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Isaiah 53: Set Free and Made Righteous by the Lamb of God, Part 4

by Karl Kemp  
2/03/2018 / Bible Studies


We continue the study, a super-important study, on the meaning of the Greek noun aphesis and Luke 4:18 here in Part 4 of this paper. 

I'll Quote what I Said in My Book Holiness and Victory Over Sin under Luke 4:18 that Is  Directly Relevant to the Meaning of Aphesis and to the Primary Topic of this Paper on Isaiah Chapter 53 (pages 143-144). First I'll quote LUKE 4:18 (NASB; 1995 edition): THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR, HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE [APHESIS] TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE [APHESIS] THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED. 

(This quotation continues for eight paragraphs): "Instead of RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, the KJV has 'deliverance to the captives' and the NIV has 'freedom for the prisoners.' (All three translations are quite acceptable.) Instead of TO SET FREE, the KJV has 'to set at liberty' and the NIV has 'to release.' I prefer a more literal translation of the Greek for the last line of 4:18: 'to send out in the release,' or the equivalent. The Amplified Bible has, 'to send forth delivered those who are oppressed - who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed and broken down by calamity.' 

According to the Bible we were all CAPTIVES in bondage to sin, Satan, and spiritual death; we were under our sins [including Adam's one great transgression] with the guilt and the penalties. (See chapters 1-4 and 6 of this book.) But the Savior came to release THE CAPTIVES; He has released us - He has set us free - from sin, Satan and his demonic hosts, and spiritual death. 

Isaiah chapter 53 showed by what means the Servant of God (Christ Jesus) would set the captives free. He bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons. He dethroned sin, Satan, and spiritual death (They have no more legal authority over true Christians); He gives us spiritual life and makes us righteous and holy. Matthew 1:21 says: 'And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.' He saves His people from their sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons. The name Jesus means 'The LORD [Yahweh/Yah] saves.' 

The words TO PROCLAIM RELEASE [APHESIS] TO THE CAPTIVES, which are quoted from Isa. 61:1 in Luke 4:18, build on the old covenant year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee, which is spelled out in Lev. 25:8-55, was a year of release. Leviticus 25:10 says: 'You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his family.' The Hebrew verb for 'proclaim' and the Hebrew noun for 'release' that are used in Lev. 25:10 are also used in Isa. 61:1. Aphesis is used twice in the Septuagint of Lev. 25:10. 

The last line of Luke 4:18, which I would translate 'to send out in the release,' and Luke 4:19, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD, also apparently build on the year of Jubilee. In the Septuagint aphesis is used some fifteen times in Lev. 25:8-55. (I'll quote an endnote I had here: "Aphesis is used two times in the Greek of Lev. 25:10: 'And ye shall sanctify the year, the fiftieth year, and ye shall proclaim a release [aphesis] upon the land to all that inhabit it; it shall be a year of release [aphesis], a jubilee for you; and each one shall depart to his possession, and ye shall go each to his family.' (This English translation of the Greek was taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, by L. C. L. Brenton; Zondervan, 1980 reprint, page 163.) In Lev. 25:28, 31, 33, 41, and 54 we read of persons or property going out in the release [aphesis]. In Lev. 25:13, 40, 50, 52, and 54 we read of 'the year of the release [aphesis].') 

One primary feature of the release of Jubilee was that any Israelites who had sold themselves into bondage because of poverty were to be set free, if they had not been set free beforehand (Lev. 25:10, 39-43, 47-55). Another primary feature of the release of jubilee was that the Israelites were to return to any property they had (temporarily) lost; the property was released that the Israelites might return to that which had been given to them by God (Lev. 25:10, 13-17, 23-28, 31-33).

It is easy to see how the release of Jubilee prefigured the VERY MUCH GREATER release that was to be accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has already released the captives from sin, Satan, and spiritual death, and He will ultimately overthrow every enemy, including physical death. 'The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God' (Rom. 8:21). 

