The Purpose of Redemption
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, November 1, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
We have heard of pop culture, which means popular culture. Many churches in this country are "pop churches" that reflect popular culture. They teach that the purpose of our redemption is to promote an antinomian and unholy Christianity and a love that does not distinguish between truth and lie or righteousness and wickedness, but embraces all things. But consider the words of Jesus Christ about pop culture: "What is popular among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15, author's translation).
What then is the purpose of redemption? What was the goal of the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ, which Paul spoke about in Romans 8:3? God's eternal purpose is to make us holy, and he will achieve it.
I. The Purpose of Redemption
Pop Christianity says that because Jesus Christ died for our sins, we can believe in him without repentance and continue to live the same old sinful life. The fact that salvation is by grace from first to last is taken to mean that salvation has nothing to do with how we live. If we believe in Jesus, we can be saved from hell once for all and yet live a life of sin here and now. No sacrifice or change is required of us. We can believe in Jesus as our Savior but need not serve him as Lord. We can be carnal Christians and not be spiritual Christians. Pop Christianity assures us that we are saved through faith in Jesus, though we may continue to be thieves, liars, adulterers, and drunkards. Pop churches teach that the more one sins, the more grace is given to him for God's greater glory. Therefore, they would say, "Let us sin more that grace may abound to God's glory." Such a false gospel is not only popular in America but has also been popularized throughout the world.
The purpose of incarnation and atonement, however, is not that we continue to live a sinful life. "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God having sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to deal with sin, condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-4, author's translation). The purpose of God's condemning our sins in the flesh of Jesus Christ is that we may from now on live a holy life. In other words, the purpose of our justification is our sanctification.
In John 8 Jesus told the woman who had committed adultery: "Neither do I condemn you." She was justified in view of his forthcoming sacrifice in her behalf. But that is not all he said. He also told her, "Go, and from now on, do not sin" (John 8:11, author's translation).
Where there is justification, there has to be sanctification. These two cannot be separated. Justification means we are not under the law or wrath of God, but under grace and the word of God. Justification means we have not only been set free from sin's mastery and bondage, but also enslaved to righteousness. We died to sin and the law that we may be married to Jesus Christ so that we might bring forth fruit of obedience to God. We have stopped serving sin and from now on serve God in the newness of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:4 clearly declares that a justified Christian lives a holy life in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, who lives in him. Many commentators agree:
1) John Murray: "It is by the indwelling and direction of the Holy Spirit that the ordinance of the law comes to its fulfillment in the believer."1
2) Leon Morris: "Notice that Paul does not say 'we fulfil the law's righteous requirement', but that 'the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us', surely pointing to the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer."2
3) William Hendriksen: "The purpose and result of Christ's work of redemption was that his people, by means of the operation of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives, should strive, are striving, to fulfil the law's righteous requirement. Out of gratitude for, and response to, the outpouring of God's love, they now love God and their neighbor."3
4) F.F. Bruce: "The law prescribed a life of holiness, but it was powerless to produce such a life. . . . All that the law required by way of conformity to the will of God is now realized in the lives of those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit and are released from their servitude to the old order. God's commands have become God's enablings."4
5) John Stott: "Holiness is the ultimate purpose of incarnation and atonement."5
6) John Frame: "And God saves us so that we may keep the law. . . . But the gracious work of the Spirit enables us to keep 'the righteous requirements of the law.'"6
7) St. Augustine: "Law was given that grace might be sought, grace was given that the law might be fulfilled."7
More importantly, the Lord says: "Be holy because I am holy" (Lev. 11:44). Children of the heavenly Father are holy because they bear the lineaments of their Father. If children do not look like their father, there can be a question about who their father is. If a person is delighting in sin, God is not his Father. Jesus Christ declared to the lying Pharisees, "Your father is the devil. He was a liar and a murderer from beginning" (John 8:44). If this is true of you, I urge you to call upon the name of the Lord that you may be saved by the heavenly Father and start reflecting his holy character in your life.
In justification, Christ's righteousness is imputed to us (i.e., put into our account). In sanctification, this righteousness is imparted to us (i.e., by the Spirit we live out a righteous life). We are being transformed and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29).
