The work of Christ – Isaiah 53 (Part 1 of 3)

Over the next three messages, we are going to look at the work of Christ, the promise of the New Covenant, and the result of that promise. All described in the Old Testament, Isaiah 53 – 55 to be exact.

Isaiah 52 ends with the explanation of the coming Messiah as someone whose visage was marred more than any man for the purpose of sprinkling the nations. Isaiah 53 begins with the complaint, Who has believed our report? It is those whom the Lord has stretched out His arm and revealed Himself to. Of course, we now know this was a foretelling of the rejection of Christ, and His marring was the scourging and the crucifixion. Upon that prediction, the reason for Jesus’ marring is given in Isaiah 53:4-8

4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

In Acts 8, God sent Philip into the desert where he met a chariot travelling back to Ethiopia. The man in the chariot was reading out loud to himself from this exact passage. He did not understand who was the focus of this prophecy, so Philip joined him in the chariot, and began to preach Jesus to him.

This passage is the foundation of the gospel. From the crucifixion of Christ, the church is born and you are born into the church. Unless someone understands this basic truth, they remain under the condemnation of sin.

Remember, you are not condemned because of your individual sins. You are condemned because you are in sin. Sin as a whole was defeated in Christ. In order to understand this truth, we are going to have to use a lot of scriptures. The Bible paints this wonderful picture of sin, how it condemned us through the law, and how it and the law was taken away in Christ.

I use a lot of scriptures, but in this message, I’m going to use more than normal. The reason is because the Bible is very thorough in explaining this truth, but because the church does not understand the completed work of Christ, we are focused on the law instead of focusing on the work of the cross. We glance at Christ but then strive for justification by human effort. Some call it sanctification, but what they are striving for is justification.

Justification is to be counted as either forgiven or worthy of favor based on our standing. When we are outside of God’s favor, we are not justified, or accounted as just based on innocence to the law. If I do something wrong, and I must do something to make it right, that is striving for justification, for I am again trying to make myself right with the law.

If I am asking for forgiveness, I am trying to get God to pardon my sin which has broken His law. I cannot say, “I am justified,” and “I need to ask for forgiveness.” Either I am justified, or I am not. If I am justified, I do not need forgiveness, for I am already right with the law. If I need forgiveness, I am not justified. It really is that simple.

Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God. It has nothing to do with forgiveness, sin, or justification. It is me standing with God with a complete focus on Him. The Bible also says we are sanctified in Christ – past tense – speaking of our new spirit given to us at our new birth in Christ. Our lives are not always living in perfect sanctification, but our eternal spirit is. We’ll dig into this in a separate study, but just be aware that sanctification has nothing to do with sin or forgiveness. Any time sin is unforgiven, it is in a person who has not been justified – or is outside of God’s forgiveness. The unjust are those who have not been transformed through the cross. For those of us in Christ, justification is a completed work.

To understand this, let’s look at sin. The way the Bible deals with sin is completely different than the way religion does. To understand this, let’s first look at how sin is applied. Look at Romans 5:12-13

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned–
13 For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Notice two key truths here. Sin – the object of sin, or the prison of sin – entered the world through Adam. It isn’t Adam’s individual sins that brought us under the curse. Sin entered into the world and Adam’s nature, corrupted by sin, was passed down to us all. That sin nature gave us a bent toward sin – the prison – and it came upon all man. The wages of sin is death; therefore, all die in Adam. Our spirit was dead to God, but physical death also entered the world.

The second truth I want you to notice is that even though sin spread to all man, it was not imputed to man until the law. Though all have sinned and all inherit the wages of sin, no one was judged as guilty of sin by God until the law was given. The Bible speaks clearly to this, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” If there is no law, sin is not applied to the person’s account.

The consequences of sin reigned outside of the law. People committed wrongs, tyranny, murder, thievery, and all the pain of sin reigned from Adam to Moses, but God did not condemn man for his sins until the law was given. For where there is no law, sin is NOT imputed. The Bible could not state this any clearer.

