Years ago, a boy made one of the greatest discoveries in modern history as he was walking along a path and casting stones into a cave. The discovery was not gold or diamonds, but something of far greater value. What the boy discovered was the Dead Sea Scrolls. In those caves were ancient scrolls and fragments of others that not only impacted the world of history and archeology, but likewise theology and our understanding of the reliability of God’s Word.
Among the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was a complete manuscript of Isaiah. It dates to over 1,000 years older than any of our older manuscripts that we previously had on record. Interestingly enough, the wording of that ancient manuscript was nearly word for word identical to the manuscripts we had on record. This points to the reliability of God’s Word. As we consider the numerous fragments found in the caves among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was another partial scroll of Isaiah and at least twenty other fragments from other Isaiah scrolls. What does this tell us? It confirms what we already know—Isaiah was not only important in the ancient world, but his prophecy is vitally important for us today.
Key Prophecies of Isaiah
Seven centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Isaiah predicted that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). In a strikingly clear prophecy, Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would rule the nations (Isaiah 9:6) and we know that all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18-20). Isaiah also predicted that the Holy Spirit would rest upon the Messiah in a unique way (Isaiah 11:2), and that was ultimately fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Jesus (Matt. 3:16).
Out of all of Isaiah’s predictions, the prophetic announcement that Israel would reject the Messiah (Isaiah 8:14) coupled with the enormity of Isaiah’s prediction of the Messiah’s crushing death in Isaiah 53—we get a picture of the most intense and important prophecies that Isaiah recorded. Although the Jews often misunderstood the prophecies, we stand at a place in history to where we can see with crystal clarity the precise details recorded about Jesus’ death. To the skeptic who refuses to believe the message of Christianity—it must be noted that if you’re planning to start a religion, you don’t want to do what Isaiah did. He predicted a virgin birth, the sad betrayal, and crushing blow of God’s wrath and it all happened precisely the way he predicted. Any religious startup isn’t going to take that route—seven centuries before it actually happened. That points to the reliability of the Christian message.
New Testament Quotations of Isaiah
Isaiah is often referred to as the “fifth Gospel.” The New Testament authors quote Isaiah at least sixty-five times—more than any other Old Testament prophet. He is mentioned by name a stunning twenty-two times as well. In other words, Isaiah was not only important in the Old Testament, but his prophecy is central to redemptive history as a whole which encompasses the totality of God’s Word.
One of the most important citations of Isaiah is found in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Philip is sent out into the wilderness region and he encounters a man on a chariot. The Holy Spirit sends Philip to join himself to this chariot and he discovers this man (who was returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem) who was reading from Isaiah 53. As they begin to talk, Philip points to the scroll and explains that it was a prophecy about Jesus. Not only do we see a New Testament believer using Isaiah’s scroll to point a man to the gospel, but we also see that in God’s providence, he would send the gospel to the continent of Africa through this one man who was evangelized by connecting the dots from Isaiah 53 to John 3:16.
In an age where modern preachers are sending mixed signals suggesting that we must unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament—Isaiah is a breath of fresh air as we read his prophecy and see how God brought it to pass in striking detail and precision. John MacArthur rightly describes Isaiah 53 in the following way in his excellent book, The Gospel According to God, “Although it is part of the Old Testament, this vital chapter of Holy Scripture features truths that are cardinal points of Christian doctrine” (31).
]Yesterday I preached from Romans 4:13-15 as we continued our series through the letter penned by the apostle Paul to the church in the city of Rome. As Paul is now pointing to Abraham in chapter 4 regarding the need for justification that comes by faith alone in Christ alone—he points back to the promise and drives home the reality of a coming inheritance. The future inheritance for all people will either be eternal heaven or eternal hell, so how does a person receive such an inheritance?
