Lesson 8: “The Purpose of Redemption”
Over the course of the past several years one of the areas of interest and development within Christianity has been that of “Christian Psychology.” Now responses to that idea range from thinking that an understanding of psychological principles from a Christian perspective is the answer to all of our problems to thinking that Christianity has no place at all for psychology. But, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between – what I like to call “the Biblical middle.” On the one hand, we need to remember that the Bible does tell us everything we need to know about lie – we don’t need to understand the writings of the latest Psychological writers and studies to find happiness and fulfillment.
On the other hand, however, we need to remember that an integral part of man is the soul – the “pseuche,” the very word from which we get our word psychology. And the Word of God is absolutely full of references to the mind and the thoughts and to relationships. In fact, the word “heart,” which really is a reference to our belief system, is used 1008 times in the Scripture!
So that, although we don’t want to accept any individual psychologist, no matter how well educated (or how weird) he or she may be, as an authority we should, in fact be very interested in what the Word of God has to say about these kinds of things. Dr. Robert McGee, in his book The Search for Significance wrote these paragraphs:
Relatively few of us experience the blend of contentment and Godly intensity that God intends for each person. From life’s outset, we find ourselves “on the prowl,” searching to satisfy some inner, unexplained yearning. Our hunger to be loved causes us to seek out friends. Our desire for acceptance pressures us to perform for the praise of others. We strive for success, driving our minds and bodies harder and farther, hoping that because of our sweat and sacrifice, others will appreciate us more. But the man or woman who lives only for the love and attention of others is never satisfied, at least not for long. Despite all of our efforts, we can never find lasting, fulfilling peace because the need to be loved and accepted is merely a symptom of a deeper need – the need that governs our behavior, and is the primary source of our emotional pain. Often unrecognized, it is our need for self worth.”
And the verse of scripture to which we come in this study is one of the very most important concepts in all the Word of God. By way of review, remember that we are talking about the basis of salvation as it is described in verses 6b through 12 of Ephesians chapter 1. And in that regard we have seen that our salvation has been provided for us on the “basis” of “relationship in the beloved” in verse 6b, and, redemption through blood in verse 7. And as we looked at that that is in the shed blood of Christ, we saw: the picture that is in the word redemption – to purchase a slave and set him free, and the price of redemption – the very separation of God the Father and God the son for the first time in all of eternity.
Now in this study we want to think about a third aspect of our redemption through blood, and that is the purpose of redemption – what does all produce, anyway? And the answer to that question is found here in the last line of Ephesians 1:7
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
And the phrase that we particularly want to focus on today is that little one that we see over and over again in the scripture: “the forgiveness of sins.” Now we might think that forgiveness is something so commonly understood that there is no need to talk about it. But while it is true that most people understand the concept of forgiveness, probably very few of us understand all of its implications – particularly spiritually. Because a proper understanding of this one word and all that it implies can change the very way you think about yourself! So let’s think carefully about it:
The first thing we need to understand in this study of forgiveness is the need that we have for forgiveness in the first place. And even as you read this statement every honest person reading it can think of his own example of that need. Because every one of us knows the truth that is stated in Romans 3:23:
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”
And the deeper problem behind that is the truth of Habakkuk 1:13, in which the prophet says to God,
You are of purer eyes than to behold sin, and cannot look upon wickedness”
In fact, Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death” – eternal separation from God! And deep down inside himself, that he doesn’t measure up to God’s standards – that we are not acceptable. That is why most unbelievers don’t even like to talk about God – they’d rather just not think about it. And therefore we are not acceptable to ourselves, either (even though we go to great lengths to keep from admitting that to ourselves.) So our only hope is forgiveness of some kind. And the wonderful truth is that god has given us that forgiveness, as we have already been seeing in this passage, in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross.
And there are two important things to know about that forgiveness: First, that if you have accepted that sacrifice of Christ, you never have to worry again – throughout eternity! The price for you sins has been paid. (And if you haven’t accepted the forgiveness of your sins that God offers you because Christ’s payment for your sins, there is not better time to do that than today.) It is simply a matter of believing in your heart that His payment is sufficient for your need, no matter how much you have sinned.
But second – and far less understood – is the fact that if you have accepted that sacrifice of Christ, you are perfectly acceptable to God the Father right now. You see, the problem for many Christians is that they can believe that God has forgiven them, but they can’t forgive themselves. And so they go thru life trying to perform – to prove to themselves and to everybody else that they are worthy of acceptance. This is what psychologists call “self acceptance” or “self worth.”
So I want you to think very carefully with me about the second aspect of forgiveness . . . .
The first aspect of forgiveness is “the need” for it. But the second aspect of it is the nature of forgiveness. Even though some people find it hard to grasp, the scripture makes very definite statements about what forgiveness really is. Let’s look at a few examples: First look at Psalm 103:2
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Or think about the interesting statement of Micah 7:18,19, where the prophet Old Testament Micah says to God:
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgressions of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His answer forever, because He delights in mercy. (19) He will again have compassion upon us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
In the Old Testament ceremonies described in Leviticus 16:7-10 God gave a beautiful picture of what forgiveness really is. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of Israel’s worship calendar, the High Priest would select two unblemished sacrificial goats. Then one of them would be killed and his blood was sprinkled on the altar. Then the priest would place his hands on the head of the other goat, symbolically placing the sins of the people on it. Then the goat was led so far out into the wilderness that it could never find its way back. And this was designed to remind the people of this very truth – that their sins had been removed so far from them that they could never return.
But there is a third aspect of forgiveness that we need to think about, and that is the hew standing that we have because of forgiveness. There is a little known verse in 1st John 4:17 that is life changing if we really believe it:
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
Think about what this verse is saying: Because God has removed our sins “as far as the east is from the west and because they are cast into the depths of the sea we look just the same to God as Jesus Christ does! And how does Jesus Christ look to God the Father? Is He pleasing to the Father? Is He righteous? Is God satisfied with Jesus? Is he disappointing to the Father in any way? Then neither are you and I! Naturally, when we sin after salvation our fellowship with God is broken, just as it would be in a human family when one of the family members does something that is disappointing or embarrassing, there is an awkwardness there, but once that family member makes amends with the rest of the family they are still as much a part the family as they ever were. But you see, in a case is not relationship, but fellowship.
There is one last phrase here in verse 7 that we should notice, because it reminds us of the power behind redemption and that is the phrase according to the riches of His grace.” If a multimillionaire makes a charitable contribution of $250.00 it seems ridiculous because he is giving out of his riches. But if he makes a contribution of $25,000 he is giving according to his riches. How great is God’s forgiveness? It is according to the infinite riches of grace! Do you see what these verses are saying? Think about the implications of this forgiveness: forgiveness means that we don’t have to try to convince God that we are worthy of salvation. And perhaps more to the point of our everyday forgiveness means that we don’t have to try to convince ourselves of that!
You are a person of great worth in God’s sight! Now act like it! One of the most common phrases in Christianity is “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” But while that saying is true, there is another sense in which it gives us at least a subconscious excuse to sin! Because the truth is that we are saints – perfect in God’s sight. So let’s say instead, I will not be overcome by this temptation, after all, I am a saint saved by grace.”