"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."--Eph. 1:7
A retrospective glance promotes intelligent advance. The need of pardoning grace has been established. Sin appeared a grievous, an appalling, a universal malady, spreading wide infection--it held Adam's family in iron grasp, and branded them as criminals awaiting execution. No lip could qualify the truth--"All the world is guilty before God." (Rom. 3:19.) The province of nature and of self disclosed no hope. On one hand there was no help; on the other there was no refuge. Above, righteous anger frowned; below, perdition yawned. Despair seemed ready to engulf when the fair fields of grace arose to view, and a tender voice resounded--"But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him."
Next the inquiry was probed, "How can forgiveness acquire life?" In such matter no unsubstantial answer can give peace--anxious feet refuse to stand, except upon a solid rock. Scripture quickly removed all doubt--grace is proclaimed as the fountain-head of pardon. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Thus a scheme of forgiveness gains birth--it springs from the deep source of grace--it flows on in this channel, ever widening, expanding, and thus swells into the ocean of eternal glory. The word stands as a bright pyramid--"By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves--it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8.)
But trembling sinners may still be tossed by ebbs and flows of fears. Sins continually start up in affrighting forms. Conscience drags them to light, as multitudinous as ocean's sands, as terrible as an army of giants. A dreadful book of account contains within and without unanswerable indictments--it shows charges of debts to God's justice, rebellion against His rule, robbery of His due, defiance of His authority, insults to His majesty, estrangement from His service, hatred of His holiness, contempt of His law--perpetrations all abominable in His sight. How then can grace, yearning to confer forgiveness, erase reckonings so countless, so black, so great! God is just, as surely as He is gracious. Grace cannot trample upon righteousness; holiness cannot be ignored. "God sits upon the throne of His holiness." (Psalm 47:8.) "Holiness becomes His house forever." (Psalm 93:5.) Truth too, demands that its every word shall be magnified and honored. How then shall grace bring in forgiveness? Such tremblings haunt many breasts.
Here the Scripture in our front gives sweet reply. Its lovely light dispels these darkening clouds, and fills the skies with rays of peace. Let emphasis rest on its central clause--"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."
Grace originates forgiveness not arbitrarily, not in disregard of holy claims, not in violation of His co-equal attributes; but in fullest recognition of Jehovah's unity. Just payment must be made; and it is made by the atoning God-man. A wondrous stream flows from the wondrous cross--its value is infinite, because He who renders it is infinite. Its inherent boundlessness merits, earns, procures boundless remission of guilt--there can be no limits to its excellency; therefore there are no limits to its efficacy. As far as the east is from the west, its reach extends; therefore far as the east is from the west, it removes transgression from God's sight. It is unfathomable as the ocean's depth; therefore it buries all guilt in caverns beyond Omniscience's sight. Oh, scheme divine! It is surpassing ecstasy to ponder and adore it.
Sin might be punished without effort on the part of God. Let Him speak the word, and the armies of heaven issue forth to bind the tares in bundles for the burning. Let the restraining chain relax, and the inexorable jailer drags the condemned criminals to his cells of torment. Men left to their own ways will quickly people hell. It requires no intervention to destroy; but to introduce forgiveness demands the energies of heaven. This grace can gain no existence but through the death of God's co-eternal Son. Because He dies, forgiveness lives--all who are screened by forgiveness are cleansed and washed in blood. It is distinctly written, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." But this remission is secured; for Jesus gives the assurance--"This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28.) Thus the sacramental cup commemorates the full price paid, and echoes the words, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."
Let now water be drawn from the deep wells of these glad tidings. Let the price be considered as covenanted, foreshadowed, sufficient. Other properties will present food for after-thought.
I. It is a COVENANT price. The everlasting covenant has exact terms--among them the price of blood is foremost. Let thanks be given for such a covenant, in all things ordered and sure. Let thanks be given that the Holy Spirit draws back the curtains of heaven's council-chamber, and shows some glances of the scene. Let the privilege of pondering these mysteries be gratefully and reverently used.
Here is a field in which no idle curiosity may sport, or sceptic speculation place unhallowed foot; but, traversed by faith, it leads into rich pastures. Revelation then discloses a covenant framed before the foundation of the world. The eternal Father stipulates with the co-eternal Son that Jehovah's glory shall be magnified in the accomplishment of salvation. To Christ belongs the main concernment--He is the substance of the whole--He is so intertwined in every part that He is emphatically called the Covenant itself. It is the Father's voice--"I will preserve You, and give You as a Covenant to the people." (Isaiah 49:8.) He is the "Surety" of it. As such He is pledged for the performance of its every term. He is the "Messenger" of it. As such He publishes its sure mercies. But especially He affixes to it the seal of blood. To accomplish this He takes man's nature, becomes bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, and thus is qualified to pay the price.
