Now we come to the work of the Son in our redemption. Whom the Father blessed and chose and accepted, the Son redeemed. So we have from verses 7 to 12 of chapter one the work of the Son in our redemption.
Here we have the purpose of God worked out, the execution of His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ to make us acceptable before God. And if God is determined that we are to be before Him holy and without blame, if God has determined that we are to be accepted in all that Christ is, then He must provide the things so that our acceptance and our fellowship with Him will be complete.
I want to make myself very clear though, before I take up this question of the work of the Son in our redemption. I want you to understand the purpose of God, the will of God before the foundation of the world. He has chosen us according to the riches of His grace; He has chosen us according to the good pleasure of His will; He’s declared that we shall be to the praise of the glory of His grace; He’s declared that we shall be holy and accepted in all that Christ is before him. Then He must work out that thing whereby you and I individually can come into the good of what He has already determined.
In other words, there must be a foundation for our faith. I repeat it, being a holy God and men being in sin, if we are to be accepted before Him, something must take place. His righteous character must be vindicated and our sins must be put away once for all forever. Before God can do anything for us and with us and in us, His character must be vindicated. As a righteous God, He cannot let sin go by unpunished. And if we are to stand before Him, we must have a righteousness, we must have a holiness, we must be without fault; so it must be worked out somehow. We have it here in verses 7 to12—the work of the Son in our redemption.
Eph 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Let us consider the subject of grace, in relation to the atonement, and the forgiveness of sins.
I. The forgiveness of sins is associated with the death of our Lord—is associated with the precious blood. It is said in these days, ‘Let us get away from the subtleties and speculations of the theologians, and go back to the Christ.’ Well, sometimes that cry of ‘back to the Christ’ is very fallacious, because in going back to the utterances of Christ there is a disposition to forget the utterances of the inspired Apostles of Christ. But in this relation let us go back to the Christ. Our Lord’s words are perfectly clear: ‘The Son of Man,’ He said, ‘is come to give His life a ransom for many.’ Let us turn to St. Paul. St. Paul says, ‘I delivered you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins’; so again, ‘And God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’ And St. Peter, a very different type of mind, tells us of Him ‘Who in His own body bare our sins upon the tree.’ And St. John, again a very different type of mind, tells us ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’; and when he heard the anthem of the Blessed, as recorded for us in that wonderful last book of the Bible, we know that the theme of the Blessed was that they had washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb; that they were redeemed by the precious Blood. Therefore, let us get perfectly clear, as Christian people, that we are committed to the old theological view, that forgiveness comes through the precious Blood; that the Atonement is no invention of the theologians of the Middle Ages; that the forgiveness of sins is some way, somehow, for the Christian inseparably associated with our Lord’s death.
II. The true significance of the term, ‘the Blood of Christ.’ The term, of course, is always to be taken in its Old Testament sense. ‘The blood,’ it says, ‘is the life.’ The blood represents the energy of the physical life; and therefore the first idea of the shedding of our Lord’s blood which is very familiar to us all is that it is the highest expression of an absolute self-surrender, the giving up of everything. This is a most important point in relation to the forgiveness of sins, if you will bear in mind that the essence of sin is the self-assertion of the finite against the infinite, that the essence of sin is self. The offering of the Blood conveys the idea of the absolute surrender of self, of the very essence of self. We are not to regard our Lord as merely offering His Blood upon Calvary. His life was, so to speak, set free by death. This idea of the life set free by death entering into the higher plane of existence and of the presentation of the Blood before the throne of God is necessary to a complete realisation of what the Atonement means.
III. If you would get clear upon this subject of the Atonement, you must analyse the word into its constituent parts. The ordinary pronunciation of the word atonement is unfortunate. At-one-ment is the full analysis of the word. Let me trace the stages in broad outline.
(a) First of all, once there was at-one-ment between God and man. God created a creature capable of appreciating his Creator, and God saw creation as it found its completion in man, and, behold, it was very good. Perfect at-one-ment between God and man is the message of Paradise, and if we may venture for the moment into the region of speculative theology, if the Fall had not taken place, in all human probability there would have been a steady development of the human creature on and on, until the Incarnation would have been effected apart from the Fall. The Nicene Creed says, ‘Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was Incarnate.’ For we must remember that the Incarnation was no mere expedient; it expresses the eternal purpose of God that there should be union between the Creator and creature.
(b) Now let us draw strongly and clearly a second line. The at-one-ment ceases to be; sin comes into the world, and as generation after generation of mankind stands upon this earth there is a gradual declension; the gulf between God and man becomes wider and wider, and man with a darkened mind, with a seared conscience, with a weakened will crouches away from his God; ceases to believe that God is his Father; he is in a settled state of alienation, and he begins, as you find still in certain parts of Africa, to worship the powers of evil. His whole conception of God has changed. Now along with this change there is also the necessary alienation on the other side—though who would dare to attempt to peer too closely into this? But there is the necessary alienation on the side of God; not that the Father ceases to love His fallen child, but because there is a necessary averting of the face of God from all that is unholy. So the gulf widens more and more.
(c) And now we draw our third line, and ask ourselves the question, How is this gulf to be bridged over? The answer is that it has been bridged over by the Incarnation. The root idea of all forgiveness is union. There must be nothing between. There must be the removal of the hideous thing which has come between. Now, in the initial fact of the Incarnation there is absolute unity between God and man; but the Incarnation finds its more completed expression in the Cross. There is a phrase which the Apostle uses, which I think we could only have used with the greatest caution if he had not used it, but which he does use, and so we have a right to use it. St. Paul speaks of the Blood of God, and when you think of the offering of our Lord’s Blood, what does it mean? Why, that there is perfect at-one-ment between God and man.