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God’s Purpose in Our Redemption

February 8th, 2019

His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence. So I ask you not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. (Ephesians 3:10-13 BSB)

A new popular Christian song written by Cory Asbury is Reckless Love in which he emphasizes how undeserving we are of God’s love. The song as a whole is not bad, but some have objected to his using the word “reckless” to describe the love of God. Reckless means: “Heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s action.” Asbury means, I assume, that Christ in love was willing to pay the price for our salvation regardless. I believe he wanted to convey that Christ came to redeem us and in His act of redemption, He “let the chips fall where they may” as we say.

The problem is that “heedless” suggests thoughtlessness, and something far less than intentional redemption by the all-wise God. Synonyms of reckless are “rash, careless, thoughtless, impetuous, and impulsive.” God’s love may properly be called costly, even risky, but not reckless. “Reckless” seems to forget or ignore the truth of God’s awareness of all that happens on earth, as Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matt. 10:29).

Okay, so a Christian song writer could have chosen a better word – nothing new in that. I’m sure Asbury meant well, and if we started rejecting every hymn or popular Christian chorus due to poor theology we would probably have nothing left to sing. This is the nature of poetry, that by definition uses analogies, emotional thoughts, and even attention-getting words and dramatic comparisons to communicate an idea – and even Christian poetry is like that. So we should be careful about overanalyzing any of it.

The ironic thing is that Asbury’s emphasis in the rest of the lyrics is on the premeditated and powerful love of God for us, so, in my opinion, the word “reckless” is out of character with the rest of his lyrics. He is actually trying to convey not “recklessness” so much as the “costliness” of God’s love. Of course, he’s an artist and not a theologian, but still words have meanings and he is literally saying in the title and chorus that God was rash in our redemption and did not anticipate the cost of His love for us – which is clearly not biblical. God knew the cost of our redemption and Christ was called “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). He thought through it all, from the perspective of being the all-wise and all-knowing God. In my opinion, to sing this song we must either dumb down our theology or dumb down our use of the English language. I prefer to uphold both. (Okay, I’ll get off his back now.)

The Ephesians passage above is a case in point, as the apostle explains God’s purpose in our redemption. God has an eternal purpose in our redemption, as Biblical scholar Albert Barnes in his commentary wrote: “If God has any plan, it must be eternal. He has no new schemes; he has no intentions which he did not always have.”

So what is the eternal purpose of God in our redemption?

To Reveal His True Nature

The purpose of God in what He does it to reveal who He is. We reveal who we are by our words and actions, and God reveals who He is by His. God is a God of revelation and communication – that is also part of His nature. What He creates – both the spiritual creations such as angels and the physical creation such as the universe – both reveal and perceive His character. God spoke the world into existence, and he continues to speak to the worlds He has made to reveal who He is.

But the material creation was not enough to reveal everything about Him, or even the most profound things about Him. Again, to quote Barnes:

One grand purpose in the creation of the universe was, that the wisdom of God might be clearly shown by the church. It was not enough to evince it by the formation of the sun, the stars, the earth, the seas, the mountains, the floods. It was not enough to show it by the creation of intelligent beings, the formation of immortal minds on earth, and the various ranks of the angelic world. There were views of the divine character which could be obtained only in connection with the redemption of the world. Hence the universe was created, and man was made upon the earth, not merely to illustrate the divine perfections in the work of creation, but in a still more illustrious manner in the work of redemption.

We must note that it is the “manifold wisdom of God” that is revealed in our redemption and not the impetuous rash, unthought through emotional whims of some deity who is not omniscient.

God is all wise. His love is neither child-like or ridiculous – it comes from the eternal heart of the Triune God (John 17:24-26). And it is not haphazard or happenstance. The Bible uses words like “lavish” but it clarifies this with the knowledge of God.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:7-8)

God knew what He was about from the beginning. And He knew what His love would gain – we are His heritage (Eph. 1:18).

God’s word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11) and Christ did not come and die for our sins without a plan and without knowing who would believe and who would not. He will complete His Work. He said:

Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’ (Luke 14:28-30)

Christ will complete His work to redeem us.

Some speak of heaven being “bankrupted for our redemption.” I understand their meaning, but I believe this is a poor choice of words. Whatever impact the coming of Christ to earth and His death by crucifixion had upon heaven we are left to ponder. Certainly the painful separation between God the Son and God the Father on the cross, when he who knew no sin became sin for us, is inestimable by us.

