1:7 Redemption means that believers have been bought with the price of Christ’s blood (1Co 6:20; 1Tm 2:6; 1Pt 1:18–19) and have been redeemed from sin, Satan, and the misery of sinful self. The result of redemption is a sending away or banishment of our sin debt, resulting in complete forgiveness.
1:7 redemption The Greek word used here, apolytrōsis, refers to the act of paying to free a slave. See also Col 1:14 and note.
through his blood Refers to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross (Rom 3:24; Rev 5:9).
1:7 Redemption denotes ransoming someone from captivity or from slavery. The supreme OT example was the exodus, where God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt (see Ex. 15:13; Deut. 7:8; 2 Sam. 7:23; Mic. 6:4). Forgiveness of our trespasses explains the nature of redemption: Christians are freed from slavery to sin and guilt. This was effected by Christ’s blood, which means his death as an atoning sacrifice (see also Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:14; 2:13; 4:30; Heb. 9:15).
1:7a redemption through His blood. The term used here relates to paying the required ransom to God for the release of a person from bondage. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paid that price for every elect person enslaved by sin, buying them out of the slave market of iniquity (see notes on 2Co 5:18, 19). The price of redemption was death (cf. Lv 17:11; Ro 3:24, 25; Heb 9:22; 1Pe 1:18, 19; Rev 5:8–10).
1:7b, 8 the forgiveness of our trespasses … In all wisdom and insight. Redemption brings in the limitless grace of God (Ro 5:20) and forgiveness of sin (cf. Mt 26:28; Ac 13:38, 39; Eph 4:32; Col 2:13; 1Jn 1:9). It brings divinely-bestowed spiritual understanding. Cf. 1Co 2:6, 7, 12, 16.
1:7. In Him we have redemption through His blood. Redemption means to purchase by paying a price. Jesus tells believers He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life (Mark 10:45). Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin so that He could redeem those who believe and set them free through His blood. By means of His shed blood believers are purchased and set free (Rev 5:9). They have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet 1:18–19). There can be no payment for sin without the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22). Only the blood of a perfect person can pay for mankind’s sins. Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God who died to pay for sins, thereby satisfying God (1 John 2:2).
By faith in Jesus Christ people have forgiveness of sins. “To forgive” means to take away or to remove. In Jesus Christ there is forgiveness and God has removed sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). Forgiveness comes by faith (Acts 10:43; 13:38). People sin as they miss the mark and fall short (Rom 3:23) and are in open rebellion to God and act contrary to His Word (Eph 2:1). Believers are blessed in Christ, having been redeemed and receiving the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.
1:7 As we trace the sublime sweep of God’s eternal plan for His people, we come next to the fact of redemption. This describes that aspect of the work of Christ by which we are freed from the bondage and guilt of sin and introduced into a life of liberty. The Lord Jesus is the Redeemer (In Him we have redemption). We are the redeemed. His blood is the ransom price; nothing less would do.
One of the results of redemption is the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is not the same as redemption; it is one of its fruits. Christ had to make full satisfaction for our sins before they could be forgiven. This was done at the cross. And now—
Stern justice can demand no more
And mercy can dispense her store.
The measure of our forgiveness is given in the words, according to the riches of His grace. If we can measure the riches of God’s grace, then we can measure how fully He has forgiven us. His grace is infinite! So is His forgiveness!
1:7. Redemption (apolytrōsin) denotes release or deliverance from a state of slavery (cf. Col. 1:14). The idea of release is seen in some of the other verses where this Greek word appears (Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:15; 11:35). (See the chart “New Testament Words for Redemption” at Mark 10:45.) This redemption is from sin (Heb. 9:15), and thus this work of Christ delivers believers from slavery to sin. This is further defined by the forgiveness of sins (cf. Eph. 4:32; Col. 1:14), which is the immediate result of a believer’s release from sin’s hold. (The word for “sins” is paraptōma, lit., “false steps or transgressions,” also used in Rom. 4:25; 5:16–17, 20; Eph. 2:1, 5, and elsewhere.) God could not treat sin lightly for it required the sacrifice of blood (cf. Heb. 9:22).
The means of redemption is the sacrificial substitutionary death of Christ (through His blood; cf. Eph. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:19), which completely satisfied God’s justice (Rom. 3:24–25). This was accomplished in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (cf. Eph. 1:6; 2:7). The cost of Christ’s blood is the measure of the wealth of God’s unmerited favor to every believer. It was accomplished not “out of” but “according to” (kata) the wealth of His grace (cf. Phil. 4:19). Six times in Ephesians Paul referred to God’s riches (1:7, 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16).
1:7. To be redeemed means to be “bought back.” It carries with it the sense of being released from slavery. By being redeemed by Christ, we are freed from sin, both the penalty and the enslaving power. This redemption was accomplished by the death of Christ on the cross where he shed his blood and died to secure our redemption. His death paid the price for our release from sin and death.
Forgiveness goes hand in hand with redemption. We cannot have one without the other. To forgive means to give up the right to punish someone for a transgression. Making forgiveness possible was a major accomplishment in God’s eyes, since it required the sacrifice of blood and the death of his Son, Jesus. This magnanimous decision to do this for us grew out of God’s grace which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
1:7 “we have” This verb is in the PRESENT TENSE, while the surrounding verbs are all AORIST TENSE. We currently possess the benefits of all that God has accomplished in Christ. However, notice in the same Greek sentence (v. 14) that redemption is future. Salvation begins with the call of God, the wooing of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44, 65). It issues in a repentant/faith decision followed by a life of trust and obedience that will one day be consummated into complete Christlikeness (cf. 1 John 3:2). Salvation is a relationship as well as a pronouncement, a person as well as a message.
