The Scheme of Redemption
Extension of God's Grace
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26).
The Origin of the Scheme of Redemption
is haphazard with God. He is sovereign in the universe, and the only Being capable of "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure..'" (Isaiah 46:10). Scripture clearly reveals that God understood before the world ever began the consequence of creating man in His own image. Paul stated that man's redemption was secured by the foreknowledge and power of God before he ever walked the face of this earth. He wrote in Ephesians 1:4-6, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
God knew before he created man that such a creature would disappoint Him by rebelling against His divine will. This is the nature of free moral agency, which is the greatest gift God gave us in His design of humanity. All God created He pronounced "very good", and this included man (cf. Genesis 1:31). Some today want to blame God for the evil that is present in our world. Such is wrong, as James clearly explained, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed" (James 1:12-14). Man himself is responsible for his sin, and for the resulting evil that is the consequence of such rebellion against the will of the Almighty.
But some argue, 'God made us this way!' No, he didn't. Man's nature is not depraved and evil. Man's nature is neutral; he is a free moral agent. Again, this is a sublime gift bestowed upon man. God did us a great favor in creating us this way. It is a wonderful privilege to determine for ourselves to serve Him. All of the physical creation bows in obeisance to the grand Creator (cf. Revelation 5:13), but only man does so willingly. Surely we would not denigrate such privilege by complaining that God made us this way? To do so is to tread thin ground. As Paul stated:
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.' Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:14-24).
It is the height of arrogance for the ignorant creature (man) to question the omnipotent Creator (God). Some do so, but at their own peril.
The Inevitability of Sin
after God created man and placed him in the pristine Garden of Eden, sin entered the picture. It is not the purpose of this treatise to discuss the theoretical implications of the question, Does man have to sin? We are here interested only in the fact that Adam and Eve did sin (cf. Genesis 3:1-6), and that sin is a pervasive scourge upon mankind, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). This pervasiveness of sin indicates that all are in need of a Redeemer. All have sinned and have been separated from God by that sin. Paul said, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."
God knew that His creation (man) would sin. God realized that sinful man would need a Redeemer. So God, before the world ever began, devised the plan He would implement in man's Redemption. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation gradually records the unfolding of that plan. Notice the following major highlights in God's Scheme of Redemption:
- Man sinned (Genesis 3:1-6) thus necessitating redemption.
God first promised a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. Most scholars concur that the curse of the serpent is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."
God chose Abraham as the vessel through which the world would be redeemed. He promised three things to Abraham. 1) That his descendants would be God's chosen people. 2) that he would give them a land in which to dwell, and 3) that from Abraham would come the Messiah. "Now the Lord had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).
God began to fulfill his promise to Abraham through his son Isaac. (cf. Genesis 21). The geneolgy and birth of a nation continued through Jacob, the son of Isaac (who was called Israel, cf. Genesis 35:1-11), and his 12 sons who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes which made up the nation of Israel.
God established Israel as a nation, leading them out of Egyptian bondage, and into the promised land. (For details concerning this, read the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua). The events which resulted in this covenant relationship included: 1) Deliverance from bondage through the leadership of Moses and Aaron (cf. Exodus 4:29-31); 2) The writing of a law for the nation (cf. the Ten commandments in Exodus 20:1-17); 3) Israel's affirmation of the covenant with Jehovah (Exodus 24:7); 4) Establishment of the sanctuary (tabernacle), and the appointment of a priesthood (Exodus 25-32); 5) Israel's initial refusal to enter the land of Canaan, promised to them by God (Numbers 14); 6) The wilderness wanderings for forty years (cf. Numbers 33); 7) Entrance into and conquering the land of Canaan (cf. Joshua).
Israel's History as God's People. (The remainder of the Old Testament writings). Israel's history was marred by continual rebellion. From her failure to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, to her adoption of the pagan ways (kings, idols, etc.), Israel again and again disappointed God and received judgment at His hand. At the death of Solomon the people divided into two separate kingdoms: The northern nation of Israel, and the southern nation of Judah, which consisted of the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah. God judged Israel due to her idolatry, and Israel was taken away into Assyrian captivity. This signified the end of the Northern Kingdom as a sovereign entity. Soon after, Judah having also disappointed God, the Southern Kingdom was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, and the people were taken away into Babylonian captivity. At the return of a remnant of Israel to Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah), God's promises to Israel as a people were fulfilled.
