Chapter 4 - The Redemptive Plan

The fall of man wrought a radical change in his nature and condition; the primitive purity was lost, and sin and condemnation rested upon his guilty soul. As a result, the entire race was plunged into sin; therefore all men stand in need of redemption.

Self-Redemption Impossible


Redemption would imply a return to the original perfect state, in both character and condition, and this restoration man could not of his own will effect. In the first place, there was a legal difficulty that he could not surmount. As a moral being, he had been placed under moral law, and this law required his perfect obedience. Its requirements might all be summed up in the words, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). Having disobeyed, man could not make reparation for his transgressions, since no surplus obedience is possible.
Also, there was an insurmountable moral difficulty. Having lost purity and innocence, man could not by self-effort regain them. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). Yet such a restoration is indispensable to redemption. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Self-redemption was therefore clearly impossible.

Will God Redeem?


As set forth in the previous chapter God stands acquitted of all responsibility in the Fall. Is there any evidence that he will redeem? The universal prevalence of sacrifices testifies that men have in all ages believed that God would redeem. It is highly probable that this practice was instituted by God’s appointment (Gen. 3:21 with 4:4). If so, then we have in this a clear evidence of God’s redemptive purpose.

A Divine Plan Progressively Revealed


Revelation itself, however, makes this subject clear. There existed in the divine mind a plan of restoration for fallen man. “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). A little later “Enoch walked with God” (5:24); while to Noah, God manifested himself particularly. These facts show God’s attitude toward the race.
When we come forward to the time of Abraham, we find a remarkable revelation of the plan of redemption in the special covenant that God made with the father of the Hebrew nation. This covenant consisted of two parts. The first part related to Abraham and his literal seed: God would make of him a great nation; his descendants should sojourn for a time in a strange land, after which God would bring them into the land of Canaan and give it to them for their inheritance. The second part of the covenant was of a spiritual nature, for in Abraham and his seed all the families of the earth were to be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-15; 15:5, 13-16; 17:1-8; 22:17-18).
This second division of the covenant so clearly depicted Christ and his universal gospel that Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Paul says: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:16, 14). (See also Rom. 4:13, 16-17.)
In the fulfillment of the first part of this covenant to Abraham’s seed, God gave the Law of Moses, the ostensible object of which was to govern and benefit the Israelitish nation, but the greatest object of which was doubtless to furnish a system of types and shadows—of sacrifices and ceremonies, offerings and oblations—pointing forward to the second division of the covenant, when the spiritual and real worship of God would be established among the nations of the earth. This law, and the manner in which it was delivered, imparted a clearer revelation of God’s nature and character, as well as of his plan, and thus furnished the means of disciplining the Jews in preparation for the coming Messiah.
The later prophets were not limited to an external system of types and shadows, but the Spirit of God made known to them directly the higher standard of revelation to be brought about by Christ. Isaiah says that “God … will come and save you” (35:4) and that this salvation will be effected by His vicarious suffering and death (Chap. 53). Daniel predicted that the Messiah would come “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24). Joel prophesied that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh (2:28-29). Zechariah pointed to the fountain of cleansing for sin and uncleanness that would be “opened to the house of David” (13:1).
Jesus Christ brought the highest revelation of God and taught a proper standard of human conduct, but above all we find in him God’s perfect remedy for sin. He came “to save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21; I John 3:5-6). Thus, the moral restoration of man to the original condition of holiness and purity is accomplished (Titus 2:14).
The redemptive plan was not completely fulfilled, however, at the time of Christ’s first advent. So far as the soul is concerned, the means was provided for its moral restoration; but we have seen that the Fall affected man physically also. It was doubtless God’s original design “that mortality might be swallowed up of life”—that mortal man in the Garden of Eden should, by partaking of the tree of life, maintain his natural life indefinitely, until such time as it pleased God to translate or immortalize him. Since this purpose was frustrated through sin, it has now become a part of the redemptive plan “that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (II Cor. 5:4). And since, because of original sin, it has been “appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27), that part of the redemptory scheme relative to our immortalization has been deferred until the last great day, the day of resurrection, when “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53).
Paul recognizes the fact that our bodies are included in the redemptive work, for he says, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost? … For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (I Cor. 6:19-20). (See also Eph. 1:13-14; II Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:23.)
A knowledge of this progressive feature of God’s redemptive work is necessary to a correct understanding of what the Bible really teaches. God’s method of revelation was adjusted to the nature and the condition of men, and was therefore progressive, so that at times one part was made to succeed another part, but progress was always upward. The unity that we find in all parts of the Bible is a unity of purpose and plan, which God was constantly seeking to make known to man and by which man was being gradually elevated, that is, the redemptive plan.

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