This changed when the law was provided. We can also see the evidence of this truth in the lives of the people of God who were delivered from slavery in Egypt. God’s people were in bondage for 400 years, severely oppressed, and helpless. God delivered the people by the hand of Moses after God broke the will of Pharaoh.

In Exodus 15, the people murmured and complained against Moses and God about thirst. They came to the waters of Marah where the waters were poisonous. They complained and God instructed Moses to cast a tree into the waters – which by the way, is a picture of Christ taking away the bitterness of sin on His tree. The waters were made sweet and their thirst was quenched.

In Exodus 16, the people murmured again, “Oh that we had died in Egypt, for there is no food in the desert. We are all going to perish from hunger.” No faith. No wisdom. God gave them bread from heaven – manna.

Exodus 17. The people ran out of water and complained to the point of an uprising. Moses said to God, “They are about to stone me.” Did God’s judgment fall? No. God had compassion on them and God called Moses to strike the rock. Water flowed out of the rock, which was also a picture of Christ’s provision. The rock provided the water twice in the desert. The first time was a picture of Christ bearing our judgment. In this incident Moses was instructed to strike the rock. The second time was a picture of Christ’s glory, and Moses was told to speak to the rock, a picture of us trusting in Christ through prayer. Water flowed and the people were quenched.

Instead of judging the people for their unbelief and rebellion, God used their needs to point to Christ. The tree of the cross made the bitterness of the polluted waters sweet. A famished people were given the bread of heaven. The people in the desert were again watered through the flow of the rock. The cross is called the tree where Jesus bore our sins. Jesus said He was the bread that came down from heaven. The Bible says the rock that followed them was Christ. The tree is the payment of the cross. The manna was the broken body of Jesus. The first rock was the blow of sin Jesus took on our behalf. Each took the emptiness of man’s soul and filled it with the provision of Christ.

These people were murmuring against the Lord, Moses, and disobedient to God. They were robbed of peace, joy, and because their focus was on their circumstances instead of God, they were frustrated. Yet their sins were not imputed, for there was no law.

When they were given manna, God gave them commandments. One was not to keep manna overnight. Only collect one day’s provision. Anything left over was to be cast out. When the people disobeyed, there were consequences. The manna rotted and stench filled their tents, but God did not impute their sins and they were not judged. Consequences, yes. God’s condemnation, no.

Something changed in Exodus 20. Over the next few chapters, the law was given. The people had said, “We will keep all your commandments.” They were a people convinced they could become righteous by human effort. Since these people were persuaded of their own righteousness, God provided the law to say, “This is what righteousness looks like. If you are going to be good, you have to measure up to my goodness.” They wanted to prove their goodness, so God provided the law, which empowered sin and produced condemnation.

From Exodus 20-31 the law was given. In Exodus 32 we see the first emerging of God’s wrath against the sin of His people. It didn’t take long.

From Exodus 32 through Leviticus 15, the full weight of the law was laid out, the order of worship, and the requirements of the priesthood were given. Do you know what the first thing that happened once all was laid out? Leviticus 16 begins with the sons of Aaron offering a sacrifice that God considered profane, and the fire of God’s judgment killed them. If you are going to enter life in the Spirit, you can only do so in absolute perfection. Imperfection dies when it enters the realm of the eternal. This is why God judged the people trying to live according to the eternal law. The people tried to live according to the eternal standard of God, but attempted to do so with the incompatible life of the flesh. Flesh is always judged as unworthy when it tries to enter the Spirit.

The rest of Leviticus is laying out more of the law and the judgment against those who violate it. Numbers 1 – 11 is more law, the building of the tabernacle, and its dedication. The first act of the people mentioned after the law was given is in Numbers 11:1-2

 1 Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.
2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched.