7. In the second paragraph the attention is shifted from heaven to earth, from the past to the present, and, in a sense, from the Father to the Son. I say “in a sense,” for the change is by no means abrupt. The infinitely close connection between the Father and the Son in the work of redemption is fully maintained. It is the Father who caused his grace to overflow toward us (verse 8), made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure (verse 9), etc. Nevertheless, the emphasis has changed from the work of the Father to that of the Son. It is the Beloved, that is, the Son, in whom we have our redemption. It is he who shed his blood for us (verse 7). It is he also in whom the Father’s purpose of grace was concentrated (verse 9), under whose headship all things are brought together (verse 10), in connection with whom we have been made heirs (verse 11), and in whom we centered our hope (verse 12). Accordingly, Paul continues: (the Beloved) in whom we have our redemption. Redemption here, as in Col. 1:14 (cf. also Exod. 21:30; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:24, Heb. 9:12, 15), indicates deliverance as a result of the payment of a ransom. There was no other way for sinners to be saved. God’s justice must be satisfied. Anyone who doubts the necessary, objective, voluntary, expiatory, substitutionary, and efficacious character of the act of the Father’s Beloved whereby he offered himself for his people should make a diligent study of the passages mentioned in N.T.C. on I and II Timothy and Titus, p. 376.
This redemption implies: a. emancipation from the curse, that is, from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13), and b. restoration to true liberty (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1). It was, moreover, a redemption through his blood, a redemption, therefore, which implied substitution of the life of One for the life of others. Thus, thus only, atonement could be made (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Moreover, the blood through which alone redemption could be accomplished was his blood, that of the perfect Redeemer. The blood of animals was merely symbolical and typical (Ps. 40:6–8; Heb. 9:11–14; 10:1–14). Yet, when mention is made of redemption through his blood, this blood must never be dissociated from the voluntary sacrifice of the entire life, the self (Lev. 17:11; Isa. 53:10–12; Matt. 26:28; cf. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6). Expressions such as, “He gave his blood,” “He gave his soul,” and “He gave himself,” are synonymous. They all indicate that the Redeemer was made (and made himself) an offering for sin (Isa. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21); that he suffered the eternal punishment due to sin; that he did this vicariously, and that he did all this for those who by nature were “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). What enhances the glory of this sacrifice even more is the fact that although the Beloved came into the world to do many things, for example, to still the boisterous waves, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and even raise the dead, yet the over-arching purpose of his coming was to seek and to save the lost, to give himself a ransom for many (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15). Truly, “Jesus from his throne on high came into this world to die.” No wonder that Paul cries out, “Blessed (be),” that Peter urges upon those committed to his charge the thankful response of a holy life, adding “knowing that you were redeemed not with corruptible things, with silver or gold … but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, (even the blood) of Christ” (1 Peter 1:15–19), that “angels desire to look into the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow them” (1 Peter 1:10–12), that, with their minds and hearts fixed on the infinite greatness of this sacrifice, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders in their new song are forever exclaiming, “Worthy art thou … for thou wast slain, and didst purchase with thy blood men of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), and that the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels join in with this grand jubilation by lifting up their voices in exuberant adoration, shouting, “Worthy is the Lamb who has been slain!” (Rev. 5:12).
Now the purpose of this redemption was “that we might from sin be free.” It was with that objective in mind and heart that he “bled and died upon the tree.” Hence, Paul says, “the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood,” the forgiveness of our trespasses. These two—a. redemption by blood and b. forgiveness of trespasses—go together. Redemption would not be complete without procuring pardon. Even Israel in the old dispensation understood this. On the day of atonement the blood of one goat was sprinkled on the mercy-seat. The other goat, over whose head the people’s sins had been confessed, was sent away, never to return. Now here in Eph. 1:7 this idea of complete removal of sin constitutes the very meaning of the word, used in the original, rendered forgiveness (or remission). Other passages that shed light on the meaning are Ps. 103:12 (“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”), Isa. 44:22 (“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins: return to me, for I have redeemed you”), Jer. 31:34 (“… and their sin I will remember no more”), Mic. 7:19 (“Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”), and 1 John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”).
As to its derivation, the word rendered trespass means a falling to the side of. A trespass, then, is a deviation from the path of truth and righteousness. Such deviations may be either of a gross or of a less serious nature. That in Ephesians no deviation is excluded, and that the totality of these deviations is regarded as a serious matter, one that is rooted in the very nature of man as corrupted by the fall, is clear from 2:1, “And you (he made alive) when you were dead through your trespasses and sins” (cf. 2:3, 5). With reference to forgiveness see also N.T.C. on Colossians, pp. 118–120.
Now forgiveness takes place according to the riches of his [the Father’s] grace. Forgiveness and grace are in complete harmony. The standard established by God’s grace determines the measure of his forgiveness. For the meaning of grace see on 1:2 above; cf. also 1:6; 2:5, 7, 8. Note that the Father forgives not merely of, but according to, his riches, riches of grace. Illustration: Here are two very rich persons. When asked to contribute toward a good cause, both give of their riches. The first one, however, donates a very paltry sum, far less than had been expected of him. He merely gives of his riches, not according to. The second is lavish in his support of every noble cause. He gives according to the amount of his wealth. God ever gives and forgives according to his riches. And he is rich, indeed! His favor toward the undeserving is infinite in character.
