This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1997 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the fourth.
Many words are used in the Bible and by Christians to refer to God's great work in Christ. Salvation is one prominent term, usually meaning all He has done and will do for His people. The Bible uses the word propitiation - how Christ's sacrifice of Himself appeases the wrath of God against sinners. It speaks of how the atoning sacrifice wipes away guilt. God has chosen, called, and justified His people, and He will perfect His work - He will glorify them in the future. Christians are a people reconciled to God; adopted as children and made fellow heirs with Christ, Who has delivered us. It is all so very full and rich! As has been said earlier in this series of messages, Christ and His saving work will be the glorious object of the wonder and adoration of the redeemed for all eternity.
The fourth term in our passage in 1 Corinthians 1 is a form of the word I just used, redeemed. The apostle writes that Christ is not only our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, but also our REDEMPTION. The word redeem means to buy back, or to pay a ransom to rescue something or someone. When you park in a tow-away zone and your car is impounded, you must save it - redeem it - get it back - by paying the fine for the illegal parking. Not only is He our wisdom, our righteousness, and our sancification, but Christ Himself is the very costly payment for our deliverance from the bondage of sin and corruption.
The question immediately arises, to whom was the payment made? Two answers which are common but incorrect are often given. Some see the payment as being made to the devil. In this view, fostered by innumerable stories about the sale of souls to the devil, Satan is some sort of spiritual pawn shop dealer. The other common but incorrect answer is that the payment was made by the loving, merciful Son of God to the unloving, vengeful God the Father.
Make no mistake, Christ's sacrifice appeases the wrath of God, but not in that way. The payment was not made to the Father as if the Son loved us and the Father did not. Redemption is the work of the Triune God of the Bible, and the ransom is paid to satisfy His perfect standard of justice. The Holy Spirit searches the depths of God, writes Paul in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians. In the Person of the eternal Spirit, the sweet aroma of a perfect sacrifice was lovingly carried into those unfathomable depths, Hebrews 9:14. It was the person of the Father Who sent His Son in love to make the sacrifice, John 3:16. In love the Son was willing to humble Himself and be made a Man...for the very purpose of dying this way! And so we find Jesus saying about Himself, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many", Mark 10:45. Thus, the righteous and loving God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - earned, carried home, and received the ransom price.
This redemption is strictly a Divine work because of the magnitude of the transaction. That magnitude is infinite. Let's take that word apart: in - finite. It means without limits. Nothing we know in creation has this quality. Human beings, rocks, stars, oceans, trees, and animals all are limited by things outside of themselves. God alone is truly infinite. He is limited only to His own eternal, perfect being, and is Himself the ultimate limit of all things. In what sense then is the transaction of redemption infinite? In two ways.
First, the debt owed by the offending party, human sinners, is owed to the infinite, eternal majesty, the Lord God Almighty. God's dignity makes our debt limitless. If you or I sin against one another, we can often make restitution from our own substance, and satisfy the debt in full on the human level. But to offend God is to incur a debt that would require all eternity to adequately satisfy. Hell is as everlasting as heaven for this very reason: those who go there can never fully repay their debt. This truth is pictured for us in Jesus' sermon on the mount. There, He exhorts men to make friends quickly with their opponent while they are on the way, in order that the opponent not deliver them over to due process of law. Once convicted and thrown into prison, Jesus says that they will never come out until they have paid the last cent, see Matthew 5:25, 26.
We read these sobering words in the 49th Psalm: "No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him - for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever - that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay."
That brings us to the other side of this coin, and the sublime glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done. Because the Lord Jesus is both God and man, we can say two things about Him: 1. He is capable of dying. If He were God only, He would not be able to die. God as God is immortal and cannot suffer in the slightest way. Jesus is God, but He is God in the flesh! God took on a real human body and soul, specifically to accomplish redemption by a real human life, death, and resurrection. 2. Jesus' death has unlimited value. If he were only a Man, THIS would not be true! The lives of all the unblemished animals sacrificed under the Old Covenant could not pay for human sins. The life of even a perfect man, if he were ONLY a man, could not cover the infinite penalty owed. But Jesus is the Man Who is also God! Therefore, our redemption transaction comes to closure with the full payment of an infinite price against an infinite debt.
Thus Christ IS the redemption of those united to Him. The Christian is united to Him in His life, death and resurrection. But the blessings don't stop flowing there. This river of life flows forever! No study on all the glories of this redemption would be complete without testifying to the splendor to come...
When I was a boy, I read "Superman" comic books. Superman was possessed of qualities and abilities beyond those of ordinary men. Through those comics I learned the word "invulnerable" - the fictional hero had a body that could not be hurt by bullets, fire, or any number of fiendish inventions of super-criminals. He could fly, he had incredible strength, he had x-ray vision and an assortment of other powers. As a boy, how I wished to be like that! Now I've learned that my childish dreams are nothing compared to what God has planned.
Later in this first letter to the Corinthians, Paul will make this comparison regarding what is now and what is ahead for the believer in the mighty God/Man, the Savior of the world! What is now and what is to come are like childhood and adulthood. John writes that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him. At that time, redemption will be completed, and a dramatic change will come even to our bodies. Paul says that the Lord will change our vile bodies, to make them like His glorious body, according to the power He has to subject all things to Himself. In Ephesians, we read that the Holy Spirit of promise is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. In the future state, the bodies of the redeemed, now perishable, will be made imperishable. Whereas now they are dishonorable, then they will be glorious. Whereas now they are weak and grow weaker, then they will be endlessly powerful. Whereas now they are natural, earthly bodies, they will be raised as heavenly, spiritual bodies.
Even this time of living in faith and hope with a pledge of our future inheritance is so full and rich. Even now we have forgiveness of sin's guilt, deliverance from its power, and the spirit of adoption as sons and daughters of God. We have inexpressible joy in the One we love without having seen, indeed the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We often have precious fellowship with God and His people, and hearts made wise and thankful to see that every day the blessings of our faithful Father in Heaven are innumerable. If this is what we have as a pledge, can you imagine, fellow believer, what the fullness of our redemption will be?
Have you ever paid off a loan, and received a document indicating that your debt is paid in full? What a sense of relief! So it is in this matter of redemption. The one who is redeemed receives as it were a promissory note signed in the very blood of Jesus. It reads, "Infinite debt: PAID IN FULL!!! Eternal life, love, and joy is now yours!"
Go to Session Five - Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31
Go to 2 Timothy 2:15 Dept.
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