I'll mention one more important feature regarding the release of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:9 shows that it began on the Day of Atonement. The release if Christians has come through the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was prefigured by the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement. Isaiah 61:1-3 build on Isaiah chapter 53. Also, the Lamb of God was slain at Passover, on purpose, on the very day the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple."   

Most of the rest of chapter 7 of my book that deals with the meaning of aphesis is devoted to a study of five very important verses in their contexts that use aphesis. I believe I effectively demonstrate that a translation like release from sin with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons far better communicates the intended meaning than typical translations like forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness of sins is included, but VERY MUCH MORE than forgiveness of the guilt of sin is included in those verses. This makes a GIGANTIC difference in the meaning of those super-important verses. The five verses I discuss in that chapter are Col. 1:14 (with 1:9-13); Eph. 1:7; Acts 26:18 (with 26:13-20); Acts 13:38 (with 13:39); and Heb. 10:18 (with 10:8-18 and Heb. 8:6-13 and 9:13-14). All of these verses are extremely important, very much including Heb. 10:18 in its context. There is a verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching). The Greek noun aphesis and the relevant passages (except for the verses in Acts 13 and 26) are discussed in my recently published book Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin. 

This is so important (extremely important) I'll include what I said under Eph. 1:7 in the book I just mentioned (pages 201-203). "That completes our study of Col. 1:9-14, now we come to the heading 'Ephesians 1:7 and the Meaning of "Aphesis." ' I'll read EPHESIANS 1:7 (NASB), In Him [in Christ] we have [the] redemption through His blood, the forgiveness [aphesis] of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Now we'll discuss the words, In Him we have [the] redemption through His blood. As in Col. 1:14, I would translate the redemption. The definite article ["the"] is included in the Greek in both verses. We discussed 'the redemption' in some detail when we discussed Col. 1:14. [I'll quote part of what I said under Col. 1:14, "The word 'redemption' conveys the idea of buying a slave to set him free. We were slaves of sin (according to the New Testament), but we have been redeemed out of the kingdom of sin (and demons); we are no longer under the authority and power of sin (and demons), and we are no longer to serve our old master of sin by sinning. If we were forgiven but were still slaves of sin (and demons) we would not be redeemed."] The words 'through His blood' speak of the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ (see, for example, Rom. 3:24, 25; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:12-15; 1 Pet. 1:18. 19; and 2:24, 25).

Now we'll discuss the words the forgiveness [Greek aphesis] of our trespasses of Eph. 1:7. As in Col. 1:14, these words are in apposition with the words 'the redemption,' and they expand on the meaning of 'the redemption.' And, as in Col. 1:14, I would translate 'the release from our trespasses [with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons],' or the equivalent. 'The trespasses [with the guilt and the penalties]' here in Eph. 1:7 is the equivalent of 'the sins [with the guilt and the penalties]' in Col. 1:14.

'The redemption through His blood, the release from our trespasses [with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons]' includes our being set free from sin, Satan, and spiritual death. On our being set free from sin and being made righteous and holy, see Eph. 1:4; 2:1-10; 3:14-21; and 4:1-6:20. On our being set free from the authority of Satan and his hosts, see Eph. 1:20-2:10; 4:8-10, 27; 5:8; and 6:10-18. (Although Satan has no legal authority over true Christians, we must still resist him. The warfare has not ceased, but we need not, and should not, be defeated.) On our being set free from spiritual death by the indwelling Spirit of life, see Eph. 1:13, 14; 2:5, 18; and 3:6.

'Several Commentators on Ephesians 1:7.' First I'll quote several sentences from Francis Foulkes (Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, published by Eerdmans in 1963). 'His death means that blood has been shed as a sacrifice for sin; it may also be described in terms of sin's defeat and so the release of man from its bondage. The sacrifice is thus the means of redemption which is the forgiveness of sins. Sin involves the bondage of mind and will and members, but forgiveness is freedom, and aphesis, the word used here, means literally the loosing of a person from that which binds him.' I very much appreciate what the commentator says here, but he is using the word forgiveness in a very much fuller sense than most Christians do. Typically forgiveness is understood to mean the cancellation of the guilt of sin.

