Christianity 201

May 29, 2018

The Chastisement of Our Peace

Sometimes a reader will leave a comment at very old post here, and it will remind me that the article might be worth sharing again. This one is from January, 2011…

He was wounded for our transgressions.

Those words, from the KJV of Isaiah 53:5 are probably among the scripture verses most known by heart.

By his stripes we are healed.

If you grew up Pentecostal or Charismatic, there is no escaping teaching on that part of the verse; no escaping the connect-the-dots between the scourging Christ suffered and the healing that is available to us today, in the 21st century.

But what about the third of the four clauses in that verse? Here’s the whole verse in the new NIV:

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.

Isaiah, in this Messianic prophecy is saying that Christ’s suffering has brought us forgiveness for our transgressions and iniquities as well as (if you’re not dispensationalist) healing of mind and body.

But there it is, in the second-to-last, a reference to peace.

I mention all this because of a post I did this morning at Thinking Out Loud, where a U.S. pastor had his congregation complete an index card indicating the trials they were facing and the burdens they were carrying. If Isaiah 53 applies, then it must apply to the point of bringing peace to the very doubts, anxieties, fears, angers, jealousies, anger, pride, insecurities, addictions, pain, disappointments, attitudes… and everything else that people mentioned on those little 3-by-5 cards.

First, let’s do some translation hopping:

  • He took the punishment, and that made us whole (Message)
  • The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him (NASB)
  • the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him (Amplified)
  • He was beaten so we could be whole. (NLT)
  • The punishment which gives us the peace has fallen on him (tr. of French – Louis Segond)

Clearly, the intent of this verse is that our peace is part of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The New International Bible Commentary says:

Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and the marring of sinners themselves that it causes.

The ESV Study Bible notes on this verse concur:

His sufferings went to the root of all human vice.

Lack of peace as sin? Worry and anxiety as sin? That’s what both of these commentators seem to say.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary makes clear however that the peace that is brought is a general well-being, not simply addressing the consequences of sin.

But in the Evangelical Bible Commentary, something else is suggested, that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is bringing a peace that represents the restoration between God and man.

Many of the other commentaries and study Bibles I own do not directly address this phrase. A broader study of the chapter reveals a Messiah suffering for all of the burdens we bear, such as the ones listed above in the pastor’s survey. (“Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear…”)

I’d be interested if any of you can find any blog posts or online articles where this particular phrase is addressed apart from the wider consideration of the verse as a whole.

At this point, let’s conclude by saying that the finished work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for all manner of needs we face; all types of burdens we carry.

December 1, 2013

Suffering Servant, Submissive Sheep

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Isaiah 50:7 (NIV)

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

Isaiah 53

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.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
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.
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.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth…

…10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makeshis life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.



Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. This blog post appeared there a few weeks ago under the title Will You Consider It?

For his fluency with words and unrivaled poetic voice, Isaiah has been called the “Shakespeare of the prophets.” His words are assuredly lyrical; they were also political and prophetic, enduring well beyond his life. Unquestionably, the prophet fulfilled his sense of the call of God with conviction. But as human followers often note of the things God calls us to do and do whole-heartedly, it is God’s voice that reverberates in creative ways unknown even to the one called, at times beyond our own understanding, beyond our own lives.

The 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah offers the image of a servant who embodies a severe faithfulness despite unjust opposition. “He was oppressed and he was afflicted,” writes Isaiah, “but he did not open his mouth” (53:7a). The prophet describes a sufferer of flint-like submission in the face of extreme violence. “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (v.7b). He describes a servant who is crushed and anguished, stricken, and yet somehow satisfied. “As a result of the anguish of his soul,” writes Isaiah, “he will see it and be satisfied; by his knowledge the righteous one, my servant, will justify the many, and he will bear their iniquities” (v.11).  Whether Isaiah had in mind someone who fit the description or merely longed to see God’s words come to fruition, the prophet offers an image of one who changes all the rules.

Isaiah utters words abundantly verified in Jesus Christ. Almost 700 years after Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant, Jesus was carrying sorrows and curing infirmities; he was suffering rejection, hatred, and affliction (v.4). He was despised and brushed aside without regard (v.3). He was taken away by a perversion of justice (v.8). He was assigned a grave with the wicked (v.9). Yet he set his face “like a flint” upon the will of God (Isaiah 50:7, Luke 9:51). He was cut off from the land of the living, so that many would live (Isaiah 53:8b).

Whether you hear it as an exile in ancient Israel, a tax collector in 1st century Jerusalem, or an academic in contemporary Europe, Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant is one that warrants contemplation. Even Isaiah, out of whose mouth the description emerged, was compelled to ask with bewilderment: “Who shall consider it?” Who can imagine a man in such circumstances? Who knows what to do with a servant like this? “Who has considered that he was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” (v.8a). So asks the prophet who would not live to see the suffering servant he described. How much more so should we who see the face of the prophecy consider this description of Christ?

