(Tim Challies) This sponsored post is adapted from The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament by John MacArthur—a book explaining the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 verse by verse, highlighting important connections to the history of Israel, the New Testament, and our lives today.
A Shocking Truth
The reality of Christ’s vicarious, substitutionary death on our behalf is the heart of the gospel according to God—the central theme of Isaiah 53.
We must remember, however, that sin did not kill Jesus; God did. The suffering servant’s death was nothing less than a punishment administered by God for sins others had committed. That is what we mean when we speak of penal substitutionary atonement. Again, if the idea seems shocking and disturbing, it is meant to be. Unless you recoil from the thought, you probably haven’t grasped it yet. “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). This is one of the major reasons the gospel is a stumbling block to Jews, and it’s sheer foolishness as far as Gentiles are concerned (1 Cor. 1:23). “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, [the message of Christ crucified embodies both] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24).
There’s no way to sidestep the fact that the doctrine of penal substitution is unequivocally affirmed in the plain message of Isaiah 53. It is also confirmed and reiterated by many other passages throughout Scripture (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24). The servant of Yahweh, though perfectly innocent, bore the guilt of others and suffered unspeakable anguish to atone for their sins.