Next I'll quote several sentences from Henry Alford (New Testament for English Readers, volume 3; this reprint was published by Baker in 1983). Commenting on the words 'the (or, our) Redemption,' he says (in part), '[redemption] from that which brought us under God's wrath, the guilt and power of sin [my emphasis], Matthew 1:21.'

Later in his discussion of Eph. 1:7, Alford comments of the meaning of the words 'the remission [or, forgiveness]...of our transgressions.' He says, 'explanation of the words, our Redemption: not to be limited, but extending to all riddance from the practice and consequences of our transgressions.' Then he comments on the meaning of the words, 'according to the riches of His grace.' He says, 'This alone would prevent the word "remission" applying to merely the "forgiveness" of sins. We have in this grace not only redemption from misery and wrath, not only forgiveness, - but we find in it the liberty, the glory, the inheritance of the children of God, - the crown of eternal life; compare 2 Corinthians 8:9.' I'll read 2 Cor. 8:9, 'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.'

The last commentator I listed here was John Wesley. I'll quote part of what he said under Eph. 1:7 in his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament. '...we...who believe, have from the moment we believe, redemption from the guilt and power of sin [my emphasis], through his blood - Through what he hath done and suffered for us.' "

This completes the study of Luke 4:18, the meaning of the Greek noun aphesis, and Eph. 1:7, which is a verse of key importance that uses aphesis. Now we'll continue with the study of Isa. 61:1-3.).]] and freedom to prisoners; (2) To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD [the time for His promised new-covenant salvation and righteousness to come. In Luke 4:18-19, the Lord Jesus stopped quoting this passage here, because the "day of the vengeance of our God" will not come until the end of this age.] And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (3) To grant those who mourn in Zion [which speaks of those who had a heart for God mourning because of all the sin, especially the sin (and the results of sin) amongst God's people], Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness [Hebrew noun tsedeq], The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. These last words, starting with "So they," are quite relevant to the primary topic of this paper. God's saving work through the Lord Jesus results in our being made "oaks of righteousness," strong trees, so to speak, trees that are characterized by righteousness. Note the similarity with what was said in 60:21 (quoted and discussed just before 61:1-3). Both passages speak of God's being glorified through His saving work that sets people free from spiritual death, sin, and Satan's kingdom and makes them Righteous.
 

8.1 I WON'T QUOTE ANY MORE PASSAGES FROM ISAIAH, BUT I'LL QUOTE A VERY IMPORTANT PROPHECY FROM JEREMIAH AND ONE FROM EZEKIEL. Neither one of these prophecies use the word "righteousness," but they are prophesying of our being made righteous using different words, words that make it clear that they are speaking of our actually being made righteous in our hearts and lives by the saving grace of new-covenant salvation:

JEREMIAH 31:31-34. (These verses are quoted and applied to new-covenant salvation in Heb. 8:8-12 and 10:16-18.) "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [[The new covenant was necessary and always was included in God's plan of salvation before He created the world (1 Pet. 1:20), because, as these verses, and many other verses show, the old covenant did not solve the spiritual death bondage to sin and demon problem and make the people righteous with the righteousness of God. As the apostle Paul stated in GALATIANS 3:21, since the Mosaic Law (or any other law) was not "able to impart life" to descendants of Adam who were spiritually dead, it was not able to solve the spiritual death, bondage to sin and demons problem and establish God's righteousness in the hearts and lives of His people.  

