Isaiah 53, "the Fifth Gospel" by an Ancient Prophet
- Summary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John ... and Isaiah?!! Yes. The prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before Christ’s coming to earth, wrote the essence of the Christian message in what many have called “the fifth Gospel”.
- •• Isaiah the prophet, in his 53rd chapter, prophetically saw “the Gospel” centuries before it became a reality in Jesus Christ.
•• You can win souls by using Isaiah 53. I have personally seen this occur. Let’s take a brief look at this remarkable, twelve-verse summary of the Christian Gospel found in an Old Testament book written some seven centuries before Jesus Christ came to earth.
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
- •• God has established His own way to lead people to Himself. He reveals Himself to man, first and foremost in the Scriptures, and asks for a response of faith to that revelation (“Who has believed...?”).
•• Romans 10:16-17 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
- • For faith to rise in people’s hearts, they must hear the correct message — “the word of Christ”. Faith that leads to salvation is faith in the message about Jesus Christ.
• Then in the next eleven verses Isaiah proceeds to reveal that message about our Savior. Many have therefore called Isaiah chapter 53 “the 5th Gospel”.
Vss. 2-3 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- •• The One of whom Isaiah is speaking here is clearly Jesus Christ, as the succeeding verses verify. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.” This is a key to the Gospel — that is, that it is not beauty, status, or man’s power, fame, or fortune that attracts men and women to Jesus.
- • The Gospel does not appeal to the flesh. In fact, it seems to have a special, God-directed appeal to those without beauty, fame, fortune, or man’s so-called wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
- •• Jesus Himself was “despised ... rejected ... and not esteemed” by the majority of those He came to.
- • That should be a great encouragement to those of our time who feel despised, rejected, and disrespected. Tell them that Jesus was evaluated and rejected that way by many of His contemporaries, too.
Vss. 4-5 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
- •• “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities” — this is the very heart of the Gospel.
- • Theologians call His crucifixion a substitutionary sacrifice. He, the innocent One who did not deserve it, took upon Himself the punishment of us who did deserve it!
• They were our transgressions and iniquities, yet He died for them.
- •• Verses 4 and 5 also foretell the physical healing that Jesus’ suffering and death would secure for us.
•• “He took up our infirmities ... and by His wounds we are healed.” Just as Jesus took our sins in His death on the cross, He also “took” our sicknesses.
- • This is clearly brought out in Matthew’s Gospel (8:16-17) — When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”
Vs. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
- •• What love! What mercy! We sinned ... we went astray ... we followed our own ways ... and God the Father laid on Jesus all of our sins!
- • This verse is an excellent one to use to explain to someone the concept of God's unmerited, freely-given grace.
Vss. 7-8 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 her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
- •• What love He must have for us, to go through what He did! — “oppressed ... afflicted ... judged ... slaughter[ed] ... stricken ... cut off from the land of the living.”
•• And why did Jesus offer Himself up to such suffering? — “For the transgression of my people...” For us! For our sins and the punishment due to them.
Vs. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
- •• “He was assigned a grave...” — This is one of the basic, important truths of the Gospel, which Paul defines in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 — “...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ... he was buried ... [and] he was raised on the third day...” This is what the apostle Paul called “the gospel” (vss. 1-2) — that is, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our sins.
- • Jesus died a real death, not just something symbolic or spiritual. He was assigned a grave and was buried in it.
Vs. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
- •• “Yet it was the Lord’s will...” — this death of God’s Son Jesus for us was not accidental; it was explicitly the will of God. No other, lesser sacrifice could suffice for man’s sins.
•• In a veiled sense, Isaiah sees in advance the resurrection of Jesus from the dead —
- • “He will ... prolong his days.”
• Many great religious leaders have died, some as martyrs.
• But Jesus’ resurrection is one of the things that sets Him apart from them.
- • Paul wrote, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corin. 15:17, KJV).
Vs. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
- •• In this verse Jesus’ resurrection after His death is clearly alluded to — “After the suffering ... he will see the light of life.”
•• The wonderful result of that, to be told to the world? — “By His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many.”
- • It is so important, and of eternal consequence, that people come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior — John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Eternal life springs from knowing Jesus, and knowing God the Father through Him. In verse 11 Isaiah is telling us prophetically seven centuries in advance that by the knowledge of Jesus men and women will be justified and their sins will be taken away.
Vs. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
- •• This verse sums it up. And for us it is indeed “Gospel” — that is, Good News!
- • “He poured out his life unto death.” Jesus died for us.
• “He bore the sin of many” — including yours and mine!
• And (vs. 11) He rose from the grave to “see the light of life ... [and to] justify many...” And that, too, includes you and me!
- •• All this blessing in twelve short verses — Isaiah 53’s “fifth Gospel”!
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©2003, 2015, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.