Just as Luther and the Reformers stood in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church about their perversion of salvation by indulgences—preaching the message of justification by faith alone in Christ alone—Paul stood in the face of legalistic Jewish tradition and pointed them to justification by faith in Christ alone. In order to inherit heaven, a sinner must receive righteousness that isn’t performed or earned in any way. Such a righteousness comes from Jesus and is received by faith. It was counted to Abraham by faith and the same thing is true of us in our day.
The promise of Abraham involved the seed of the woman coming through him who would one day crush the head of the serpent. The promise likewise involved the blessing of all nations through one man—Abraham. Finally, the historic covenant involved a promised land. However, Paul points to the fact that Abraham will inherit the whole world. It seems clear that the promise of the land for Israel will be finally and fully realized in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Rev. 21:1-2). Just as Abraham was looking forward to a city whose maker and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). We see Jesus interpret the promise that was cited by the Psalmist (Ps. 37:11) by saying something similar to what Paul says here in Romans 4:13, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Ultimately the promise is for both Jew and Gentile in Abraham—and this land and rest will be realized in Jesus (Matt. 11:28).
How does a person inherit hell? As Proverbs 14:12 says, there are many ways to hell. However, Paul pointed out one particular way and that was to attempt to please God by keeping the Law. Paul understood that it was an impossibility. If anyone could have boasted in Law keeping it was Paul, yet he was unable to please God (Phil. 3:4-7). Paul pointed out that through the Law comes wrath rather than grace. He had said something similar back in Romans 3:20. He communicated the same truth in his letter to the church in Galatia by saying, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
What about you? Are you attempting to please God in the flesh? Are you seeking to please God in your church attendance or other religious affiliation? On your very best day and in your very best attempt to please God, the only thing you could earn is hell. Our righteousness is filthy rags (Is. 64:6). We must cast ourselves upon the mercy of God and plead for his righteousness—one that comes through Jesus.
We often cling to phrases, while considering Jesus’ death, that say, “When he was on the cross, I was on his mind.” That is true to a degree, but we must not forget that when Jesus was on the cross, the Father was on his mind. He came to do the will of his Father. Therefore, in the truest sense, we can say that God satisfied God. In other words, Jesus died for God. Our natural mind often drives us to the center of the story of redemption, when in reality the whole story of redemption is centered on God.
Jesus Died for God as Planned
One of the key passages of Scripture that points to the preplanned redemption mission is in a sermon preached by Peter. At Pentecost, as Peter lifts up Christ as the Messiah before a Jewish audience, he drives to the reality that the cross was both murder and the glorious plan of our Triune God that spans back before the foundation of the world. Peter thunders these words:
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23).
Years ago, I recall seeing the movie, “Passion of the Christ.” Following the film’s release, many people spoke of how they were driven to tears as they considered the horrific betrayal and crucifixion. While we must acknowledge the weight of such aspects of the death of Christ, we must balance the reality that it was not a sudden turn of events for Jesus. He had been warning his disciples all the way up to the cross that he was leaving (John 14:1-6) and that he would be put to death and be resurrected from the dead (John 2:19).
At this exact same time, we must never minimize the reality of pain and discouragement in Jesus’ death. When the text of Isaiah 53:10 says that the LORD crushed Jesus, that’s exactly what happened. There was nothing pleasant about the Roman cross, and to add the crushing wrath of the Father on top of it made it that much worse. Jesus experienced the totality of pain and discomfort as a human being. While being God, he was also man and his flesh was brutally murdered as the preordained blueprint of God’s redemptive rescue mission. In short, Jesus died as the fulfillment of the Trinitarian plan of redemption.
Jesus Died for God as a Substitutionary Sacrifice
Our culture often enjoys the lighter side of theology. That’s apparent in everything from the songs that we sing in church to the bumper stickers that appear on automobiles. People in general enjoy hearing that God loved them so much that he sent his Son to die for them on the cross. While that is true, we must never forget that Jesus was dying on the cross for God. Sin belittles the glory of God, and the death of Jesus exalts the glory of God to its proper level in the face of sinful humanity. As the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus was dying for God—in order to fulfill the Father’s will. John the apostle records these words of Jesus:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 6:37–38).