The Purpose of the Law. Two important things were accomplished in God's plan for redeeming man during the time Israel existed as a sovereign nation. First, the Law was established. Paul later spoke of the law in Galatians 3:19, "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator", and, "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (verse 24). Second, the nation of Israel gave Jesus the pedigree needed to fulfill the requirements of God's promise to Abraham. The genealogies of Matthew (Matthew 1) and Luke (Luke 3) both clearly trace the lineage of Jesus back to Isaac and Abraham. It could be said, (as noted in Galatians 3:24 above) that the law was preparatory to the coming of the Messiah. But, "after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Galatians 3:25).
Finally, Jesus came to earth. "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law; to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the flory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Christ, Our Redeemer
Scheme of Redemption is centered in His Son. All of the plan preceding his appearance on earth was preparatory to his coming. The angels rejoiced at His birth. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'" (Luke 2:13-14).
The book of Hebrews does a good job describing the nature of Jesus' contribution to God's plan. It is a book of contrasts, showing that while the old covenant God has with Israel was important, it was only a "shadow" of the actual culmination of God's plan for man. Notice the contrasts which serve to establish the importance of Christ as our Redeemer:
- God spoke in times past through servants, but today speaks through His Son, Jesus (1:2).
Jesus is the express image of the person of God (Deity) (1:3).
Jesus purged our sins (1:3).
Jesus was exalted by God, at the right hand of the Father, so much better than the angels (1:3-4).
The words of Christ are superior (so great a salvation) to the words of angels (2:1-4).
Jesus, as the vicarious sacrifice, tasted death for everyone (2:9).
Through His death, Jesus destroyed the devil and released us from sin (2:14).
He was more worthy of glory than even Moses (3:1-6)
Jesus' sinlessness made Him a greater High Priest than those under the old covenant (4:14-16; 7:11-8:6)
Jesus was perfected through His suffering, thus becoming "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (5:8-9).
Christ serves as High Priest in a "greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation" (9:11).
Christ's blood, in contrast to the ineffectual blood of bulls and goats, has obtained for us "eternal redemption" (9:12-14).
Jesus is the mediator of a new and better covenant (9:15).
Christ is the ultimate, final sacrifice, having been offered "once to bear the sins of many." And, "To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (9:28). See also (10:5-18).
He is the "author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (12:2).
The writer of Hebrews ends his epistle with some powerful sentiments regarding our obligations in view of the greatness of Christ's accomplishments on our behalf. He wrote in chapter 12, verse 25, "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven." And, in verses 28-29, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire."
The Fundamentals of the Gospel of Christ
order for us to gain access to the privileges afforded by the life and death of Jesus, we must first believe in Him (cf. Mark 16:16). Here then are the fundamental components of the good news regarding our Savior:
- Jesus was born of a Virgin. This virgin birth was in fulfillment of prophecy (cf. Isaiah 7:14). Matthew records "Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus" (Matthew 1:24-25).
Jesus was God on Earth. Many passages teach this fundamental truth, perhaps none more clearly than John 1:14, "And the Word (God, cf. verse 1) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
Jesus was tempted as we, making Him a perfect Mediator and High Priest on our behalf. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Despite such temptations, Jesus did not sin. This makes him the perfect, vicarious sacrifice for sins. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus died on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins. Paul wrote the Romans, testifying of their being, "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:24-26).
After three days in the grave, God raised Jesus from the dead. This resurrection of our Lord, coupled with His death on the cross, constitute the core of our faith. It is established clearly both by the open tomb, and the eyewitnesses of His resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). Peter said on the Pentecost following that great event, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:22-24).
Jesus ascended into Heaven, exalted by God, reigning in His kingdom. Luke recorded this event in Acts 1, verses 9-11, "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
- His kingdom established, Jesus invites all into it through the call of the gospel. The first time this glorious gospel was preached and the invitation was made was on the day of Pentecost following his resurrection. Just a few days after Jesus' ascension into Heaven, Peter preached to the Jews. His lesson and their response to the gospel is recorded in Acts 2. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand soulds were added to them" (verse 41).
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
In this section of our study we have sought to give an overview of the Plan of Redemption formed in the mind of God before the world began. We have emphasized the constituent elements which made up that grand design, emphasizing the sacrifice God made in sending his Son as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind. We have not yet delved into the responsibilities of man in securing his redemption (cf. Philippians 2:12).
We affirm that our salvation is made available through the freely given and unmerited favor of God. He sent his Son to earth not because we deserved such treatment, but because He loved us. We have access to His eternal presence only because of His good grace. However, it is clear from scripture that not all gain access to the blood of Christ. God demands that conditions be met before man can enjoy the privilege of remission of sins. In affirming this we do not claim that man earns his salvation. The debt is too great and our efforts too imperfect to accomplish such a feat. We do, however, have to submit to God's will in order to be saved. What must man do to be saved? This will be the question answered in our subsequent articles.
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