The Scheme of Redemption in Perfection and Presentation
by Bryan Vinson
via The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 12, October, 1952.
In the survey thus far of the development of God's purposed and planned redemption of man from sin, we have reached the point wherein the promised Messiah has come in fulfillment of Divine prophecy. While here on earth, prior to His death, He very busily engaged in going about doing good, relieving the suffering, curing the afflicted and preaching the gospel to the poor. His was a proclamation of the truth, anticipatory to its confirmation and establishment by means of the cross and the tomb. The former was designed to validate and the latter to empower; the first effected by the ratifying merits of the blood thereon shed, and the second wrought by the emergence of the Christ from the embrace of death. On the death and resurrection of Christ were suspended all the designs of God as they were related to man; a failure at these points in the divine purpose would render void every promise of salvation tendered to man through the centuries by God.
The events identified with the cross and the tomb constitute the source from which is derived the holiest aspirations for deliverance by those of the past, and the imperishable assurances enjoyed by those of the present.
Perfected By Obedience
To those who are disposed to minimize the necessity of obedience there is to be learned a most valuable lesson from the emphasis that was given to it by Jesus. If the intention and purpose is to be reckoned for righteousness apart and without obedience, and as a substitution therefore, then the death of Jesus was unnecessary. When people, therefore, reason wishfully that God is looking at the motive disregards the motion (or lack of it), in their anxiety to believe the disobedient are saved, they reflect discreditably on the Son of God. No one ever was possessed of motives so high, holy and nobly altruistic as the Savior. He came to save His people from their sins; to this end His every deed and lesson was directed. No hypocrisy, no pretension can be assigned to Him -- He was the Personification of truth and His every act and utterance was characterized by the purest sincerity. Too, He had the power to evade and withstand the violence of the mob by calling for angelic protection, and thus escape the "obedience unto death." However, by thus doing the Scriptures would not have been fulfilled, and they "must need be fulfilled" He said. Such is expressive of absolute necessity, and without it the purpose of God respecting salvation could not be realized. If, then, obedience was absolutely necessary on His part, how can we reason that it is less on our part?
The writer of the Hebrew letter in Hebrews 2:10 and Hebrews 5:8,9 tells us that Christ was made perfect or perfected by obedience entailing the suffering of death -- the death of the cross. These statements do not suggest a deficiency or imperfection in the moral and personal character of the Savior; this could not be true in view of the fact "He did not sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." It can only mean that there was before Him the necessity of learning obedience by the things He suffered so that He thereby might be made perfect or complete as respected His mission as the Savior. To have stopped in the execution of this mission short of the suffering here mentioned would have rendered inadequate, and, therefore incomplete, His character as a Savior. Let us consider some of the aspects of the question here posed. By His life of sinlessness He demonstrated His powers of resistance to sin, and His consequent freedom from, and superiority over, it. But in this there is not afforded an escape from sin, for those who are in bondage thereto. To have delivered us from sin's bondage with no guidance to protect us from a recurring enthrallment would have been unsatisfactory; and to have taught us by His life the way to resist and withstand sin, yet leaving us within its power and under its condemnation would have been equally unavailing in meeting the needs of salvation. Hence, from this viewpoint may be seen the incompleteness or imperfection of Jesus as the Savior short of His obedience unto death.
Too, in the divine conception of justice there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood; and as a part of this appraisal is the avowal that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. From which there follows the inevitable conclusion that blood of a higher and more worthy kind must be offered. In order that these demands be met there had to be one who need not offer for Himself while atoning for others, as such would impair the vicarious character of the offering. Impairment would involve imperfection, and as Jesus attained perfection in dying we recognize this attainment required as conditional thereto a total substitution in the sacrifice made by Him. If He had in part made this offering for Himself, as the priests of the former dispensation, then there would have been only a partial offering of Himself for others. Completeness was essential to competency in this decisive issue, and He matured the competency of His atonement in the perfecting of His obedience.
