Christ is able to deliver all people from all judgment, He can remove the fear of death. Anybody who has ever experienced the New Birth has an assurance that at the very moment of physical death, they will be ushered into the presence of the Savior. The apostle Paul described the Christian’s conundrum like this:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6—8)

c. To become our great High Priest, 2:16, 17a

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God…

The Incarnation was essential, not only so Jesus could become the Savior of all mankind, but so that He could become a High Priest for those He came to save. As a Savior, He delivers us from the power of Satan; as a High Priest, He delivers us from the condemnation of God.

A priest is a mediator between God and man; he represents God before men and represents men before God. Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He is eminently qualified to represent God before men. And as the Son of Man, through the Incarnation, He is eminently qualified to represent men before God!

Because our Savior is the perfect Son of God and the perfect Son of Man, He is completely merciful because He understands the pain, the miseries and the temptations all men face because He Himself faced them in their full intensity. And He is a faithful representation of God; He is able to manifest God’s perfect faithfulness to us.

So the Incarnation was absolutely necessary to provide the kind of High Priest we needed to represent us in our desperate need before God.

d. To make propitiation for sins, 2:17b

that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

The phrase “make atonement” may not be the best rendering of hilaskesthai, which means “to propitiate,” not “to make atonement,” and means “to put away God’s wrath.” When we sin, we make God angry, which is not to say we “make God mad.” God’s anger is holy; it is not His temper in action. God never “blows His top.” When we arouse God’s anger, we become His enemy. Part of our salvation involves ending God’s wrath towards us. The way this verse is written in the original language makes it clear that the work of Christ ended God’s wrath directed at His people only; that is, only those who have confessed Christ and are living for Him are living wrath-free! Unrepentant sinners are living under God’s wrath, and one day will experience it first hand.

e. To help those who are tempted, 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

The sufferings Jesus endured enable Him to help others. Jesus didn’t just suffer on the Cross; He suffered His whole life. There is no temptation you can face that Jesus hasn’t already faced. Being who and what He is, Jesus’ temptations must have been horrific in nature. And Jesus faced the full force of every temptation because He never yielded. Human beings almost never face temptation’s full force because we give in. But Jesus never gave in. He fully identifies with what you are going through.

For many of us, defeat begins when temptation begins. Most of us are good at not giving into the temptation to commit murder. Most of us are good at overcoming the lustful thoughts that flow through our minds on a daily basis. But what about the temptation to despair? Or to get really, really mad at somebody? What about the temptation to become depressed or discouraged? What about the temptation to worry and fret? All those things have the potential to become sinful. What about temptation to not go to church or to not pray because you’re too tired? Or what about the temptation to compromise your testimony because of a decision you want to make that may not be what God wants for you?

Jesus understands what we all go through. Though our temptations come from within from our own sin nature, and from without from the adversary of our souls, Jesus understands our weaknesses, He understands the full power of temptation, and is able to help, if we would but ask. He is able to deliver completely.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

ISAIAH, Part 8

The Man of Sorrow, Isaiah 53:1—6

A bird’s eye view of Isaiah 53 might look like this:

  • verses 1—4, the life and earthly ministry of Jesus;

  • verses 5—8, His death and burial;

  • verses 10—12, His resurrection and exaltation.

The chapter’s overall theme, which is the innocent Savior dying in place of the guilty, ties the whole chapter together. This chapter deals with what theologians call the “vicarious atonement.” There is much that we find difficult to explain about what happened on the Cross; those are the infinite, divine things that our finite, earthly minds cannot understand. One day, when we reach the other side, all will be made clear. However, this much is clear and this much we do understand: Jesus Christ took the place of guilty sinners and paid the price for their salvation.