God justifies the ungodly to make him godly, not to keep him ungodly forever. An ungodly Christian is, in truth, an unsaved pagan. God in Christ condemned our sin on the cross, dealing with sin's guilt and punishment as well as its sovereign power. So even though sin was king before, now grace is king, Christ is king, and we are kings, we who receive the abundance of God's grace so that we can say no to ungodliness and yes to God's law.
Justified believers therefore will live a holy life, fulfilling the requirements of the law: "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus Christ is not divided. "It is because of God the Father that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom of God-that is, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30), or justification, sanctification, and glorification. When we are united with Christ, we are destined to experience the fullness of salvation. We are not only justified, but we are also being sanctified, and will be glorified. Douglas Moo says, "Christ becomes what we are so that we might become what Christ is."8
The Requirement of Holiness
Holiness, therefore, is not optional for a true child of God. Rather, it is a necessary prerequisite to our eschatological salvation: "Without holiness, no one shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Jesus himself said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8). He also said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matt. 5:20). So the purpose of God condemning our sin in his Son on the cross is that by the Spirit of holiness we can live a holy life before God who is holy.
Dr. James Boice states the following four important biblical truths concerning holiness:9
"Holiness is justification's goal."
"Holiness consists in fulfilling the law's just demands."
"Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit." If we are regenerated by the Spirit of holiness, the Holy Spirit grieves in us when we sin and we grieve too. A child of God can never be happy in sinning. If one is happy in sinning, that indicate he is still a pagan, though he may claim to be a Christian.
"Holiness is mandatory." What is "the righteous requirement of the law"? The law is holy, righteous, and good. The law's demands are just and spiritual, and the Holy Spirit brings about the fulfillment of that which is spiritual (i.e., God's law) in our lives. The Holy Spirit will never teach us to disobey the spiritual, Spirit-given law. The law reflects the will of God. In fact, the New Testament quotes the Ten Commandments in several places.
The law was weak because of our sin nature, so Christ condemned and defeated sin. Dr. Godet says, "What the law condemns was condemned in Christ, that henceforth through His Spirit the law might be fully carried out in us."10
Old Testament saints also fulfilled the requirements of the law. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were said to be "upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly" (Luke 1:6). This was also true of the Gentile believers in Romans 2:26: "If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?" The moment we are saved, we are enabled to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. If a thief comes to church and is truly saved, he will stop stealing right away. It is not that he just steals less and less. Paul writes, "He who has been stealing must no longer steal, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need" (Eph. 4:28). In the same way, drunkards who become Christians are to cease getting drunk on wine and be filled with the Spirit instead (Eph. 5:18).
Paul spoke about this transformation previously in Romans 6: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we may live a new life" (v. 4). He continues in verses 6 and 7: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer serve sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Again in verse 17: "But thanks be to God that though you used to be slaves to sin you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Look at verse 22: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life."
He continued this theme into Romans 7: "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God" (v. 4). We were bad trees but now God made us good trees to bear good fruit. "But now by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit" (v. 6). In the newness of the Spirit we serve God.
In fact, the gospel calls us to the obedience of faith: "Through him and for his name's sake we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Rom. 1:5). In Romans 6:17 we read that they obeyed from the heart the form of teaching to which they had been entrusted. If we are saved, we will obey God. Paul writes, "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done" (Rom. 15:18). In Romans 16 he also commends the Roman believers for their obedience (v. 19) and remarks that God's purpose is that "all nations might believe and obey him" (v. 26).
Many other verses emphasize God's requirement for our obedience:
1) Acts 5:32: "We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." The Holy Spirit is not given to us so that we can do wickedness. The Holy Spirit indwells you and is given to you to obey him.
2) 1 Corinthians 7:19: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts" on the last day.
3) 2 Corinthians 5:15: "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."
4) 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable. . . . For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." When the Holy Spirit controls us, we will have self-control and will say no to sin and yes to the law of God.
5) Titus 2:11-14: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Grace teaches us to live holy lives here and now, not in heaven.
6) Hebrews 5:8-9: "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. And once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."
7) 1 Peter 2:24: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
8) 1 Peter 4:2: "As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God," that is, the law of God.
9) 1 John 3:22: "[We] receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him."
This holy life is the new covenant life of which both Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke. It is not that the law is abandoned and abrogated. The law was external, but in the new covenant the law is written in our new regenerate nature. The law is written in our hearts so that our earnest desire is to do God's law. Jesus said his food was to do the will of God and to finish it (John 4:34). We are given divine nature in Jesus Christ and delight in the law of the Lord. In this new nature, we love and do the divine will.
