“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God.”
–Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 195.
“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God.”
–Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 195.
“Brethren, do something; do something; DO SOMETHING.
While Committees waste their time over resolutions, do something. While Societies and Unions are making constitutions, let us win souls.
Too often we discuss, and discuss, and discuss, while Satan only laughs in his sleeve. It is time we had done planning, and sought something to plan.
I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work, and quit yourselves like men.
Old Suwarrow’s idea of war is mine: ‘Forward and strike! No theory! Attack! Form column! Fix bayonets, and charge right into the very centre of the enemy.’
Our one aim is to save sinners, and this we are not merely to talk about, but to effect in the power of God.”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 42-43.
“Know Jesus. Sit at His feet. Consider His nature, His work, His sufferings, His glory. Rejoice in His presence; commune with Him from day to day. To know Christ, is to understand the most excellent of all sciences.
You cannot fail to be wise if you commune with Incarnate Wisdom; you cannot lack strength if you have constant fellowship with God. Let this be your desire.
Dwell in God, brethren; not sometimes go to Him, but abide in Him.
They say in Italy that, where the sun does not enter, the physician must. Where Jesus does not shine, the soul is sick. Bask in His beams, and you shall be vigorous in the service of your Lord.
Last Sunday night, I had a text which mastered me: “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father.” (Matthew 11:27)
I told the people that poor sinners, who had gone to Jesus, and trusted Him, thought they knew Him, but that they knew only a little of Him. Saints of sixty years’ experience, who have walked with Him every day, think they know Him; but they are only beginning to know Him yet.
The perfect spirits before the throne, who have been for five thousand years perpetually adoring Him, perhaps think they know Him, but they do not to the full. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father.”
He is so glorious, that only the infinite God has full knowledge of Him, therefore there will be no limit to our study, or narrowness in our line of thought, if we make our Lord the great object of all our thoughts and researches.
So, brethren, as the outcome of this knowledge, if we are to be strong men, we must be conformed to our Lord. Oh, to be like Him! Blessed be that cross on which we shall suffer, if we suffer for being made like unto the Lord Jesus.
If we obtain conformity to Christ, we shall have a wondrous unction upon our ministry; and without that, what is a ministry worth? In a word, we must labour for holiness of character.
What is holiness? Is it not wholeness of character? A balanced condition in which there is neither lack nor redundance. It is not morality, that is a cold, lifeless statue; holiness is life.
You must have holiness; and, dear brethren, if you should fail in mental qualifications (though I hope you will not), and if you should have a slender measure of the oratorical faculty (though I trust you will not), yet, depend upon it, a holy life is, in itself, a wonderful power, and will make up for many deficiencies; it is, in fact, the best sermon the best man can ever deliver.
Let us resolve that all the purity which can be had we will have, that all the sanctity which can be reached we will obtain, and that all the likeness to Christ that is possible in this world of sin shall certainly be in us through the effectual working of the Spirit of God.
The Lord lift us all, as a College, right up to a higher platform, and He shall have the glory!”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 40-41.
“Yea, this book is written in the desire— perhaps in a measure of inner certainty— that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more bring into being His special instruments of revival, that He will again raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ.
And what manner of men will they be?
Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace.
They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labour and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat.
They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives.”
–Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival, vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1970), 1: 16.
“Among the last words he would ever pen, the apostle Paul wrote: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).
The resurrection: this is the hope, the living hope, set forth in all the Scriptures and embraced by all of God’s people throughout the history of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Peter exclaims, “who by his abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!” (1 Peter 1:3).
The sureness of this hope is grounded not only in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus but ultimately in the very being and character of God, who is the endless wellspring of life.
Jesus, rebuking severely the religious elite who were denying the resurrection from the dead, confessed that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). His own glorious resurrection was itself, then, a profession of the nature and goodness of God.
One blessed day God’s people will find themselves at last blinking in the dawn’s light of a new creation, together on the other side of history, on the other side of their own graves, experiencing the inexpressible joy of the redeemed, the nearly incomprehensible reality that, yes, the fear and the battle and death are done forever, and there will be no more tears or afflictions or tragedies or sadness—no more Satan, wickedness, sin, or decay.
All evil, within and without, along with its bedfellows of gloom and sorrow, will be forever banished. God’s people will be raised up in glory and brought into that life of cheer and peace in the land, for our Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, says, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5), and he is well able.
“I am the Living One,” he says, “I was dead, and, look! now I am alive for ever and ever and I hold the keys of Hades and Death!” (Revelation 1:18). He has in himself already brought our humanity to its destined beatific end before the face of God.