Unfortunately, this is something the people of Jesus’ day could not grasp:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (verse 1)

The “who” in verse 1 probably refers to the Jews and the collective “our” are likely the prophets. The Jews, to whom the Savior came, didn’t recognize Him as such because they didn’t believe the message of the prophets. This reminds us of what Paul wrote to the Romans:

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:16—17)

The phrase “arm of the Lord” is significant and its usage here is often missed. It frequently refers to God’s mighty strength, but God’s mighty strength wasn’t revealed to just anybody; only to the Jews. When God made the material universe, He used His fingers, which was plain for anybody to see:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place… (Psalm 8:3)

When He delivered Israel from Egypt, He did so by His mighty hand, which was plain for onlookers to see:

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.” (Exodus 13:3)

However, in order to save sinners, God had to bare His strong arm, yet it went unrecognized. The people to whom was revealed God’s strong arm refused to see it and refused to believe this awesome manifestation of God’s power in love.

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37, 38)

This Savior who went unrecognized was part of history for He “grew up” among them (verse 2). God didn’t just miraculously deposit a full-grown, mature Savior in the midst of His people. Their Savior was literally one of their own; there was nothing outwardly special about Jesus. He was part of their history for He had a history.

He was just an ordinary Baby
That’s the way He planned it, maybe
Anything but common would have kept Him apart
From the children that He came to rescue,
Limited to some elite few;
When He was the only Child who asked to be born.
And He came to us with eyes wide open,
Knowing how we’re hurt and broken,
Choosing to partake of all our joy and pain.
He was just an ordinary Baby,
That’s the way He planned it, maybe
So that we would come to Him and not be afraid.

Despite this, the people didn’t recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Savior. Instead, Jesus Christ became a “man of sorrows.” Throughout history, there have been many men, full of sorrow, but only one Man was a “Man of Sorrows.” The sorrows of the Son of Man were unique to Him and unparalleled. His sorrows included:

1. Humiliation, verse 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.

The Servant, was the eternal Son of God, and yet He became human and had to grow up! We may find the prophet’s choice of words a bit odd. Why compare the growth of a child to a “tender shoot?” The Jews of Isaiah’s day would have made a connection we modern Bible readers miss:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king. (1 Samuel 16:1b)

The connection is really two-fold. The obvious one is that King David was a kind of foreshadow of Israel’s true Messiah. David was the son, or the shoot from the stump, of Jesse and both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David. Hence, Jesus was also a “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” But the second connection is a little more subtle and is found in 1 Samuel 16:7—

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Samuel, when he was looking for which of Jesse’s sons would be chosen by God as king, took note of their outward appearance, but the Lord mildly rebuked him and set him straight. Israel, as a nation, had a preconceived notion of what their Messiah would look like and how He would act, and because Jesus didn’t fit the bill, they didn’t realize that He was their Messiah. His humiliation was complete. Not only did the glorious, majestic Son of God leave heaven to become a nondescript man, but His people failed to recognize Him!

2. Opposition, verse 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.

Verse 3 carries the idea of Christ’s humiliation a step further. The people not only failed to recognize Him and desire Him, but they actually rejected Christ outright, refusing to even look at Him. The Hebrew words behind “despised and rejected” mean literally “to look upon with disdain” and “to forsake.” As one scholar observed, “Loneliness is often the crown of sorrow,” and surely our Savior was lonely.

The words translated “suffering” and “pain” really mean “pains” and “sickness.” Jesus was well acquainted with “pain” and “sickness,” in other words. Does this imply that our Lord was a sickly, physically weak man? Certainly He experienced all the maladies a human being experiences in their lifetime, but consider Jeremiah 15:18 where these terms are also used:

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?

Here, the pain is the pain of a broken and breaking heart. So, perhaps the “pain” and “sickness” referred to by Isaiah are both physical and emotion anguish. And no wonder! While Jesus’ teaching attracted great crowds at first, eventually they turned on Him, egged on by the religious leaders of the day. Once those who adored Him came to despise Him and oppose Him. They put a cheap price on His head. They were ashamed of Him because He wasn’t the kind of Savior they were looking for. They thought they had been had.

