The Atonement: The Obedience of the Suffering Servant.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7-9)

“The Apostle Paul that he was determined to know nothing save Christ and Him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2). This was the apostle’s way of emphasizing the extreme importance of the cross to Christianity. The doctrine of the atonement is central to all Christian theology.” Dr. R. C. Sproul

Isaiah 53:7-9 is the fourth section of five in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song of Yahweh (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). In these next three verses we witness The Obedience of the Suffering Servant.

Scripture speaks not only of the active obedience of Christ, but also His passive obedience. The comments by Dr. Nicholas Needham, minister of Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland, and lecturer in church history at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland, will prove most helpful.

Passive” is not a complimentary word to apply to someone these days. It suggests an inert, sluggish, withdrawn soul that is lost in daydreams. So perhaps it sounds like a contradiction to speak of “passive obedience.” How can obedience be passive? I suppose if someone in authority commands you to be inert, sluggish, withdrawn, and lost in daydreams, then your passivity will be an act of obedience — although we are now descending into wild paradox with our talk of a “passive act”!

 “The passive obedience of Christ, however, doesn’t involve these contradictions and paradoxes. The word “passive” here suggests the older meaning of “suffering.” There was an aspect to Christ’s obedience to the will of His Father that embraced suffering, a submission to affliction and infliction. Hence the term “the Passion” is used to describe the last hours of the Savior’s life, from Gethsemane onwards.”

Dr. Needham continues by saying, “The counterpart to Christ’s obedience-as-suffering is His “active obedience.” This refers to the way He positively embodied in His character and deeds His Father’s precepts for human life. Since Christ is the True Man, and since God’s will for humanity is expressed in the Moral Law, Christ’s active obedience is His fulfillment of that Law. If we want to see the meaning of the Ten Commandments fleshed out in a human life, we must look at Christ.”

Dr. Nedham concludes by stating, What theologians are trying to do when they distinguish between the active and passive obedience of Christ is point to a very real distinction between different aspects, or different dimensions, of the one life of Christ. Throughout His entire life, Christ fulfilled the Moral Law. But so would Adam have done if sin had not entered the world when he sinned. It’s the entrance of sin that brings in a new, darker dimension to the obedience required of Man: he must now submit to God’s holy judgment as a result of his transgression.”

Within these three verses, Isaiah 53:7-9, we witness what is referred to as the passive obedience of Christ while on the cross. Today, we examine Isaiah 53:7: ““He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

 “He was oppressed.” This three word phrase is one word in the Hebrew: “Nig’gas.” It means to cause hardship and trouble. It additionally means to demand or to obtain a payment for an incurred debt. This harkens us back to the biblical truth that sin is not only a crime against God, and an estrangement between sinners and God, but also a debt incurred by the sinner unto God. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross was the means by which our indebtedness to God was paid.

“And He was afflicted.” This phrase is also one word in the Hebrew: “Na’aneh.” It means to suffer, to be wretched, emaciated, and also oppressed. In other words, to be mistreated. It also means to bear patiently. One commentary defines the phrase to mean, “He was made answerable.”

“Yet He opened not His mouth.” Jesus did not respond to the taunts and mocking of the crowd who crucified Him. Matthew 26:63 says, “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” I Peter 2:21-23 says, “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. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”  Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Seeing many sheep sheared for their wool or killed as sacrifices, Israelites were well aware of the submissive nature of sheep. Jesus, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), quietly submitted to His death. He did not try to stop those who opposed Him; He remained silent rather than defend Himself (Matt. 26:63a; 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23). He was willingly led to death because He knew it would benefit those who would believe.”

 I encourage to meditate today upon the lyrics of this updated, classic hymn: Jesus Paid It All.

 I hear the savior say, thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all.

‘Cause Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find thy power and thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.

‘Cause Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
My sin had left this crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.

It’s washed away, all my sin
And all my shame.

And when before the throne I stand in him complete
“Jesus died my soul to save” my lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
(Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow)
(He washed it white as snow)

(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
Well praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead
Jesus.

You are the one
The son of god
Conqueror of death
King of kings
The sacrificial lamb.

(O praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead)
Well praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead
Jesus.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

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