The Vicarious Messiah An Exposition Of Isaiah 53:4–6 -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 21:2 (Winter 2012)
Article: The Vicarious Messiah An Exposition Of Isaiah 53:4–6
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

The Vicarious Messiah1
An Exposition Of Isaiah 53:4–6

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Lewis Johnson served as a teaching elder and regularly ministered the Word at Believers Chapel in Dallas, Texas for more than thirty years. During his academic career he held professorships in New Testament and Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. At the time of his death in 2004 he was Professor Emeritus of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Dallas Seminary. Both MP3 files and printed notes of Dr. Johnson’s sermons and theological lectures may be downloaded from the website of the SLJ Institute «». His recordings may also be downloaded from the Believers Chapel website «».


This passage might well be called, “The Great Reversal.” In ignorance the Israel of the past, of the time of our Lord, denied the Holy and Just One and slew the Author of Life (cf. Acts 3:14–17). They self-confidently assumed responsibility for the Messiah’s death by shouting, “His blood shall be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25).

The Israel of the future, however, being an enlightened people by then, humbly accept their guilt by crying out, “But he was pierced through for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5). As we have seen in a previous study, the tenses of the verbs in verses 1 through 9 set the reference of the thoughts expressed by the speakers in past time.2 They are looking back over their past acts and attitudes to the Messiah and acknowledging their sinful failure to recognize him as the promised deliverer. It is truly “The Great Reversal”!

This great prophetic song of the Suffering Servant is also one of the most significant of all the Old Testament passages on the atonement. And it surely indicates that whatever theory of the atonement we may hold, it must include the idea of substitution. Christ’s death is far more than simply an act which reveals God’s love and thereby produces in us a response of faith and love that saves, as men like Peter Abelard and many contemporary theologians have maintained. It is also far more than a defeat of Satan and a release of sinners held captive by him, although that is a true idea (cf. C...

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