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A DESCRIPTION OF THE ATONEMENT

(SERMON NUMBER 9 ON ISAIAH 53)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, April 7, 2013

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).


In the previous verse Isaiah told us about the silence of Christ,

“He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb [is silent], so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Dr. Edward J. Young said, “Having stressed the silent patience of Christ in His suffering, the prophet now gives a more detailed description of that suffering” (Edward J. Young, Ph.D., The Book of Isaiah, Eerdmans, 1972, volume 3, p. 351).

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

The verse divides naturally into three points describing (1) Christ’s suffering, (2) Christ’s generation, and (3) Christ’s vicarious atonement for our sins.

I. First, the text gives a description of Christ’s suffering.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment…for he was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).

Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was taken by temple guards to the chief priests. They brought Him before Caiaphas, the high priest, and before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. He was condemned in this court by false witnesses. Jesus said,

“Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).

Then the high priest said,

“What think ye? They [of the Sanhedrin] answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted [beat] him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands” (Matthew 26:66-67).

“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death” (Matthew 27:1).

But they had no legal authority under Roman law to do this, and so,

“they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the [Roman] governor” (Matthew 27:2).

Pilate questioned Jesus,

“and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26).

Thus, this part of our text was fulfilled,

“He was taken from prison and from judgment [before the high priest, and then before Pilate]…for he was cut off out of the land of the living [by His death on the Cross]” (Isaiah 53:8).

The imprisonment of Jesus by the Jewish Sanhedrin and by Pilate fulfilled the words, “He was taken from prison.” The trials before Caiaphas, and then before Pilate, fulfilled the phrase, “and from judgment.” He was taken from prison and from judgment out to a hill called Calvary, where He was crucified and died on the Cross, thus fulfilling the phrase, “He was cut off out of the land of the living.”

Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said,

He was taken by distress and judgment; that is, his life was taken away in a violent manner, under a pretense of justice; whereas [really] the [worst] injustice was done him; a wrong charge was brought against him, false witnesses were [bribed to take a false oath, thus committing perjury against Him], and his life was taken away with wicked hands [as given] in Acts 8:32, [“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb [silent] before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth”]. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: he [did not receive] common justice (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume V, p. 314).

As our text says,

“He was taken from prison and from judgment…for he was cut off out of the land of the living…” (Isaiah 53:8).

II. Second, the text gives a description of Christ’s generation.

In the middle of the text is a clause which is somewhat difficult to explain,

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living…” (Isaiah 53:8).

“Who shall declare his generation?” Dr. Gill said that this phrase speaks “of the age [or generation in which He lived], and the men of it in which he lived, whose barbarity to him, and wickedness they were guilty of, were such as could not be declared [fully] by the mouth, or [fully] described by the pen of man” (Gill, ibid.). It brings tears to our hearts, when we read of the cruelty and injustice they had toward the harmless Son of God! As Joseph Hart (1712-1768) put it in his sorrowful hymn,

See how patient Jesus stands,
   Insulted in [this awful place]!
Sinners have bound the Almighty hands,
   And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns His temple gored and gashed,
   Send streams of blood to every part,
His back with knotted scourges lashed,
   But sharper scourges tear His heart.

Nailed naked to the accursed wood,
   Exposed to earth and heaven above,
A spectacle of wounds and blood,
   A prodigy of injured love!
(“His Passion” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768; altered by the Pastor;
      to the tune of “‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow”).

John Trapp (1601-1669) said, “Who can utter or describe his generation? [Who can describe] the wickedness of the men of those times he lived in?” (John Trapp, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Transki Publications, 1997 reprint, volume 3, p. 410).

It is difficult to explain, in human terms, why those Jewish leaders wanted Jesus crucified, and why the Roman soldiers, “smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him…and led him out to crucify him” (Mark 15:19-20).

“And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain” (Acts 13:28).

As John Trapp put it, “Who can utter or describe his generation?... the wickedness of the men of those times he lived in.”

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living…” (Isaiah 53:8).

Dr. Young said, “The verb [declare] implies meditation or giving serious thought to something…They should have considered [the meaning of His death], but they did not” (Young, ibid., p. 352).

How is it any different today? Millions of people have heard about the death of Jesus on the Cross without giving serious thought to it. “They should have considered, but they did not.” Who thinks deeply about Christ’s crucifixion? Do you? Do you spend time thinking about the death of Christ and what it means to you?

“Who can...describe his generation?...the wickedness of the men of those times he lived in,” said John Trapp. And yet the people who crucified Jesus were really very similar to unconverted people today. People today don’t want to think very seriously about the significance of Christ’s death. When “The Passion of the Christ” came out in our theaters many news commentators said that movie would have a profound effect on those who saw it. They said it would ignite a revival of interest in the Gospel. Some of them said it would cause great crowds of young people to come into the churches.

The film came out in 2004. That was nine years ago. We have had plenty of time to see whether those commentators were right. The awful reality of Christ’s suffering portrayed in the film did have a psychological effect on many who saw it. But we can see now that it made no lasting impression on those who saw it. They went right back to their self-centered and sinful lives.