3. Anticipation, verse 4a

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering

The dominant theme of “atonement” is what this phrase is all about. The innocent taking the place of the guilty; the Sinless Son of God bearing the punishment for sinners. This phrase views our punishment figuratively in terms of a disease. In this case, the disease is the disease of sin. This is an awful way to view sin: as disease from which there is no escape; an infection that cripples and kills. Who in their right mind would walk into a colony of people infected with such a contagion? A person that would do that would certainly die. And yet this is exactly what the Son of God did! He knowingly descended into a world of people infected with a disease.

Theologians recognize the atonement as “the” theological issue of Scriptures. Without it, what was the point of it all? Even G.F. Handel saw the power of the atonment and based one of his most important compositions upon it in his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.”

It should be noted, though, that the disease is ours, not His. The pronoun “our” is emphatic here, meaning ours were the sicknesses He carried; ours were the pains He bore. Christ foresaw all this, and yet He came to offer His life a ransom for many.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:32—33)

Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to Him; there was no way He couldn’t. He was the perfect Son of God.

4. Separation, verse 4b

... yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Our Lord walked to His crucifixion alone. This is the heart of the whole passage; the heart of the Bible. Interestingly enough, the message of atonement is not only the central message of the Christian Gospel, but was at the heart of the Jewish religious system—the innocent animal offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the guilty sinner.

He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Only Jesus could do this by Himself. Nobody could help Him. He was the perfect choice because He was the only choice.

Imagine this: The Son of God living for an eternity in the glories of Heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons living in perfect unity and perfect fellowship. Imagine willingly leaving that kind of perfect paradise; imagine separating yourself from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now imagine entering our world, being born and growing up and making friends and having fellowship with your family and with friends. Imagine Jesus spending some 30 years living, working, and ministering to those people He loved so much, those people He identified with and came to save. And finally, imagine being forsaken by them. Jesus Christ, separated from the glories of Heaven and separated from world He loved.

And yet, while all this is true, the word “considered” is important to, well, consider. It means that by the estimation of man, the Savior was being punished by God, stricken and afflicted by Him. However, the next verse shows how wrong that estimation was!

5. Relationship, verse 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.

Man made his estimation, but the facts are:

  • He was pierced for our transgressions;
  • He was crushed for our iniquities;
  • Our punishment was put on Him;
  • His wounds resulted in our healing.

This describes another theological act performed by Christ. Not only did He make atonement for our sins, He suffered in our stead. This is known as vicarious expiation. Everything He endured on the Cross sinners themselves should have endured.

He was “pierced” for our transgressions. The word pierced really means “transfixed” or “bored through,” in other words, He was quite literallyfastened to or secured to the Cross. He was joined to the Cross for our “transgressions,” or for our rebellions. The pain was His, a result of sins which were ours.

He was further “crushed” for our iniquities. The Savior was “shattered” because of our “inbred crookedness.” This is different from “transgressions,” which are sins of determination; sins which are deliberate. “Iniquities” refer to the sin principle within all human beings; the tendency to sin.

The “punishment” He bore resulted in peace for us. The KJV uses the word “chastisement,” and that accurately reflects the Hebrew, which literally means “disciplinary sufferings.” On the Cross, Jesus got what we deserved. This we understand, but the stunning part of this phrase is the word “peace,” for it means many things. It means, for example, the absence of strife. Christ secured our peace with God; thanks to what Christ did for us on the Cross, God is no longer angry at us. But “peace” also means soundness, health and well-being, prosperity, and completeness. It’s amazing what Jesus did for us!