Every soul who turns to Jesus Christ in sincerity will partake of the same glory, even the culmination of the Messiah’s exodus: “Behold, the Dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples—and God himself will be with them and be their God!” (Revelation 21:3).
Until that day breaks, Paul’s question remains: Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? He is, after all, the God of the exodus.
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.”
–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 195-196.
“Coming to the fourth song, we enter through the veil of divine mystery and onto hallowed ground— we behold the servant led like a lamb to the slaughter, despised by men and crushed by Yahweh.
Here the eternal plans of divine wisdom—infinitely vast—for the redemption of Israel and the nations unfold, like so many rungs of a celestial ladder unrolling down onto the earth-and-dust of human history. While Isaiah 49–52 resounds with the anticipation of Israel’s salvation, and Isaiah 54–55 comprises a divine invitation for people to participate in Yahweh’s salvation, Isaiah 53 forms the bridge from anticipation to invitation.
This servant song sets forth the means of redemption, the unexpected, divinely orchestrated way of humanity’s restoration to God—namely atonement through the sacrificial suffering of the servant of Yahweh.
Structurally, the song has five stanzas, beginning and ending with the servant’s exaltation. Enveloped by this frame his rejection is described, with the heart and center of the poem unfolding the significance of the servant’s suffering (Isaiah 53:4–6).
“My servant,” Yahweh declares in the song’s opening verse, “will be high and lifted up and very exalted,” using terms of glory by way of contrast to the depths of lowliness his servant has endured. In the last stanza the servant’s exaltation is presented as his seeing his offspring, obtaining life, and succeeding in his mission, with Yahweh’s will prospering in his hand.
After his suffering, death, and burial, he is raised up, living and victorious, and “will divide the spoil” with the strong. The servant, therefore, fulfills the hope prophesied of the Messiah earlier in Isaiah, when the people are said to rejoice as when they “divide the spoil,” a joy ushered in with the kingdom of the child who is born for us, the son who is given for us (Isaiah 9:3, 6). What a son given for us means finds an awe-inspiring answer in this fourth song.
The servant’s rejection and suffering is described with language both unrelentingly brutal and intensely sympathetic, describing him as despised and rejected, acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows who was smitten, stricken, afflicted, wounded, and bruised, who bore chastisement and was lacerated with stripes.
Surprisingly, aside from the servant’s rejection by people, the ultimate actor against the servant—the one who planned the smiting, afflicting, wounding, and striking—is none other than Yahweh God himself, for it was “the will of Yahweh to crush him, to make him grief-stricken” (Isaiah 53:10).
Nevertheless, the servant was thoroughly rejected by many among Israel. Yahweh had judged Israel for its rebellion, hardening the people in their blindness and deafness (Isaiah 6:10) so that the servant’s rejection is understood as an outworking of Israel’s own spiritual blindness (Isaiah 53:1) but also as the ordained means for Israel’s remedy.
God’s own judgment on Israel, having given them over to their willful blindness, led to the despising and abuse of the servant, which in turn opened up the channel of divine forgiveness for Israel. The severe hammer-blow of justice cleft open the fissure through which heavenly mercy would flow, for the servant is God’s own sacrificial provision, the promised Lamb of God given as Abraham’s seed, Israel.
Just here it is crucial to understand how the servant as new Israel relates to his servants as the renewed Israel. Aside from Yahweh’s speeches in the frame, the fourth song is written from the later perspective of this renewed Israel. We hear, as it were, the confession of Israelites who had once despised and rejected this servant, assuming him damned of God.
They have since discovered to their shock that this same one, from whom they had hidden their faces, has been exalted, vindicated, and set forth by Yahweh as his faithful servant, the One through whom Israel would be raised up—even the seed of Abraham through whom the nations would be restored finally to God.
That is the incredible proclamation of the central stanza as it unfolds the significance of the servant’s life (Isaiah 53:4–6). With the awe-filled understanding of hindsight, through the lens of the servant’s divine vindication and exaltation, these Israelites turn their faces to look once more, fully on the sufferings of the despised One.
Healed of their blindness by the servant’s exaltation, they are enabled now to see clearly the wonders of Yahweh’s profound wisdom and provision: it was, in fact, our sorrows that he bore, it was for our transgressions that he was wounded! Although we had all gone astray, each one of us to his own way, yet Yahweh has laid on him all our iniquity.
The scorned servant was actually born for us; he was the Son given for us. No mere substitution, the servant dies for Israel to die with him; he is raised up for Israel to be raised up with him—herein lies the crux of Zion’s transformation.