Redemption and Forgiveness (vs. 7). “Redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins [trespasses]” (vs. 7) are joined together in such a way as to suggest the closest possible relation, but they are not identical concepts. “Redemption” denotes a release brought about by the payment of a price. Barclay calls attention to the varied uses of the word: of ransoming a slave or a prisoner of war, of releasing a man under penalty of death for some crime, of the emancipation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and of God’s rescuing His people in the time of their trouble. “In every case,” he explains, “the conception is the delivering or the setting free of a man from a situation from which he himself was powerless to liberate himself, or from a penalty which he himself could never have paid” (p. 93). In Christ we have been delivered from the shackles of sin, from enslavement to Satan, and from all the misery attendant on such enslavement.
The ransom price, the means by which this release has been effected, is “his [i.e., Christ’s] blood” (vs. 7). This sacrificial term calls to mind the blood of victims offered to God in the Old Testament economy. Here the word represents the death of Christ in its character as a sacrifice for sin and is a reminder to us of the infinite price God paid for our redemption.
To the idea of redemption Paul adds that of “the forgiveness of sins.” The figure in the Greek word rendered by “sins” is that of a falling by the way, an offense, a trespass. Here the plural signifies the accumulation of sinful acts that were chargeable to us. “Forgiveness,” a word of frequent occurrence in the New Testament, means literally “a dismissal,” “a sending away” (cf. Ps. 103:11, 12). The entire phrase signifies the removal of sin’s guilt and the pardon of the sinner. By putting the phrase “forgiveness of sins” in grammatical apposition with the word “redemption,” Paul implies that forgiveness is the central feature of our redemption.
The measure of redemption is expressed in the phrase “according to the riches of his grace” (vs. 7). God’s bequests are in proportion to the abundance of His treasures. He does not give in stinted fashion but with unbounded liberality. If redemption were according to the measure of man’s merit, there would be no redemption. But who can measure the wealth of God’s grace?
Ver. 7. In whom we have redemption through His blood.—
Redemption in Christ:—God has made Christ an Adam, head, root, receptacle and storehouse, in whom are treasured all those good things which from Him are communicated to us. 1. By nature we are no better than in a spiritual bondage. (1) Under a stern task-master—the law. (2) Unable to do anything spiritually good. (3) Forced to endure many things most grievous (Heb. 2:15). 2. We have deliverance from our spiritual thraldom by Christ. (1) Reason for thanksgiving. For such redemption we should sing with Mary our Magnificat. (2) Reason for joy (Isa. 44:23). 3. That by which we are ransomed and redeemed is the blood of Christ. (1) From the guilt of sin. (2) From the power of the devil. (3) From the captivity of lusts, &c., through the Spirit dwelling in us. (4) From evil of every kind. All tears, in God’s time, shall be wiped from our eyes; and meanwhile all our sufferings are so changed, that we know them to be not the result of God’s vengeance, but of His fatherly love and care, His design being that we may partake further, by means of them, in the quiet fruit of righteousness. (Paul Bayne.)
- Who are the subjects of this redemption? “We” who were chosen in Christ to be holy; “we” who have believed and trusted in Christ. Redemption, though offered to all, is actually bestowed only on those who repent and believe.
- What is the nature of this redemption? It is the redemption of the soul from the guilt of sin by pardon.
III. The way and manner, in which believers become partakers of this privilege. “Through the blood of Christ.”
- The fountain from which our redemption flows. “The riches of His grace.” (J. Lathrop, D.D.)
- The meaning of redemption. Suppose any article, pledged for a certain sum, and that it was redeemed, would it not revert to its owner again, and be his own, and be free? Suppose a man a prisoner, and ransomed, or redeemed by having a ransom paid for him. If the ransom were sufficient and accepted, would he not be free? Suppose an estate mortgaged and redeemed from its mortgage, would it not be free? Does not redemption in all these cases mean a complete and perfect deliverance, so that if there be not deliverance, then the term redemption cannot be applied; for the person or the thing is really not redeemed.
- The means of its accomplishment. The price—“through His blood.” If any other means had been sufficient, is it possible, think you, that Christ would have died? Would the precious blood of the Lamb of God have been poured out if any price less costly had been sufficient? If you could save your children from destruction by any other means than the peril of your life, would you risk that life unnecessarily? And surely the Father had not sent His beloved Son to die upon the cross if other ransom could have been found for guilty man.
III. How different is the ground of our forgiveness from the natural expectation of the heart. How different from the miserable hope that men derive from the thought that they are not so bad as others. How different from the miserable hope they derive from the idea that they have amended their lives and reformed their habits, and are better than their former selves, and therefore trust that they are on this ground more acceptible to God. How different from any such miserable hope—if hope it can be called, which must ever be clouded by the consciousness of sin, by the feeling that, however imperfect and false, the standard of attainment be which we have raised, we must fall short of our own standard, and sink beneath its level, when measured even by our own conscience. True it is, indeed, that if a sinner believes the gospel his life will be totally changed; he will be different from those who believe it not, and different from what he was himself as an unbeliever; but this is the effect, not the cause, of his salvation; he is changed not to be saved, but because he is saved. (R. J. McGhee, M.A.)
