God's Reconciling Love
TODAY people in most lands lead a difficult life. Need, discouragement and uncertainty abound. Will you consider now the cause of present realities, the scope of human problems, and what God has done as well as what he has promised to do regarding their remedy?
The great creator God has required sacrifice of life to enable propitiation for sins. He illustrated this by making coats of skins, requiring the death of animals, for the first human pair shortly after he pronounced sentence upon Adam and Eve.
That gracious provision confirms the fact that the sinner is unable himself to provide a sacrificial victim. As God provided the coats of skins for a covering, so he did in due time provide the necessary better sacrifice, his own beloved son, faith into which has enabled forgiveness of sins to each believer.--Gen. 3:21, Gal. 4:4,5
Many people among mankind have forgotten that they cannot themselves provide atonement. They have made their own gods, some of which have vindictive qualities. But the true God does not take revenge, though his enduring justice is inflexible. And he continues so while at the same time exercising love and mercy. The gift of His only begotten son, who became the man Christ Jesus, born of a woman, to die for us, witnesses the great love of God.--John 3:16
The Sin and its Penalty
Adam and Eve were placed in the land which God had prepared for them. It was a garden called Eden, and this pair was "very good," perfect of their kind. They were created "a little lower than the angels." But they were without experience or established characters, and a test in obedience and loyalty to their creator was appropriate. If true to him, their relationship with God and with each other could continue forever. The simple obedience test involved the fruit of a certain tree, of which they must not eat. The penalty for disobedience was clearly stated in advance. If they disobeyed God, they would die. No type of conscious torture beyond death was suggested. They would cease to live, and be as if they had not been. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Everything of them that lived would die. And they did sin by disobedience. Their sin was a violation of God's command. Death came by sin.--Gen. 2:17, Ezek. 18:4, Rom. 5:12
Adam had been told that "in the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die." This meant that the dying process leading to death would at once begin, and it did. The words threatening the penalty said nothing about eternal torment. And nothing was said of torment when the sentence was pronounced. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." This language is precise. None need mistake its meaning.--Gen. 2:17, 3:19
The language describing the execution of the sentence upon man is also clear. "Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." The penalty was the taking away of all power to live. The penalty was not a perpetuation of existence in misery.--Gen. 3:22,23
Through the procreative powers with which Adam and Eve were endowed, a race of mankind has come forth. Each member has inherited the death penalty which was upon our parents. All have died because they received a life quality that was not everlasting. They could not escape death because they were unable to refrain from sin. "The wages of sin is death." Even those die who do not bring death upon themselves--infants for example. By "one man sin entered, and death by sin." All are born dying, not living, and that which we call life is imperfect growth and a process of decay.
It cannot be said that God was unreasonable in not giving each of us an experience exactly like that of our first parents. After careful thought, each of us would conclude that under similar circumstances we would have done just as did that first human pair living in the prepared home. And when the arrangements which God has made for forgiveness of sins are understood, it will be evident that God took a course both reasonable and advantageous for the whole human race.
All Guilty Before God
God does not change his principles of government. The same loyalty to righteousness is still required of all who would escape death. But because "there is none righteous, no, not one," all continue to die. The Creator's fixity of rule guarantees the unchangeableness of his designs. Even before human disobedience, the Creator knew that man would break God's law by the exercise of his moral liberty of free will. This foreknowledge led to the development of a plan of rescue which the God of love could effect without violating his own just law of condemnation. Love would express itself by providing the sacrifice, a corresponding price which alone could satisfy the righteous claims of divine justice.
The corresponding price required to redeem the perfect man Adam from death would be the offering of a perfect man's life. Nothing more could be required, and nothing less would be satisfactory. But where would be found the corresponding price? Since all were condemned, "none of them could by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." (Psa. 49:7) In this connection, recall how God justly condemned the whole race on account of one man's sin. The first man's posterity, which was in his loins at the time of the transgression, has shared in the sin and its penalty. If a man of perfect righteousness could be found, willing to give up his life as a sacrifice, justice could accept that as full satisfaction for all. This man would also be giving up life with a possible bride and race which might have been developed from him, as from the first man. And where was such a man? Surely no member of Adam's race could meet the requirements. And what assurance was there that another newly-created, inexperienced man such as Adam, would have not also followed his way of sin?
Surely the son of God, through whom all things were created, shared his Father's intense love for and interest in the race of Adam. (John 1:3) He was not a man, but could he not by humbly leaving his glory with the Father and his spirit nature in that realm, become the man required? Assuredly! And his close association with the father had cemented trust and willingness to carry forward this important element of man's redemption.
