Pauls's Epistle to the
REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS.
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." - EPH. i. 7. " In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." - COL. i. 14.
WHAT we have in Christ Jesus is here indicated by two
phrases or forms of expression, which explain and define one another. The
redemption through his blood is the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of
sins is the redemption through his blood.
I. The redemption through his blood is the forgiveness of sins. This limits the meaning of the term redemption. It is a term which, with its corresponding varieties - redeem, redeemer, and so forth - is sometimes in theological writings, and even in Scripture, used more widely. It is held to be descriptive of any deliverance of any kind, and effected in any way; and as applied to the deliverance wrought out by Christ for guilty men, it is made to include the whole of what, as mediator, he does on their behalf; the whole of what, as mediator, he obtains for them and bestows on them. According to this extended meaning, it takes in his execution of all the offices which, in his mediatorial character, Christ sustains, as Prophet, Priest, arid King; Revealer, Reconciler, Ruler; as well as also the entire work of the Spirit, making us partakers of Christ's threefold mediatorial ministry, and the entire salvation which, through that ministry, becomes ours.
In the text the sense in which redemption is spoken of is restricted. It is doubly so. It is restricted by the qualification or qualifying clause, "through his blood." And it is restricted also by the explanatory addition "the forgiveness of sins," "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." One thing is evident from this explanatory addition, identifying as it does the redemption, which is through Christ's blood, with the forgiveness of sins. It makes the transaction in question wholly and exclusively an act or exercise of the divine sovereignty. Who can forgive sins but God only? It is his indefeasible, inalienable prerogative. He can delegate it to none. He can share it with none. He can denude or divest himself of no part of it. If, therefore, the redemption through Christ's blood is the forgiveness of sins, it must be a procedure in which God can acknowledge no other person or power whatever as having anything to say or anything to do in the matter. No person or power can come in between himself and those to whom he thus dispenses pardon. Be it a hostile power or a friendly power, it makes no difference. Whichever it be, the idea of any third party whatever intruding into this great affair, or having any concern in it, is equally inadmissible.
The great enemy of God and man is thus excluded. The redemption through Christ's blood can have no reference to him. If, indeed, the redemption through Christ's blood is viewed in some other light; if it is regarded, and in a loose way it may sometimes be fairly enough regarded, as not the pardon of a criminal, but the recovery of a captive, or the release and rescue of a slave; then doubtless it may be so conceived of as to admit of Satan as it were coming, or trying to come into court as the Potentate who has taken men the prisoners; the master to whom they have sold themselves. Redemption through Christ's blood may be thought, in that aspect of the case, to be something of the nature of a price paid, or a ransom given, in order that he, being satisfied or appeased by the cruel death of so great a champion on their behalf, may be induced to let his victims go free. There is no room for any such imagination if the redemption through Christ's blood is held to be identical with the forgiveness of sins.
He may be ordained to have a share as the instrument of a higher and overruling will, in trying or testing the righteousness of him through whose blood the redemption is. He may be doomed to yield up his prey to him as to a lawful conqueror, and to swell the conqueror's triumph as he leads captivity captive; but the redemption itself is altogether beyond his sphere of action or of influence, of right or of power. For it is the forgiveness of sins, and that is a mode of exercising rule which has its source in the bosom, and its seat in the throne, of God alone. "Who can forgive sins but God only?
The same consideration which thus excludes a hostile third party, excludes also one who is friendly, even though Christ himself should be supposed to be that party. The notion of the redemption through Christ's blood being of the nature of a dealing on the part of Christ, as the friend of sinners, with a being whose resentment he appeased and whom he persuades to relent, is as incompatible with the divine prerogative in the forgiveness of sins as the notion of its being a dealing with Satan to ransom them out of his hands. God cannot be obliged, or bribed, or coaxed to forgive sins. If he were, it would be no forgiveness at all. It might be his consenting to let the sinner so far off from being under his jurisdiction as to be exempt from the exact rigour of law; or it might be his conniving at the sinner's exemption. It could not possibly be the forgiveness of his sins.
If, for example, this redemption through Christ's blood like the stepping in of a wealthy patron to discharge obligations to a strict creditor, there would be a release, and it might be called a redemption, but it would not be the forgiveness of sins.
Or, again, if this redemption through Christ's blood were like the offering of a gift by which a potentate who desired a gift, might be so contented - or if it were like the performance of some hideous sanguinary rite by which a potentate, who delighted in vengeance, might be so appeased as to be willing to overlook the fault of some poor wretch had offended him : in that case also there would be a The friend who offered the gift or performed the rite would succeed in obtaining the offender's release. That also might be called, in a sense, a redemption : but it could not possibly be regarded as the forgiveness of sins.