Lastly, we were “healed” by His wounds. There are those who take that literally, teaching that physical healing was included in the atonement. In other words, Christians have a right to good health and divine healing simply by virtue of their relationship with Jesus Christ. But is that what Isaiah means here? Probably not exactly, although divine healing is certainly part of the Savior’s continuing ministry. The phrase, when translated literally, means “it has been healed for us.” In other words, the idea is that by His wounds, we could be healed. The question is, healed of what? The overriding theme of this passage is sin and atonement for sin. The healing, therefore, must not refer to physical healing only, but rather the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the soul. Sin is, after all, a sickness and a disease that man cannot rid himself of. That is the healing which Christ secured on the Cross for all those who call upon Him as Savior.

This was the beginning of His relationship with redeemed man. He alone could do all these things for us, as a devoted mother carries the griefs and sorrows of her child. So intense was the love of Christ for sinful man, that He could not refrain from doing what He did.

the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (verse 6b)

And our Lord took it! It was for us that He poured our His holy, perfect soul!

he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. (verse 12b)

The Suffering Servant did all that on the Cross for people that never even noticed.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger? (Lamentations 1:12)

In answer to the question, “Who has believed our message?” may we always be able to answer, “We do!”

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

GOD’S CHURCH, GOD’S WAY, 4

The Worship Service:  How to Pray in Public, 1 Timothy 2:1—8

Beginning with chapter two, Paul comes to the question which had prompted him to write to Timothy, namely his concern for proper church order in Ephesus (Gould).   In chapter one, Paul made it clear that he wanted Timothy to stay put in Ephesus to put the church there in order.  Timothy was young, he had been “trained on the job” by the Apostle, and Paul was the “senior statesman” of the early Church; it naturally fell on him to give the young pastor his advice on the subject.

1.  The primacy of prayer in worship, verse 1

According to Paul, the most essential part of public worship is prayer.  In the 21st century,  we are so eager to be entertained and we seem to be driven more by our senses and feelings than by objective truth and reality, it is, therefore, little wonder modern Christians think worship is all about music and singing, thereby ginning up the feeling of the Lord’s presence.  The way verse 1 is phrased; there is a certain fitness that must characterize the public worship service.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.  (verse 1)

Paul “urged” Timothy about this.  The word Greek word for “urge” is parakaleo, and can be translated as “beseech” or “exhort.”  Clearly, what Paul is about say regarding the primacy of prayer in the public worship service is of the utmost importance.   If churches are to grow and flourish spiritually, public worship is not only desirable, but a key ingredient.  However, public worship ought never to be “me” centered; it must always be centered on the exaltation of God, carried on in order, without disturbance, understanding that the Church is to be a “light shining in the darkness.”  Therefore, even the public worship of God, while focusing on Him, can also be used to win others for Christ and His kingdom.  How does this happen?  Will sinners be attracted to our worship services be seeing and hearing us worshiping?  That’s not at all likely, though not unheard of.  Public prayer, as part of the public worship service, may be key in winning sinners for Christ and shaping the community in which that church is located when all the components of public prayer are present.  Fortunately for us, Paul lists them.

2.  Components of effective public prayer, verses 1, 2

In the New Testament, there are a total seven different Greek words used for “prayer.”  Four of them are used here, as the components of effective prayer (Earle).

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

  • Requests, or supplications (KJV).  The Greek is deeseis, and occurs 19 times in the New Testament.  It means expressing your desire or need.  When a person is fully aware of their complete dependence on God, this should come as natural breathing.  There is nothing selfish about praying for your needs and desires; it shows that you acknowledge God as the Source of all that is good in your life.  But all our requests and supplications should be done in a spirit of humility, not with a sense of entitlement or arrogance.
  • The second word Paul used is proseuche, and it is probably the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament, seen 37 times.  It means, broadly, speaking to God.  Whether we pray quietly in the back pew or loudly “lay hold of God” around the altar, whether we are confessing our sins or giving words of thanks, we are praying.   There is no “form” in prayer for when one speaks to God, they need to be sincere and honest, not putting on any airs.
  • The next word Paul used is very rare, seen only here and 4:5; it is enteuxis, translated as “intercession.”  This is an odd word to put into English and does not mean what most people think it does.  To engage in “intercession” as it relates to prayer usually is thought to mean praying for or on behalf of others.  But that is not necessarily what the word really means.  In fact, another version of this word, a verb, actually means to pray “against,” rather than “in behalf of” (Romans 11:2)!   So what does Paul mean when he speaks of prayer as “intercession?”

