Final and Full Redemption
"And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." -Psalm 130:8.
What a graceful and appropriate conclusion of this comprehensive and instructive Psalm! Like the sun, it dawns veiled in cloud, it sets bathed in splendor; it opens with soul-depth, it closes with soul-height. Redemption from all iniquity! It baffles the most descriptive language, and distances the highest measurement. The most vivid imagination faints in conceiving it, the most glowing image fails in portraying it, and faith droops her wing in the bold attempt to scale its summit. "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." The verse is a word-painting of man restored, and of Paradise regained- a condition infinitely transcending the holiness and beauty of their original and pristine creation. Iniquity is more than forgiven- it is utterly effaced and eternally forgotten. The soul is more than saved- it is justified, adopted, and glorified.
Thus, by the wonderful redemption wrought by Christ, we gain infinitely more than we lose. Man, clad in the righteousness of God, shines with a luster- and Paradise, closed against all "that defiles, and works abomination, or makes a lie," blooms with a beauty never possessed before sin tainted the one, or the curse blighted the other. Redemption, final and full, is the theme of our present chapter. "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
In unfolding this subject, our starting point must be the central truth- Israel's Divine Redeemer. The Person of Christ is the center of Christianity. Remove this, and the whole system is destroyed. He is the Foundation; destroy this, and the entire fabric falls. All the doctrines and precepts, all the promises and hopes of the gospel and of the believer, converge towards Him as their common center, and revolve around Him as their life giving Sun.
There never was a period in Eternity in which the Redeemer of men did not occupy His original and essential place as God. The Second Person of the Trinity, His throne has ever been the central one of Heaven; and His present original and essential glory as God, constituted Him the central Sun of all beings and of all worlds, upholding the universe by His arm, ruling it by His will, and shaping its history by His providence. But, passing by the central position and power of the Redeemer in the empire of Creation and Providence, let us concentrate our thoughts upon the yet more appropriate and essential illustration of this thought- His central position in the kingdom of grace. Here we behold Him in His proper place, and in His full orbed glory. It will be instructive to trace His appointment as the Redeemer of His Church to the hands of the Father.
Our Lord's was not a self appointed office. Most voluntary as its assumption was, He assumed not one line of action independent of the Father. This, indeed, could not possibly have been; since, essentially one in nature, they were essentially and indivisibly one in purpose and mind, in will and heart. It would have been as impossible that the Father could have acted independently of the Son, or the Son to have acted independently of the Father, as for one mind to conceive two opposite purposes, or one will two contrary volitions. Hence our Lord affirmed, "I and my Father are ONE." "My Father works hitherto, and I work." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise." "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not mine own will but the will of the Father which has sent me." "He that has seen me, has seen the Father."
What a glorious view does this unfold of the equality of the love of the Father and of the Son in the redemption of Israel from all iniquity! The plan of Redemption was the united conception and scheme of the Godhead, and originated in the Divine love of the ever-blessed Three in One. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." The misapprehension of many- and a more unscriptural and dishonoring one could not exist is, that the Redemption of Christ was the inspiration and origin of the love of the Father! In other words, that the Atonement was the cause, and not the effect, of God's love; that, Christ died to purchase and procure the love of the Father; and not- which is the only scriptural and logical view of the subject- that, the death of Christ was the consequence, and not the cause- the effect, and not the origin of God's love. In view of this stupendous mystery of love and grace, may we not pause, and exclaim, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift"?
Oh, it is a sweet reflection, that, when I lay my head upon the bosom of Jesus, I feel the throbbings of my Father's heart; that, when I bend my ear to the words of Jesus, I listen to the sound of my Father's voice, of which my Savior's is the gentle and gracious echo. "He that has seen me, has seen the Father." Let the truth encourage you, that in confiding your soul in faith to the hands of Christ you are assured of God's acceptance, since in dying upon the cross, and in receiving sinners, He acts in perfect harmony and concert with the purpose and mind, the will and heart of God.