The new covenant, established on the blood of the Lamb of God, is designed to impart life (the new birth by the indwelling Spirit of life), to set free from bondage to sin and demons, and to make believers righteous with the imparted righteousness of God by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit. Verse 33 speaks of God's making us righteous with the words "I will put My law with them and on their heart I will write it." He transforms us in our hearts and enables us to keep God's moral law in our daily lives, which results in righteousness. But the New Testament makes it clear that we must cooperate with God's saving grace through faith on a continuous basis, in accordance with His Word, His Word which we must understand in our hearts.]], (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. [God didn't give the old covenant to fully solve the spiritual death, bondage to sin and demons problem. As I mentioned, He always planned to save us through the new covenant which was established on the blood of the Lamb of God.] (33) "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people [See under verse 31.] (34) They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." [We Gentile Christians are very thankful that these verses fully apply to us too. Christ died for us, and we have been grafted into God's true Israel (Rom. 11:17-24) and Abraham is our father (Rom. 4:9-25; Gal. 4:13-29). After God forgives us when we submit (in faith) to new-covenant salvation, God will not remember our past sins and, in the ideal, we won't be sinning any more. This is the viewpoint here. This prophecy is especially directed to the people of Israel who will be saved at the end of this age, but these words apply to Christians who are being saved now too. For one thing, these words are applied to Christians now in Heb. 8:7-13 and 10:15-18. I have a verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).  

EZEKIEL 36:25-27. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. (26) Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [The next verse is extremely important for this study. Having been set free from being spiritually dead in bondage to sin and demons through the atoning death of the Lamb of God and made alive and righteous and holy by the indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness and holiness, God's people, the believers, are ENABLED, and required, to walk in line with His statutes, ordinances, commandments, by grace through faith. THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS! This is not "works" righteousness! This is "grace" righteousness! But grace produces works of righteousness (e.g., Eph. 2:10)!] (27) I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to keep My ordinances.     

8.2 I'LL QUOTE A FEW SUPER-RELEVANT VERSES FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT:

1 JOHN 3:7. Little children, make sure no one deceives you, the one who practices righteousness [or, THE ONE WHO IS DOING RIGHTEOUSNESS] IS RIGHTEOUS, JUST AS HE [the Lord Jesus] IS RIGHTEOUS [my emphasis]. Being righteous in our hearts and lives as the Lord Jesus is righteous certainly includes the victory over all sin, by grace through faith. We do not become deity, but we are called, and enabled, to walk with the victory over all sin, by grace through faith. The New Testament also makes it clear that we will be forgiven and restored if we should sin when we repent. However, we shouldn't make/leave any room for sin in our lives!

1 PETER 2:24. and He Himself bore our sins [our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons] in His body on the cross, SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SIN AND LIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS [my emphasis; this is the heart of the gospel]; for by His wounds you were healed [These last words were quoted from Isa. 53:5. Physical, mental, and emotional healing are included, but the emphasis is on being healed from being in spiritual death and in bondage to sin and demons, through the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God. GOD HATES SIN, AND HE PAID AN INFINITE PRICE IN THE SACRIFICE OF HIS SON TO SAVE US FROM BEING SINNERS; "SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SIN AND LIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS." The Son voluntarily laid down His life in submission to the Father's will/plan, knowing, for one thing, that He would be saving us.]

ROMANS CHAPTER 6. From my point of view Romans 6 is the most important chapter in the New Testament (in the Bible) that clearly and effectively demonstrates that Christians are called, and enabled, to be dead to sin (to quit sinning) and to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, by grace through faith, based on the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus. The word "righteousness" is used five times in this chapter, and in all five uses it includes the idea of being dead to sin and living as God would have us live (requires us to live) by His enabling grace that is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about. 