We read in Jeremiah 31:33: "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time. . . . I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." The people of God meditate upon God's law and are eager to do it. This is covenant life. Look at Ezekiel 11:19-20: "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." The stubborn, rebellious heart of stone is taken out. Ezekiel 36:25-27 proclaims: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Clean water is the gospel, the word of God. This is supernatural, spiritual heart surgery.
II. The Life of the Redeemed
We need power to live this new covenant life. God gives us the powers we need to do so.
The first power is the Holy Spirit. We are not Christians unless the Holy Spirit indwells us. Sin still dwells in us (Rom. 7:17, 20), but if we are Christians, the infinite Holy Spirit also dwells in us as a resident boss who helps us wage war against the flesh. (PGM) No Christian is alone. Four times in Romans 8:8-11 we read of Christ or the Holy Spirit living in us. Elsewhere Paul says, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit directs us and empowers us to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law, or to put it differently, to do the will of God.
The second dynamic is the divine love power that comes to us from the Holy Spirit. Divine love is very powerful. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us" (Rom. 5:5). The moment we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into us and pours out divine love in great abundance. We are filled with love for God and his people.
Paul describes this inspiring love dynamic in his own life: "For Christ's love compels [impels, empowers, motivates] us" (2 Cor. 5:14). Love power was the reason he lived and died for the cause of Christ. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6).
Reflect back when you were first in love with your spouse. You would do anything and everything for that person. You would travel thousands of miles to see her. Or think about the love of a parent for a child. The story is told of a man who was afraid of driving on bridges. Then he was told his daughter had an accident on the other side of a bridge. He got into the car and drove across the bridge without any problem to help his child. Love motivates and empowers. Paul writes, "Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal. 5:13-14).
Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. "Against such things there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us by the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. For he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8-10).
The charge Jesus Christ leveled against the church of Ephesus was that they had fallen from their first love. This should cause us to examine our own lives. Are we in first love or have we fallen from our first love in your marriage? What about our relationship with God. Have we fallen from our first love? If we have, may we remember from where we have fallen, repent, and do the first things (Rev. 3:5).
The third power that we have is the power of the word of God. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Jesus said, "My word is spirit and my word is life." When we listen to the word of God, we should listen carefully so that the word may enter into us and perform its mighty work of transforming our lives. Those who listen carelessly receive nothing. "Hearing, they will not hear, seeing, they will not see." We must be very careful how we listen to the word of God preached. Paul refers to the word of God as the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Jesus Christ overcame temptation by the use of the word of God. He told the devil, "It is written," and he spoke what he believed.
Fourth, God the Father himself assists us. Paul writes, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:12-13). We sin because we do not fear God. God's good purpose is that the righteous requirement of the law be fulfilled in us.
God the Father equips us and makes us competent to do the will of God: "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20-21). He works in us what is pleasing to him.
God's Eternal Purpose
God's eternal purpose is "that the righteous requirement of the law be fulfilled in us." Our holiness is not an afterthought to God, and he will achieve his eternal purpose in our lives. Many Scriptures make this abundantly clear:
1) Ephesians 1:4: "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight"
2) Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has foreordained that we should walk in them."
3) Ephesians 5:25-27: "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." He will have a bride who will be radiant, glorious, holy, and blameless. God himself takes ungodly people like us and makes us godly and glorious.
4) Revelation 19:7-8: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen bright and clean was given to her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous deeds of the saints.)" Fine linen stands for our obedience to the will of God.
5) 2 Timothy 1:9: "Who has saved us and called us to a holy life." God has decreed from all eternity that we should be holy. He called us to a holy life.
6) 2 Timothy 2:19: "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn from wickedness." Holiness is not optional.
7) 1 Peter 1:15-16: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"
Fruit of Regeneration
When God makes a bad tree good, it will bear good fruit. If you are bearing bad fruit, call upon the name of the Lord, that God may perform the miracle of regeneration so that you may become a good tree. Jesus finds us as darkness, but he makes us light. Paul exhorts, "You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light" (Eph. 5:8).