Or, once more, if the redemption through Christ's blood were a mere ministry of persuasion, the pleading of one who, by his meritorious services and heroic sufferings and sacrifices, had gained a high place in the sovereign's favour, and who took advantage of his position so to urge his claims that the sovereign, having respect to him, must needs, on his account, give up to him in safety certain condemned rebels whom he chose to count his friends : here, too, there would be a release, which might perhaps, as in the former instances, be improperly called a redemption : but neither would this be really the forgiveness of sins.
Take any one of these ways of it, and what have you? A third party, as the sinner's friend, comes in between the sinner and the God whom he has offended. And what is it that he is to do? "What is it that his interposition is to effect? Is it not in fact, so far as it avails at all, to win, or or somehow get the offender practically out of the grasp the omnipotent being on whose decision his fate depends, in that he may be more gently and more kindly disposed of? The interposition might be successful. The grasp might be relinquished or released, and yet there might be no sentiment of pardoning love in that dread being's heart; no sentence of pardoning mercy from his hard and stern tribunal. The redemption, whether effected through blood, or by some milder process, would not be, in any fair and legitimate acceptation of that blessed and gracious phrase, the forgiveness of sins. For it is a blessed and gracious phrase; it is a blessed and gracious thing, the forgiveness of sins.
Some indeed may think and feel otherwise. You will think and feel otherwise if your sins are to you what, alas, to most men, to all men naturally, their sins are mistakes merely, or misfortunes, slips and miscarriages, accidents; infirmities, wildnesses, madnesses, it may be sometimes, the inevitable result of strong passion, opportunity, temptation, and a weak will; nothing more than what might be expected, for which allowance ought to be made, for which in fact you are to be pitied rather than blamed. With such a notion of your sins, any method of release out of the hands of the judge that you can bring yourself to trust in, will be found perfectly compatible, whether it is to be effected by satiating and soothing his vindictiveness, or by working upon his placability; and if, along with such a notion of your sins, there should at any time be wrought in you more alarming misgivings than usual, or more terrible impressions of the day of doom, yours is the very mood, yours is the very frame of mind, to welcome the notion of impunity being somehow purchased or procured for you by the good offices of one who, by his influence, or his service, or his sacrifice, may be able to shield you from the anger of an avenging god.
But if you see your sins in their true light, in the light of a right knowledge of him against whom they are committed; if the emotions with which you contemplate your sins are emotions of genuine grief and godly sorrow; if the load of their guilt upon your conscience is felt to be intolerable, and the brand of their corruption in your heart and soul is felt to be loathsome, because he from whom they separate you so loves you and is so worthy of your love; if it is because they displease and dishonour him, and place him in a false relation to you, and you in a false relation to him : setting his holy and loving nature against you, and blighting, blasting your nature with enmity against him: if it is on that account that your sins do indeed distress you, ah ! then, no way of escape will meet your case that aims merely at your being somehow, anyhow, got safe from under his arm of power. No deliverance will suffice that a third party could by any means accomplish. Nothing will suffice; nothing will content you, that does not provide for the righting of your position with your God himself. You must have your God himself, your very offended God himself, directly and personally dealing with you. From your Father's own lips you must receive your sentence. You repudiate any redemption based upon any principle of mere compromise, or evasion, or escape: and you receive with thankfulness the assurance that the redemption which is through the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, is indeed the forgiveness of sins.
II. The forgiveness of sins is the redemption through Christ's blood. The statement, or definition, thus reversed, is significant and important. It is not the simple utterance of a sentence: frankly forgiving. It is that no doubt. But it is something more. It must be so if it is held to be identical with the transaction indicated by the expression redemption through Christ's blood.
What is it that really passes or takes place between the righteous God and his guilty subjects, between the offended Father and his prodigal children, when they have forgiveness of sins? Is it merely a word, or an oath, on his part, understood and believed on theirs? Nay, there is a procedure far more solemn and awful. There is brought in, not by any other, but by this God and Father himself, into the very heart and essence of the act he does when he forgives sin, a fact of heaven-reaching and hell-reaching import; the fact of the redemption through the blood of Christ. Wheresoever there is the forgiveness of sins, there is that redemption through Christ's blood.
Whosoever has the forgiveness of sins, has it, and can only have it, in connection with, and as identical with, the redemption through Christ's blood.
