In our last post, we mentioned that the Hebrew word “go’el-haddam” had two meanings. We looked at one meaning, “the avenger of blood,” an idea that no doubt seems strange, even offensive, to our current thinking.
The other meaning is, “kinsman-redeemer,” that is, a near relative who could pay one’s debt or perhaps buy him out of servitude, if he had been forced to sell himself or his property because of some need. This aspect is mentioned in Leviticus 25:25, 47-54. The first reference deals with redemption of property, the second with the redemption of persons who, for one reason or another, had been sold or had sold themselves into servitude.
The Book of Ruth illustrates the role and responsibility of such a “kinsman-redeemer.” Ruth was the Moabitess widow of an Israelite, who came under the protection of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and relative of Naomi, her mother-in-law. Ultimately, she became an ancestor of our Lord Jesus, Who Himself came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. Do we not also call salvation, “redemption”?
I think we need to understand the OT roots of the idea of “redemption.” The person who needed to be “redeemed” was, in view of that fact and generally speaking, helpless to redeem himself. Granted, there were some few who might have been able to save up and pay their debts, but the whole idea was to help those who could not help themselves, those who were beyond help. They were like those of whom the Lord Jesus later spoke who owed ten thousand talents, an enormous sum – millions of dollars to us, Matthew 18:24.
We have so diluted the idea of “salvation” in our day that it seems to be looked upon as little more than a band-aid, used to cover up a minor scratch, if even that. (“God helps those who help themselves.”) Or that we’re already “the children of God.” While I would in no way deny or diminish human responsibility, the Scripture paints a far different picture. So far from merely our being a little beat up by sin and needing an aspirin for our headache, Scripture teaches that we are dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. We are dead, buried, and utterly corrupt and decayed, with no more ability to recover ourselves spiritually than a corpse has to bring itself back to life. (If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I truly am sorry. I don’t wish to add to your sorrow and grief.)
It’s true that spiritual death cannot be compared directly to physical death. One who is spiritually dead may be alive physically. A corpse sees nothing, knows nothing, feels nothing, wants nothing. A sinner sees, knows, feels and wants a lot of things.
Perhaps the only similarity is that death brings separation. Physical death brings separation from physical life and our loved ones. Spiritual death has brought separation from spiritual life and God. As Paul explained to the Ephesians about their (and our) lost condition before God: that at that time [we] 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, Ephesians 2:12, emphasis added. Contrary to a lot of current thought, all roads do not lead to heaven. Only one road leads there, and it’s narrow and difficult, Matthew 7:13, 14.
If salvation – or being saved – were the minor thing that it’s treated like, with a couple of “Hail Marys” or a few little “good works” or a little “profession of faith,” wherein the person “accepts Jesus,” but then goes his own way and never shows any signs of conversion – if that’s all “salvation” means, then why did it take the Son of God, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, taking to Himself a true and real human nature and body and dying on the Cross?
And why does Scripture compare salvation to a creation or a resurrection if it’s just a matter of form or ritual or the rote parroting of a prayer?
“Well,” someone might say, “Jesus loved us and died for us so that we have the opportunity to be saved.”
Is that all His death provided?
While it’s true that without His death, there would be no such “opportunity,” yet His death was so much more than that.
Contrary to modern thought, the Gospel has nothing to do with the love of God, John 3:16 notwithstanding. In the book of Acts, the early church never one time mentioned the love of God. Paul explained what the Gospel is in the book of Romans. The whole book is an explanation, but he summarizes it in a few verses in chapter 1:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…, Romans 1:16-20, emphasis added.
Not a word about “love.”
If Paul had written according to today’s thought, he might have written something along the lines of a popular tract in my youth, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Again, the early church never once mentioned the love of God in its preaching. Even in 1 John, “the message” isn’t that “God is love.” It’s true that 1 John 4:8 says that, but 1 John 1:5 says, This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, emphasis added.
True, there is some discussion about what “God is light” means. Some think it refers merely to “knowledge,” and the Gnostic idea that there is a special level of knowledge that only a privileged few ever attain, and that John writes to refute that idea. While that idea may have some validity, I think John writes of something much more important, namely, who is this God of whom he writes? What kind of a God is He?
There were all kinds of “religion” in John’s day, and the gods of those religions were just bigger versions of the people who followed them. The Greek and Roman gods were guilty of the same sins as their followers.
Contrary to what some seem to think today, the God of Scripture isn’t just a bigger version of ourselves. I once heard a radio preacher say that if we magnified man a billion times, then we would approach some idea of God. That’s not true. If we could magnify man a trillion times, we’d be no closer to the idea of God than an ant has of quantum physics. God is infinite, inhabiting eternity, Isaiah 57:15, and is holy beyond our comprehension, Isaiah 6:3. We are creatures of a few seconds and then die. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk describes God as being of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness, Habakkuk 1:13. Even though our souls are immortal and will never cease to exist, either in heaven or hell, we are just creatures, and, apart from His regenerating grace, are sinful beyond our comprehension.
We are sinners, not complimentary sinners, as in “Well, yes, I’m not perfect,” but deep down, dyed-in-the-wool sinners, in whom there is nothing good, Romans 7:18.
We have broken God’s law, all of it, every one of us, and are guilty in His sight. As such, we owe a debt, not to “society,” but to Him. If we ever stand before Him without the Lord Jesus Christ, we’ll discover the reality of that debt – that not a thousand lifetimes of perfect and sinless living, if we were even capable of it, could erase even one debt, let alone the incalculable number of which we are guilty. How much less, then, that little dab of “devotion” and “good works” we think we have in this life?
Back to John 3:16. John 3:16 is a great and wonderful truth. Nicodemus was a Jew and, as some believe, likely thought that when Messiah came, He would destroy all Gentiles, no matter how “good” they were, and save all Jews. God loved only Israel. No Gentile could be saved, but had to come to God through the door of Israel. That’s what the early church had trouble with – that one came to God through Christ, not Israel. Our Lord was telling Nicodemus, “You’ve got it all wrong. God loves the human race, not just one nation of it. Messiah won’t come to condemn the world, but to save it, v. 17.
The trouble is, Jesus continued His comment, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, v. 18. This truth is totally ignored today, as is John 3:36, He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
There’s that word again….
Lost people have neither claim on nor right to the love of God. They have broken His law, as have all of us. He has a claim on us.
That claim concerns His justice. We have broken His law. We have come under its penalty. We have incurred a debt. That penalty involves eternal separation from Him. We’ll have more to say about this in a later post, Lord willing.
For now, it’s enough to say that the Lord Jesus satisfied that claim, paid that debt for those who believe on Him for salvation. God’s justice has been satisfied.
It no longer has a claim on believers.
For unbelievers, it’s still true that the wrath of God abides on them. Their debt has not been paid.
Only in the Lord Jesus is there escape from our sins and the judgment due them. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.