In foresight of this expiating death the prophet proclaims, "By the blood of Your covenant I have sent forth Your prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." (Zech. 9:11.) The Apostle re-echoes the same--"Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work." (Heb. 13:20, 21.) Thus the covenant of eternal origin demands blood--forgiveness must be purchased by this price.
Peter, gazing with rapture on the scheme exclaims, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." (1 Peter 1:18-20.) Thus line upon line confirms the glorious truth that blood is the covenanted price of forgiveness.
The Apocalypse in varied terms gives repetition. In its visions "the Lamb slain" appears. The countless multitude are arrayed in robes, "white in the blood of the Lamb." The rebels against God are described as they "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8.) The victim dies--conditions are fulfilled. O Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who will not bless You, who will not adore You--that You did covenant in eternal counsels to shed Your most precious blood to purchase forgiveness, and in time did redeem the pledge!
II. The price of forgiveness is not only covenanted and fore-ordained, it is also FORE-SHADOWED. What grace arranged before time was, grace quickly testifies when time begins. Thus, before the cross was raised, its shadow cast its length over preceding ages. Before the price was really paid, foresight of it breaks forth in types, in visions, in prophecies, in promises. Heralds' voices proclaimed that He was approaching who would pay down the ransom. Let Eden's garden commence the proof. There sin enters and guilt is contracted. Punishment must follow. The woman's seed is announced as coming to avert this woe. The tempter shall bruise His heel, but He shall bruise the tempter's head. Here are the intelligible tidings that a Deliverer should expiate by suffering. But in the garden more than this promise is given. The skins of beasts are used to form a clothing--natural death touched not these animals; no conclusion can be held but that they died in foreshadowing sacrifice. Thus the covenanted price assumes the distinct form of 'shed blood'. This typical blood flows on in never-ceasing stream--it continues its teaching at every patriarchal, every Jewish altar, in every sacrificing priest, in every reeking knife, in every dying victim, in the temple, on the great day of atonement, before the mercy-seat. Has this uniformity of blood no voice? Truly it anticipates the blood of Calvary for the forgiveness of sins.
The elders of the family of faith clearly saw its purpose--they rejoiced in sight of the foreshadowed price. Here was the essence of their peace, the strength of their hope, the power of their prayers. Such is the constant pleading at the throne of grace, "Wash me throughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." Shall we, who can go back to Calvary and behold the price there paid, scruple to rejoice in the finished work, and to sue out its benefits? Rather let our trust in the accomplished work exceed the confidence of those who saw it only through the vista of long distance. We who live under the beams of the mid-day sun, should not be less joyous than those who saw through a dim twilight.
III. It is a SUFFICIENT price. Vain would have been the covenant, vain the foreshadowing, if the price had failed in worth. But it is all-sufficient. The vastness of the demands indeed exceeds all thought. Satisfaction is due for all the injuries done to all divine requirements. The law requires perfect love at every moment of time, in every movement of the mind, in every thought, and word, and work. Every deviation, every shortcoming subjects the transgressor to the inexorable curse. O sinners, carefully view the debt of your sin! Pile mountains upon mountains until heaven's summit be overpast--the pyramid of your iniquities raises a far higher head. Count all the sands which ocean's bed contains--the multitude of your iniquities is an outnumbering mass. For each offence the uttermost due must be paid, or the dreadful sum remains, and no door is opened to admit forgiveness--but the God-man brings price sufficient. Let justice now present its scales--in the one scale let sin be heaped; in the other scale let Jesus place His meritorious blood. It instantly and infinitely prevails. Justice can ask no more. Infinite worth is its inseparable adjunct--it is paid by Jehovah's fellow. This offering is greater homage to God's attributes than all earth's ruin--it brings more glory to Jehovah than the endless punishment of all who ever sinned. Their never-ending endurance could never have reached the end of the demand; but the blood of boundless value at once liquidates the whole.
Where sin tremendously abounds, the price most gloriously superabounds. Let the thought give comfort. Forgiveness thus comes not only most graciously, but most righteously. No holy requirement is relaxed--God is inflexibly and unchangeably just, while He freely justifies. It is a grand word, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9.) Thus all obstacles are removed; the gates are widely open; the portals give free way. Forgiveness has clear path; it may enter every home and every heart, blotting out all sins, and bringing back the sons of faith to the bosom of a reconciled Father.
But one phrase of the text must not be overlooked. It is written, "In Him we have redemption." In Christ, in Christ alone, forgiveness dwells--He is the sphere, the element, the home, the condition, as He is the price of it. It is the exclusive portion of those who are in Him, who dwell in Him, are engrafted into Him, are cemented into Him, are united to Him, are one with Him, buried in His wounded side, risen with Him to newness of life, seated with Him in heavenly places. Apart from Him forgiveness has no place--there is only a fearful looking for of judgment to come; therefore Scripture cries, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near;" "Return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon."