Believe Christ?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
~ Jeremiah 17:9

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
~ John 1:7

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
~ Romans 10:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
~ Romans 1:16

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
~ Isaiah 40:5

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
~ Matthew 11:25

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
~ Matthew 16:17

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
~ Romans 1:17-18

While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
~ John 12:36-43

Christ and His Gospel, by James Durham. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53”.

Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
—Isaiah 53:1

We hope it shall not be needful to insist on opening the scope of this chapter or in clearing to you of whom the prophet means and is speaking. The eunuch once questioned it when he was reading this chapter: “Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” (Act 8:34). And it is so clearly answered by Philip, who from these words began and preached to him of Jesus Christ that there needs be no doubt of it now. To Christians, these two may put it out of question that Jesus Christ and the substance of the gospel is compended and summed up here.

1. If we compare the letter of this chapter with what is in the four evangelists, we will see it so fully and often so literally made out of Christ that if any will but read this chapter and compare it with them, they will find the evangelists to be commentators on it and setting it out more fully.

2. That there is no Scripture in the Old Testament so often and so convincingly applied to Christ as this is, there being scarcely one verse, at least not many, but are by the evangelists or apostles made use of for (presenting) Christ.

If we look then to the sum of the words of this chapter, they take in the sum and substance of the gospel. They take in these two: 1. The right description and manifestation of Jesus Christ; and 2. The unfolding and opening of the Covenant of Redemption. Where these two are, there the sum of the gospel is; these two are here, therefore the sum of the gospel is here.

First, Jesus Christ is described. 1. In His person and natures: as God, being eternal; as man, being under suffering. 2. In all His offices: as a priest, offering up Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy justice; as a prophet, venting His knowledge to the justifying of many thereby; and as a king, dividing the spoil with the strong. 3. In His humiliation, in the cause of it, in the end of it, in the subject of it, in the nature and rise of all: God’s good pleasure. 4. And in His exaltation, and outgate promised Him on the back of all His sufferings and humiliation.

Secondly, the Covenant of Redemption is here described and set out. 1. In the parties of it: God (the Father) and the Mediator. 2. As to the matter about which it was: the seed that was given to Christ and all whose iniquities met on Him. 3. As to the mutual engagements on both sides: the Son undertaking to make His soul an offering for sin; the Father promising that the efficacy of His satisfaction shall be imputed and applied for the justification of sinners; and the terms on which, or the way how, this imputation and application is brought about, to wit, “by his knowledge” (Isa 53:11). All are clearly held out here.

This is only a touch of the excellency of this Scripture and of the materials (to say so) in it, as comprehending the substance and marrow of the gospel. We shall not be particular in dividing the chapter, considering that these things we have hinted at are interwoven in it.

The first verse is a short introduction to lead us into what follows. The prophet has in the former chapter been speaking of Christ as God’s Servant, (Who) should be extolled and made very high; and before he proceeds more particularly to unfold this mystery of the gospel, he cries out by way of regret, “Who hath believed our report?” “Alas!” would he say, “for such good news as we carry, few will take it off our hand, such is man’s unconcern, yes, malice and obstinacy, that they reject it.” “And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” points to the necessity of the power of God to accompany preaching and even the liveliest ordinances to make them effectual. How few are they that the power of God captivates to the obedience of this truth?

For the first part of this verse: “Who hath believed our report?” To open it a little, take these four or five considerations, ere we come to the doctrines.

1. Consider first, the matter of this report in reference to its scope: it is not every report, but a report of Christ and of the Covenant of Redemption and of grace. In the original it is, “Who hath believed our hearing,” actively; that is, “that which we have proposed to be heard.” And the word is turned tidings (in) Daniel 11:44, and rumor (in) Jeremiah 51:46. It is the tidings and rumor of a suffering Mediator, interposing Himself between God and sinners. It may be hearing is mentioned to point out the confidence that the prophet had in reporting this news. He first heard it from God and in that was passive; and then actively, he proposed it to the people to be heard by them.

2. Consider that the prophet speaks of this report, not as in his own person only, but as in the person of all that ever preached or shall preach this gospel. Therefore, this report is not particular to Isaiah, but it is our report, the report of the prophets before, and of these after him, and of the apostles and ministers of the gospel.

3. Consider that Isaiah speaks of this report, not only in respect of what he met with in his own time, but as foreseeing what would be the carriage of people in reference to it in aftertimes. Therefore, this same place is alleged to give a reason of the Jews’ unbelief (Joh 12:38; Rom 10:16) because Isaiah foretold it long before.

4. Consider that when he complains of the (lack) of faith to the report and tidings of the gospel, it is not of the (lack) of historical faith, as if the people would not give Christ a hearing at all, but is of the (lack) of saving faith. Therefore, it is said, “Though he had done many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (Joh 12:37); and this prophetic Scripture is subjoined as the reason of it: “That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report?” (Joh 12:38), applying the believing spoken of here to that saving faith whereby folk believe and rest upon Jesus Christ.

Consider that though there is no express party named to whom the prophet complains, yet no doubt it is to God. Therefore (in) John 12:38 and Romans 10:16, when this Scripture is cited, it is said, “Lord, who hath believed our report.” So, it is the prophet’s complaint of the little fruit (he) had and that the ministers of the gospel should have in preaching of the gospel—regretting and complaining of it to God as a sore matter that it should come to so many, and so few should get good of it, so few should be brought to believe and to be saved by it.