You see, that is the very essence of sin. Unconverted people can only experience a little sadness over Christ’s suffering. But, at best, it is only a very slight remorse. They go right back to “surfing the net” for hours, to their greed for more money, their godless lives, their endless video games, missing church on Sunday, thinking very little about the God who made them, and the Christ who suffered on the Cross to save them. “Who can describe his generation?” Why, the generation that lived when Jesus was crucified is virtually the same as your generation! They were a bunch of self-loving, godless reprobates, who lived for nothing higher than sinful pleasure. And isn’t that a perfect picture of your generation as well? And, if you were really honest with yourself, isn’t that also a perfect description of you? After all, how much time do you spend thinking about God? How much time do you spend in prayer each day? How much does the bleeding crucifixion of Christ affect your everyday life? If you are honest with yourself, I think you will have to say that you are not really very different from the generation that rejected Christ, crucified Him, and walked way to lead their own selfish lives. That is the essence of sin. That is the very nature of sin. That proves that you are a sinner, and that you are every bit as guilty as were those in the time of Christ. Even if you come here to church every Sunday, you only have “a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5). Isn’t that true of you? Isn’t it true that you “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”? (Romans 3:23). And since all those things are true of you, how can you escape from the wrath and judgment of Almighty God? Rev. Iain H. Murray, in his recent book on the life of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, said,

      For Dr. Lloyd-Jones to preach the real peril of man’s guiltiness before God meant to preach the certainty of divine wrath, wrath which is already upon the unconverted and which is yet to come in the punishment of sin in hell...that place where their ‘worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched’ (Iain H. Murray, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013, p. 317).

III. Third, the text describes the deeper meaning of Christ’s suffering.

Please stand and read Isaiah 53:8 aloud, paying careful attention to the last clause, “for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

You may be seated.

Dr. Merrill F. Unger said,

For seventeen centuries [the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53] was the only interpretation among Christians [and] Jewish authorities. [Later the Jews] deliberately abandoned that view of the chapter because of its remarkable fulfillment in Christ (Unger, ibid., p. 1293).

Today many Jewish scholars say that the entire fifty-third chapter of Isaiah refers to the suffering of the Jewish people, not to Christ. Although the Jews have suffered horribly at the hands of false Christians, this cannot be the true meaning of our text, for it plainly says, “For the transgression [the sin] of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8). Of this clause, “For the transgression of my people was he stricken,” Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “He died for ‘my people’ – that is, Israel – showing that [Christ] in this passage is not Israel, as many have alleged” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1995, p. 767). Thus, the true meaning is not that the Jewish people were stricken, but rather that Christ was stricken in their place, for their sins, to pay the penalty for their sins, and for ours. He was crucified to pay the penalty for our sin!

Dr. John Gill said the words “For the transgression of my people was he stricken,” apply to the Jewish people and also to the elect Christians – showing that Christ was stricken both for the sins of Israel and for the sins of “his people” who are Christians (Gill, ibid., p. 314). I think that Dr. Gill brings out the true meaning of those words,

“For the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

Christ was “stricken” on the Cross to pay for the sins of His people, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. His death is substitutionary, Christ dying to pay for our sins. It is propitiatory, turning away the anger of God from the sinner.

But there is a condition. For Christ to effectually pay for your sins, you must trust Him in faith. The sin-payment of Christ on the Cross will not save anyone who fails to trust Jesus. It is only when you surrender to Jesus that your sins are blotted out of God’s record by the Saviour’s Blood.

You can know all the facts in this verse and still be lost. The demons have a full knowledge of these facts, but it does not save them. The Apostle James said, “the devils [demons] also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). The demons have only “head knowledge” about Christ’s atoning death. You must go farther if you wish to be saved. You must actually submit to Christ and trust Him. You must be converted by an act of God’s grace, or you will go to Hell with your memorized thoughts about His crucifixion.

Listen to Dr. A. W. Tozer as he speaks against “decisionism,” and in favor of true conversion. Dr. Tozer said,

The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver (A. W. Tozer, D.D., The Best of A. W. Tozer, Baker Book House, 1979, page 14).

“The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless” – and, I might add that it is often Christless! “Decisionists” simply want you to say a quick prayer, be baptized, and get it over with. Often Christ’s death and resurrection are hardly mentioned. Often they are left out completely! This is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that you must feel the guilt of your sin, and find that you have no way to escape from sin and its consequences other than by coming to Christ, laying yourself out helplessly before Him, and trusting Him from the innermost depths of your being. Then, and only then, will you know by experience what the prophet Isaiah meant when he said,

“For the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

When you trust Jesus Christ by faith, His Blood cleanses all your sin and you are converted – but not before that happens to you. No, never before that happens! You must trust Jesus Christ if you want to be saved!

Let us stand together. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please leave your chair right now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet room where we can talk with you about surrendering to Christ and being washed clean from your sin by His holy Blood! Mr. Lee, please come and pray for those who have responded. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 53:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Blessed Redeemer” (by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985).


THE OUTLINE OF

A DESCRIPTION OF THE ATONEMENT

(SERMON NUMBER 9 ON ISAIAH 53)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

(Isaiah 53:7)

I.   First, the text gives a description of Christ’s suffering,
Isaiah 53:8a; Matthew 26:64, 66-67; 27:1-2, 26;
Acts 8:32.

II.  Second, the text gives a description of Christ’s generation,
Isaiah 53:8b; Mark 15:19-20; Acts 13:28; II Timothy 3:5;
Romans 3:23.

III. Third, the text describes the deeper meaning of Christ’s
suffering, Isaiah 53:8c; James 2:19.