When Jesus died on the cross, he was giving his life for the sheep (John 10:11). As the angel spoke to Joseph from the beginning, Jesus came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Therefore, as Jesus died on the cross, he was dying in the very place of every one that the Father gave to him (John 6:37). While Jesus was dying on the cross for sinners, he was dying on the cross for God—in the place of sinners.
We must remember that Jesus was dying for God, in the place of sinners, in oder to satisfy God (1 John 2:1-2) which would ultimately result in the satisfaction and joy of salvation for all who believe (Rom. 10:13; ). When we talk about the death of Jesus, we should not be driven by sentimentalism and emotionalism. We should be driven to joy and worship as we are driven by the Spirit through clear application of what the Bible says. Jesus died for God, but the question remains, did Jesus die for you? Can you say, Jesus died for me?
I want to urge you to see yourself as a sinner who has transgressed God’s law and positioned yourself against God. He did not owe you anything nor was he forced to love anyone. However, he has chosen to demonstrate love and mercy to countless sinners. Come to the point to where you see yourself beneath God’s wrath and deserving of holy justice. See the death of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan that settles the account for guilty sinners. See yourself there in this equation and respond in repentance of your sin and faith that Jesus’ death was poured out for God—in your place. Call upon the Lord and you will be saved.
When it comes to worship, there are no shortage of opinions on how it should be done. However, when it comes to worship, we must likewise remember that we have a sufficient guide in holy Scripture. Everything about how God desires to be worshipped can be found in the pages of the Bible.
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at the very moment of his Last Supper with his disciples. His time of celebration with them involved the observation of the Passover feast—a yearly meal designed to remember the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt. The Passover feast predates the tabernacle, the establishment of the law, and Israel’s priesthood (Ex. 12:15-17). As Jesus celebrated with his followers, he likewise pointed them to the culmination of the Passover in the Lord’s Supper since Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises and sacrificial system of Israel’s history. Jonathan Edwards wrote in his A History of the Work of Redemption, “Christ and his redemption are the subject of the whole Word of God.” 
Since Jesus instated the Lord’s Supper as a means of continual worship (see the language of 1 Corinthians 11:26), the way in which we engage in worship at the Lord’s Table matters. We should intentionally aim at theological precision and emotional balance. We should approach the Lord’s Table with tears of sorrow and smiles of joy. We must avoid superficial cliché worship and sacramentalism at the same time. With that in mind, there are two ways to engage in worship at the Lord’s Table that honor God.
A Heart of Sorrow
As Jesus ate and drank with his disciples, he said these words, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). We are to remember the body and blood of Jesus that was nailed to a Roman cross and we’re called to proclaim his death until Christ returns.
As Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). To remember the death of Jesus requires a sober mind and one that leads to a heart of sorrow. Consider the Son of God betrayed by a friend, accused of blasphemy, beaten beyond recognition, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross, and raised up in open shame. Consider the pain and discomfort he was experiencing at that moment. Consider the crushing weight of the sins of all of his people being laid upon him. This scene brings us to a place of sorrow.
Furthermore, our sorrow is not merely sentimental—it’s personal sorrow. It’s personal sorrow based on personal sin. The crushing blow of the God’s wrath was unleashed on Jesus for the sins of his people. As we remember this scene, we have to recall the fact that Jesus was paying for our sin debt—our personal sins—each and every one of them. This should bring us to a proper place of humility and sorrow.
A Heart of Joy
How can the scene of the dying Savior bring us to a place of joy and celebration? The emotion of sorrow seems much more fitting, so how do we arrive at joy as we stand in the shadow of the cross of Jesus? The answer is found in how Jesus’ sacrifice became the fulfillment of the long awaited promise of Genesis 3:15. Did Jesus satisfy the Father’s wrath? Did Jesus pay in full our sin debt? With absolute certainty he accomplished those realities, and in doing so he accomplished the plan of redemption in victory.
