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The Fifth Gospel


The entire Old Testament contains messianic prophesies scattered throughout. The book of Isaiah is filled with prophesies that can refer to no one but Jesus of Nazareth. But no Old Testament passage is as packed full of Christ as Isaiah 52:13–53:12. John MacArthur writes,

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[O]f all the marvelous prophecies in Isaiah, this passage in chapter 53 rises above all the rest. It is a majestic description of Christ’s sacrifice for sins. Some commentators call it the most important text in the entire Old Testament. Isaiah 53 has received many such accolades throughout the history of the church. Polycarp, the second-century church father and disciple of the apostle John, referred to it as “the golden Passional of the Old Testament.” Augustine called the entire book of Isaiah “the fifth gospel,” and that name applies particularly to chapter 53. A collection of John Calvin’s sermons on Isaiah 53 is titled The Gospel According to Isaiah. Martin Luther declared that every Christian ought to have the whole of Isaiah 52:13–53:12 memorized. The noted nineteenth-century Old Testament commentator Franz Delitzsch famously wrote, “In how many an Israelite has it melted the crust of his heart! It looks as if it had been written beneath the cross upon Golgotha. . . . [It] is the most central, the deepest, and the loftiest thing that the Old Testament prophecy, outstripping itself, has ever achieved.”

. . 

Isaiah 53 is the precise passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading in the Gaza desert when Philip encountered him. The eunuch read a portion of the passage aloud: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter . . .” (Acts 8:32). Then he posed a question to Philip—and it was exactly the right question. This is the key that unlocks the passage: “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” (v. 34).

”Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture [Isaiah 53] he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35)—the gospel according to God!

. . 

For anyone familiar with the New Testament account of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and high priestly intercession, there should be no mystery about what Isaiah 53 signifies. It is the complete gospel in prophetic form, a surprisingly explicit foretelling of what the Messiah would do to put away the sins of his people forever. It is the gospel according to God, set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures.

—John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 31–33.



Posted 2019·02·12 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Isaiah · John MacArthur · The Gospel According to God

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