2.25.2009

A CHRISTFUL CHRISTIANITY: Lord, Who Has Believed Our Report?

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:16, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." Here we are told in advance, we are warned. Not all will obey this. Why does this happen? The answer comes to us in the second part of verse 16, "For Isaiah says, Lord who has believed our report?” This is an interesting inclusion. I struggled to understand what the apostle is doing here. Of all the verses to prove the unbelief of those who heard the gospel, there are many better OT verses than this. Then it dawned on me, this comes from Isaiah 53--in fact it’s the very first words of Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is all about the sufferings of Christ.

Here is the language, "He has no form of comeliness no beauty that we should desire him, he is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...and we on our part hid our faces from him, he was despised, and we did not esteem him...he has borne our griefs and carried sorrows...yet we reckoned him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted and wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities...all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth. "

The report is that of bloody crucified savior who is not beautiful in our estimation. The report comes as a description of Christ's gruesome death when his grave was made with the wicked, God himself delivering over his son. Why would God do this to his beloved son? Isaiah says that it is due to our rebellious hearts since we always go astray and turn to our own. In other words, the Father did this to Son because of our sin.

This is the report.

Now, most pastors would do real well on the health and wealth score card if they didn’t preach a message like this. As a pastor, I could gain a great hearing if I told the my people that they are beautiful people, that Jesus is here to fix their bad self esteem problems. I might even get a big glass crystal cathedral. If preaching were a little bit more upbeat, a little more dynamic, oh what progress we might make! If only we smiled a little more and made the atmosphere more relaxed, and gave quiet talks with a nicer tone to help the people along in their journeys and difficult weeks.

What about the offense? Well, I am certain it would not offend people if we preached the report so long as the people are made to feel worthy to receive the report. In other words, pastors are loved today as long as they will pet the sheep and make them feel that they are good enough for the gospel.

But here is the problem--this is not the report. This is not the message God has sent his messenger with. Isaiah 53 says, an undesirable savior was cruelly murdered, suffered a horrid death, and it was our fault. It was our sin that caused the death of God's son because we have always gone astray in our hearts.

We are reminded of Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death."

Stephen's message was the same, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it. When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth (Acts 7:51-55)."

There are generally two sorts of responses to this report. One will either hear this report and "gnash his teeth" since he is in pursuit of his own righteousness (theology of glory), or he will become "cut to the heart" and by faith will cling to the merits of Christ (theology of the cross).

I have come to the conclusion that when Isaiah asks the question, "who has believed our report?", he testifying to the fact that sinners despise grace. The report declares that sinners have no power in themselves to seek, to save, to find, or even to apprehend. In fact, the report says that we offer absolutely nothing by which God accept us, with no claims on his favor. And without the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus, a righteousness which we can never produce on our own, sinners will perish forever in hell. This message of grace, this report, is the most perilous announcement to "righteous". It is offensive to the legalist who wears his badges of accomplishment, and it is offensive to the antinomian who tramples grace underfoot. It is offensive to all.

What then is the answer to the question, "Lord who has believed our report?" In verse 17 Paul states, "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” True faith is created in heart by the Spirit when the gospel of Christ is preached and heard. Who has beleived our report? We can follow up with this question. Who today is preaching the report? FIND HIM. HEAR HIM. That man has something powerful to say.

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