Blessings resulting from the death of Christ:—
- We must notice the privileges themselves. These are twofold—“we have redemption,” and we have “the forgiveness of sins.” We shall speak of them in order:—and, First, with respect to redemption. It denotes a change of state from bondage to liberty; and thus may be considered as implying—1. Deliverance from the power of our adversary the devil. 2. Redemption respects our deliverance from sin. It no longer reigns in those who are Christ’s, although it may not yet be thoroughly eradicated. 3. This redemption, again, respects our deliverance from the fears of death—death corporeal, and death eternal. We now pass on to notice the other privilege mentioned in the text, and that is, “the forgiveness of sins.” 1. This forgiveness is full. It reaches to all sins—past, present, and future. 2. This forgiveness is altogether free. The distinctive excellency of the gospel of Jesus Christ is freeness. All the blessings it brings are as free as the air we breathe.
- The procuring cause of these privileges. Says the apostle, “In whom we have redemption.” But who is He? Why the same who is referred to in the preceding verse. He in whom we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings”. He in whom we were “chosen before the foundation of the world.” He by whom we have received the adoption of children, and in whom we stand accepted in the sight of God. And who is He but the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we read in another place, “that God having in time past spoken unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”; and by Him alone, for “there is no other name given among men whereby we can be saved.” Hence you will observe that it is seldom, perhaps never, that the sacred writers fail to direct us to Christ, when they unfold any distinguishing privilege, or fundamental doctrine of the gospel: so it is here, the apostle is tracing our salvation up to its source, the love of God, but he also refers to the channel through which it flows, and that is Christ.
III. We must glance at the original source. It is according to the “riches of His grace.” Everything that God has done for sinners, shows us that He is a God of grace; but more especially in the coming of Christ, and in His elevation upon the cross, do we see the “riches of His grace.” This surely ought to encourage sinners to draw near to God; “that “they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Essex Remembrancer.)
Redemption by the blood of Jesus:—
- The certainty with which Christ has, in point of pact, redeemed His people. 1. Show how we came to need redemption. 2. Christ Jesus, as Mediator, at a certain period of this world’s history, gave Himself a ransom for His people.
- I come now to mention some of the properties of that redemption with which Christ redeems His people. 1. It is free or unmerited on the part of man. 2. A full redemption. 3. This redemption takes effect in time. 4. This redemption is for eternity. 5. Redemption by Jesus implies that we could not redeem ourselves. It is a law in nature that like produces like; and if it be once settled that our progenitors were corrupted and depraved, and at the same time granted that we are descended from them, the contrary of which is self-contradictory; then as sure as the corrupted fountain sends forth a polluted stream, so sure are we backward to that which is good, and forward to that which is evil. And sooner may the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots—which would be nature inverting nature’s course, for it is natural for them to be as they are—than can man who is born of a woman cease to do evil, and learn to do well. I shall now conclude this discourse with a few remarks, by way of improvement. 1. From this subject learn the high privilege of the children of men to be redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 John 3:1). Redemption is doubly endeared to man by the love of God, and by the sufferings of Jesus. 2. From this subject learn the duty of Christian diligence (2 Pet. 3:14). 3. Learn from what has been said, that the end of refusing this redemption is eternal death (Isa. 30:33). 4. From this subject learn the blessedness of the redeemed (1 Cor. 2:9). (R. Montgomery.)
Redemption:—The expression “redemption” as direct and immediate reference to our ruined and wretched condition in consequence of the fall; and it is used to signify our entire deliverance from all the evils involved or implied in our being sinners against God under His righteous and holy law. It is a term which comprehends our complete emancipation from sin and its consequences. 1. In the first place, and most important of all, he is a guilty being, because he is a sinner. 2. Man through sin has become habituated to sin. He is incarcerated in a prison house of sinful vices and habits, and held fast by legal chains of spiritual wickedness. Now, from its actual slavery, we are redeemed by Christ, in consequence of His atonement, and by virtue of His gracious Spirit. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace; sin, therefore, shall not have dominion over you.” 3. We must consider all the outward and physical evils which sin has brought into the world, of which death may be said to be the climax. From all these, however sad and melancholy, “redemption” effects a substantial deliverance now, whilst we have to battle against them, and a complete and glorious riddance at last, in our recovery from the grave. The first thing to be effected in the case of sinners under a sovereign God and a righteous law, is to remove their guilt, that they may stand free from all blame-worthiness, and become exempt from the curse. But, this effected, the rest may be expected certainly and surely to follow, from the same grace and mercy which have already been brought into exercise. “The forgiveness of sins” is just a way of expressing the idea that all guilt whatsoever is removed; so that the sinner stands before God, in the eye of His law, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In the completeness of this forgiveness, we recognize its highest excellence; for did but one sin remain against the sinner, that alone were sufficient to condemn him. As by one sin man originally fell, so, if but one were to abide unforgiven, he could not be raised up again. But, blessed be God! “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” It is not by a system of moral recovery; it is not merely by truth, that you are redeemed. A prior difficulty must be surmounted, and that could only be accomplished by the surrender of His well-beloved. But we are redeemed by blood—by the sufferings of Jesus Christ—by His atoning sacrifice. 1. This wondrous plan is God’s own device or method. It originated in Him—in His love and wisdom. 2. The sacrifice was offered up freely by Christ. He gave Himself. He had power to lay down His life and He had power to take it up again. But He said, “Lo! I come. I delight to do Thy will, O My God.” “Christ also hath loved us, and gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” 3. The offering was accepted by God as a full satisfaction for the sins of His people. (W. Alves.)
