Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scripture Interprets Scripture: Isaiah 53 And The Atonement

I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch programs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and another Pentecostal station while on vacation. I caught a show claiming to explain the "atonement". Two guys sat across from each other explaining to each other what the word meant. I, being Reformed have done a lot of work on the word “atonement.” I figured it would be interesting to hear what these two Pentecostal gentlemen had to say about this concept.

The first passage of scripture put forth to explain the atonement was Isaiah 53:4- "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows..." It was pointed out that the word "infirmities" meant "sickness" (they noted that the King James Version does a great injustice by translating the word “griefs”). Hence, in the atonement, Christ also completely atoned for sickness. These men held that Christians need realize they not need be sick, because Christ carried your sickness also in his work of atonement.

Reformed Christians claim that Scripture interprets Scripture (the “analogy of faith” Sacra Scriptura sui interpres). Here's a great example of just that. Check out Matthew 8:14-17. After Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, cast out demons, and healed other sick people, Matthew records,

"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases'."

Far from proving what the show claimed, Matthew interprets the passage for us. He explains that the healings recorded in Matthew 8:14-17 were done to fulfill Isaiah 53:4. If you're looking for Christ's atonement to heal your current sickness and disease, you've misintepreted Isaiah 53:4. Jesus never promised to remove sickness from the world before He comes again. If He did, someone had better come up with a good explanation of why Christian people still die (see Matthew 8:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4).

Here’s something that I’ve done in my own Bible. I went through the entire New Testament- every time I found a quotation from the Old Testament, I looked the passage up and underlined it with a red marker. That way, when I’m reading the Old Testament, I see instantly that a particular passage was quoted by a New Testament writer. With Isaiah 53:4, I saw immediately that the verse had been quoted in the New Testament. Not only quoted, but prophetically fulfilled.

You’re probably thinking, “hey Jim, Bibles usually have verse cross-references in the side margin or at the bottom of the page.” Yes, I know this, but it is quite different to actually have the Old Testament passages the New Testament writers quoted jump off the page. It is a time consuming process to underline all the verses, but I assure you it will be well worth it. It could've helped the two guys trying to explain the atonement on TV. But then again, I doubt having the New Testament interpret the Old is something they care about.


FM483 said...


Reading this post of yours reminds me that the Old Testament can also be an effective means of testifying to cults, like the Jehovah Witnesses. The only thing a JW will leave your home with is what they brought with them: their "New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures"(NWT)and their tracts which hopefully you didn't purchase. Before they leave, have the JWs turn to passages in the Old Testament, like Psalm 102:25-27 or Isaiah 6:10-11, and ask them of whom these verses are speaking. The JW will answer that these verses are referring to "Jehovah". Then have them turn to Hebrews 1:10-11 and John 12:38-41 and ask to Whom are these identical verses from the Old Testament being applied to. The answer is Jesus Christ. You need not insist that the JW explain such a "phenomenom" at that time, but since they are taking their own bibles with them back home, they will always have a doubt as to their Watchtower position on Christ. The NWT bible applies the exact same verses of OT Scripture to both Jehovah and Christ.

Frank Marron

Anonymous said...

Excellent observation Frank. I'm convinced that there really is a way to understand the Bible, and the Reformers were right on the clearness of the Bible.

Micah said...

Good stuff. My parents are semi-word-of-faith-type-charismatics... and I realized the other day discussing with them that their understanding of the word "faith" is not like ours. Rather than viewing faith as belief in the Savior, Christ the object of our faith, they view faith as belief in "what God can do".

So when they read "if you have faith" or say "you don't have enough faith", it is not "you don't believe in Christ" but "you don't believe Christ can X..."

This goes along with many mis-read verses to the point where they believe Christ couldn't do miracles in certain places because the people there didn't believe in his ability to do so. Thus, they seem to believe that faith is an engine that God uses to do miracles.

Maybe like the 'scream-energy' of Monsters Inc?

centuri0n said...

Wha ... ? Waitaminit -- we should use our Bibles for study?

You're crazy. I can't take any more.

FM483 said...


The Word/Faith movement advances the concept of faith in your faith, rather than trust in the promises of God in Christ. I believe this is the point you were making in your post.

It is interesting that the Word/Faith teaching is dashed when one considers the bible story of how Christ calmed the story sea, despite the UNBELIEF of his disciples! Check out Mark 4: 36-41.

Frank Marron

Albert said...


The hyper-charismatics and word-faith preachers you see in TBN do no represent what true Pentecostals believe. These people have abandoned the Pentecostal commitment to the sufficiency, inerrancy and final authority of the Holy Scripture for unbiblical teachings (e.g word-faith) and unbiblical practices (e.g. "slain in the Spirit," "holy laughter," etc.). Bible-believing Pentecostals can practice the charismatic gifts insofar as the Holy Scripture permits them. The pseudo-charismatics and neo-pentecostals are just some that cause division within the church.

Anyway, thanks you for explaining the Reformed view of Scripture. I am still studying the doctrines of grace. (Your blog has been a great help to me.)I have already found out that it is easier to defend Calvinism than Arminianism using Scripture. I am still struggling with the "L" of TULIP. I hope you could provide explanations to some of the Bible passages that seem to support universal atonement.

God bless.

rpavich said...

You are spot on with your understanding of the Pentecostal understanding of faith...you put it very nicely.

Albert, though the "TV preachers" are an anomaly, the Pentecostal movement is a close cousin. They emphasize the gifts to an inordinate degree.

for the record...I currently attend an Assemblies of God church.

rpavich said...

Can I make an observation?
I checked Isaiah 53:4 and most versions render the word "griefs" or something similar. The NET renders it "illness" but goes on to point out in their notes that it's to be taken to mean sin as opposed to physical illness.
Also, Matthew (as far as I can understand) is fond of making allusions that do not directly interpret an OT passage literally. In other words...he references this pretty loosely.

All of the commentaries that I have agree on this point...that this isn't saying that Isaiah is referring to physical illness, but illness as a metaphor for sins.

What do you think?

I'm not slamming you...just asking...trying to understand better...