Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Is Jesus God’s Servant or Son?

Addendum B

Sam Shamoun

We have now arrived at the second and final addendum.


The relationship of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 to the Carmen Christi

Paul, the blessed Apostle of the risen Lord, alludes to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, in his letter to the Philippians where he cites what many scholars believe to be an early hymn or creed of the Church:  

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but EMPTIED Himself, taking the form of bond-servant (morphen doulou), and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 NASB

The reference to Jesus emptying himself in order to become a servant and die is a direct allusion to Isaiah 53:10-12, specifically v. 11:    

“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong BECAUSE HE POURED OUT HIS LIFE UNTO DEATH, and was numbered with the transgressors. 
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:10-12 NASB

Pouring out is the flip side of emptying, i.e. if one pours out something one is inevitably emptying that thing out.

Moreover, the Greek version of Isaiah 53:11 employs the verbal form of the noun doulos – the term that Paul uses to refer to Christ becoming a servant – to describe the Servant’s action of pouring out his soul unto death in order to justify or save many from their sins: 

“the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves (douleuonta) many well; and he shall bear their sins.” Isaiah 53:11 LXX

Paul also employs the language of Isaiah 52:13 to describe God’s act of highly exalting Jesus:

“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” Isaiah 52:13 NASB

The apostle makes explicit what is already implicit in Isaiah’s use of the passive form “will be … highly exalted,” e.g. the One who highly exalts the Servant is none other than God himself.

That’s not all Paul does here. Either he or the composer(s) of this particular hymn or creed has/have gone as far as to adopt the language of the following monotheistic passage,

“Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel Will be justified and will glory.” Isaiah 45:21-25 NASB

And apply it to the worship which God expects every creature to give to Christ in recognition of his exalted status as the risen and sovereign Lord of creation!

Paul doesn’t stop there since elsewhere he writes that a person is justified by believing in the Lord Jesus, an action which Isaiah 45:25 says Yahweh does:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11 NASB

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB

“nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!” Galatians 2:16-17 NASB

Hence, for Paul and the early Church the Lord whom the prophet Isaiah says all the people shall acknowledge and worship, the Lord who justifies and saves the inhabitants of the earth, including the offspring of Israel, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ!