THE FULLNESS OF REDEMPTION
I Cor.1: 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Eph.1: 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Heb.9: 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
We sometimes treat the word “redemption” as a cousin to “redeeming” grocery store coupons. The depth, the scope, the power, the quality, the eternity, the cost, the suffering, the mystery, and the grace inherent within the redemption of Christ is past knowing. Only on the day we enter into His dwelling place and are overwhelmed by the sheer weight of His glory and holiness will we understand how significantly we shortchanged what the Savior accomplished for us.
But let us do what the overwhelming body of the visible church rarely if ever does. The church believes that watching an Easter Pageant and feeling warm and appreciative and then going out for some ice cream is worshiping and glorifying the Eternal Redeemer. How we have taken the sufferings of our Great Savior and trampled them under our cultural feet which are swift to accommodate our own lusts. It is confounding just how the church has taken the Redeemer and His cross and made then into a western talisman rather than a life changing power which results in self denial and sacrifice that ministers to our Great God. All across the evangelical landscape God has become a self help force and redemption is little more than a reserved seat in heaven while we go about our earthly pleasures.
The simple definition of the word “redeemed” is to buy back and that is the foundational construct of spiritual redemption through Jesus Christ. However we cannot, we must not, just let it go at that without a searching of the cost and meaning in that eternal transaction. To make it some impersonal doctrine is to offend the Spirit through which we cannot know anything of Christ. This redemption is an unfathomable treasure filled with pain and suffering, a miracle birth, a love which surpasses knowledge, and a horrific scene of blood, and a never ending stream of profound glory. This is no flannel graph presentation. This is the glorious mystery that will redound forever to the glory of the Creator God who revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.
We as humans are so bound to the visual. Our eyes have become to discerners of truth, and therefore anything we cannot see we either doubt or ignore. Things of the Spirit are relegated to subordinate status because we cannot see them. Even the beauty and majesty of creation does not drive us to seek the Creator. In fact only the Spirit can reveal to us the things of the Spirit. And even in the church that which is material and temporal are the things which are sought. The things of this earth consume the church while the gospel of redemption and all the priceless treasure therein have long since required way too much time and effort to seek. Our earthly lives demand earthly answers and the church supplies those answers packed in some thin veneer of Bible language. Redemption has become a children’s story. We know all about Bethlehem and Calvary and the empty tomb. What else can there be?
But all that is obviously ignorant of the utter darkness with which we were once imprisoned. We willfully see sin as some kind of mistake which has scant consequences unless it is illegal and we get caught. But to understand redemption we must see sin for what is really is. It is a monstrous betrayal to the Creator God. Just one act of disobedience sent the entire world into spiritual darkness and brought death upon men’s souls. Can you imagine such a thing? One insignificant sin and death, both physical and eternal, enters the world. Billions of souls are born with the eternal sentence of sin inherent in their souls. It is in this situation where redemption cries out in a stable in Bethlehem.
The entire world lies in the wicked one until Bethlehem. But men had taken God’s futuristic metaphors contained in the sacrificial system of the law and made them a redemption of works. They failed to understand the spiritual nature of that spilled blood. It was never about bulls and goats. It was always about the Son of God and His blood which was to come. Yes, the revelation first felt by Mary and first announced by Gabriel and first seen in a manger was the personification of the redemption illustrated by the blood of animals. But human sacrifice was pagan and forbidden to God’s people.
But this was no ordinary human, and God’s plan was a mystery. That is why so many Jews missed it, and that is why church people by the literal millions are missing it as well. Let’s face it. A suffering Jew on a Roman cross is not exactly what excites the intellect of man. And after 2000 years the story has not only become stale, but it has now acquired an almost mythical quality. People will embrace “Jesus” but have little stomach for searching the cross of redemption. It is quite unsophisticated and even barbaric in these enlightened times. The entire emergent movement sets out to eviscerate the cross and present redemption as a sort of spiritual humanitarianism.
But nothing can change God’s truth. This glorious redemption purchased at such a high cost is completely free to whosoever believes upon the Redeemer Jesus. And just what does God require of a sinner before that sinner can be redeemed? He must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because on some level that sinner recognizes his need for forgiveness from the Almighty. No, he cannot understand the depth of his own depravity nor the gravity of his rebellion toward God. But as he hears the Spirit’s illumination of Christ he acts upon his need and believes on Jesus as his only Savior.