Redemption through Christ’s blood, with royal forgiveness:—
- Redemption only through Christ’s blood. 1. What is redemption? Ransom or deliverance. It is love, mercy, grace, and glory—all in one. 2. Illustrate this great Christian doctrine by a few examples. (1) Suppose a Christian man, or benevolent rich man, went into the East, or some land of captives—a matter done often during the Crusades in former times. He sees there some lovely or noble slave, perhaps a countryman of his own, doomed to base servitude, to the galling chains, to labour at the oar, to dig in the mines, or toil beneath the lash in the fields for life. Pity fills his breast, and he buys the slave for the money demanded; he does more—he gives him freedom. Such is redemption. (2) A mighty warrior leads forth his army to battle against the foes of his country. Some of his brave soldiers are overwhelmed by numbers, or taken captive by stratagem. There is no way of obtaining their liberty, unless by exchange of prisoners, or by ransom-money, as in ancient times; but this is readily done for their release; and this restoration is an emblem of redemption. (3) There is war between civilized and savage tribes. Some Christians are circumvented; the savages care not for money; they doom some poor captive to terrible death by torture or fire; the general hears of the fatal design; he starts at once with a brave band of soldiers to deliver the captive, who is bound to the fatal stake; conflict ensues, but he is just in time to rescue the prisoner from all the agonies of fire, although the deliverance was only achieved with great difficulty, and perhaps the death of the leader himself; but the rescue is accomplished with victory over the foe. This is redemption. 3. Now, can any one tell me of the soul-thrilling delight of a person thus rescued from slavery, from galling bondage, from impending death. The sailor on London Bridge, of whom I once heard, may shadow its joys. He purchased a large cage full of birds, and went to the river-side; then he took from the cage one bird after another, and let it fly in the golden light of heaven, rejoicing in its sudden freedom with a sweet note or song of joy. When remonstrated with for spending his money so foolishly, he said, quietly: “Wait a little. I have reason for this—to give happiness to these birds!” And when all the cage was empty, he turned round triumphantly, with a bright eye, and said: “I was once a captive myself in bondage, in a strange land. I vowed, if I got freedom, to give liberty to the first captives I found at home. The birds have got it, and my heart rejoices in the deed!” But how burning must be the emotions of a man rescued from instant death by some unforeseen deliverance! Redemption commands our highest gratitude; more gratitude than rescue from death by water or fire by some powerful arm. Dr. Doddridge once obtained a pardon from the sovereign for a prisoner condemned to death. He went himself to the convict’s cell, and presented it to the unhappy man. He fell at the feet of the Doctor, and said, with deep feeling; “Sir, I am yours ever; every drop of my blood is yours; it thanks you for having mercy on me; all my life is yours!” Such, indeed, must be the deathless gratitude of a soul saved, to Christ the Lord for His great work of redemption, which infinitely transcends all deliverance here! 4. Remark how this great work was effected; it is redemption by His blood. He who is both God and man, shed His blood for sinners, obtaining for us redemption, pardon, sanctification, and salvation.
- Free forgiveness of all sin by Christ alone.
III. The absolute fulness of Divine blessings. (J. G. Angley, M.A.)
Errors with respect to the doctrine of the Atonement:—
- The Atonement has frequently been represented as if it was intended to pacify the wrath of an offended, an angry, and a displeased Creator. It is very true that the Scriptures do describe God as in the exercise of wrath banishing men from His presence; but it is equally true that the Scriptures must be taken in many instances as employing metaphorical and figurative language, which we are bound to interpret upon the principles of metaphorical and figurative interpretation. If we overlook these principles, and take every term literally and every phrase literally, we shall be found to misrepresent the whole will of God, and the whole system of our common Christianity. But if we take the wrath of God, as it is mentioned in the Scriptures, to indicate nothing more than the course of just punishment which it inflicts—if we understand that He is described to be wrathful when He does that which we do when we are wrathful, putting forth His power to punish, but doing it under principles very different from those under which we act—we may then have a right view of what is meant by the wrath of God. It means nothing more, in the Scripture, than His displeasure with sin—His disapprobation of all that is impure and all that is unholy—His sentence against all that is morally unclean, and His rejection of all that would pollute His government.
- The Redeemer is frequently represented as suffering precisely the degree of punishment due to the parties whom He came to redeem. We forget altogether the dignity of the Atonement of Christ, when we speak thus of the degree of suffering that He had to endure. It was because the Redeemer was God as well as Man, that His suffering was infinitely valuable; and not because He sustained exactly the measure of suffering which His people ought to have endured. Such a mercantile, such a commercial mode of viewing the Atonement of Christ is unknown to the Scriptures of truth. An exact payment for the required discharge is not known to the glorious economy of the gospel. A sacrifice of infinite value was given, no matter what the amount of the sufferings; and from its infinite value those sufferings, however light or however severe, must derive all their value and all their efficacy. We rejoice in resting upon the Atonement of the Son of God; not in resting on the blood of one who suffered as much as we had to suffer.
III. Again, it is sometimes said that Christ came into the world for the purpose of dying for particular persons, to the exclusion of all others. This is another idea connected with the Atonement. Here, again, we find a variety of evil consequences resulting from error. Tell an assembled multitude that Christ came to die for particular persons, and that all others were to be excluded from the range of His Atonement; and would not any thinking assembly say: “Then if we were of that number we must be redeemed, for He died for us; if we were not of that number it is useless for us to attempt to share the privilege.” What answer could we give to this? But when we come to the Word of God, we find no foundation for this.