Furthermore, it pleased God to prepare a body which, when offered, would satisfy Him as the aggrieved and offended party in the matter. When Jesus poured out His soul then -- and not before -- was God satisfied, and this satisfaction was experienced as the result of the completed obedience wrought by Jesus. The term obedience implies the existence of will, which will is expressed in law embodying commands to be obeyed. It was, and is, the Will of God that men be saved; and that this be realized there must be subordinate and essential thereto everything divine wisdom has decreed as conditional and contributory to this consummation. In this infinitely wise plan the death of Jesus assumes a fundamental position without which the entire collapse of the plan would result. In the pleasure ascribed to God in the suffering of the cross there is no element of sadism existing. It is a pleasure arising from the contemplation that the justification of the sinner might be wrought through faith in the virtue and merit of the blood shed to effect it. As a further occasion for exacting this perfection through suffering is that of Jesus learning obedience by this suffering. In that He hath suffered He is able to succor those who are tempted by reason of the trials and tribulations so acutely experienced by Himself.
With such manifestations of divine wisdom as is afforded us by the events of Calvary and their relation to the purpose of God regarding our redemption, the intensity of heaven's interest may be appreciatively realized. With all the nobility attaching to the motive of Jesus, the sacrifices made to and the beneficial influence exercised by His life, they afford no substitute for the obedience to be performed by Him in dying for us. Truly to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams, but sacrifice reached the ultimate of significance in the supreme act of obedience enacted on the cross. Heaven's scheme for human redemption has been finished; it has been evolved through the centuries and attained its completion when Jesus gave up His spirit, when the earth was shaken, when the sun refused to shed its light on the scene and darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour prevailed. There remains now only the necessity of inaugurating the reign of the Christ and to this end He raised from the tomb, ascended to His Father's right hand where there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him.
The three days and nights between the entombment and resurrection of Jesus was the most crucial period in time. The supreme sacrifice had been made in HIs death, but the offering was contingent on His triumph over the tomb the sting of death, sin, is the victor and Christ's voluntary sacrifice of Himself for our sins is in vain. The interests of humanity for time and eternity are linked with the benevolent concern of heaven in the conflict raging in Hades. Hence, the climax of apostolic preaching was the proposition, asserted and established, of the resurrection of Christ.
Following His resurrection and subsequent ascension forty days later, the apostles, in keeping with His instructions tarried in Jerusalem awaiting the promise of the Father. When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they, the apostles, were all in one place and with one accord. They were charged with the grave and momentous responsibility of preaching the gospel, that was given to them by the Holy Spirit, to every creature under heaven. The power to do such, was not of themselves, but was by power from on high, as promised to them by Jesus Himself. The work was far too important, the investment of heaven far too great, for all to be hazarded by the efforts of unaided, unguided and fallible men.
Notwithstanding, all that God and Christ had done, the accomplishment of their purpose, could be rendered abortive by the errors of those in whose hands it had been entrusted. Human intelligence is limited, and human memory is defective; hence they needed to be guided into all truth, and their memories needed to be refreshed as to that which they had previously learned from the Savior Himself, while they accompanied with Him here. To this end the promised Spirit was to come, and for His coming they were patiently and unitedly waiting. Though few in number, eleven at this time, they were of one accord, and were being led by the Spirit of God to choose one to take the place of Judas Iscariot. In doing so, they chose Matthias.
Where unity prevails, there is greater strength than in great numbers where unity is absent. The Spirit of Christ is not out of place when present with these chosen ones who are united together in the great work before them and the hope which fills them. They were to advocate the claims of Him who prayed that all might be one through their words -- words the Holy Spirit would guide them in uttering at this time.
Thus in such an unpretentious and simple setting as here
pictured the Holy Spirit appeared and filled the apostles, the
apostles only, with His Spirit. And through them He manifested
Himself in an unprecedented manner by the phenomena of this
notable day. After disabusing the minds of those who attributed
the behavior of the influence of wine, in ascribing the influence
to the Spirit as a fulfillment of the Scriptures, they preached
Christ and Him crucified to the astounded audience. This sermon sounded the keynote of the kingdom of Christ in its appeal to men for all succeeding generations. From the premises of this sermon we are not ever to depart, but pattern our approach and appeal to the world on the principles then enunciated. On this, and subsequent occasions, the recovery of man from the thralldom of sin is the great objective sought.