The personal fitness of the Redeemer for the redemption of Israel is so palpable, and rests on so scriptural a basis, as to admit of not a moment's argument or doubt. It consisted essentially of the union of the two natures of Christ- the Divine and the Human. This union of the Infinite and the finite was indispensable. They could not have accomplished the work alone and apart from each other. The Divine was essential to the efficacy of Christ's death, the Human equally as essential to the death itself. As essential Divinity could not die, neither could mere Humanity atone. Hence, "the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." Herein lies the Redeemer's main fitness for the office thus divinely invested and thus voluntarily assumed. His Human nature- as free from the taint of sin as His Divine enabled Him to give a perfect obedience to law and a full satisfaction to justice. His Divine nature- absolutely and essentially Divine stamped His righteousness with such divine perfection, and His blood with such sovereign efficacy, as enabled Him to redeem, now and forever, the Israel of God from all iniquity. A not less essential element of fitness in Israel's Redeemer was the love- the great, the unparalleled love- which constrained Him to embark in the work of our Redemption.
Were I asked to mention the most prominent perfection in the marvellous scheme of our salvation, I would unhesitatingly cite that of Divine love. It was not that the law was honored, and that justice was satisfied, and that the debt was paid, that invested our Redemption with a glory so resplendent; it was the great love of God in devising, and the equal love of Christ in executing, and the divine love of the Spirit in applying, the wondrous expedient of our salvation. LOVE outsteps every other perfection, love eclipses every other attribute; love is the most gorgeous and resplendent tint in the "Bow round about the throne," -the Bow of the covenant-salvation uniting and blending in their sweetest and most beauteous harmony, all the perfections of God, -the perfection of DIVINE LOVE the most conspicuous and resplendent of all.
"Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." Fall prostrate before this stupendous, this marvellous, this unheard of love, and yield to it the supreme faith and homage of your entire being. Doubt not its reality, limit not its vastness, question not its freeness; but, believe it, accept it, live it- and you shall be saved.
From this rapid view of Israel's Redeemer let us briefly advert to Israel's Redemption. Redemption! it is the most significant and precious word in God's vocabulary. We shall, if saved, be spelling out that word, and yet never fully grasp its meaning, through all eternity. Studying, yet never entirely learning its meaning; extracting, yet never exhausting its sweetness; gazing upon its effulgence, yet never wholly absorbing its glory; chanting its song, yet never ending its praise!
And what is this Redemption? Our passage leaves us in no doubt. It is a "redemption from all iniquity." No other redemption could have met our case; redemption from mere affliction and sorrow, from sickness and suffering, from anxiety and care, would still have left us the degraded servant of sin and the willing slave of Satan, bound and fettered by the chain of the most galling bondage, and delivered over to the most appalling woe. But, Christ's redemption is from the cause of all affliction, suffering, and death- it is our "redemption from all iniquity." "He shall redeem Israel from all iniquity." Let us briefly look at this stupendous truth in two or three of its more essential points.
It is a redemption from the curse of sin. The entire removal of the curse by Christ is a point very much underrated and overlooked by the believer. The Divine blessing, in its fullest sense- His redemptive blessing- could not be upon us did one atom of the curse still remain unrepealed. But, our Divine and gracious Redeemer hurled the entire incubus from His Church when, 'born of a woman and made under the law,' He was "made a curse for us." Marvellous truth! The Son of God accursed for man's sin, looked upon and dealt with as the accursed one; cast out of Jerusalem as too accursed to die within its holy precincts! "Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate." What then is the blessed deduction from this truth? That, the cup of the divine curse being thus exhausted by our Divine Redeemer- not a drop lingering upon the brim- there remains nothing but the Divine blessing. The curse of the law is removed from the person and works, from the afflictions and sufferings, of the believer; and, henceforth, nothing but the Divinest BLESSING rests upon all that he is, and upon all that he does, and upon all that he endures; whatever the cross he bears, the suffering he endures, or the cup he drinks.
"Your blessing is upon Your people." His blessing is upon your person, for it is "accepted in the Beloved;" upon your labors, for they are "not in vain in the Lord;" upon your trials, afflictions, and sorrows, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Oh, what a soul-height is this, out of our depths of darkness and woe!