Divine power could accomplish his wonderful change of nature, from heavenly to earthly conditions. And it did come to pass. He who was in a form like God's form, "counted not the being on an equality with God...a thing to be grasped,...emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." (Phil. 2:6,7 ASR) He was born of a virgin, who had received seed through the holy spirit. As he grew, the inquiring Jesus learned of his special relationship to the human family. He was a perfect human son of God. By baptism at the age of thirty, he presented himself for sacrifice, saying in his heart: "a body didst thou prepare for me." No longer would the blood of bulls and goats foreshadow the sacrifice for sins. He was on earth to give his flesh for the life of the world.--Heb. 10:5,10 ASR, John 6:51-58, Psa. 40:6-8
The glory and perfection of the first man is described in Heb. 2:7,8. "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet." But the entrance of sin made a great change in man's condition. In view of this, the Apostle continued. "But now we see not yet all things put under him [under man in the earth]. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour [as a perfect man]; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."--Heb. 2:8,9
How clearly is the ransom here defined. Adam, crowned with the glory of perfect humanity, a little lower than the angels, and with the honor of being ruler over the works of God's hands, loses all by reason of sin, and his posterity shares the loss. As a first step toward redemption, the heavenly son of God divests himself of his celestial glory, and takes instead the glory and honor of perfect humanity. He is the one who had participated in the creation of angels and men. He is made "a little lower than the angels." He takes this lower position for a very particular and special purpose. That purpose is so definitely expressed that there is no room to question it. "Jesus,...made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,...that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
The teaching in Hebrews 2 answers several questions. It shows that our blessed redeemer was actually a man when on earth. He had to be such, in order to provide a satisfactory price for redemption. He was not "the God-man." Such an expression is both foreign and contrary to Bible testimony. Jesus is described as "the son of God," not as "God the son." Before he came to earth he was a god, and since his return to heaven he is a god; but it was as "the man Christ Jesus" that he "gave himself a ransom [corresponding price] for all."
The Bible's ransom teaching confirms that the temptations of Jesus were real, vital experiences to our master; that his prayers to God were not formalities; that he really gave up his entire human life and its potential for Adam and his race, trusting the father to raise him from death. His death supplied a price to correspond with every requirement of God's justice. "To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" when they individually hear and believe.--Romans 14:9, 1 John 2:2
The gift of his son to be our ransom is a testimony of God's love for our race. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "In due time Christ died for the ungodly." And God ordained 'times' in which should be explained forth the sacrifice our master made, why it was essential, and what it makes possible. Some have already heard in past and present 'times'. In future 'times' promised by the Apostle, a full knowledge of this shall reach "all men," all others, even those who have died.--1 John 4:9,10, Romans 14:9
A clear understanding of the gift of God and of what the ransom consists, confirms that the penalty of sin is the taking away of all life in death. Jesus met this penalty by his death and offering for sin. If the penalty for sin were eternal torment, it could never have been met because it would have required Jesus to suffer torment eternally. But Jesus "bare our sins in his own body to the tree [cross]." The matter is clear. If eternal torment be the penalty for our sins, and Jesus is not suffering it, then we are not redeemed.-- Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 2:24
But we are redeemed! We are "bought with a price," even "the precious blood of Christ." The evidence that his sacrifice was satisfactory is that he was raised from the dead by the power of the Father. Jesus is now "far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."--Eph. 1:19-21, Acts 2:24, Phil. 2:8-10, 1 Pet. 1:4
The teaching regarding his great reward is repeated in Scripture. Our risen Christ is called the "last Adam." "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." (1 Cor. 15:45) Having died on the cross, our Savior was raised by the father's mighty power, and is now a life-giving spirit. "Put to death in flesh, made alive in spirit," is the literal expression of 1 Pet. 3:18. It is the risen Lord, not Christ Jesus as a man, who is referred to as the "last Adam." To receive life through Christ, it is necessary to be united to him, just as Adam's race received death on account of being united to him when he sinned. But while Adam's race sprang from him, Christ's race consists of those who come into him. The union with Christ is of allegiance through faith and obedience.
All who fulfill the required conditions of faith and obedience are transferred, so to speak, from the first Adam and his death to "the last Adam" and his life. He that believeth "is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24) Those who refuse this gracious offer after proper enlightenment still have death abiding in them. So it is written: "In Christ shall all be made alive," and, "Whosoever believeth into him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."--1 Cor. 15:22, John 3:16,36, 1 John 5:11,12
Glorious Results Assured
It was promised of our risen Lord that "he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." It cannot be supposed that our Lord would be 'satisfied' with small results from the sacrifice of his life. Nor would God have arranged his plan requiring a ransom, with enlightenment and other blessings to follow, unless he had foreseen results which would justify the cost of the gift of his own beloved son. The permanent results of the ransom will be in every way worthy of the father who devised the redemptive plan, and satisfactory to the son who executed it and brings it to its glorious consummation.--Isa. 53:8,11, John 3:16
Important promises provide a view of the benefits to come from Christ's ransom sacrifice. "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." "The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them." "The hour is coming when all who are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." "They that hear shall live." God "hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked."--Acts 24:15, Rev. 20:13, John 5:25-29, 1 Cor. 15:22, Acts 17:31,32
God is and always has been most mindful of his human creation. Most people of earth do not realize that God sent his Son to redeem mankind. But those who believe it, rejoice in telling forth this message of God's love. All full believers are owned as a certain "firstfruit to God and to the Lamb." (Rev. 14:4, James 1:18) They are such because they respond to God's invitation to assist in ministering the reconciliation made possible by the sacrificial death of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17-21) The believing church must endure affliction and death in their process of preparation for future life and service in glory. (2 Tim. 2:11,12) "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne." (Rev. 3:21) The authority of Christ and his church glorified with him in heaven will bring in universal righteousness and remove forever all evil and its effects.--1 Cor. 15:24
If you now love righteousness and hate iniquity, let your life each day declare it. Study God's word. Believe its promise that God will make an end of sin. Rejoice that tears and sorrow will cease; that death will be destroyed; that the dead shall live again. God is not unrighteous that any labor of love be not rewarded in his eternal kingdom.
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