Paul’s “Life Verses”
Paul’s “Life Verses”

Paul’s “Life Verses”

Paul’s “Life Verses”

It seems to me that the Apostle Paul had certain “Life Verses.” So what are “Life Verses”? Well, for me, “Life Verses” are those verses that resonate deeply inside my heart in the very same manner in which an A-string on a guitar begins vibrating when someone sings that same note. Life Verses are my go-to verses that bring light in dark times. They are the passages that seem to have my name and address stamped upon them. They are verses that I have never needed to memorize because I have read them and prayed them so many times that they are embedded naturally in my memory. Some of my “Life Verses” are attached to precious personal experiences, others may not be, but I feel they are laid up in storage for experiences yet to come.

So when I read where Paul refers to Isaiah 42:1-8 and Isaiah 49:1-9 as confirmation of His calling and ministry (see Acts 13:46-48; Acts 26:23; 2 Cor 6:1-2; and Gal 1:15-16), it appears to me that Paul held those passages as his” Life Verses.”

The Scriptures to which Paul refers are part of four passages in Isaiah, often given the title of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs” – messianic passages that prophetically speak about Jesus. Let’s take a deeper look.

Isaiah’s Four “Servant Songs”

(1) Isaiah 42:1-9

In this first “Servant Song,” God speaks of His selection of the Servant who will bring justice to the earth. This passage is quoted in Mat 12:18-20 where it is said that this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus when He withdrew from the cities of Galilee and His request that the crowds not make Him known.

(2) Isaiah 49:1-13

The second “Servant Song,” written from the Servant’s point of view, is an account of his prenatal calling by God.
Simeon quotes this “Servant Song” in Luke 2:32 concerning the infant Jesus brought to Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph to offer the purification sacrifice.

(3) Isaiah 50:4-11

The third “Servant Song” gives a first-person description of how the “Servant” was beaten and abused. The Servant is then described both as a teacher and a learning student who follows the path in which God places him. He is a faithful Servant determined to follow obediently and a determination to never turn back.

There is an allusion to Isaiah 50:7 – “Therefore I have set my face like a flint” – in Luke 9:51 as Jesus “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus knew why He had been sent. He knew the time had come. As the faithful Servant, Jesus firmly fixed His gaze on Jerusalem and purposed to accomplish God’s will. The disciples could tell that His face was set toward Jerusalem. Apparently, the  Samaritans also noticed where Jesus’ determined focus was directed, and for that reason, they refused to prepare a place in their town for Jesus. It is interesting to note that James and John’s reaction to the Samaritan’s rejection of Jesus was to call down fire upon them! Jesus quickly corrected them: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

(4) Isaiah 52:13-15 – Isaiah 53:1-12

This last of the” Servant Songs” is the longest and most well-known. In this song, the Servant intercedes for others by bearing their sicknesses and the punishment for their iniquities and sins upon Himself through His suffering and death.

This Servant Song is quoted various times in the New Testament. See Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:32–33; Romans 10:16; Romans 15:21; and 1 Peter 2:22.

Applying the “Law of Multi-Application”

These “Servant Song” passages are prophecies that find their perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ; however, there is something in theology called the “Law of Multi-Application,” which states that a Scripture may apply to two or more scenarios. Some prophecies apply to the Millennial Kingdom, but also to Eternity, and can, in part, also apply to the Church Age in which we live now. Many prophecies apply to Jesus and can also apply to us because we are God’s children, “coheirs with Christ” (Rom 8:16-17), and “He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers” (Heb 2:10-13 ESV). Therefore, we can use these promises in our lives, also! Paul understood this theological principle, which is why we see him applying these verses to himself and his ministry.

This Law of Multi-Application is more clearly understood in this verse, where it clearly states that it applies to both Jesus and us (His “descendants” ):

Isaiah 59:21 (NKJV)
”As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

Isaiah’s prophecy of an immeasurable supply of the Holy Spirit made available to the Servant who is sent to speak God’s Word is fulfilled in Christ here:

John 3:34 (NKJV)
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

Then Jesus twice indicates that in the same way in which the Father sent Him (with the anointing of the Holy Spirit), so Jesus would now be sending His disciples – with the anointing of the Word and the Word in their mouth:

John 17:18 (NKJV)
As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
John 20:21-22 (NKJV)
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Paul Applies His “Life Verses”

Below are New Testament passages where Paul refers to or quotes the Old Testament “Servant Song” passages as confirmations for himself and his ministry.

Acts 13:46-48 [from Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6]
Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us:
“I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the Word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 26:15-18, Acts 26:22-23 [from Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 49:6,9]
So I said, ”Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,
To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”
Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come—
That the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 [from Isaiah 49:8]
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:
“In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Galatians 1:15-16 [from Isaiah 49:1,6]
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace,
To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.

Taking It Personal

When we acquaint ourselves with the full context of these “Servant Song” passages in Isaiah, it is easy to understand that these verses must have been very comforting and brought much reassurance to Paul in his ministry since he was a faithful servant of God. When we obey God’s call and step out to serve Him, we, too, can find fresh encouragement in the Living and Abiding Word of God.

Upon surveying these “Servant Songs” in Isaiah, we discover at least ten promises which, according to the Law of Multi-Application, we can confess and claim personally over our lives:

  1. God delights in me and gives me His Spirit (Isa 42:1).
  2. I will not fail nor be discouraged (Isa 42:4).
  3. God calls me by His righteousness (not mine) and holds my hand to make me a light to others (Isa 42:6).
  4. God will use me to open the blind eyes, set free the prisoners, and bring people out of the darkness they are sitting in (Isa 42:7; Isa 49:9)
  5. God has called me from my mother’s womb (Isa 49:1,5; 2 Tim 1:9)
  6. God’s Word in my mouth will be a sharp sword (Isa 49:2).
  7. God will preserve me for His purpose, hiding me in His hand and His quiver (Isa 49:2).
  8. I will be a straight, polished arrow – an instrument of war that God uses for His glory! (Isa 49:2).
  9. God will make me a light for those who are in darkness (Isa 49:6).
  10. God will awaken my ears to hear His voice as a disciple and will give me words to speak to the weary (Isa 50:4-5).

These indeed are “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) that can enrich our lives!

Maybe you, too, have a personal “Life Verse,” or you may even have more than one. If so, hold on to them tightly and connect with them often. Quote and proclaim them. Write them down. Study and memorize them. Use them in your prayers. Treasure them.

If you do not yet have a “Life Verse,” just wait upon the Lord every time you open His Word. Never forget that the Holy Spirit is the always-present Author when you read the Bible! The Spirit is always excited to breathe a living Word fresh off of the Bible’s pages and down deep into your heart and mind. When He does, you will find it resonating inside of you, and you will exclaim just like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

When that wonderful resonating begins, cherish those Living Words dearly as the lamp and light for the rest of your life’s journey! As David said:

Psalm 119:105
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:130
The unfolding of Your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

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