Do you see a difference? The people complained constantly from the time they left Egypt until the law was given. How many times did God judge their sin? And yes, complaining is a sin. God did not judge them once. He met their needs and led them to His provision. God pointed them to the rock and fed them from heaven. Yet once they were in the law, every sin was judged. From Numbers 11 through the sacrifice of Christ, the Bible is all about God’s judgment against sin. But once sin was judged in Christ, man is back under grace instead of the law.

There was no difference between the people murmuring in Exodus 15, 16, and 17, and the people complaining in Numbers 11. The only thing that changed was that where there was no law, sin was not imputed, but under the law, judgment was a guarantee.

The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. The picture of God we see in the New Testament is the same as the picture we see of God from Genesis to Exodus 20. It isn’t God who has changed, it’s the law. When the people chose to become their own righteousness, the law was given to expose sin and drive man to the reality that nothing good comes outside of the Lord. This is explained in Romans 3:19-24

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

The purpose of the law was to give man the knowledge of sin so we could understand that nothing we can do produces righteousness. This is further explained in Romans 7:13

Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

The law was given that sin might appear to us as sin. Until sin is exposed as sin, sin can masquerade as good. We think sin is righteous until the law proves to us that what we thought was good is actually another form of sin. We think stealing is sin, but self-righteousness is good. We think lust is sin, but the goodness of human effort makes us pure. But the law comes in to show us that there is no difference between lust and man’s goodness, stealing and self-righteousness. One is to deny the value of God’s morality to elevate sin as though it has value. The other is to deny God’s gift of righteousness and to declare the works of our own hands as equal to Him. One says the desire of sin is more value than God, the other makes ourselves into God’s rival as though we can replace His goodness with our own. Until we can understand that lusts and self-righteousness are equally sinful, we can’t understand grace, mercy, and the love of God.

Self-righteousness is not only the pompous zealot looking down his nose at others. It is the person sincerely trying to merit God’s approval. It is anything we do to make ourselves good by human effort. The sin of self-righteousness is equally in the person who judges those less spiritually accomplished AND in the person who sacrifices all to meet the needs of the poor. This is why the Bible says, “Even if I give all my goods to the poor and give my body as a burnt offering, if I lack love (agape), it profits me nothing. Since agape is a gift of God given to us by the Spirit, there is nothing I can do to produce true love.

But the law takes what we think is good to the human eyes, and makes it appear to be what it is – sin. Under the law, we are condemned. The problem with religion – even Christian religion – is that we are blinded to sin by our own works, and we are blinded to God’s gift of righteousness through the veil of our revamped law. Most Christians never experience the fullness of God’s righteousness because they see their failures and weaknesses as causing them to fall short of the Christian law. Others are able to recreate the law into something they can keep so they feel self-righteous.

The good news is that your sins cannot nullify the work of Christ. Why? Remember our earlier passage? Where there is no law, sin is not imputed. Look at Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

I had a Christian law-keeper challenge me once by saying, “Jesus said that heaven and earth shall pass away, but His law will never pass away.” This is absolutely true. The law is just as alive today as it was in the day of Moses. It is still issuing condemnation and making sin appear to be sin by dismantling our righteousness and making us guilty before God. The law has never made a sinner righteous. But it has made many righteous men into sinners. The law still condemns and still judges. But the Bible says that those who have died have been freed from the law, and Romans 10:4 above explains why. In Christ, the law has come to an end to everyone who believes.