Ultimately, it is Israel’s sacrificial system that illumines the theology of the servant’s suffering, that provides the categories for Israel to understand that Yahweh has redeemed his people through the Servant, by making “his soul a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).
The guilt offering, like the purification offering, was a sacrifice given by Yahweh for cleansing Israel from sin, making divine forgiveness possible (see Leviticus 4–5). Beyond purification from sin, the guilt offering also included the notion of making restitution for one’s offence against God—it brought in more fully the idea of restoration along with purification.
Signifying atonement and cleansing from sin, the purification and guilt offerings focused especially on the blood rite of the ritual—the collecting and sprinkling or smearing of blood. As Yahweh declared in Leviticus, he had given Israel blood on the altar as life for life (nefesh), or soul for soul, to make atonement for the sins of his people (Leviticus 17:11).
In Isaiah 53, Yahweh, having laid on his blameless servant the iniquity of his people, crushes him, making “his soul [nefesh] a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).
The servant suffers, then, as a vicarious substitute for the people of God, claiming for himself the depth and fullness of Israel’s judgement—this is the new revelation that dawns on the “we” who speak from within Israel and who now form the servants of Yahweh, disciples of the servant.
In seeing the significance of the servant’s suffering, these Israelites come to discern themselves and their own sinfulness more deeply. Indeed, the Israelites say as much about themselves, by way of confession, as they do about the servant:
However, it was our griefs that he bore and our sorrows he carried,
Yet we ourselves had thought him struck, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.
Upon him was the chastisement for our peace, by his wounds, there is healing for us.
All we like sheep had gone astray, we had each one turned to his own way,
But Yahweh himself laid upon him the iniquity of all of us. (Isaiah 53:4–6)
Through the servant, through his suffering and exaltation, they have come to see their own blindness and to condemn their own self-justification. In the light of his suffering, they are enabled to see the darkness of their own condition and, with profound humility, confess their own guilt, completely absolving the servant as blameless: our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities, our need of chastisement and healing, our waywardness from Yahweh’s paths of righteousness—our iniquity.
And in the darkness of their need, they see the light in his suffering, that by his chastisement they find peace, that by his wounds they find healing. The servant’s suffering as a vicarious, sacrificial substitute is inescapable, for he “will bear their iniquities,” he “carried the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:11, 12). His soul serving as a guilt offering, he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).
Here Yahweh’s own lamb undergoes the cultic exodus. What was once said even of the scapegoat’s role on the Day of Atonement—that it would “bear (nasa’) upon him all their iniquities” (Leviticus 16:22)—is echoed in the labor of the servant who “bore [nasa’] the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12).
The servant has been sent to deal with the ultimate problem of Israel and of all humanity, sin, which makes exile from God absolutely and unalterably necessary. Sin separates humanity from God and leads to death—to an eternal exile from the only fountain of life.
True restoration to God, a definitive exodus, must raise humanity up from sin and death and not only cleanse but finally transform—sanctify and glorify—human beings into true children of God, a path that will be pioneered and opened by the servant for Israel’s sake.
The summation of the servant’s labor, for it was a God-ordained mission, is that he made intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). For this reason, many have likened the servant to the figure of Moses, whose entire life was an act of intercession on behalf of Israel.
As those who have benefited from his redemption, the servants are given to penetrate to the profound reality that this servant’s suffering and vindication are the very means of God whereby both Israel’s restoration and Israel’s vocation among the nations will be fulfilled.
But the servant must indeed suffer and die and then be raised again—the suffering and the exaltation fill each other with significance and power, and it is only from his royal exaltation that the servant leads his people through the new exodus of his own suffering and glory.
By the New Testament’s illumination, we see that as a function of the servant’s exalted glory, so emphasized in Isaiah, he is enabled to pour out the Spirit upon the peoples for whom he was made an atoning sacrifice, uniting them to his own death and resurrection.
The servants of the servant who speak in the fourth song do so from the vantage point of their own spiritual resurrection. With the eyes of the old creation, as it were, they had only looked with loathing and scorn on the servant.
But now, having their sight healed and enlightened by the outpoured Spirit, their eyes see him as their Lord and Savior, who with unsearchable love laid down his own life to ransom them from the grave and redeem them from death.
All the streams of heavenly blessings converge through the one unifying sieve of this servant, the Messiah. He is the Rock through whom every divine promise pours out as a rushing river, transforming the wilderness of this age into the paradise of a new creation.”
–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 141-145.