Though these words are few, yet they have four great things in them to which we shall reduce them for speaking more clearly to them: (1) That the great subject of preaching, and (the) preacher’s great errand, is to report concerning Jesus Christ, to bring tidings concerning Him. (2) That the great duty of hearers (implied) is to believe this report and by virtue of it to be brought to rest and rely on Jesus Christ. (3) That unbelief is the great though ordinary sin of the generality of the hearers of the gospel. “Who hath believed?” That is, it is few that have believed; it is a rare thing to see a believer of this report. (4) That the great complaint, weight, and grief of an honest minister of the gospel is this: his message is not taken off his hand, that Christ is not received, believed in, and rested on. This is the great challenge ministers have against the generality of people and the ground of their complaint to God: whatever they report concerning Christ, He is not welcomed, His kingdom thrives not.

That we may speak to the first, considering the words with respect to the scope, we shall draw five or six doctrines from them.

Doctrine One: The first of which is more general: that revealing Christ Jesus and making Him known is the greatest news, the gladdest tidings, and the most excellent report that ever came or can come to a people. There is no such thing can be told them, no such tidings can they hear; this is the report that the prophet speaks of by way of eminency, a report above and beyond all other reports. It is newsworthy to be carried by angels! Behold, says one of them, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luk 2:10). And what are these tidings so prefaced to with a Behold? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luk 2:11)! These are the good tidings that Jesus Christ is come and that He is the Savior by office. We shall not insist on this; only (1) we will find a little view of this subject in the following words that clearly hold forth Christ—God and man in one person—so completely qualified and excellently (equipped) for His offices. (2) It is also clear, if we look to the excellent effects that come by His being so (equipped), such as His satisfying of justice, His setting free of captives, His triumphing over principalities and powers, His destroying the works of the devil, etc. There cannot be more excellent works or effects spoken of. (3) It is clear if we look to Him from Whom this report comes and in Whose breast this news bred (if we may speak so), they are the result of the counsel of the Godhead. Therefore, as the report here is made in the Lord’s name, so He is complained to when it is not taken off the prophet’s hand. (4) And it is clear if we look to the mysteriousness of this news; angels could never have conceived them, had not this report come. These things tell that they are great, glorious, and good news—glad tidings, as it is in the end of the former chapter. That which hath not been told them, shall they see; and that which they have not heard, shall they consider.

Use 1: The first use is to draw our hearts to be in love with the gospel and to raise our estimation of it. People’s ears are itching after novelties, and you are much worn out of conceit with this news; but is there in any news such an advantage as (the gospel)? When God sends news to men, it must be great news! And such indeed it is.

Use 2: Therefore, be afraid to entertain loathing of the plain, substantial truths of the gospel. If you had never heard them before, there would be likely some Athenian itching to hear and speak of them (Act 17:21); but they should not be the less thought of because they are often heard and spoken of.

Use 3: Therefore, think more of the gospel, seeing it holds the substance of this good news and glad tidings; and think more of gospel ordinances, whereby these good tidings are so often published and made plain to you.Doctrine Two: More particularly observe that Jesus Christ and what concerns Him (the glad and good news of a Savior, and the reporting of them) is the very proper work of a minister, and the great subject of a minister’s preaching. His proper work is to make Christ known. Or take it thus: Christ is the native subject on which all preaching should run. This is the report the prophet speaks of here, and in effect, it was so to John and the other apostles, and should be so to all ministers. Christ Jesus and what concerns Him in His person, natures, and offices; to know and make Him known in His offices to be Priest, Prophet, and King; to be a Priest in His suffering and satisfying justice; to be a Prophet in revealing the will of God; to be a King for subduing folk’s lusts and corruptions; and to know and make Him known in the way by which sinners—both preachers and hearers—may come to have Him to themselves.

This, this is the subject of all preaching, and all preaching should be leveled at this mark. Paul is peremptory in this. “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1Co 2:2), as if he had said, “I will meddle with no other thing, but betake myself to this.” Not only will he forbear to meddle with civil employments, but he will lay aside his learning, eloquence, and human wisdom, and make the preaching of Christ crucified his great work and study.

The reason of this is because Christ stands in a fourfold relation to preaching. (1) All preaching is to explain Him: “To him give all the prophets witness” (Act 10:43). And so do the four evangels and the apostolic epistles, which are as so many preachings of Him; and that preaching, which stands not in relation to Him, is beside the text and mark.60

(2) He is held out as the foundation and groundwork of preaching, so that preaching without Him (lacks) a foundation and is the building, as it were, of a castle in the air. “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1Co 3:10-11)—importing that all preaching should be squared to and made to agree with this foundation stone.

(3) He stands as the great end of preaching, not only that hearers may have Him known in their judgments, but may have Him high in their hearts and affections. “We preach not ourselves” (2Co 4:5), that is, not only do we not preach ourselves as the subject, but we preach not ourselves as the end of our preaching; our scope is not to be great or much thought of, but our end in preaching is to make Christ great.

(4) He stands in relation to preaching, as He is the power and life of preaching, without Whom no preaching can be effectual, no soul can be captivated and brought in to Him. Hence, Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock (they cannot abide to hear Him), and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called…Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1Co 1:23-24).