- But again, in the fourth place, another error connected with the doctrine of Atonement is, that it was intended to introduce a relaxed administration of government; that, in other words, it was intended to bring before the world a remedial system—a subdued, a modified demand on the obedience of mankind, and that it was intended to make the law of more easy aspect to persons that had fallen, and that if they could not come up to its requirements, the efficacy of the Atonement would make up for their deficiency, and that in that case they might themselves be saved by doing the best they could, the Atonement supplying their lack of service. Now the Word of God contains nothing of this description. “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” says the Redeemer; “but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The New Testament admits of no relaxation of the law of God. When the Redeemer demands the obedience of His people, He says: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
- Another error is this: “that the Atonement of Christ was intended to abolish the obligation to obey the moral law. But what does such a doctrine as this really teach us? It teaches us that the moral law was broken, and it teaches us that God sent His own Son to be an Atonement, not to mend the breach, but to justify the breach!
- The Atonement is very frequently so misrepresented, as if Deity had suffered. Such a notion never belonged to Christianity, although it has very often been advanced with reference to the Atonement of Christ. Then, if the Deity could not suffer, what did suffer? The perfect humanity of Christ. What gave efficacy to the sufferings of that humanity? Its union with the Deity of Christ. The union of the humanity of Christ with His divinity, gave to all His acts and all His sufferings an infinite value; and from that union, and that union alone, must be derived all the efficacy and all the glory of the Atonement; and the efficacy and glory of the Atonement will be found to be abundant, when connected with the union of the perfect humanity of Christ and the infinite glory of His Divine nature. We are wrong, therefore, in speaking of the sufferings of God. We are misrepresenting the Atonement of Christ.
VII. But without adding any more of the errors that may be current upon this subject (and I think I have embraced the principal part of them), it is due now to you that, in a few moments, I should state to you what I conceive to be the real character of the Atonement. Let us look, first, at the nature of sin itself. What is it but the direct violation of the law of God? Here is the Majesty of heaven, the great Lawgiver; here is the perfect law that He reveals; He demands perfect obedience from the creature; we rebel against that demand; we are at variance with Him on the ground of that rebellion. What is to be done to heal the breach that has taken place between us? He is a God of love as well as a God of power and justice; He is willing to save, but He must do it in a way that will not encourage human rebellion. He seeks that His own hands shall be free to be gracious; He seeks that His own law shall permit Him to be merciful; He seeks that the perfection of His own purity shall permit Him to be kind, without for a moment sinking the character and the rectitude of His administration. How is He to be placed in a position in which He can honourably, and without disparagement to the public law of the universe, tell a man that he can be saved? He desires to tell him this; but He desires to find means to vindicate that act. He turns to His own Son; and the Son volunteers to accept the service assigned to Him. Volunteering to accept it, we find Him going forth, taking upon Him our nature, in that nature suffering and dying, and presenting Himself, not to man but to God. The priest presented the sacrifice on the altar to the Majesty of Israel; the sacrifice had direct reference to God—the mercy had reference to the people. In the same way the sacrifice presented in the Atonement of Christ has reference to God; it is to Him that its incense, its perfume arises; the mercy has reference to us. The sacrifice, therefore, is presented to the King of kings that He may be able, consistently and worthily and holily, to proclaim mercy through the blood of the Lord Jesus. He looks to no specific individuals; He looks to no specific sins; He looks to the altar—the Cross where the Redeemer died. God looks to that sacrifice, and He sees in that sacrifice the means by which He can be vindicated in the proclamation of His kindness throughout the world, in the announcement of His love, in the extension of His mercy. Now His hands are free; His law is “magnified and made honourable,” and yet He can condescend to be gracious. We can now “have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” There is now ample scope made for free and sovereign grace to proclaim its readiness to be merciful. No one can point to the Cross and say, “The offering there made was for me”; no individual can point to the Cross and say, “There the anger of the Father against me was appeased, and I may approach and find Him gracious”; no, but the Father Himself looks down upon the Cross, and lifting the light of His countenance on the wondrous offering of His own Son in His own love, and the love of the Father concurring in accepting that offering, He looks round on the whole human race, and says: “Behold the measure of My love, and behold at the same time the vindication of My justice, while I proclaim My mercy, and invite all to come.” This view of the Atonement makes it a great sacrifice to public justice; and when I speak of a sacrifice to public justice, I speak of justice as vindicated before the whole universe. Why do I call it public justice? Do not the angels of heaven look to it? Do not the angels of hell look to it? Do they not expect to see God consistent with what He has proclaimed? Does not the whole intelligent universe look to it? Will not the whole assembled creation at the day of judgment look to it? Is it not, then, public justice? And is it not necessary for God to have a vindication ready when He assembles the intelligent universe? He has it ready—He has it ready now—a satisfaction to public justice and public law; and now grace can invite all the sinners of mankind, and accept every returning transgressor. (John Burnet.)
Gratitude for redemption:—A gentleman, visiting a slave-mart, was deeply moved by the agony of a slave-girl, who had been delicately reared, and fearing lest she should fall into the hands of a rough and unkind master, inquired her price, paid it to the slave-dealer; then, placing the bill of sale in her own hands, announced to her that she was free, and could now go home. The poor slave-girl could not realize the change at first; but, running after her redeemer, cried out: “He has redeemed me! he has redeemed me! Will you let me be your servant?” How much more should we serve Him who has redeemed us from sin, and death, and hell?
God’s motives in redemption:—How should we extol and adore the wisdom which discovered a way to harmonize the glory of a holy God and the good of guilty men! In the salvation of the human family God was undoubtedly moved by a regard to both these ends. It is an imperfect vision that sees but one motive here. This subject may be compared to those binary stars which seem to the naked eye but one, yet, when brought into the range of the telescope, resolve themselves into two distinct and shining orbs, that roll in brightness and beauty around a common, but invisible, centre. Though He loved His own glory, yet He “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” that by Him the world might be redeemed from perdition. (T. Guthrie, D.D.)