Isaiah 53 describes a Christ oppressed and afflicted but silent, even dumb, in the face of his oppressors. Like a sheep submitting to its shearers, he did not object; he didn’t even open his mouth. He was taken from justice and afflicted by people who seemed to hold some real sense of power over him. Yet he did it all willingly and silently, as if he were allowing them the power in the first place. He was a victim of violence though he had committed no violence himself. He was categorized as wicked though a deceitful word was never on his lips. There seems a paradox here like the great paradoxes of the kingdom he described: The last shall be first; the first shall be last. Those who mourn are blessed. All is not as it appears. “But who from his generation will be able to fathom it?”  Isaiah seems at once to ask both a rhetorical question and a pessimistic one.  Will anyone consider it?  Is anyone really catching all of this?  Who is really in control here—the silent one or the ones who think they are silencing him?

This metaphor of the submissive sheep is pervasive in Isaiah’s description, immediately hastening images of sacrifice, blood, and atonement.  Like a lamb, the sufferer was led to slaughter.  In the case of most sacrificial animals, they go unsuspectingly; they follow without much thought.  But this is clearly not the case in this metaphor.  Isaiah describes a Christ who is led and killed, but he does not go unknowingly.  While it may be natural in certain conditions for a man to follow people who end up harming him, it would not be natural for that man to follow silently in the midst of harm.  A ewe might not cry with its shearers, but it would certainly bleat if you hit it repeatedly.  This lamb went to his death submitting to those who led him, but it was far from unintentional.  He followed with a depth of thought we have difficulty considering.

In fact, there is something altogether silencing about the one who remains still and submissive while the ultimate injustice weighs on his shoulders. Isaiah describes a servant who seems immobilized and powerless. It is the unnamed crowd in each verse that seems to be in control. It is they who afflict him, oppress him, and strike him. It is they who lead him to the slaughter and put him in a grave. Yet is it not entirely significant that this nameless crowd, which seems to hold all the power, remains at least structurally inconsequential? There is no real description offered of the oppressors in the entire chapter. “They” did not earn the subject of more than one sentence, perhaps because “they” are not the point. He is.

It is still ours to consider: What if Jesus chose this path for himself? What if he chose to remain silent, to be weak in our nameless hands, to pour himself out even unto death? What if he chose to take on the violence that would bring us peace? Indeed, who shall consider it?

May 12, 2013

Jesus as Both Substitute and Example

Balance in doctrine is so important.  This is from the blog Radical and is written by David Burnette.  Click through to read more by him and other featured writers.  NOTE: This is part one of a two part (so far) series. Click here to read part one, and here to read part two.

I must admit that hearing someone go on and on about imitating Jesus can make me, well, a little concerned.

I’m concerned that the person sees the life of Jesus only as an example to be followed. Concerned that the once-for-all work of Christ on the cross is being downplayed. Concerned that I’m being called to imitate Someone who calmed a storm with a word and spoke the world into existence. And, at the bottom of it all, I’m concerned that a form of works-righteousness is being brought in through the backdoor.

But my concerns, while sometimes valid, aren’t always justified.

Regardless of the fact that preaching and teaching about Jesus is sometimes merely moralistic, and though some people like to trumpet Jesus as our example because they (sadly) find the idea of Christ absorbing God’s wrath on the cross to be cruel or beneath God’s loving character, looking to Jesus as our example is a biblical concept. After all, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Of course, not every aspect of Christ’s suffering can or should be imitated; for instance, we aren’t sinless, so our death won’t atone for sin. Nevertheless, we are called upon and enabled by God to imitate the One who was faithful until death.

We could look to many places in Scripture to see this truth, but 1 Peter is especially clear on this theme of imitating Jesus. Peter points us to both the finished work of Christ and the perfect example of Christ.

In 1 Peter, the example set by Christ is primarily in the context of suffering and submission. To be clear, the call to imitate Jesus in the midst of our suffering doesn’t downplay the absolutely necessary and foundational role of Christ’s substitutionary death for our salvation. Without the cross, we could never persevere through suffering, no matter how much we reflected on Jesus’ perfect example. Yet, Scripture is not shy about telling us to imitate Jesus. Consider three different texts from 1 Peter that speak to this point:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (2:21)

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”  (3:17-18)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (4:1)

In the follow-up post, we’ll consider how the theme of imitating Jesus fits with His sin-bearing, substitutionary death. We’ll see that following Christ’s example in suffering requires being redeemed by His “precious blood” (1:19). Even still, we need to be reminded to fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfect pattern for trusting God through our own difficulties (Heb 12:1-4).

As we read 1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament, not least the Gospels, we ought to have an eye out for how Jesus responded to suffering. His prayer in Gethsemane is a great place to start: Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, knowing that this meant drinking the cup of God’s wrath (Matt 26:36-42). This was an utterly crucial step in the accomplishment of our salvation, but it was also a disposition of trust to be imitated by future disciples. Such an example gives us wisdom as we seek to obey the following exhortation in 1 Peter 4:19:

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Unlike Jesus, we don’t have to face the prospect of God’s judgment against sin; however, we are called on to persevere through the trials that God sends for our eternal good (1 Pet 1:6-7). Jesus’ obedience to and unflinching trust in His Heavenly Father is an example we are called to imitate. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, the cross makes that imitation possible.

Continue reading part two here.