C. God’s Self-revelation Through His Plan of Redemption
Among the many trees in the garden was the tree of life. Had man remained perfectly obedient (which meant keeping one commandment) he would, sooner or later, have eaten from that tree which would have given him everlasting life. But man disobeyed God and was therefore justly penalized. Man died spiritually instantaneously at the moment he disobeyed God. At the same time, his physical self-destruct was placed in irreversible motion.
In reference to man in general, Isaiah 64:6a says, All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Jeremiah 17:9 asks this rhetorical question: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jesus said in John 6:63, The flesh counts for nothing. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The total depravity of fallen man is clear and therefore so is his total dependence on God for salvation. The fall of man, however, is not the end of his story. It is true that for the non-believer, the offspring of the serpent, God’s judgment is final as recorded in Genesis 3:15. The carrying out of the sentence may be delayed in time, but non-believers stand condemned already.
The fall of man is merely the beginning of the redemption story. Actually, the first redemptive message was proclaimed right after the fall when God said to the serpent, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
The fall of man ushers in the story of the redeemed man and the story of the offspring of the woman – those who found favor in the eyes of God. People like Abel whom God looked upon with acceptance. People like Noah and his family who walked with God and who were delivered from the destruction of the great flood. People like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph who believed in God’s promises. And people like Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and others who looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s salvation.
God’s plan of redemption includes many expressions of His covenant with man.
Redemption includes deliverance. In Noah’s case, the idea was deliverance from suffering connected with widespread wickedness of fallen man who had filled the earth with violence.
Redemption is also preservation. God established His covenant with Noah and his descendants and with every living creature that He will not destroy His creation on account of the sinfulness of man but preserve it in spite of him (Genesis 9:8-11). This is sometimes referred to as the Noahic Covenant.
In the case of Abraham, the idea of redemption was deliverance from idolatry. Joshua 24 tells us that the forefathers of the Israelites, including Terah, the father of Abraham, and Nahor lived beyond the River and worshipped other gods. But God took Abraham from that land and brought him to Canaan where God said to Abraham, I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you (Genesis 17:7).
Redemption also involves separation and the promise of blessing. In instructing Abraham to leave his country and his father’s household and go to the land God will show him, God said, I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. And God sealed His covenant with Abraham with the rite of circumcision. This is oftentimes referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant or the Covenant of Promise.
In the case of Moses, redemption was deliverance from misery and slavery to the Egyptians. In Exodus 6:6-7a God said to the Israelites, I am the Lord and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them and will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.
Moses led Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. It proved to be not an easy task. The Israelites were rebellious. God referred to them as a stiff-necked people. During the wilderness journey, God established a covenant with them which included the principles that were to govern the relationships between the parties. It included the blessings, the curses and the promise given by the people as they accept the terms of the covenant. Each generation was required to renew the covenant (Exodus 24, Deuteronomy 29, Joshua 24). This is oftentimes referred to as the Mosaic Covenant or, sometimes, the Covenant of the Law. The requirements contained in this covenant demonstrate how impossible it is to keep God’s laws perfectly, thus the need for repentance and sacrifice come into focus.
In David’s case, redemption had to do with the restoration of the rulership of Man. Psalm 89:2-4 records what God said concerning this, I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations. This is oftentimes referred to as the Davidic Covenant. Jesus Christ, the son of David, fulfilled this promise. In Matthew 28:18 He said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
In Jeremiah 31:31-33, God made this declaration to Israel: The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. This is sometimes referred to as the Messianic Covenant.
In the New Testament, redemption focuses on the legal idea of forgiveness of debt or payment of a ransom. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said that He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. During His last supper with His disciples, Jesus said in reference to the wine they were about to drink: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). This judicial concept to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ was prophesied in Psalm 49:7-9, No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough– that he should live on forever and not see decay.
The ransom required was a perfect sinless life; a life not subject to corruption or death. Fortunately for us, the redemption of God’s people is part of the covenant of God with them. Hosea 13:14 speaks of that promise, I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?
Redemption is about the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin and from all the miseries connected with it. It is also about the one who gave up His life to ensure the salvation of His people. 1 Timothy 2:5 sums it up so well: For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all men. At Calvary, Jesus crushed the head of the serpent. There at the cross, He paid the indebtedness of His people in full. There, He bought back God’s covenant people from the slave market of sin and death.
Through His work of redemption, God revealed His long-suffering, mercy, grace, goodness, kindness, graciousness, faithfulness, gentleness, and most of all His intimate love for His people.