Nor is this a foreign or extraneous element here; something interposed by some one from without between God forgiving and the sinner forgiven. God forgiving is God redeeming through Christ's blood : the sinner having forgiveness is the sinner having redemption through Christ's blood. The two are one. For this redemption, what is it in itself? It is deliverance, release, rescue. From whom? From what? From God; from the hands of the living God, into whose hands it is declared to be so fearful a thing to fall. Then, it is also by God, and by these same hands of his. It must be God delivering you, rescuing you, releasing you, from himself. Is, then, God divided against himself? Is redemption with him like the supposed infatuation of Satan casting out Satan? Nay. The Lord our God is one God. And yet, in no frivolous sense, his redeeming you is his delivering you from himself. It is himself who does it: and it is by a ransom provided by himself, and offered to himself.
Is this a riddle, a paradox and mystery? Nay, consider what it is for sinners, for you as sinners, to be in the hands of God. He is the holy Lawgiver, the righteous Judge, the unchangeable Jehovah. As such, he cannot let sinners, he cannot let you as sinners, away from him. As truly as he is a God who cannot lie, so truly is he a God who can by no means clear the guilty. While guilt attaches or adheres to you, he cannot suffer you to escape from him, from being under his penal wrath and curse. More than that. With reverence be it said, even himself cannot, by his mere almighty word, deliver you from himself. His unalterable name or nature ; his essential character and perfections; in short, his being what he is, must for ever make that an impossibility.
But there is redemption: not deliverance merely; but deliverance by the payment of a price, by the giving of an equivalent or a compensation. An equivalent or compensation for what? For what guilty sinners deserve, and for what, if there be no redemption, guilty sinners must inevitably endure. And to whom is this equivalent or compensation given? To God himself, the holy one and the just. And by whom? By God himself; for he giveth his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And now through his blood; through the shedding of his blood; through his voluntarily laying down his life for guilty sinners (the blood is the life) ; through his taking their guilt upon himself, and expiating that guilt by suffering and dying penally, as one guilty, as a criminal, in their stead, there is redemption; there is God himself buying them with a great price from being under his righteous wrath as criminals; to be criminals no more in his sight, but accepted in the Beloved. There is the offended Father himself providing that the irreversible sentence of law and justice lying upon his rebellious children shall have fitting and sufficient execution upon the head of his own well-beloved Son, who is willing to take their place ; so that they may come forth free ; no longer under condemnation ; but righteous in his righteousness, and sons in his Sonship.
This is the redemption through the blood of Christ. And this is what you have when you have the forgiveness of sins; this, and nothing short of this. It is something more than impunity; something more than indulgence; something very different from either impunity or indulgence; and indeed the opposite of both, this forgiveness of sins. It is seen to be so when it is thus identified with the redemption through Christ's blood. "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," is the brief statement of what is called the Apostles' Creed. It is all that is there said on the subject of God's personal dealing with the sinners whom he saves. Does it seem bald and meagre? It may be so when it is viewed apart from what is to be believed concerning God, the Father Almighty; and Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; and the Holy Ghost. But if you are taught by the Holy Ghost to know the Father in the Son, that naked, simple formula, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," becomes very pregnant and very precious. It is felt to comprehend all that can be conceived of divine love, love worthy of God, accomplishing for you in a divine way, a way worthy of God, a divine salvation, a salvation worthy of God.
"I believe in the forgiveness of sins." Yes, of course, I hear one saying. What more easy? What more natural? Yes! Natural and easy enough for you who have never seriously felt that you have any sins greatly needing forgiveness. Natural and easy for you also whose only notion of forgiving is exemption from endless punishment; who care for nothing else; to whom, if only you continue to persuade yourselves that God, letting you alone now, will let you alone always, it is matter of absolute indifference whether you are to him simply offenders whom, as being too insignificant, he does not deem it worth while to smite, or children whom he delights to love; whether he is to you simply a scarcely appeased tyrant, or an infinitely loving Father. Yes, you can reckon on the forgiveness of sins, in your sense of it, coolly and familiarly, at your pleasure : and you wonder why any one should ever have any difficulty in relying on what seems to you so reasonable a measure of mercy that you cannot imagine it ever to be withheld.
It was otherwise with him, the great reformer, to whom, in the depths of his self-condemning anguish, a holy man, or rather the Holy Ghost by his instrument, scarce succeeded in bringing home, after many a fierce struggle with doubt and despair, the humble, homely consolation of these few artless words; "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." It will be otherwise with you now, if in any measure the Holy Ghost is causing you to feel what sins you have that need to be forgiven; and what sort of forgiveness it is that is needed. You cannot take it now for granted, as other men, as you once did yourselves, that there is forgiveness of sins for you. It does not seem to you so much a matter of right or a matter of course. You deeply feel that you are justly condemned on account of the very least of your sins, and might justly be left under condemnation for ever.