Christ's work is also a redemption from the guilt of sin. Sin's guilt is a fearful incubus, bowing the soul to the dust. No temporal calamity can be compared with it, no physical suffering equal it. It shades every scene of beauty, embitters every cup of joy, disturbs the harmony of every song of gladness, is "the worm that never dies" of the lost in hell. But, the Redemption of Christ exempts us from this canker-worm, releases us from this crushing weight. His righteousness repealed the curse of the law, His Atonement cancels the guilt of sin. If the sacrifices of the law sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself with out spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Thus, it is the blood of Christ that purifies the conscience, effacing its guilt; and healing its wound. And when a fresh sense of guilt is contracted- as fresh acts of sin assuredly will; the secret of daily purification and walking in communion with God will be found in an immediate renewed application to the blood of the Atonement, the conscience afresh sprinkled from every trace and vestige of sin's guilt. We cannot press this habit of constant washing too earnestly upon the reader. The tense in which the apostle places the blood before us teaches and enforces this habit: "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son CLEANSES us from all sin." It is in the present tense. Our blessed Lord, whose blood was on the eve of being shed, refers to this continuous application of the blood in that memorable conversation with Peter. Recognizing his past cleansing- "he that is washed'-Jesus strenuously insists upon a present one, the laving of the feet, of which His own condescending act at that moment was so impressively symbolic and significant. This may have suggested the apostle's exhortation, long after he had learned it from Jesus- "to whom COMING, as unto a living stone" -now coming, always coming to Jesus, as the Rock of our salvation, as the strength and support of our daily life. Oh, upon what a holy soul-height this continuous living upon Christ will keep us, raised above the world, above trials, above temptation, above self, preserving the mirror of the conscience unclouded, and unsullied by a breath!
The subduing of the power of sin in the believer, is not less a result of Christ's Redemption. To pardon the commission and to cancel the guilt of sin, and yet leave its reign undisputed and its scepter unbroken, would but neutralize all the happier effects of Christ's atoning work. Sin is a powerful tyrant. Long after its overthrow it still exists in the regenerate a dethroned, uncrowned despot; its sting extracted and its venom destroyed, but still retaining sufficient power to wound and distress the soul. Despoiled of its empire, like the Canaanites of old, it is yet domiciled in the land, making perpetual invasions and assaults on the camp of Israel; demanding on their part sleepless vigilance and perpetual conflict. Thus, the work of sin-mortification and world-crucifixion must go on, that, by a gradual process of defeat and extermination, the spiritual Canaanites, like the typical ones of old, are driven out "little by little," until the last enemy is destroyed, and the victorious paean of triumph floats sweetly from the lip of the conqueror- "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, for this gradual subduing of indwelling sin, the Redemption of Christ graciously and effectually provides. The promise that, "sin shall not have dominion over us," that, it shall never again recover its throne and sway, as before- its scepter over the soul broken; it rests upon the provision Redemption has made for this blessed result. That Redemption involves all supplies of grace from Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying influence of the truth, the power of prayer, and the hallowed results of God's afflictive dispensations. All these appliances God employs to promote our sanctification, and to make us holy, as He is holy.
A blessed height of the soul is that when the believer can look down upon his old sins and habits, lying mortally wounded at his feet, dying daily to their power and reign. Oh, there is no real happiness this side of heaven apart from personal holiness! God Himself could not be perfectly happy were He not perfectly holy. And just in proportion as we approximate to His supreme holiness, we approximate to His supreme happiness. How thankful should we be, amid all our depths of adversity, tribulation, and sorrow, that there are sacred heights on the earth where we may walk with God in sweet fellowship, in divine assimilation, and in filial love, -our souls arrayed in "the beauty of holiness."
My soul! let your one and supreme aim be, a loftier standard of personal holiness, a more exalted soul-height of unreserved consecration to God- the ear, the hand, the foot, as of old, sanctified with atoning blood, thus consecrating your members to the Lord: the ear, attentively listening to the voice of His word; the hand, diligently employed in His service; the foot, swift to run the race that is set before us- "looking unto Jesus." Thus, "the grace of God .... teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world," will have in us its perfect work, lacking nothing. Lord, what is lacking in my grace, supply; what is weak in my faith, strengthen; what is low in my Christian life, raise; what is languid and ready to die, quicken and revive, that I may stand complete in all the will of God.