Sometimes we hear that criticism has no legitimate place in preaching; that people are driven away by such, and are only attracted by constructive, even complimentary, preaching. While true, that Christ did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it; yet, unless, and until, there is the recognition of one's guilt and consequent condemnation there can be no effective appeal to be saved. Quite reasonably, therefore, we can see why the apostolic preaching gave great emphasis to convincing people of their guilt before God. To appeal to anyone to flee from the wrath to come without such an one recognizing he is in danger of this wrath would not be calculated to move him. There is the need of a realistic approach to our condition in order that any correction and relief might be accomplished. Hence, the apostles set forth the true and tragic estate of their audiences with reference to their relation to sin and estrangement from God. Accusation, pointed and pungent, occupied a prominent place in the discourses delivered under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The impending judgment was presented as an incentive to repent of their sins. In the presentation of the gospel, the glad tidings of Divine Mercy to a people unable to deliver themselves was emphasized and magnified. Not by works of righteousness (our own) are we saved but according to His mercy hath He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. The mercy of God is the exercise of His love, which attained supreme expression in the gift of His Son. In describing to the Ephesians the deeply depraved and helpless condition of humankind the apostle follows with the heart-thrilling assurances afforded us in Christ -- "But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Another prominent and distinguished feature of apostolic preaching was the gracious, though dimly perceived by them, provision that all people should be the beneficiaries of this mercy of God so richly displayed and bestowed. Even those who in time past "were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy" (I Peter 2:10), were embraced therein. Peter, on Pentecost, concluded his moving exhortation with the assurance the promise was to those then present, their children and to all those afar off, even as many as the Lord their God should call. Infinite love prompting its exercise, because of their limitless character had to be tendered to all; hence, whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Universal though the mercy and love of God are, as tendered by man, the enjoyment of the blessings identified therewith was subject to man's appropriation of them. Salvation is limited to those who call upon the name of Christ, which certainly involves a recognition of and submission to His authority.
Not only, therefore, is His mercy to be gratefully received, but His power and authority acknowledged. That there may be a well-founded basis for this recognition the power of the Lord is demonstrably established through the emphatic and repeated avowal of the fact of His resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in heaven above. He was given a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory if the Father. In this exaltation of Christ He was raised from the dead and elevated far above all principality, power, might, and dominion to thus occupy that position entitling Him to this name superior to all others, God alone excepted. To accomplish this there was wrought by God the exceeding greatness of His power.
In the presentation of the Father's invitation to "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" the love, mercy, justice and power of the Almighty were eminently displayed in the person of His Son. These attributes and aims of God were concretely expressed in the life, death, resurrection ascension and coronation of the Messiah -- they constitute the wisdom and knowledge of God as related to the present and future state of man.
Christ was preached; His name and the things concerning His kingdom were made known to men in order that they might submit to the One and enter into the other. These great themes are the need of our time; they need to be presented in all the warmth and fervor with characterized their initial presentation. Sinners need to be called to repentance, those within and without the fold of Christ. The magnitude of sin needs to be appraised along with and by means of, an appreciation of the exceeding greatness of God's grace and mercy. Entirely too fragmentary, I fear, is our conception of the gospel of God's grace, as is evidenced by the impatience of some people to hear anything but short, spicy sermonettes interspersed with witticisms, and platitudes pleasing to the ears of men.
The results of apostolic preaching were not always characterized by a full response to their entreaties, but they didn't leave people unaffected by what they said very often. There were those who, while not obedient to it, were made to tremble as they listened to the apostle reasoning on righteousness, temperance and judgment to come. In the next article attention shall be directed to the reaction of various ones to that which was enjoined upon them to do as conditional to receiving and enjoying the salvation of the Lord, the Savior of all mankind.