THE SUFFERING SAVIOUR - IN ETERNITY AND TIME

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, January 23, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5).


Concerning the suffering of Christ in Isaiah 53, the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said,

These matters are described so very clearly that none of the [New Testament] evangelists except John gives a better presentation. The first three evangelists give only the bare facts [of His crucifixion]. Isaiah predicts the facts, the cause, the fruit, and the use. "He was wounded." This Matthew also records, but Isaiah shows the reason why He suffered: because we had sinned and were unable to free ourselves from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil…It is really marvelous that Isaiah had so much light, that he could predict the [suffering] of Christ so clearly and fittingly, than even the evangelists, with the one exception of Paul… Otherwise, all Scripture scarcely has a passage equal to this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah (Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Concordia Publishing House, 1994 reprint, page 1147).

I agree with Luther, and with Dr. Henry M. Morris, who said that the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is "the fullest and clearest exposition of the substitutionary death of Christ in the Bible" (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1995, note on Isaiah 52:13). This is the greatest single chapter in the Bible on the vicarious suffering of Christ for our sins. In this sermon, I will ask three questions about Christ's suffering and answer them from this chapter.

I. First, why did Isaiah write in the past tense when he spoke of
Christ's suffering in the future?

The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was written seven hundred years before Christ came to suffer for our sins. And yet the chapter is written in the past tense, "surely he hath borne our griefs…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him."

The way to explain this is given in Revelation 13:8, where we read of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). Christ was "fore-appointed to be the propitiation for sin, and was fore-ordained, before the foundation of the world, to redeem his people by his blood" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume III, p. 793). In the purpose of God, Christ was foreordained, appointed ahead of time, to suffer for man's sin, and so was "slain from the foundation of the world" in the purpose and decree of God. The Bible speaks of this when it says,

"Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).

From the beginning of the world God ordained Christ to die for man's sin. That's why the Bible speaks of

"…the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (I Peter 1:19-20).

We can say that the decree of God was equal to the finished act. When God decreed the suffering of Christ for our sin, it was as good as done. Christ was slain in the decree of God from the foundation of the world, but "was manifest in these last times" (I Peter 1:20). God lives outside of time and space. He sees the end from the beginning. Therefore, Isaiah was perfectly correct in saying,

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him"
    (Isaiah 53:4-5).

II. Second, when did Christ begin to bear our sins in time and space?

What God "foreordained from the foundation of the world…was manifested" in the life of Christ on earth, in time and space (I Peter 1:20). Isaiah said,

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows"
    (Isaiah 53:4).

"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all"
    (Isaiah 53:6).

In time and space, "manifest in these last times," Christ had our sins "laid on him" in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified (I Peter 1:20; Isaiah 53:6).

There in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane the sins of mankind were laid on Christ. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). We are told that He "bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (I Peter 2:24). But the sins had been placed "in his own body" the night before. In the Garden of Gethsemane, late that night, it is no wonder that Christ said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:38).

"Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground"
    (Luke 22:44).

Thus, Christ became the bearer of your sin in the Garden of Gethsemane, before they arrested Him.

It is important for us to look at Christ's suffering both prophetically, from the foundation of the world, and experientially in the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was crucified. I think it is important to do that or you may become so absorbed in His beating and crucifixion the next day that you lose sight of its real meaning. You may feel pity or revulsion, or a mixture of the two, and lose sight of the meaning of His suffering, and forget the worst part of His passion.

So we look at it prophetically in Isaiah 53. Outside of time and space, we see that "he hath borne our griefs…and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4, 6). Then we look at Him as He prays in Gethsemane, before they arrest Him and beat Him and nail Him to the Cross. And here in Gethsemane, the night before all that, we see Him sweating blood, and we hear Him say, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:38). We see that here in the Garden, before He is arrested and tortured by man, He is already suffering as our sin-bearer. This should move you away from pity and revulsion, to wonder and thanksgiving. I am not presenting any "new" theology. The full atonement was made on the Cross. I am merely pointing out that Christ became the sin-bearer the night before. Dr. John R. Rice said, "No one can know the infinite sufferings of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane…" (John R. Rice, D.D., The Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord, 1980, p. 443).

Did you ever wonder why there are two very distinct reactions to Christ's passion? Some people are revolted by the blood and gore. Other people think it is beautiful, like an oil painting. Some see ugliness. Others see beauty. Why are the reactions so different? I believe that the answer lies in the heart of the beholder. If the heart has no awareness of the reasons for Christ's suffering, then it appears as ugly and cruel as a bullfight. The very best we can expect is that such a person will feel pity for Christ, as he might feel pity for a wounded, dying animal in a bull ring. But even pity is the wrong reaction. Certainly being revolted is wrong - but so is pity. The correct reaction is wonder, love and praise. But this can only come to a person by God's illumination.

As we look at Christ's suffering prophetically, from the foundation of the world, and from the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that the reason for Christ's suffering was for our redemption from sin and its consequences. In his famous hymn about Christ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane that night, before He was arrested, Joseph Hart said,

See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of grace divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
    ("Thine Unknown Sufferings" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

III. Third, what did Christ do to save us?

Please look at Isaiah 53:5. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

You may be seated. "By his stripes [literally 'scourging'] we are healed." Healed from what? Healed from the disease of sin, and from death, the consequence of the disease of sin. You are healed inwardly when you are born again, and the image of God is restored in your heart. You are healed outwardly when the Blood of Christ cleanses your sins from God's record. You are healed positionally when you are translated out of darkness into light. You are healed experientially when you rise to walk in newness of life. All of these healings - inward, outward, positional and experiential - all these healings proceed from the suffering of Christ and His resurrection from the dead.

If you could understand the anger of God toward sin, you would see why Christ had to suffer in your place. If the Holy Spirit convinces you of sin, you will then begin to think about God's righteous anger toward your sin. If you could say, "My sin is ever before me," then you would begin to understand the importance of Christ's passion (Psalm 51:3). But if you go on as you are, Christ's suffering and death will not seem any more important to you than a horror story.

Look, a great tsunami flooded Indonesia, Thailand, other parts of Southeast Asia and the coast of India. It's been in the news for weeks. Thousands of people have died. Pictures of their dead bodies have been in the newspapers and on television. But this has not affected you. You may have felt pity for them. You may have felt some revulsion. But it has had no effect on your life. It has not touched you personally.

But what if you had been there, on one of the islands off the coast of Indonesia? What if you had seen a great tidal wave sixty feet high rushing toward you? I can assure you that would have had an effect on you! And if someone had miraculously saved you from that monster wave, you would think very highly of that person, and never forget him as long as you lived.

And so it is with Christ. If you see the monster wave of judgment and perceive the horrible danger of your sin, you will think most favorably of Christ. You will then have great respect for His suffering, which saved you, and His Blood, which cleansed you. Then you would say with Isaiah,

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5).

If you would like to speak with me about salvation in Christ, please go to the back of the room now. Dr. Cagan will take you to my office, where we can talk privately about Christ.


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 53:3-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Thine Unknown Sufferings" (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768), sung
      to the tune of "'Tis Midnight, and on Olive's Brow"

THE OUTLINE OF

THE SUFFERING SAVIOUR - IN ETERNITY AND TIME

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5).

I.   Why did Isaiah write in the past tense when he spoke of
Christ's suffering in the future? Revelation 13:8;
Acts 15:18; I Peter 1:19-20.

II.  When did Christ begin to bear our sins in time and space?
I Peter 1:20; Isaiah 53:4, 6; I Peter 2:24; Matthew 26:38;
Luke 22:44.

III. What did Christ do to save us? Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 51:3.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."