In Romans 6:13 the apostle Paul says, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of RIGHTEOUSNESS to God. In Romans 6:16 the apostle says, Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [which certainly isn't allowable for born-again children of God], resulting in death, or of obedience [to God, His Son, and His Word] resulting in RIGHTEOUSNESS. In Romans 6:18 he says, having been freed from sin, you became SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. THAT'S GOOD SLAVERY! In Romans 6:19 he says (in part), so now [now that we have become Christians] present your members as SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, resulting in sanctification [which would better be translated RESULTING IN HOLINESS, an abiding state of holiness, where we are set apart from sin and Satan for God ("unto holiness" KJV; "for holiness" NKJV). In Rom. 6:20 Paul says, when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to RIGHTEOUSNESS. The other side of that truth is that now that we have become slaves of God, His Son, and His Righteousness, we are to be free in regard to sin. The apostle Paul believed and taught these things, and he lived in line with them. THIS GOOD NEWS, IS IT NOT? THIS IS WHAT WE WANT, IS IT NOT? 

Romans chapter 6 is packed with other verses that teach the same truth that is presented in the verses I just mentioned that use the word "righteousness." Romans 6:1-2, for example, What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin so that grace may increase [or, "abound" (KJV, NKJV)]? (2) May it not be! HOW SHALL WE WHO HAVE DIED TO SIN STILL LIVE IN IT [my emphasis]. Or Romans 6:6-7, knowing this, that our old self [our old man] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin, (7) FOR HE WHO HAS DIED IS FREED FROM SIN [my emphasis]. The translation "is freed" effectively communicates an important truth, but this verb would more often be translated "has been justified [from sin]," which would include, in context, being set free from being a slave of sin and being made righteous with the righteousness of God. This serves as one more confirmation that the verb "justify" in Isa. 53:11, and quite a few other places in the New Testament, includes being set free from being a slave of sin and being made righteous with the righteousness of God, based on the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God. Romans 6:11 is a super-important verse in the midst of a large number of super-important verses, Even so consider [or RECKON with the KJV and NKJV; we reckon BY FAITH, based on what God has provided for us in the new covenant] YOURSELVES TO BE DEAD TO SIN, BUT ALIVE TO GOD IN CHRIST JESUS [my emphasis]. Romans 6:14 is a key summarizing verse, For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law [the Mosaic Law or any other law] but under grace [the powerful saving grace of God in Christ that enables us to be righteous with the righteousness of God, and holy]. I'll quote one last verse, Romans 6:22, But now HAVING BEEN FREED FROM SIN [from being a slave of sin] AND ENSLAVED TO GOD [my emphasis], you derive your benefit [you have your fruit (very good fruit)] resulting in sanctification [which would be better translated RESULTING IN HOLINESS, an abiding state of holiness; "unto holiness" KJV; "to holiness" NKJV], and the outcome, eternal life [instead of eternal death, the second death of Rev. 20:14].                   

8.3 A FEW COMMENTS, VERY IMPORTANT COMMENTS, ON THE USE/MEANING OF THE WORDS "RIGHTEOUSNESS" AND "JUSTIFY" IN ROMANS CHAPTER 4. (These things are discussed in more detail on pages 85-89 of my book Holiness and Victory Over Sin.) The apostle Paul was forced to use the words "righteousness" and "justify" in a special, quite unusual, strictly legal righteousness sense in Romans chapter 4, since it was important for him to use Abraham, and to a lesser extent what David said in Psalm 32:1-2, to illustrate the super-important points that Christians are saved by faith, not by works, and by grace, not by merit, not by what is earned/what is owed by God. In Rom. 4:1-5, for example, Paul demonstrated that Abraham established a right relationship with God by faith, not works, and by grace, not something that he earned or God owed him. In Rom. 4:5 Paul added the important point that all mankind, being spiritually dead and in bondage to sin, are "ungodly," and that even those who had a heart for God like Abraham and David, needed new-covenant salvation through the Lord Jesus. The heart of new-covenant salvation is to transform us from being ungodly to godly.  

In Rom. 4:1-5 Paul demonstrated that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works (which was very important for him to demonstrate), and he spoke of righteousness being credited to Abraham because of his faith. I believe it is clear that Paul used "justified" here in the narrow sense of being declared righteous in a strictly legal sense. However, we must understand that Paul was not able to speak of God's righteousness being imparted to Abraham or of Abraham being "justified" in the full new-covenant-salvation sense (which is the sense in Isa. 53:11, for example), because these things were not available to Abraham or to anybody else before the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus. Abraham lived on the earth before these things - being born again and made righteous with the outpoured, imparted righteousness of God - became available through the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God (along with His resurrection, ascension, and His pouring forth the promised Righteous, Holy Spirit of life). 