The Spirit of God in us wars against the flesh, or the sin, in us. In this conflict of Spirit against flesh, the Spirit, who is infinite God, wins every time. So Paul writes, "So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). It is a divine guarantee. If we live by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Rather, we will fulfill the righteous requirement of God's law.
Sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. Paul states, "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Holy Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:13-14). The sons of God must put sin to death. There can be no negotiation. Kill it in the strength of the Spirit of God, as Paul did with the viper on his hand. He killed it by casting it into the fire (Acts 28:3-5).
The Holy Spirit in us leads us into the holy Scriptures because the Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit leads us into the holy Scriptures as they are preached and lived out in his holy church.
Walking according to the Spirit
The righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled only in those who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Holy living is the proof of justification. We cannot live according to the flesh and claim to be true believers. It is a lie. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled by our walking according to the Holy Spirit, in the way of holiness prescribed in the word of God. That is why a Christian is always reading and studying the Bible to find out the will of God.
A Christian's walk is powered, controlled, and directed not by sin but by the Holy Spirit. What do we mean by "a Christian's walk"? It is the tenor, or bent, of his life. That tenor is toward God. A Christian is not in the flesh, not controlled by the flesh, not dominated by the flesh (Rom. 8:9). He is in the Spirit and the Spirit is in him. He walks in the opposite direction of his past sinful life. Those who were slaves to sin are now slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17; 7:5). There is change. The redeemed walks according to the Spirit. The Spirit is his controller, director, and boss. He goes where the Spirit goes. The Spirit is the Spirit of holiness, truth, and love. The law is spiritual, Spirit-given, and the Spirit will never guide us to violate God's holy law.
God always enables us to fulfill God's law in our life. Paul clearly teaches this in Ephesians 2: "And you who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you used to walk when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (v. 2). We walked according to the values of this world in complete obedience to the devil. But now we are changed: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has decreed for eternity that we should walk in them" (v. 10, author's translation). We were going one way, and now we go the complete opposite direction, in the way of the word and the Holy Spirit. Believers walk after the Spirit every step of the way.
Many who make bad decisions will reap the fruit of their decisions for years to come. But a Christian lives one day at a time, making one decision at a time for the glory of God. Thus, he makes regular and steady progress in the direction of the city of God. He grows in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not sit down and rest in worldly pleasures. He makes progress daily in holiness, reading God's word and praying daily. He works hard to provide for those in need and worships and fellowships with God's holy people. He shines as light in this dark world. He is happy because he is holy. He is unafraid of death and even looks forward to it because death has been defeated for him by Christ's death on the cross. For him death is gain, for it means he will be with God for all eternity.
True believers walk, not after the flesh, doing sin as before, but after the Spirit, doing the will of God. They do so because in Jesus Christ they are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Christ is in them, the Holy Spirit is in them, and they submit to God's law. Their passion is to please God. By grace they are kings. They are soldiers who put sin to death by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. They are overcomers and resisters. They say no to sin and Satan, and yes to righteousness and Jesus Christ.
God's people are pilgrims on a journey. This world is not their home. They do not travel on the world's highway of wickedness with wicked companions, but on God's highway of holiness that Isaiah spoke about: "And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa. 35:8-10).
Christians are not lone rangers in this journey to God's presence. They are joined by multitudes of people who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They are vital members of Christ's holy church and travel together with them, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, singing songs of Zion.
Thank God, we in this church are traveling together. It is true that some who traveled with us went back to the City of Destruction, turning away from the highway of holiness. But a number have also already arrived ahead of us, reaching God's presence. Soon we too shall arrive.
If you are not journeying with us, if you are not a fellow pilgrim, I urge you to trust in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all the sins of his people. Repent and call upon the name of the Lord. The Lord saves only sinners; therefore, if you are a repenting sinner, you qualify for Christ's free salvation. Come to Christ. He will justify you and liberate you from all the shackles of sin and Satan, from the law of sin and death. Then you too can join us in this happy journey, home to God.
1 John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959, 1965), 284.
2 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 304.
3 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 248.
4 F. F. Bruce, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Romans, Rev. Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 153.
5 John Stott, Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994), 221.
6 John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), 291, 915.
7 Quoted by Douglas Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 482.
8 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 483.
9 James M. Boice, The Reign of Grace, Romans: Vol. 2, Chapters 5-8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 800-802.
10 F. Godet, Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1889), 69.
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Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
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