And what, if - even there were a chance that somehow, somewhere, and sometime, in the long lapse of everlasting ages, there might be some partial and temporary assuaging of the agony of the lost; which yet you now see must be impossible, because you feel that it would be unrighteous; what of that lifting up of a reconciled countenance upon you now, which is what now you long for, and cannot dispense with, or do without? Can such a one as I, with such sins to answer for, ever be so forgiven as to be taken back into favour, and received as if I had never gone away or gone astray? For, woe is me, these sins of mine so cleave to me, that strive, and weep, and pray as I may, I cannot get rid of them! Let me resolve ever so vehemently, and chastise myself ever so desperately; my case is growing all the worse. There is the past, which no penitence of mine can undo. And the evil in rne I feel to wax stronger and stronger the more I wage war with it. 0 wretched man that I am! Can ever my position and my heart be put right with God? For that is the forgiveness of sins which I need; such forgiveness of sins as shall give me a clean conscience and a right spirit for living and walking at liberty with my God. Ah, when you are thus affected, and may not some of you be thus affected now, what gospel shall we preach to meet your case? The forgiveness of sins? Yes; if by the forgiveness of sins is meant the redemption that is through the blood of Christ.
For now we can show you how your sins, be they ever so heinous and ever so engrained in your very nature, may yet be consistently and most righteously forgiven by him against whom they have been committed. And we can show you how complete, and frank, and full, the forgiveness may and indeed must be. We ask you if the most sensitive and scrupulous conscience may not own, that in the blood through which we have redemption the broken law is sufficiently vindicated, and justice abundantly satisfied? We put it to you to say, if on the footing of that shedding of such blood on Calvary, the forgiveness of any sins can be impossible? And we put it to you finally to say, if the forgiveness of sins of which our gospel assures you, which we press upon your acceptance, which the Holy Ghost is bringing near to you, thrusting into your hands, almost forcing you to take - if this forgiveness of sins is in very truth the very identical redemption that is through the blood of Christ; oh, can you hesitate in your hearts to acknowledge that it is more than you could expect, and all that you could desire? Can you find it in your hearts to cast it still away from you? Will you not thankfully rejoice to believe that the forgiveness of sins which you have in Christ is indeed the redemption through his blood.
Thus, then, in both ways of announcing it, the assertion which the text virtually contains, of the identity between these two things: the redemption through Christ and the forgiveness of sins: is of the highest practical value, as bearing upon the anxious sinner's peace and hope. It concerns him much to understand, and know, and feel, that the redemption through Christ's blood is the forgiveness of sins; and that the forgiveness of sins is the redemption through Christ's blood. Thus is the salvation that is provided seen to be complete for any of us. And the question therefore is forced powerfully upon us all - "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"
III. A few words may be enough by way of practical conclusion on the manner in which this great benefit becomes yours. You have it in Christ, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." It is not from Christ or through Christ that you have it, but in Christ. The condition of your having redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, is your being in Christ. For "this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
First and chiefly, the gift of God, held out freely to the acceptance of all the guilty alike, to you and to me, the gift of God, his free gift, is Christ; and not Christ as the medium or channel through which the redemption or forgiveness reaches you, but Christ having in himself the redemption and the forgiveness.
O sinner, whoever thou art, get to be in Christ, to win Christ, and to be found in him. Deal with Christ, the gift of the Father to thee; his best gift; himself better than the best of all the saving benefits that are in him. Deal with Christ, not for what he has to bestow, but for what he is in himself. Use him not as a mere trafficker or merchant, a convenient and accommodating dealer in heaven's wares, who has bought, as it were, a wholesale supply or stock in the market above, and will dispense it to you in retail, so much of it as you choose to have, on such terms as you may contrive to adjust, or think you can adjust, between him and you.
If you would buy of him that you may be rich, it must be gold tried in the fire that you buy. It must be the gold, the only gold that ever stood the test of the trial of fire, that you buy. It must be himself that you buy, for he has bought you for himself. All fulness is in him; all fulness of grace and truth. And out of his fulness you receive even grace for grace ; grace corresponding, proportional, answerable, and equal to the grace and truth of which he is full. Grace in that proportion out of his fulness you can. receive only as you receive himself. It pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell. The whole fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in him, but it dwelleth in him bodily, in his body, in his person, in himself manifested bodily, and bodily giving himself for you, to you. You share in his fulness, you can share in it only when you are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. He has nothing to give away. No virtue goes out of him. Or if at any time any poor sinner, like that trembling woman in the gospel, has courage but to touch the hem of his garment, and gets healing, as it might seem, from him; taking it with shivering hand, and as it were by stealth, through the medium of his underclothing; she too must be taught that he cannot really have any virtue to go out of him. The virtue must come back to him. She who has got it must come back to him. She must learn that it is her faith that has made her whole; for by her faith she is in him.