Paul could not speak of the righteousness of God being imparted to Abraham when he lived on the earth, but he could speak of the righteousness of God being credited to Abraham in a strictly legal sense. It was very effective for Paul to be able to use Abraham, the father of the people of Israel (and of all believers), to back up the super-important points that we are saved by faith, not works (including works of the Law) and by grace, not merit. Paul was also able to make the important point that Abraham obtained a right relationship with God before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:10-12). It is totally significant that the apostle Paul made it very clear throughout his writings that the grace of God enables us to do the required works of righteousness by grace through faith (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:10; Romans chapter 6; Gal. 5:16-6:9; and the New Testament, very much including most of Romans chapters 1-3 and 5-8, is packed with similar passages).

8.4 FURTHER DISCUSSION ON THE SUPER-IMPORTANT VERB WILL JUSTIFY, OR BETTER, WILL MAKE RIGHTEOUS, USED IN ISAIAH 53:11. It is extremely important for us to understand the fullness of what this verb means here, so we can understand the fullness of what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for us in His all-important atoning death. We cannot appropriate and walk in the imparted righteousness of God by faith if we do not clearly know, and understand, in our hearts, that God has called us to appropriate and walk in this righteousness. The Hebrew verb (yatsdiq; the hiphil stem of tsadeq/tsadoq used here) is undoubtedly the most important word used in Isa. 52:13-53:12 to speak of the benefits that come to believers through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus.

But what does "justify" mean here? (I don't mean to infer that we must translate the Hebrew verb this way. I have already mentioned that I believe will make righteous would be a better translation, and we will discuss this translation as we continue, but for the time being, we'll discuss the widely accepted translation "will [or shall] justify," which is used, for example, here in Isa. 53:11 in the NASB, and in the NIV, KJV, NKJV, and the NAV (New American Bible). The NRSV has "shall make...righteous." The Amplified Bible translation is very helpful here; I'll quote it as we continue.

Many (even the majority) understand "justify" here to mean "declare righteous" in a narrow, forgiveness, strictly legal righteousness sense. Some say that Christ's righteousness, which includes His acceptance with God, is given to us in a strictly legal sense that makes us acceptable to God. It is Biblical to say that God, the Judge, forgives and declares us righteous in a legal sense when we become Christians. For one thing, the Lamb of God bore our sins with the guilt, so we could be forgiven and declared righteous in a legal sense. BUT IF WE STOP HERE, WE STOP VERY FAR SHORT OF WHAT THIS HEBREW VERB MEANS HERE IN ISAIAH 53:11 AND WHAT IT OFTEN MEANS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, INCLUDING IN ROMANS CHAPTER 5. As we have discussed, the Lord Jesus also bore the penalties for our sins back to Adam. He bore our spiritual death and the bondage to sin and to demons that resulted from the rebellion of Adam, so we could have a very full salvation. See Rom. 5:12-21; I briefly discuss Romans chapter 5 below, and these verses (along with the rest of Romans chapter 5) are discussed in my books Holiness and Victory Over Sin and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin. 

Before we put the emphasis on our being forgiven and having a right standing with God through the atoning death of Christ, which is so often done in our day, we should pause and consider that the believers under the old covenant were forgiven through the sacrificial offerings. Their sins with the guilt and the penalties (but not including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons that resulted from Adam's sin) were literally transferred to (put on) the sin offerings and the animals were put to death. The Mosaic Law repeatedly mentions that believers were forgiven through those offerings, with the exception of those sins that were willful and defiant, committed with a high hand. David did not offer a sacrifice trying to atone for his serious sins of adultery and murder. But he did eventually throw himself on the mercy of God and was forgiven, but those sins still led to some serious consequences.      