He fulfilled the law on our behalf so we could be counted as righteous. Our sins are not imputed because for the one who is in Christ, the law has come to an end. The law hasn’t come to an end. It is only ended in Christ, for in Him we are credited with His righteousness because He was marred for our sins. He paid the wages of sin through His death, and we are paid the wages of righteousness through His life! Once we understand this basic truth, we can fully understand why Romans 4:7-8 says:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

Why are our lawless deeds forgiven? Because in Christ our sins are covered. In Christ we are under the blessing and you are the man/woman to whom the Lord shall not impute sin! Once you have died to the law, you are no longer under the law and sin cannot be imputed to those who are not under the law. Let’s let Romans 6:5-11

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Your deliverance comes by grace through faith. You reckon, or account yourself as God has declared, dead to sin. You’ve died to the law, and this makes you also dead to sin. Until you believe this, you will reckon yourself under sin and will live like someone still under the burden of the old life. Your old man – that sinful nature inherited through Adam – was crucified with Christ. Your new nature, that which is born of God by grace through faith, is raised with Christ. Just as death no longer has dominion over Jesus, death has no dominion over you, for you are no longer under the law of sin and condemnation, but you are in the blessing of God’s promise. Let’s look at two more passages. First look at Romans 8:1-2

 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. You are under the law of life, not under the law of sin and death. Where you were once imputed with the condemnation of sin according to a corrupt nature born through Adam, you are now imputed with righteousness according to the new nature born through Christ. The law of the Spirit of life has overcome the law of condemnation. Condemnation ONLY has power over that which came through Adam. It has no authority over that which is eternal and from the Spirit.

God did not only remove your sin. He removed the nature that was bound to that sin. Look at our last passage today in Colossians 2:11-14

11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Circumcision is a picture of the work of God. In the Old Covenant, the foreskin of the male child was cut away so they could enter the covenant given through Abraham. It was for God’s chosen people, the Jewish nation of Israel. They were called out of the world as a foreshadow of what God would one day accomplish through faith.

Now God calls us out of the world into the New Covenant. Just as the flesh of a child was cut away as a symbol of God’s promise in the Old Covenant, our flesh is cut away so we can enter the promise of the New Covenant. We were uncircumcised and of the world. We had a flesh nature that could not enter God’s promise. When we turn to Christ by faith, our fleshly sinful nature is cut away with the circumcision of the Spirit, taken out of the way, and we are given a new nature that is born of God.

Notice a few important truths in this passage. Your dead nature was circumcised away and you were made alive with a new nature, but there are two other promises tucked away in this passage. Christ wiped out all your trespasses by nailing them to the cross, but He also accomplished one other thing on the cross. Not only were your sins taken out of the way, but so was the written requirements of the law. It was taken out of the way and also nailed to the cross. Not only is your sin removed, but the written requirements which were against you and condemning you were also removed.

It is not your sin that condemns you – it is the Law! Let me repeat this vital truth. Your sins do not have the power to condemn you. It is the law that condemns, and without the law, sin has no power. The Bible says the strength of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56). If the law is taken out of the way, sin is still sin, but it has no power to condemn.

Once that law was taken out of the way, you were made free from the law of sin and death. Now there is no condemnation in Christ, for where there is no law, sin is not imputed! Just as it was before the law, if sin is allowed to reign, it produces consequences, but your spirit can never be condemned again, for there is no law by which you can be judged as guilty. Your sin was taken out of the way. The law written against you was taken out of the way. You are now free to walk without condemnation and fear, and because the bondage of sin is removed, you can now run the race before you without hindrance.

Even if sin arises, we merely cast it off and run with endurance the race set before us. It can never bring us under the chains of condemnation. Let’s end with the final words of Isaiah 53:

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. You are that pleasure. He will be satisfied with the labor of His soul. You are the labor of His soul. He became sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God in Christ. He made an intercession for you, the transgressor. He became your transgression. God was pleased to bruise Him because in Christ, your sins were judged. There is no double jeopardy. If Jesus was judged for your sins, the righteous requirement of the law has been satisfied, you died to the flesh and are now free from the law of sin and death.

Now reckon yourself dead indeed to sin and alive in Christ. Then you will see the labor of Christ come to maturity in you, and you will be transformed into His likeness. Sin has no power over you, but you must reckon, or account yourself as God has declared. This is the life of walking in the Spirit by faith. When you blow it, reckon yourself dead to sin but alive in Christ. As you believe, you will walk.

Eddie Snipes 2014

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