It only remains that we include in this catalogue of redemptive blessings, the believer's exemption from sin's condemnation. Sin has a condemning power. "He that believes not is condemned already." But our blessed Lord Jesus Christ was condemned for sin, and condemned sin, on the cross. The sins of His elect were arraigned, tried, condemned, and executed, when He cried, "It is finished." Hence the glorious declaration with which the Apostle opens that remarkably rich and magnificent chapter in his epistle to the Romans: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." The salvation of Christ redeems Israel from all legal condemnation. The world may condemn, the saints may condemn, conscience may condemn, but God never! "He that believes on Him is not condemned. " Well may we exclaim, in the adoring language of the Apostle, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!"
But the saints' full and final Redemption is yet to come. The passage evidently bears this prospective interpretation: "He shall redeem Israel from all iniquity." We have seen in the course of this chapter, that, while salvation involves a release from the guilt, despotism, and condemnation of sin, it does not provide an amnesty in the present perpetual conflict with its indwelling existence and power. Sin will remain in the regenerate to the last of life. But a full redemption awaits the believer. It is most true, that, the moment the Christian is released from the body, he is in a state of perfect holiness as it regards the soul; but the full redemption of the body is yet to come. The Apostle, in the epistle to the Romans just quoted, thus puts it: "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the FIRST FRUITS of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." The time is coming when we shall no longer be chained to a corrupt body, a living corpse, tainted with sin, mortified with corruption, assailed by disease, suffering, and death. A glorious resurrection awaits us- a full redemption from the power of the grave. "O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction!"
But, before we enlarge more fully upon this redemption of the body from corruption, it may be wise to signalize the great and august event, although already alluded to, in connection with which it will transpire. This perfect redemption of the believer awaits the Second Coming of the Lord. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." It is towards this blessed hope that faith turns its longing eye. Looking beyond our partial emancipation at death, it fixes its earnest and unfaltering gaze upon a coming Redeemer.
We know that death- terrific as the spectacle is to some- is a merciful deliverance of the believer from all the ills of the soul; for, absent from the body, the soul is instantly present with the Lord. This emancipation, however, is but partial. The body- as much redeemed by Christ's precious blood as the soul, is still locked in the rigid embrace of death, and is still the corrupt prisoner of the grave, pending the Advent of Him who is the "Resurrection and the Life." But, when this glorious Epiphany arrives- when the Son of Man shall appear in the clouds of heaven, encircled by all "the spirits of just men made perfect" -then, the full redemption will transpire: and the soul, now re-united to the body, will ascend into a higher region of glory and blessedness, even the Third Heaven, where Jehovah dwells, waiting the arrival of the New Heaven and the New Earth, down upon which the whole Church will descend, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
We must keep distinctly in mind the connection of the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the saints. These two events perfectly synchronize. They are inseparable. "Our citizenship is in heaven, from where we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body (the body of our humiliation) that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." And here the pen falters in its attempt to describe the beauty, the glory of that risen body. It will be "a spiritual body," that is, a body free from the taint and grossness of the flesh, and yet material; with the same organs of sense, the same active limbs, capable of the same physical and intelligent communion with its fellows as now, yet free from all that now mars and interrupts that communion. No physical deformity will mar its symmetry; no existence of sin will taint its purity; no ravages of disease will torture its limbs; and no assault of death will imperil its existence. Oh, what an epoch that will be in the history of the redeemed, when from the hill, the valley, and the sea- from the venerable churchyard and the picturesque cemetery, -the 'dead in Christ' shall come forth, all resplendent with the glory, and hymning the new song of the resurrection morn! Let us comfort one another with this prospect!
One practical thought before we close this chapter. Be it our earnest desire to 'attain unto this resurrection of the holy dead' by an increasing knowledge of Christ and 'the power of His resurrection.' And if we are thus risen with Christ mystically, let us rise with Christ spiritually, by setting our affections more earnestly upon the things that are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Then, 'when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory- and so be forever with the Lord!