The Judges of Israel (and in the Greek-Roman World) Would Often Justify People - Declare Them Righteous. If they were good judges they would declare them righteous regarding the matter under consideration if they were righteous (cf., e.g., Deut. 25:1; Job 27:5; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23; all of these verses use the hiphil stem of the same Hebrew verb used in Isa. 53:11, and they are all quoted and discussed below). The good judges would justify them - declare them righteous - regarding the charge that they had stolen a pig from their neighbor, for example, if it had been demonstrated that they did not steal the pig. Good judges did not forgive and justify them if they were guilty. That point is very clear.

How Can God Justify - Declare Righteous - Those Who Are Guilty, Like We Clearly Were? This is a very important question! For God, the totally righteous Judge, to declare believers righteous in a courtroom setting when they become Christians is a lot more than just forgiving them because the Lamb of died for them, bearing their sin with the guilt (though forgiveness is included), or that Christ's righteousness is imputed to them in a strictly legal sense. When God declares us righteous when we become Christians, He is, by those very words - "I declare you righteous" - declaring that our former oppressors and enemies (spiritual death, sin, the old man, Satan and the evil angels and demons), who are all required to be present in the courtroom when God declares us righteous, have been defeated and have lost the authority and power that they had been exercising in our lives since the fall of Adam.

Spiritual death, sin, our old man, and Satan and the evil angels and demons don't have any more legal authority to manifest themselves in sinful ways in our lives. And now, as we walk in line with the Word and will of God and walk by the Righteous, Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, by grace through faith, the imparted righteousness of God will be manifested in our hearts and lives. This is all based on the all-important atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lamb of God who bore our sins with the guilt AND THE PENALTIES back to Adam. THE LAMB LITERALLY BORE THE PENALTIES OF SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS. (See Romans 5:12-21, for example. As I mentioned we will briefly discuss Romans chapter 5 as we continue. The New Testament is packed with similar passages. See both of my books that deal with this topic, Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ.) 

So, God is actually making us righteous (righteous in the full, imparted righteousness of God by the outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit, new-covenant sense) when He declares us righteous. No smoke and mirrors are needed here! If we understand the gospel (which is required of Christians) and walk in line with the gospel and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, by grace through faith, which we are called and enabled to do, we will actually be righteous, and God will get all the glory. This is the way it is supposed to work! This is the ideal, and it is not an unrealistic ideal! And God has provided forgiveness for us if we should sin after we become Christians, through the same atoning death of His Son.     

A major aspect of our full salvation is being set free from the authority and power of sin (spiritual death and Satan, the evil angels and demons, and the old man). The New Testament repeatedly declares that Christians are called, and enabled, to be dead to sin and to think and live in/by the righteousness of God, by grace through faith, through the atoning death of the Lamb of God. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! See, for example, Romans 5:1-21; 6:1-23; 7:4-6; 8:1-17; 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Gal. 1:4; 2:19-21; 3:13-14; 5:16-25; 6:14-15; Eph. 4:17-5:32; Col. 1:21-23; 2:10-15; 3:1-11; Titus 2:11-14; 3:1-8; Heb. 9:11-10:31, espec. 10:10; 13:12; 1 Pet. 1:13-2:25 (espec. 1:15-16; 2:24); 3:13-4:6; 1 John 1:7, 9; and 2:28-3:12.            

The Greek verb dikaioo, which is normally translated "justify" in the New Testament, is  frequently used in a very full sense that includes the ideas of being forgiven and declared righteous in a legal sense, being set free from spiritual death, sin, Satan and the demons, and being made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God. In those places the verb could be translated "make righteous," "made righteous," or the equivalent and I prefer that translation, but justify is OK if we understand this verb in the full sense we have discussed. The Greek adjective translated "righteous" is dikaios, and the Greek noun translated "righteousness" is dikaiosune. (See chapter 6 of my book Holiness and Victory Over Sin, which is titled, "A Study on the Meaning of Justify/Justification as these Words Are Used in the New Testament.") I will have a follow-up paper for this paper on Isaiah chapter 53 that deals with the meaning of the three Greek words that are typically translated "righteous," "righteousness," and "justify" or "make righteous" in the New Testament.   

