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Disgrace and Vindication

The Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip this question: “Who is Isaiah the prophet talking about? About himself, or someone else?” Philip’s answer moved in a straight line from Isaiah to Jesus, and his answer teaches us how to understand Isaiah, because today’s passage contains the same message: the good news about Jesus. The answer to the question, “About whom does the prophet say this? About himself, or someone else?” is yes. Yes, both, but primarily, Jesus.

What does this passage say about Jesus? He was taught by God in order to teach and bring comfort, and He would faithfully execute his task, even though He would pay a great personal price. He did this because He was confident that God would help Him and vindicate Him, so that none of the disgrace and shame heaped on Him would last or hold up before the judge. He was so bold in this confidence as to go ahead and call for a trial, because He knew exactly what the verdict would be. He concludes with the rhetorical question, “Who will declare me guilty?”, knowing that God would demonstrate to the world that He was in fact not guilty.

We see the fulfillment of this passage in Matthew 27-28. Jesus was a faithful teacher, he was persecuted, spat upon, and murdered, but then God vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead. The life and ministry of Jesus, especially His resurrection, is the beating heart of Isaiah 50. But when we read Romans 8, we need re-visit the Ethiopian’s question again: Who is this about? Because in Romans 8, the Apostle Paul picks up Isaiah’s message, and when Paul uses it, he uses it about you. This passage is about you. This boldness, this freedom from shame and disgrace, is for you! Romans 8:31-34 presents verses 8-9 in the key of Paul.

How can Paul do this? How can he take a passage about Isaiah, about Jesus, and apply it to you? How can he claim that you have not been disgraced? How can you know that you will not be put to shame and condemned? How is this possible?

The foundation of this glorious truth, that Jesus has taken away your shame, is the doctrine of union with Christ. You have been united to Jesus, and this means that what is true about Jesus is true of you. Look at Romans 8:1-4, and 10-11. You will face disgrace and spitting, just like Jesus, but you will be vindicated just like Jesus. They might even kill you, but God will raise you up. This means that you, too, can claim these verses as your own. So what if people try to shame you and disgrace you? Their verdict will crumble, and God’s verdict over you (the same one He spoke over Jesus by raising Him from the dead) will stand: not guilty! Not ashamed. Not disgraced.

This is what it means that God helps you. This is why you will not be disgraced as you walk before God as His representative. Not because you’ve never done anything shameful, but because God cleanses away your shame. When God washes you and puts His name on you, then you are clean. Your shame is gone. Jesus has washed it away with His blood.

This gives you great boldness: don’t hesitate to deliver the message about Jesus because you are worried about your own sin. Jesus atoned for that sin! It can no longer touch you. Speak boldly for God, and scorn the shame that people try to bring against you. If you continue to live an ashamed life, you are not trusting in God’s vindication. So let it go. Set your face like a flint, and refuse to listen to any voice that tries to shame you, even your own heart. And use your tongue to bring this same comfort to others. You live in a weary world, where everyone you meet struggles with shame, and you know how to help! They may not want your help; they may spit in your face and pull out your beard. What is that to you? You follow Christ! The one who vindicates you is near. Who will contend with you? Behold, the Lord God helps you! No one will ever declare you guilty again, because God has made you clean.

Posted on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 by CJ Bowen