One of the greatest aspects of the Bible is the forward nature of the plan of God. From the first words we find in Genesis to the last amen in Revelation, we see a plan that is constantly moving forward. The Old Testament weaves throughout its pages the message of a Messiah who will surely enter the scene to redeem us from our sin. The gospels point us to the sacrifice that Jesus will make in order to take the penalty of our sin away. The remainder of the New Testament directs us to anticipate, with great enthusiasm, the second coming of our Lord. Everything we see in Scripture is moving us forward. The incredible reality is that in all these stages, it is about Jesus!
In looking at Jesus as the central theme of God’s ever advancing plan, one can begin by seeing Jesus and the gospel in the Old Testament. I love the picture we see of this truth found in the eighth chapter of Acts. Philip encounters the Ethiopian who, at that precise time, is reading from Isaiah 53. The Ethiopian strongly desires to understand its meaning and calls on Philip to help. Consider the words of Acts 8:35, “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” This verse gives us insight into an early evangelism strategy of preaching Jesus from the Old Testament. In light of this, I submit four aspects of the gospel we find and can preach from Isaiah 53.
- The humble nature of the gospel (vs.3-4)
As we preach the gospel, we have a Savior who relates to the pain and suffering that humanity has felt since the fall of man. We can relate by explaining the brokenness of mankind and how Jesus himself felt pain and sorrow.
- The sacrificial nature of the gospel (vs.5-9)
As we preach, we are able to communicate the sacrifice Jesus so willingly embraced so that we could fully embrace the righteousness of God.
- The atoning nature of the gospel (vs.10-11)
The ubiquity of sin’s curse is something from which no man is exempt. According to Romans, everyone has fallen victim to sin, which separates us from God. Isaiah reminds us that Jesus would be the one who is the final atonement for us. He himself laid down his life to be an “offering for guilt.” We are able to walk in freedom from sin, guilt and shame simply because of the atoning work of our Lord. He bore our iniquities to “make many to be accounted righteous.” As we preach Jesus from this chapter, we must remember that everyone has a debt to be paid, yet no one except Jesus can pay that debt. This is crucial to the gospel message of Isaiah and to our communication of the gospel.
- The redemptive nature of the gospel (v.12)
Perhaps one of the greatest messages that Isaiah prophetically speaks about Jesus the Messiah is the redemptive nature of his gospel. Isaiah speaks of the sin that Jesus would bear for many. This helps us to know and understand that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus ultimately redeems us into a right relationship with God. You and I today can have the peace of God because he “poured out his soul to death.” We do not deserve this redemption. However, according to Titus, God’s grace has appeared to us bringing salvation through Jesus. The grace of God allows for this redemption through Jesus for sinners like you and me. As we preach the prophetic gospel of Jesus in Isaiah, we must make it known to our audience that God’s ever forward plan for the redemption of mankind is found in this passage pointing us to the coming Messiah Jesus, our Redeemer.
The story of Jesus doesn’t simply begin in the stable in Bethlehem. This story has been in motion since before the foundation of the world. The Jesus that Isaiah so faithfully proclaimed hundreds of years before his birth would ultimately be the hope of the world! In fact, as you read the Bible you will come to know Jesus as the main character in the ever-advancing story of the grace of God. As we preach Jesus, let us tell the whole story. Taking the example of the evangelist Philip, let’s start with the Old Testament.