The basic idea of enteuxis is that of “falling in with,” or “meeting with in order to converse freely.”  It carries with it the thought of “freedom of access.”  That is a very powerful thought as it relates to holding a conversation with the God of the universe!  We have been granted full and free access to hold a conversation with Him!   Origin, a Bible scholar of the early Church, taught that enteuxis was “boldness of access to the presence of God.”  The implications are staggering, for the creature to be granted an audience with his Creator in the inner chambers of Heaven is almost unbelievable, yet this is what happens each time we bow in prayer with a right spirit and a true heart.  Is anything impossible when we are that close to almighty God?  When we enter into that kind of close communion, in full confidence and assurance, and we hold a holy conversation with Him, are able to pray for others and pray in public.

  • Finally, Paul adds this component to prayer:  eucharistia, from which we get our word for The Lord’s Supper, “eucharist.”  It actually means “thanksgiving” or “great thanksgiving.”  The Communion service should always be a time of great thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving must be a vital part of our pray life.  We must always thank God for His past, present and even future blessings.

This is a marvelous way to look at prayer:  a privilege we are afforded because we are God’s children.  Yet this privilege also carries with it a burden or a responsibility:  all our public prayers must be “made for everyone.”   There are some scholars who suggest that “everyone” be taken literally; that when we meet together as a church family, we should pray for every single man, woman, and child on the earth.  That might be a little too literal; what Paul likely had in mind was that our prayers should be indiscriminate; we should be willing to pray for anybody.  This makes sense, since God’s offer of mercy in Jesus Christ is made to all alike; there are no “special individuals” to whom God is more interested in saving than others.   Nobody is beyond the reach of God, therefore we should be willing pray for anybody.

3.  Those we should be praying for, verses 2—4

[F]or kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul gets explicit, stating expressly that prayer should be made for political leaders and those in authority.   How important it is to understand this admonition and to practice it today!   In its historical context, the word translated “kings” is basileus, and it applied to all civil rulers of the day, including the Emperor of Rome, who during Paul’s day was the monstrous Nero—the man that later put both Peter and Paul to death.   It is difficult to imagine Paul suggesting that Christians pray for God to bless their civil authorities if those same authorities are hostile to them!   Or to pray for their civil authorities to prosper when those same authorities are causing more harm than good to the citizenry.  There is, in fact, no mystery as to what we should pray for in regards to our civil authorities: that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all goodness and holiness. Now that makes prefect sense, doesn’t it?    The very fact that Christians are able to gather together and worship publicly in the first place depends on our civil authorities upholding the laws that govern us.  No wonder we need to pray for them; we need to pray that God would cause them prosper if they are upholding the laws that keep us free and safe.  And we need to pray that God would frustrate their attempts to stifle our freedoms.  In either case, we are praying for our “kings and all those in authority.”

When Paul uses the words “peaceful” and “quiet” to describe the kind of lives we should be free to live, he does not mean a life of ease or a life free from a care and burdens.  He does not mean that we should be praying for leaders that will transform our nation into a Utopian state.  His idea is this:  the life of the Christian should be free from any kind of disturbance that would cause their work in spreading the Gospel to be hindered.   Not only that, we should be able to live lives marked by “goodness” and “holiness.”  Taken all together, our prayers as far as our civil authorities are concerned, should be such that they would govern in such a way as to permit the Church maximum freedom in executing the Great Commission.   That this is what Paul had in mind is attested to in verse 4—

