The World's Redemption

Chapter 23 - Redemption--How Obtained

The investigation of the Scriptures upon the various subjects we have considered must not be regarded as merely interesting study. These subjects are revealed to us as the constitution of God's plan of redemption, so that all who desire to share in that plan may comply with the requirements, and that they may do so intelligently, and thus bring their minds into unison with God's mind in the great work they are privileged to participate in with a view of sharing its proffered blessings. A state of ignorance upon the fundamental doctrines of the plan of redemption is a state of alienation from God. It is only by becoming at one with him in mind that we can really be in the atonement He has graciously provided in Christ.

This is a most reasonable requirement; for how would multitudes of ignorant creatures preserved eternally be any honor to God? In the common affairs of life we are expected to inform ourselves, so that whatever we embark in we may do so intelligently, earnestly endeavoring to know and do the right and avoiding the wrong. Our actions are governed by our belief. If our belief is wrong, our actions will be wrong. If one believes it will be profitable to spend money in or bestow labor upon a certain enterprise, he will act accordingly; and if his belief is without evidence, or based upon false evidence, his actions will likewise be false and end in failure and disappointment. Had not God required intelligence in those He purposed to receive as His children, there would have been no need for the wonderful revelation He has given us; and this revelation is evidence that God requires His people to be instructed, corrected, reproved and exhorted, all as the means of enabling them to walk in the way of righteousness which alone leads to the great redemption. It is therefore folly for people to cry out that in religious matters they have a right to their own opinion. As between man and man they have; but the absurdity of such a claim in relation to God will be manifest when we ask, How could man ever form an opinion that would be worth a moment's consideration, concerning a future life, without a revelation from God? The rule laid down is, "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"--Isa. 8: 20. Many deceive themselves with the plausible idea that it does not matter what our creed is if we are morally good; but the question is, What is moral goodness? Can one be morally good in the sight of God who does not believe God? God has spoken, and the first thing to do in order to be morally good is to hear, understand and believe what He has spoken; then let actions follow consistently with the proper belief, and God will be well pleased.

To his apostles Jesus said, "Go teach all nations." There were doctrines to be taught, and salvation was predicated upon a belief of the doctrines taught and obedience to the commandments, inculcated. In the case of Cornelius, we have a devout, praying, alms-giving man. Yet he was told to send for Peter who would tell him words whereby he should be saved. Evidently it was after he believed the "words" and was baptized that his good qualities would be divinely recognized as part of the means of salvation, in the sense of adding lustre to the crown which induction into Christ by belief of the foundation doctrines and baptism entitled him to.

On the other hand, there are some who deny that any act is necessary to salvation, and they glibly cry out, "Only believe! only believe!" by which they mean a "belief" which comes instantaneously in the form of a peculiar feeling which comes over them when under the excitement and hypnotic influence of a shouting revival meeting. In attempting to support this delusion by scripture, they quote the words, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." But to repeat words without discerning their meaning will do us no more good than the prattle of a parrot. The question is, What is it to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Study the meaning of "Jesus" and "Christ," and they will open up to the view the entire plan of salvation. So that to believe in what the apostle said to the Philippian jailer is to believe the gospel. This is made quite evident by the record of Philip's going down to Samaria to preach Christ--Acts 8: 5. What was it for him to "preach Christ?" The answer is found in verse 12--"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." In the word Christ were involved the things of the kingdom of God, the things of the name of Christ, which would be "Jesus Christ and him crucified;" and baptism as a means of adoption into the one body--all this was brought out in elaborating the word Christ or king or anointed one.

Let it be observed, too, that it is important that the belief be in the things, not things concerning a kingdom which is not the kingdom of God; not a belief in a Christ which is not the true Christ of God. It is "the truth that shall make you free, then shall ye be free indeed." A kingdom in the sky, or in the heart, or in the church is not the kingdom of God preached, promised, and of which God's people are now heirs. And so we may say of every branch of the truth, error will not serve the purpose of truth, however earnestly it may be believed. It must be the true God, the true Spirit, the true Christ, the true kingdom, the true resurrection, the true immortality, the true baptism--a combination of truths making the Truth, the one faith, the one gospel, which alone will save, and which will save only the believer. Hence the words of our Lord, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned"--Mark 16: 16. And Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth"--Rom. 1: 16. And further, "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed"--Gal. 1: 8. Let no one complain that God is too strict. In offering mankind the great and unspeakable blessings of the Gospel He has the right to offer them upon His own terms. But it is not even a matter of God's right only; but what God requires is for man's best good.

Now in order to realize the great importance of salvation we must understand our real state--what we need salvation from and to. This has already been shown in a broad sense in dealing with man's mortality and promised immortality; but it will be well now to consider the matter of man's relationship to God in a specific sense. The first question is, When did salvation become a necessity and from what cause? This will take us back again to Eden, where we shall first find the parents of the race in sweet communion with God and blessed with the glories of paradise; no sin, sickness, pain, sorrow nor death. It was possible for them to ascend from that "very good" state to a better one, and a best one, but that could not have been termed salvation, redemption, nor restitution. Before these terms could become applicable man must become a lost creature, cast out of paradise, a subject of sorrow, pain and death. Then he would need salvation. When did man fall into this state? As soon as our first parents sinned and were cast out of paradise, then they were in the lost state; then they needed salvation. Here we are at the head of the stream, right at the cause of the trouble. A curse was pronounced, which the apostle says, "passed upon all men." So we may say that, since Adam was the federal head of the race, when he fell, all fell; when he became an outcast from Eden, all became outcasts; when he became alienated from God, all the race became alienated; for what is the race but a multiplication of Adam and Eve--not in the "very good" state of creation, but in the lost state? The sin which caused this fall of the race has woefully "abounded" during nearly six thousand years, and the whole world lieth in wickedness before God. Our inherited condition as well as our own personal sinfulness is therefore described by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 2: 1--"* * * dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as others." Then in verses 11, 12 he adds, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Here is a full and explicit description of man's lost state, and this is the state of all in Adam because in him they inherit this state as the consequence of his fall.