As I mentioned, I believe it would be better to translate will make righteous in Isa. 53:11. In Isa. 53:11 the verb that I would translate will make righteous [yatsdiq; the "y" on the front of the word helps make the verb] stands right next to the Hebrew adjective tsaddiq that is translated the Righteous One. (The two words are closely related in the Hebrew: Both words have the same three consonant root, "ts" "d" and "q.") The Lord Jesus is called the Righteous One because He is righteous in His thinking, in what He says, in what He does, and in every way. (He is not righteous because He has been forgiven. As I demonstrate in this paper, this word and the closely related words that have the same three consonant root that are translated "make righteous," "justify," "righteous" and "righteousness" are essentially never, if ever, used of people becoming "righteous" through being forgiven. This is not to say that forgiveness cannot be included in appropriate contexts, but that the words typically include much more than just being forgiven, as important as that is.) The Righteous One makes His people like Himself through His all-important atoning death, which sets us free from being spiritually dead and in bondage to sin and demon spirits and makes us righteous with the imparted righteousness of God through the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of God, as we cooperate with God's grace by faith.   

In the ideal we would never sin again after we become Christians, and the New Testament doesn't present this as an unrealistic ideal. (The New Testament also makes it clear that Christians can sin, and also that we will be forgiven through the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God when we repent.). This is GOOD NEWS, VERY GOOD NEWS! God, who hates sin, wants to transform us, not condemn us, and He paid an infinite price to make us righteous. What we are discussing is extremely important! THIS IS THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL! We can never be righteous and holy until we see in our hearts (faith is of the heart) that God has called us, and enables us, to be righteous and holy.

The people of Israel at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers chapters 13-14) rejected the Word of God and listened to the evil report of the ten spies. Instead of walking by faith and trusting their infinite God, the only real God, to enable them to do what He called them to do, they looked at their weaknesses and the strength of their enemies and said WE CANNOT DO GOD'S WILL. We need to be careful about saying that we cannot be righteous and holy and do God's will by His sufficient grace. In the ideal we will be walking in the righteousness and holiness of God and we will be growing, but we will not need to be growing out of sin since we will have the victory over sin. Doesn't that sound good? 

Daniel 12:3, which uses the same Hebrew verb as Isa. 53:11 (in the same hiphil stem) is an important cross-reference. (Many believe Daniel was borrowing from Isaiah's use of this verb in 53:11.) Daniel 12:3 speaks of "those who lead the many to righteousness." Daniel was not dealing with leading the many to ask God to forgive them, though that can be included. He was dealing with leading them to repent and think and live as the people of God are required to think and live. The BDB Hebrew Lexicon lists Dan. 12:3 under the subheading "make righteous, turn to righteousness." Under "make righteous" would be the appropriate place to list Isa. 53:11, but in Isa. 53:11 make righteous must be understood in the very full sense of new-covenant-salvation righteousness of God. This righteousness did not become available until after the all-important atoning death and resurrection of the Lamb of God.

8.5 THE AMPLIFIED BIBLE ON ISAIAH 53:11. I'll put their translation of the Hebrew verb in bold print. Especially notice the words MAKE RIGHTEOUS and UPRIGHT. (Of course the words "My Righteous One" are of key importance in this verse.) I'll underline their translation of the Hebrew noun awon, which is extremely important too. The brackets are part of their translation. "He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; by His knowledge of Himself [which He possesses and imparts to others] shall My [uncompromisingly] righteous One, My Servant. Justify and make many righteous - upright and in right standing with God; for He shall bear their iniquities and their guilt [with the consequences, says the Lord]." 

Copyright © by Karl Kemp

http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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