But God is described as “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), and through our redemption the eternal values of the eternal God are revealed. In the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for us through Christ, heaven never seemed so rich because it not only revealed God’s love but it was an achievement of His love for us. Heaven is enriched and not diminished by Christ’s sacrifice — see the song of praise sung to the Lamb in heaven:

Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9-10)

We are not saved by accident or by our own free will. We are only saved by the grace of God in Christ and can only believe through the help and ministry of the Spirit – to convict and to convert. Chris did not come on the “off-chance” that we might believe. God’s word says something very different:

For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One. (Eph. 1:4-6)

Any suggestion that our salvation is our choice mostly lowers the greatness of God’s love and of God’s wisdom and of His plan, and especially of His power, and elevates the human choice on whether or not to notice it. Such statements ignore the conviction of the Spirit and the mysterious way that God works out our salvation.

Through the Church and through Grace

Throughout the biblical record both the holiness and the love of God are revealed. It is generally observed that God’s holiness is revealed through the Law of Moses, but God’s love is revealed through Christ. John the Apostle wrote: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). And Paul wrote: “For the law merely brings awareness of sin” (Rom. 3:20). In using the word “law” both John and Paul did not mean the entire span of Old Testament history, but only the written code that was found in the Old Testament – the specific commands of God.

But the reality is throughout the entire Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – we see both the holiness of God and the grace of God revealed. If the Old Testament – the thirty-six books – reveals more of the holiness of God than the love, and if the New Testament – the twenty-seven books – reveals more of the love of God than the holiness, it cannot be denied that they both do reveal both. For holiness and love are essential attributes of God’s eternal character. We see both in the revelation to Moses:

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)

Yet in the New Testament, through the life and ministry of Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, we see the overwhelming emphasis on the love of God and on the grace of God to us. Christ bore our sins on the cross – satisfying the holiness and justice of God – and He did this in order to save us and redeem us – satisfying the love of God. All that God requires to receive this is repentance from sin and faith in Christ.

The elevation of spiritually dead human beings – whether Jew or Gentile – to become members of God’s eternal family speak of His greatness and of His character as nothing else ever could or ever will.

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7)

God’s wisdom that is on display is “manifold wisdom,” meaning that it is essentially of one purpose and of one nature, but that it has varying degrees and manners of expression. We may ask, “Does every Christian need as much of God’s grace as the next?” That is an interesting question, and one that might tempt us to either pride or to shame. The best answer is that God is just as offended by the pride of the self-righteous as He is by the debauchery of the notoriously sinful. We must leave such things in God’s hands to consider, but from our perspective we should all feel, as Paul did, that we are the chief of sinners.  In grace there is no room for boasting (Eph. 2:8).

It took the death of Christ for us all to be redeemed, and God still works with us as individuals after our salvation to lead us. We read: “Now to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7). And: “Think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3). John the Baptist said: “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). In this sense God as our heavenly Father shows that, like us earthly fathers and mothers do with our children, He treats us as individuals, giving us gifts, faith, and opportunities according to how He has chosen to do so.

But the underlying reality of all that God does in our lives is the His grace in Christ Jesus. This colors everything else.

To the Angelic Beings

We are a bit struck by these next statements: That God redeemed us through Christ for a witness to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” – which clearly describes the angelic host. It includes the faithful and holy angels and the fallen angels as well.

To the faithful angels who are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14), they delight to examine the grace of God in Christ for it reveals more about God than they had known previously (1 Peter 1:12). To the fallen angels who have become demons on this earth, their accusations against us have been disarmed by Christ’s payment for our sins: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (col. 2:15). Like Satan their leader, they are here in anger knowing that they have “but a short time” (Rev. 12:12).

Just as the angels must marvel at our redemption and the lengths God went to to achieve it, we often ponder curiously over this matter of God redeeming us to show them who He is. We can certainly see some dangers here in terms of false beliefs that we may wander into if we are not careful. One of those dangers is the idea that God is not omniscient, rather he is just a smarter and more powerful spirit entity, and he needs some spirit beings to peer with. Another is the similar idea that God is somehow training the angels so that they can go off in the universe somewhere and start their own worlds.

God does not peer with the angels, neither is he training them (or us) to become creators like him. The only peering that God has ever done is within the Trinity itself, as Christ said to the Father: “Glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:5). And neither we nor the angels can become what He is.

But we would be wrong if we assumed that there is not some training and some teaching in God’s purpose – both for the angels and for us. Being a communicating God by nature, He communicates to transform us and to reshape us in His spiritual image (John 17:17 and Rom. 8:29). So the revelation of His love and of His redemptive nature and acts will inevitably prepare the angels and us for great acts in eternity future.

The scripture says that we shall “reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5), and to reign means not to merely sit upon a throne and be waited upon by others – that is not what God did – but rather to exercise justice in God’s behalf. Whatever God has for us in eternity it will be exciting and useful for His purposes. We will go about these assignments with holy enthusiasm.

Conclusion:

So the full revelation of His character is essential for the angelic hosts and for us as well to prepare us for the future. For both of us it gives a full and deeper understanding of who God is and who we are to be in Him. And as such, the contemplation of God’s great love and His nature are the most profound things we can do to prepare ourselves for eternity. John wrote:

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

Ephesians