…who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

That won’t happen unless we are free to evangelize and take the Gospel to those who need to hear it.  That is why we need to pray for our government; it might well be the most urgent need of our day!  When was the last time you prayed that our governing authorities would be kindly disposed to the work of the Church?  I bet if Christians of the last generation had been doing that, Wal-Mart would be closed on Sunday.  We are very good at praying for the recession to end, or that the government would change abortion laws or pass some law we think is so important.  Our obligation, though, is to pray that we would have the freedom to preach and teach the Word of God; to travel places, bringing hope to the lost.  Ask yourself this:  are we freer to-day in terms of our ability to preach than we were a generation ago?   I think if we were honest, the answer has to be “no.”

4.  A glorious digression, verses 5, 6

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Verse 5 is one of the most important verses in the New Testament.  It makes the definitive theological statement:  there is ONE God, which is an affirmation of the Old Testament.  However, Paul goes a step further, for not only does he affirm the basic tenet of Judaism, he states that there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.  This is the basic tenet of Christianity; the deity of Jesus Christ. But, this declaration does not occur in a vacuum.  By upholding both Judaism and Christianity in a church made up of some Jews and some Greeks, Paul makes it clear that there is not one God for this nation and another one for that nation.  There is not one God for slaves and one God for free men.

Christ is called a “mediator” between God and men.  The Greek word is mesites, and it occurs only one other time in the Septuagint, which is an early Greek translation of the Bible.  The reference is Job 9:33, where we read of Job’s utter frustration that there is no one who is able to plead his case before God—

If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.

A mediator, a mesites, is a person who intervenes between two parties, to restore peace and friendship between the two, or to establish a covenant or ratify one.  Jesus Christ is referred to as a mediator between God and man “since he interposed by his death and restored the harmony between God and man which human sin had broken”  (Thayer).  In other words, Jesus Christ functions like a bridge, over which the two estranged partied may cross, meet, and shake hands.

Did you know that Jesus Christ was the perfect mediator?  For a bridge to of use, it must be firmly anchored on both sides of the chasm.  Jesus Christ bridged that gap perfectly, the gap between God and man, between heaven and earth, between sin and forgiveness, between death and eternal life; with one foot planted in eternity and the other planted in time.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God became the Son of Man, and across His bridge, we may cross over into the very presence of God knowing that we are accepted because we have a Mediator (Earle).

Not only a mediator, but also “a ransom” describes our Savior.   “Ransom,” antilytron, literally “a substitute-ransom,” is seen only here in the whole New Testament, so it is a significant word.  It means “something given in exchange for another as the price of his redemption” (Thayer).   This perfectly describes Christ’s vicarious death; He sacrificed Himself in the place of others.  The way these verses are written, there is a clear link between Christ’s office as a Mediator and His self-giving on the Cross, and together they form one magnificent initiative with one end-goal in sight described succinctly in Hebrews 2:20—

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

From Heaven’s perspective, the Almighty God’s grace and mercy revealed in Christ’s work as Mediator and substitute sacrifice was one huge spectacle, at the very center of which was God Himself.  The yearning to forgive and reconcile, devising the means, the provision of the victim as it were from His bosom were all of God.   The entire plan for the rescue of the human race is part of God’s very life and Person.  The plain teaching of the New Testament is this:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Both the Priest and Victim were none other than God Himself.  And according to Paul, God’s glorious plan of redemption was put into play at the exactly the right time to benefit the maximum number of sinners.  Everything God does is for our benefit, so boundless is His care, concern, and love for us.

God’s church, done God’s will boldly proclaim that message; that message will form the basis of all it does.  God’s church, done God’s way will never preach or teach any doctrine that dethrones Jesus Christ or de-emphasizes His Work on the Cross.   God’s church, populated by God’s people must always acknowledge the fact of God’s plan of redemption through Christ, the necessity of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and will never be afraid or ashamed to publicly testify to the greatness of God through its corporate worship and public prayer.

©  2010, WitzEnd

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