Effects of redemption:—A few years ago I was going away to preach one Sunday morning, when a young man drove up in front of us. He had an aged woman with him. “Who is that young man?” I asked. “Do you see that beautiful meadow,” said my friend, “and that land there with the house upon it?” “Yes.” “His father drank that all up,” he said. Then he went onto tell me all about him. His father was a great drunkard, squandered his property, died, and left his wife in the poorhouse. “And that young man,” he said, “is one of the finest young men I ever knew. He has toiled hard and earned money, and bought back the land; he has taken his mother out of the poorhouse, and now he is taking her to church.” I thought, that is an illustration for me. The first Adam, in Eden, sold us for nought; but the Messiah, the Second Adam, came and bought us back again. The first Adam brought us to the poorhouse, as it were; the Second Adam makes us kings and priests unto God. (D. L. Moody.)
Redemption through the blood of Christ:—I dare assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that the inspired writers attribute all the blessings of salvation to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If we have redemption it is through His blood; if we are justified, it is by His blood; if washed from our moral stains, it is by His blood, which cleanseth us from all sin; if we have victory over the last enemy, we obtain it not only by the Word of the Divine testimony, but through the blood of the Lamb; and if we gain admittance into heaven, it is because we “have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and therefore are we before the throne of God.” Everything depends on the blood of Christ, and “without shedding of blood is no remission.” (R. Newton.) The forgiveness of sins
Forgiveness and redemption:—God’s forgiveness is, so to speak, the preliminary grace, which enables the beginning of a new life, so that we become holy and loving children. Forgiveness is the prerogative of him who has been sinned against. “Who can forgive sins save God only?” He forgives on grounds sufficient in the estimation of His own righteous love. He cannot be coerced or coaxed into forgiveness. He cannot forgive until He sees it right to forgive. He cannot connive at the sinner being let off, if righteousness demands that he should suffer penalty. Nothing can be weaker or more immoral than to represent God as moved merely by pity, by a merciful compassion. That He is infinitely pitiful and loving is the uniform representation of Scripture. But His love works in a far profounder and holier and greater way than by mere pitiful feeling. He Himself “gave the only begotten Son” to redeem us, to die as a sacrifice for sins, that He might righteously forgive, that He might be “a just God and yet a Saviour.” The entire representation is of God’s love as the moving cause of Christ’s mission and redeeming work. Christ is given by the Father to redeem us—that is, as the apostle here explains it, to obtain for us the forgiveness of sins. Sin is not a misfortune, a necessity of our nature—it is a guilty act. We need not sin; we wilfully sin: and before we can become loving children of God, our sin must be forgiven. This is the first step in our redemption; forgiveness is made possible for us, is obtained for us by Jesus Christ. The further phrase “redemption through His blood,” shuts us up to the idea that the shedding of His blood by Christ, was that which made forgiveness a possible thing. It is only natural that men should ask, How, in what way, did the death of Christ constitute a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men? Such questions have been asked from the beginning of Christianity, and have in a hundred ways been answered in creeds and in systems of theology. These are purely human conceptions of the great fact which the New Testament affirms, and they have continuously changed as the spiritual intelligence of the Church has grown. Perhaps no one could now be found capable of entertaining the gross notions of the earlier and middle ages of Christianity. Whatever theory we may form, it must be taken only as our fallible human idea. The fact of the great sacrifice for sin is authoritatively affirmed; very little is said in explanation of what we may call the philosophy of it. That it had an aspect Godwards, that it is the ground or reason of God’s forgiveness of sins, we are expressly told. And that it has an aspect manwards, that it is a moral constraint upon human feeling, “the power of God unto salvation” is equally affirmed. “Lifted up from the earth, He draws all men unto Him.” One or two things may be said. Christ suffered, of course, as a man—a perfectly holy man, suffering for human sin as if He Himself had sinned. To enable this He became incarnate. He was “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” It is clear that He did not suffer to appease any implacable feeling in God—to incline God to save. Every representation of Scripture is of God’s yearning pity and love. His love was the origin, the cause, of Christ’s Incarnation—He “spared not His only-begotten Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all.” That God is angry with sin is only to say that He is a Holy Being. If God can delight in the holiness of His creatures, He must hate their sin. He is not a passionless Being, incapable of feeling. How could He be loved if He were? No expressions can be stronger than those which represent God’s feeling towards sin. “He is angry with the wicked every day”; “The wrath of God abideth upon him”; “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” for those that “obey unrighteousness there is indignation and wrath.” We are “saved from wrath through Him.” We are by nature “children of wrath”; “the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” That God was not angry with His well-beloved Son needs not be said, save that this, too, is a misrepresentation that the rejectors of the Atonement are not ashamed to persist in. “Therefore doth the Father love Me, because I lay down My life for the sheep.” That Jesus Christ ever thought the Father angry with Him it is impossible to think. When, in the extreme anguish of His spirit, He felt as if His Father had forsaken Him, He immediately added: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Was not His anguish simply the vivid realization by His human heart of what human sin was? If any of us had a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, who committed a murder, would not our anguish at the crime be greater than even that of the murderer himself, just in proportion as his heart was murderous and ours was humane? Many a father, many a mother, feels infinitely more anguish for the sin of a profligate son, of a fallen daughter, than the sinner himself. May not this suggestion help us to understand the agony of the garden and of the cross? (H. Allen, D.D.)