This alienated state is declared to be the lot of all who are "without Christ"; and this brings to mind the two relations man is found in, expressed by the words, "in Adam" and "in Christ." The former represents the dominion or constitution of sin and death: the latter the dominion or constitution of righteousness and life. So long as we remain in the former relation, all we can hope for is what sin's dominion can give us; and that is a sorrowful life of alienation from God ending in death and an irrevocable grave. But if we change our relationship we thereby "pass from [the constitution of] death to [the constitution of] life." "putting off the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new man to walk in newness of life."

The "covenants of promise" are the covenants God has made with men since the fall in Eden, first in the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head: second, the covenant with Abraham, and third, the covenant with David. These all embodied the gospel. To be a stranger to these is to be "without hope and without God in the world." God will not become reconciled to man in Adam. He was "in Christ" reconciling the world unto himself; "and it is in Christ only we can be in at-one-ment with God. Therefore the Apostle Paul says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement"--Rom. 5: 8,11. In Christ then is the atonement, and only in the relationship expressed by the phrase "in Christ" will God accept of us as his children. Natural birth confers no title to future life, hence the words of Jesus. "Ye must be born again." This new birth, which may be said to be an introduction unto a new mental and moral state first, and finally into a new nature--immortality--constitutes us "new creatures," or members of the "new creation" of which Jesus is the beginning. Therefore the apostle says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things [pertaining to the Adamic lost state] have passed away; behold, all things have become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation"--II Cor. 5: 17, 18. The phrase "new creature" suggests two creations--the old and the new. Had not the old been blighted by sin, re-creation, reconciliation, redemption, restitution, restoration would have been meaningless words in Scripture vocabulary. But since man was started upon his career in a state of conciliation with God, and then fell from that state, these words became pregnant with all that the gospel means and is intended to accomplish. Since, when we open our eyes to a realization of our existence in the world we find that we have been born into a lost state, and then, if possible, riveted the shackles of sin and death more firmly upon ourselves by actual personal sins, we see that the defects, disabilities and misfortunes of our birth make it necessary that we be "born again" in order to renounce allegiance to the old constitution of sin and death, and become identified with the new creation or constitution of righteousness and life.

Now the question arises, What means has God provided by which this change can be effected? How can we pass from Adam to Christ, from alienation to reconciliation and citizenship--how can we become the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? What must follow our belief as a means of effecting the transition?

The Apostle Paul says that a special revelation had been made for Gentiles explaining how they may become "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3: 1-6). When Gentiles have availed themselves of this provision he says, "Now therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth into an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit"--Eph. 2:19-22.

The most prominent feature of the means of reconciliation with God is the remission of sin through the blood of Christ. "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission" is a truth which the sacrifices of the law had set forth and emphasized most fully; and this reminds us that the penalty resting upon us is death and that God required death in which there was the shedding of blood by one who personally was sinless, as a means of redemption. Hence the abundance of scripture which predicates salvation upon the blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul says, "If one died for all, then were all dead." All were under the sentence of death, and the necessity in the case was that "one die for all." If the "all" had been alike, without any exception, then all must have for ever remained under death's domination, and "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" would have been the eternal destiny of all mankind. But if there could be an exception and one could come to the rescue who would voluntarily render to death all that it could lawfully claim, by suffering a violent death in which there would be a sacrificial shedding of blood, and allowing death to take its victim down into its prison house, the grave, then death's rights and claims would end there--because the law of sin and death had no further claim. It was the sin of the race, federally in Adam, that gave the law of sin and death its power to take its victims into dust; but when this demand had been met voluntarily and sacrificially by one who had rendered to God a perfect life of holiness, the law of sin and death had no further claim, and therefore the bands were unloosed, the shackles opened. "He that died was now freed from sin's dominion" and "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God"--Rom. 6: 7-10. There was only one kind of death, therefore, that would meet the requirements of the case; and there was only one kind of person whose death would do. The kind of death must be a voluntary one by the shedding of blood; and the kind of person to die such a death must be one possessed of an absolutely holy character. Therefore there never was and never will be salvation in any other than in Christ; there never was redeeming efficacy in any other blood than the blood of Christ; for he alone used the life of the blood of sin's flesh, with every heart-beat of his fleshly existence, to render complete service to God, even to the extent of shedding the blood of sin's flesh and relying upon his Father for restoration to life to die no more, by virtue of being a "holy one". As in the case of Christ, so with every one that will be saved, "He that dies is freed from [the dominion of] sin." But a literal death of a personal sinner will not free from sin. A death that will free from sin must in some manner connect itself with the only death that was equal to all the requirements in the case, and it must derive its sin-freeing and sin-remitting efficacy from that one death, even the death of Christ. Like the death which first "freed from sin," every death that depends upon that must be voluntary; and all who die such a death can no more be permanently held in the grave than could Christ. Hence the apostle says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."

In this scriptural mode of conversion the three essential witnesses must testify--the "Spirit (word), the water and the blood." The Spirit through and in the word leads the believer to the water; and there, and no where else, the cleansing efficacy of the blood operates. The three must meet and agree in one in transforming a child of the world and of the flesh into a child of God. This brings us to the subject of Baptism and its relation to salvation, which we will consider in the next chapter.