Get therefore Christ, I repeat, 0 sinner. Get into Christ. Let him get into thee, into thy heart, into that heart of thine, at whose door he is even now knocking; oh, how affectionately, how earnestly! Lift up your heads, ye gates, that the King of glory may come in. Be ye shut up into Christ. He is near. The Spirit and the Word bring him near. He would have you to grasp him. He would himself grasp you. Consent, 0 sinner. Let it be as he would have it to be. Refuse not his embrace. Cast him not away. Be sure that in him, only once in him, in the ark floating buoyant and free over the wreck of a ruined world; once there ; in him ; you are safe ; you are complete ; for in him you have redemption and forgiveness.
Raise no preliminary questions. Listen to none when raised by Satan or by his agents, listen to none when raised even by one disguising himself as an angel of light. Insist not on all being made clear to you beforehand as to God's counsels or as to your own experiences. Be not curious to inquire into the precise way in which God carries out his plans, or into the precise way in which peace and assurance are to visit your souls. Stand not aloof. Stand not upon terms, as if even when Christ and you are brought together face to face, you had still to interrogate him, and hear his proposals and conditions, and consider at your leisure how far you might venture to trust him, and to take out of his hands some pittance of the good he holds out to you. Shame, 0 sinner! And not shame only, madness; infatuation. Is not thy foot on the verge of the yawning gulf? Thy very next step may be down into its depths. And here is Christ; face to face before thee ; near thee; his look as benignant as when he welcomed little children; his arms as open as when he took them into his embrace and blessed them; his voice as thrilling as when he cried "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Sinner, 0 sinner! come to Christ. Close with Christ. You never will get any satisfaction out of Christ; but you will get all satisfaction on everything in Christ. For in him " we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
0 my friends, is it not a blessed thing that this, and nothing else than this, is the gospel of the grace of God the gospel which, as poor perishing sinners, you have to be ever receiving afresh and anew yourselves; the gospel which you have to proclaim and commend to your poor and perishing fellow-sinners around you? Is it not a blessed thing that we have always to send you, and you have always to send them, to Christ; to Christ himself, to Christ alone? "We have no riches to dispense out of Christ; we do but send men in search of riches on to Christ himself. We cannot answer all the questions of an inquiring spirit; we can but refer the inquirer to Christ himself. "We cannot stay to argue with any one as to what Christ may be to them that are still out of him, and what he may have of good for them. Taste and see, we cry, how good Christ is himself.
And now! Let it be now! Let it be now that you determine to win Christ and to be found in him. Let it be now that you determine to urge your neighbour, your brother, that he too may win Christ now and be found in Christ - now. Up! Let there be slumber, let there be delay, no longer. Lay yourselves out from this moment to be yourselves in Christ, and to get as many as you can into Christ. All things now persuade haste and recommend decision. The Spirit is striving; manifestly and mightily in some places. Everywhere, however, he is striving; for this is the dispensation of the Spirit. He is striving, is he not, here, among us? Is there any one ill at ease; ill at ease because his own sins are not forgiven; ill at ease because the sins of some one with whom he might be pleading are not forgiven? It is the Spirit striving now; but he will not strive always. Therefore harden not your hearts.
Everything in providence persuades haste and recommends instant decision. Personal visitations of frailty, disease, and sorrow; the Lord's servants smitten the young prematurely summoned hence, or about to be prematurely summoned; aged disciples, witnesses for a pure and simple gospel to more than one or two generations of their fellows, gone, or going to their rest. All things are full of change. But Christ never changes. He is still here, among us, the same yesterday, today, and for ever, and in him "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." I would, beloved brethren, that one and all of us were stirred up to consider if this be not, to one and all of us, in some sense and for some end, a special day of visitation. Is there not much shaking of the dry bones and troubling of the water everywhere? All around us the air seems vocal with the echoes of a still small voice proclaiming to you, to me, to all men, to redeemed souls, to a world careful and troubled about many things : One thing is needful for you, for me, for all, for weary souls, for an uneasy world; one thing is needful; to sit at Christ's feet and learn of him ; to choose that good part which shall not be taken away ; to win Christ and - be found in him; " in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."
Go To Chapter Three
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