LIVING IN GRACE: IV
The ultimate purpose of grace is to heal, to reconcile, and to restore God’s image and likeness in man, so that man can live in grace. Grace provides the basis for repairing and restoring relationships on earth. People, on earth, must mend their ways and reconnect with each other before they face a judge in this life, which also determines the life in the hereafter. Jesus linked “grace” with mercy and with forgiveness. Grace is not without serious compromises and sacrifices. Grace demands restitution and remunerations for damages and transgressions. It is an endless repetitious healing process for man. Man commits — transgresses endlessly; and therefore, man requires endless forgiveness and endless healing. Grace is a lifelong process! We must and we can resolve the transgressions against us by releasing ourselves, by canceling their obligations to us, and by reaching satisfactory settlements. In doing so, we secure our own freedom and our own redemption. Our redemption cannot take place until we set free those who have transgressed against us; for, as long as we find fault or assign guilt to others, we are bound to guilt ourselves; and therefore, we remain unsaved. Jesus said this and He has the final word on our redemption, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Forgiveness is the “end-result of grace,” which is the heart of redemption. Redemption is an act of mercy by which a guilty person is released from paying his or her debt. Here are three concepts merged into one, and all three serve the same purpose. Forgiveness, in Biblical Hebrew, had to do with letting the guilty go without demanding retribution or a ransom. That was not satisfactory, so they came up with the idea to cover up (kaphar) the guilty with a blood sacrifice to placate the anger of God or gods. This type of sacrifice Moses used in the Exodus to verify “the Covenant” between Yahweh and Israel. Jesus made a similar arrangement for a new Covenant with his disciples and with all other believers, and through Paul:
Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:3-8).
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29).
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he come.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
In addition to the Covenant, man needed a special day when he had to set things right with the Creator. The blood sacrifice, which is linked with life, was preferred to grain. It began with Cain and Abel.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and hi offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; it desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:3-7).
By the time of the Exodus, the Hebrews were assigned a special day called “The Day of Atonement.” The word “atonement” is not available in the Hebrew language; and in its place, they used the idea of “forgiveness.” Forgiveness was an act of grace, which allowed man to transfer their sins onto an animal and then send the animal off into the desert. At the same time, the blood covered (caphar) man’s sins before God for another year. This endless and costly repetition was actually a “Day of Forgiveness.” And that is the law Christ aborted. This was what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “For Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified” (Romans 10:4). Paul continued:
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (I Timothy 3:14-16).
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe (I Timothy 4:1-10).
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love in faith, in purity. Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (I Timothy 4:11-16).
THE PROBLEM WITH SUBSTITUTIONS
Substitutes like animals and grain did not satisfy the avenger who lost a human life. Cain’s crime was not dealt with until Noah. Jesus, Himself, did not abort the idea of a life for a life. To please the gods, man began to shed human blood. In Moses’ day, the blood of a lamb could placate the wrath of Yahweh.
For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on earth and multiply in it (Genesis 9:5-7).
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Hail Master!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:47-52).
The Lord said to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat in haste. It is the LORD’S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13).
ISAIAH BEGAN TO HINT AT A HUMAN ATONEMENT
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground, he had not form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and were esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten b God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:1-12).
PAUL ARGUED FOR A SUBSTITUTIONAL ATONEMENT
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).
While we were helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
CHRIST IS THE COMPLETE AND FINAL ATONEMENT
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Hence even the first covenant was not ratified without blood. For when every commandment of the law has been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:11-28).
THE APOSTLE PETER ON RANSOM LIVING
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence, and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saved you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer b human passions but by the will of God. Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like me, thy might live in the spirit like God (I Peter 3:13-4:6).