Now which sins must be completely forsaken before God will grant him the grace of redemption? None. In fact, he cannot know God’s moral commands and he does not have the power to leave his sins. So in reality the miracle we call redemption is all of God and none of us. All we do is believe. That is the complete definition as well as the manifestation of grace. We wake up one morning as an enemy of God walking in the kingdom of darkness, and in a moment of faith we have been translated into the kingdom of light and we are now a child of God. There can be no greater miracle.
But somehow along the way the evangelical community got caught up in political games and moral crusades and in so doing it changed how we see and understand the gospel. We adopted the moral rules of the unsaved conservatives and made them litmus tests for a lost sinner. We attacked certain sinners and embraced others. So when the conservative sinner who lies and cheats and verbally eviscerates his or her opponent we applaud them because they are pro-life and anti-gay. But if a sinner is gay he is an abomination to God and to us and we demand he change way before he can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
And if per chance a gay person does believe in Jesus we may grant him a short amount of time to completely understand his sin and completely abandon his behavior. We may allow him a certain amount of struggle, but if that struggle creates some wiggle room for his sinful behavior he is dismissed as unsaved. And that creates an interesting dilemma. I continue to see open greed, prayerlessness, hedonism, idolatry, spiritual lethargy, debt, and divorce and remarriage rampant in the evangelical church. And yet those sins are considered part of the sanctification process and in fact many are not even considered sins. All kinds of money sins which are part and parcel of a capitalist culture are now part and parcel of an evangelical lifestyle. They are even considered God’s blessings.
And so the question becomes can these kind of evangelicals really be saved? After all they live lives out of Biblical order, and they are completely blind about some of their sins, and they even embrace some sins as coming from God, and yet they claim to be followers of Jesus. Millions love a fallen nation, and hate liberals with a passion, and millions listen to the caustic vitriol of self righteous talk show hosts almost every day while neglecting God’s Word. How can they be saved especially if we are going to pronounce a person as “unsaved” if he or she is blind to the sin of same sex relationships?
The real question deals with the essence of redemption. Is it completely by faith or is it by faith at the beginning with an agreement for works in the future? And if redemption is by faith and works then it is a works salvation. And many people believe that, but most of the evangelical world believes that salvation is by faith alone, except when it comes to gay people. And here is a penetrating question. Can an abortion doctor be redeemed and have his life changed where he reads his Bible and prays and is active in an evangelical church and even supports overseas missions but he still performs abortions? Can he be saved but still believes life begins at birth?
Now if you say that doctor cannot possibly be saved then you have a works salvation. Let me ask you this: Can a person have all the right moral positions and be an evangelical church member and still be unsaved? The answer of course is yes.
II Tim.2: 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
There it is. Only the Lord knows for sure who are His, and yes, those who are following Jesus should forsake sin. That is a constant theme in the New Testament. But look at the following verses.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
And there is God’s grace revealed in all its glory! There will be saints who have not lived in surrender but who were genuinely born again and will lose rewards but who will spend eternity with Christ for no other reason but that by faith they truly trusted His finished work. Does that not exclude all works? Yes there will be those whose conversion was illegitimate and who will be revealed as religious but not born again. But there will also be those whose lives were unfortunately not fully committed but whose souls were saved by fire. This should never give false assurance to those who are living in sin, but it also should keep us from passing authoritative judgment on any who profess Christ but have succumbed to sinful struggles. Only God knows those that are truly His.
We have self righteously limited God’s redemption while others have unwisely expanded it to include almost all sinners. There exists a fine line which must be navigated with humility as well as Biblical direction. And if all the hedonistic American believers can be children of God by faith, well then so can others whose sin is of a different variety. We must hold high the cross of Christ and His gospel, but we cannot exclude certain sinners just because their sin is outside our own struggles. Rebuke in love. Correct in humility. Teach with Biblical authority. Intercede in prayer. Reach out in loving truth. And above all count yourself as nothing and Christ as everything. Resist the temptation to join hands with the fallen morality of those whose self righteousness is self evident. Be clothed in humility and die to yourself every day. The gospel is for the immoral.
Ti.3: 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Yes, we did not pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. We were rescued by grace and by grace we still stand and it is that same grace which must define our lives. It is grace which permeates God redemption and without grace it is nothing more than a moral high jump which can never clear the bar. God did not come to call the righteous to salvation. Why? Because there are no righteous outside of Christ.