Consider the words of the apostle Paul as he describes the work of Jesus, stating he forgave us “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14–15).
We can celebrate at the Lord’s Table as we consider the victory that has been secured by Jesus for each and every one of his people. Not one single sin will be held to our account. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Every single sin was nailed to the cross and Christ paid our debt in full. By doing so, Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame. His substitutionary death was the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, therefore, we can celebrate as we gather around the Lord’s Table to remember the body and blood of King Jesus. We don’t approach the Lord’s Table with a heart fueled by superficial clichés. We approach the Lord’s Table with a heart filled with sorrow and overflowing with joy. J.C. Ryle, in his commentary on Matthew 26, writes the following:
Are we in the habit of coming to the Lord’s table? If so, in what frame of mind do we come? Do we draw near intelligently, humbly, and with faith? Do we understand what we are doing? Do we really feel our sinfulness and need of Christ? Do we really desire to live a Christian life, as well as profess the Christian faith? Happy is that soul who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions. Let him go forward, and persevere.
- Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 330.
Yesterday, we continued our series in Romans on the Lord’s Day. I preached Romans 4:9-12 as we examined the salvation of Abraham—the forefather of the Jewish people. As we examine this man’s faith, we can learn some important and extremely applicable lessons. In fact, two lessons are vitally important for us in our present day.
The Jews had invented a new Abraham in order to support and undergird their false system of salvation by works. Paul understood their way of thinking very well, and he took the entire fourth chapter of Romans in order to drive home the reality that Abraham was justified by faith alone in Christ alone apart from works. Exactly how does Paul drive home that point? He pointed to the timing of his salvation in relation to his circumcision.
According to Genesis 15:6, Abraham received the righteousness of God by faith. It was counted to him (or imputed to his account). In the next chapter, we find that Abraham (then Abram) was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Gen. 16:16). In the following chapter, we learn that Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised (Gen. 17:23-26). If you do the math on the timing of these events, you will see that Abraham was justified and reconciled to God a full 14 years prior to the cutting of his flesh by circumcision. He received the sign after his conversion, and Paul points out that since this was the case—he was not saved based on his performance of the law.
Paul then drives home two very important lessons:
- Uncircumcised Gentiles can be saved too.
- Circumcised Jews can be lost.
Many Jews rejected the idea that God would save uncircumcised Gentiles. That’s one reason for the controversy that erupted in Galatia (see Gal. 1:6-9) over the perversion of the gospel. Paul refutes this by demonstrating that Abraham is the father in the faith to not only Jewish believers, but also Gentile believers too.
Many Jews likewise rejected the idea that God would send Jews to hell. There was an idea that circulated through the Jewish population that suggested Abraham was positioned near the gates of hell and would not allow an Israelite to pass through the gates into the flames of hell. According to Paul, not all of Israel was Israel, and many circumcised Jews were totally lost without Christ.
Paul explains the purpose of Abraham’s justification by faith apart from circumcision was “to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Rom. 4:12). In other words, it’s possible to be circumcised and not walk in the footsteps of faith.
How true that is of many in the local church today. They have the sign of baptism as an external profession of faith and they claim to be redeemed by Jesus—but they don’t walk in the footsteps of the faith. It’s a sobering thought to consider how many self righteous Jews perished in their religion. Likewise it’s a sobering thought to consider how many church attenders are soothing their conscience with their check-box religion on a weekly basis while in reality they’re on a fast-track straight for an eternity in hell (Matt. 7:21-23).
Charles Spurgeon once said, “There is nothing that prevents a man from coming to Christ like a good opinion of himself.”
What do you know about the death of Jesus Christ? Was Jesus’ death a general death for a general population? Was the death of Christ pre-planned? While Jesus is the most important human to ever live—he is also God—the creator of the universe. Therefore, his death is the most important death in the history of humanity. What do you know about the death of Jesus?
Take this short quiz (10 questions) and pass it on to your friends.