Who Hath Believed Our Report
Content Of Report

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 51b of 83


“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? ” (Romans 10:16).

[In our previous instalment of this article, we noted that the apostle Paul is actually alluding to Isaiah 53 as the Old Testament report of the gospel. In this second part, we want to survey the chapter to see how it is indeed the good news. -JJL]

2. Content of the Report

Let’s take a brief look at the passage.

For he [i.e. the Messiah] shall grow up before him [i.e. the Father] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” (Isa 53:2).

That is to say: The Messiah’s birth and childhood would not be in an ideal and luxurious condition. He would grow up, rather, like a tender plant in a dry and arid desert where nothing green and fruitful is to be expected.

He would not be born in a rich and royal family. His family would be poor and despicable. He would be born of a virgin as Isaiah 7:14 prophesied. But his adoptive father was a carpenter and for the most part they dwelt in Nazareth, a poor city where nothing good was known to have emerged.

What’s more…

“he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2b).

He is the God-Man, but His manhood was an ordinary manhood. He did not look like an Anglo-Saxon prince as portrayed in many medieval paintings. He probably looked like an ordinary Jewish man. He is not commended for physically attractiveness in Scripture, unlike Moses who was a goodly child and probably grew up as a handsome prince in the eyes of the world.

In fact…

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3).

He was not the kind of person that people normally look up to. He was the most important and glorious person who ever lived; but man despised and rejected Him.

Though he enjoyed unmingled blessedness in the presence of His Father from all eternity, yet as man, He was beset with sorrows, and He was acquainted with grief. He knew what it was to be tempted. He knew what it was to weep with pain in his heart.

But those who knew Him offered Him no comfort. Instead…

“we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:3b). 

Instead of rallying to His side, His covenant people remained in unbelief, and would disassociate themselves from Him. The Jews were His covenant people in the Old dispensation, as we are His covenant people today. We did not regard Him highly as we should.

Indeed…

“He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa 53:4).

He came for our sakes. He bore our grief and sorrows. But instead of being grateful to Him and sorrowing for Him at the thought of His suffering, we look askance at Him. He appears to us as one who deserves to be stricken and smitten by God and afflicted by Him.

“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” (Isa 53:5).

Why was He wounded? Why did God punish Him? It was for our sin. He was punished that we might have reconciliation and peace with God. He was hurt, that we might be healed.

For…

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).

We have strayed from God like sheep without their shepherd. We deserve to be chastised by God for our straying. But our chastisement was laid upon the back of our Messiah: Verse 7,—

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa 53:7).

He who is our Shepherd took on the flesh of His sheep. He went to the cross for us. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not resist nor complain. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. He was dumb as a sheep before her shearers. He came to suffer and die for us. He went to the cross willingly and meekly.

“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” (Isa 53:8).

He was arrested, imprisoned and judged. Pilate knew He was innocent. Yet, a death sentence was passed. He was crucified on the Cross at Calvary. He was cut off from the land of the living, dying a most terrible and shameful death. Why did He have to suffer? He suffered for our transgression. He was stricken for our transgression.

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isa 53:9).

Our Lord died on the Cross between two criminals. Then, a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea begged Pilate for his body. He took down the body and after preparing the body according to the Jewish custom, he laid him in his own grave.

Why did He have to die between the criminals? It was because He was bearing our guilt.

Why was He buried in the tomb of the rich? It was because He was innocent. He was tempted at all points like as we are, yet without sin. God would not suffer Him to be buried with the wicked when His work of atonement was completed on the Cross. It was completed when He cried out on the Cross: “It is finished!”

What was the result of the Messiah’s suffering and death? The result was the establishing of the Church…

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt 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” (Isa 53:10).

Who are the seed of the Messiah? They are none other than His elect. His seed, the Church, will know the blessing of the LORD because of what He has done!

But what of the Messiah himself? Did not Isaiah say that He would die and be buried with the rich? Well, yes, but notice what he is saying now. “He [i.e. the Messiah] shall see his seed, and he shall prolong his days.”

What does that indicated about the Messiah? Does it not indicate that He must die, but He would rise again? He would rise again personally, and He would also by His death make alive His seed, the Church!

Do you see how Isaiah is narrating the entire Gospel? The Messiah would be born in humble circumstance. He would live a life of suffering on behalf of His people. He would be punished by His Father for the sin of His people. He would atone for their sin. But He would rise again for their justification.

Isaiah summarises this in the rest of the chapter—

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa 53:11-12).

Notice how thorough and accurate is Isaiah’s summary? The Lord would bear the sin not of everyone, but for many, namely His elect. He would justify his elect.

And when He rises from the dead, He would ascend to heaven and He would receive of the Father a spoil or a portion. In Psalm 68, we are told that the Lord, when He ascended on high, would receive gifts for men. Paul quoting from the passage reminds us of how Christ, when He had ascended up on high sent His Spirit, and all the spiritual gifts needed by the Church for her nurture.

And not only so, but Christ would make intercession at the right hand of the throne of God on behalf of His people. These are the transgressors mentioned by Isaiah: for not only was it our transgression that led Christ to the Cross, but we remain sinners, having a remnant of corruption in us.

This, then, is the report that Isaiah is referring to when he says, “Lord, who hath believed our report?” (Rom 10:16).

Can you now see Paul’s argument that the gospel was preached even in the Old Covenant? Of course, this is not the only place where the gospel is recorded in the Old Testament. This is the clearest record of the gospel preached in the Old Testament! But everywhere else in the Old Testament, we find the same theme being taught, in varying degrees of clarity.

Yet it is clear enough that the Lord could rebuke His disciples on the road to Emmaus for failing to believe the gospel already written:

“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:25-27)

The disciples, like the Jews refused to believe the report of the gospel. But how should we respond to it?

 

… to be continued, next issue

—JJ Lim