The glories of forgiving grace:—The forgiveness of sins is an article in the creed, but I want it to be a substantive in your lives. Most men say that they believe it, but their belief is often nominal, and a nominal faith, like nominal wealth, only makes the absence of the reality the more deplorable. In two instances there is clearly no faith in forgiven sin. 1. Those who have never felt that they are sinful. How can he who does not believe in the existence of sin believe in the forgiveness of it? His whole confession on that matter belongs to the region of fiction. If sin is not a terrible fact to you, pardon will never be more than a notion. 2. Those who know the guilt of sin, but are not yet able to believe in the Lord Jesus for the remission of their transgressions. They need to be admonished as Luther was by the godly old monk. When he was greatly distressed under conviction of his guilt, the aged man said, “Didst thou not say this morning in the creed, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins‘?” Oh, be not theoretical believers. You believe in sin, believe also in its pardon. Let the one be as much a truth as the other.
- From the text we learn the measure of forgiveness. 1. Observe, then, that the measure of forgiveness is the riches of God’s grace, and this statement leads us to observe that it is not the character or person of the offender which is the measure of mercy, but the character of the offended One. Is there not rich consolation in this undoubted fact? The pardon to be hoped for is not to be measured by you and what you are, but by God and what He is. One man will forgive a grievous wrong, while another will not overlook a wry word. Take an instance from English history: John had most villainously treated his brother Richard in his absence. Was it likely that when he of the lion’s heart came home he would pass over his brother’s grievous offence? If you look at John, villain that he was, it was most unlikely that he should be forgiven; but then, if you consider the brave, high-souled Richard, the very flower of chivalry, you expect a generous deed. Base as John was, he was likely to be forgiven, because Richard was so free of heart, and accordingly pardon was right royally given by the great-hearted monarch. Had John been only half as guilty, if his brother Richard had been like himself he would have made him lay his neck on the block. If John had been Richard and Richard had been John, no matter how small the offence, there would have been no likelihood of pardon at all. So is it in all matters of transgression and pardon. You must take the offence somewhat into account, it is true, but not one-half so much as the character of the person who has been offended. Let us establish this fact, and then see what light it throws upon the probability of pardon to any of you who are seeking it. With whom are you dealing? You have offended—who is He whom you have offended? Is it one whose anger is quickly aroused? No, the Lord is long-suffering, and exceedingly patient. Forty years long was He grieved with one generation; and many a time did He pity them and remove His wrath from them. 2. Since the forgiveness of sins is “according to the riches of His grace,” then it is not according to our conceptions of God’s mercy, but according to that mercy itself, and the riches of it. God’s love is not to be measured by a mercer’s yard, nor His mercy to be weighed in the balances of the merchant. 3. If, again, the measure of mercy is “according to the riches of His grace,” then no limit to pardon can be set by the amount of human sin which can be forgiven. Sin is no trifle, and yet pardon is no impossibility. 4. Another comfortable conclusion follows from this, that no limit is set to the time in which a man has sinned, so as to bound the reach of grace by the lapse of years. Our text does not say that there is forgiveness of sins according to such and such a time of life, but “according to the riches of His grace.” 5. Let me draw another inference. If pardon be “according to the riches of His grace,” it is not according to the bitterness of the sorrow which has been felt by the sinner. There is a notion abroad that we must pass through a period of keen remorse before we can expect to be accepted with God. 6. And let me say that the measure of God’s forgiveness is not even the strength of a man’s faith. The measure of God’s forgiveness is “according to the riches of His grace.” You, dear soul, are to come and trust in what Jesus Christ did when He bled away His life for sinners, and then your pardon shall be measured out to you, not according to the greatness and strength of your confidence, but according to the immeasurable mercy of the heart of God. You may have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, your faith may only dare to touch the garment’s hem of the great Saviour, you may get no further than to say, “He hath said, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,’ and I do come to Him: if I perish, I will perish trusting Him,” and yet that faith will save you. Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee if thou believest in Jesus; for the measure of thy forgiveness is not thy faith, nor thy tears of repentance, nor thy bitter regrets, nor thy sin, nor thy conception of God’s goodness, nor thy character, either past or present or future; but the forgiveness which is granted from the Lord is “according to the riches of His grace.”
- The manner of forgiveness. 1. Absolute freeness. “According to the riches of His free favour,” for that is the meaning of the word “grace.” God forgives none because of payment made by them in any form. If we could bring Him mountains of gold and silver, they would be nothing worth to Him. Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchaseable by us. God’s pardons are absolutely free. 2. Royal ease. When you and I give away money to the poor, we have to pause, and see how much is left in our purse; we have to calculate our incomes to see whether we may not be spending too much in charity; but those who have great riches can give and not calculate: even so God when He grants forgiveness gives it “according to the riches of His grace.” He never has to think whether He will have grace enough left; He will be none the richer if He withholds it, none the poorer if He bestows it. There is a magnificent ease about the benefactions of God: He scatters the largesse of His mercy right and left with unstinted liberality. The Roman conquerors, traversing the Via Sacra in triumph, were accustomed to scatter gold and silver with both hands as they rode along, and the eager crowd gathered up the shower of gifts. Our Lord, when He ascended on high and led captivity captive, scattered gifts among men with royal splendour and munificence. 3. Unquestionable fulness. The blood of Jesus makes us whiter than snow, and absolute innocence cannot be more white than that. 4. Irreversible certainty. “No condemnation.” 5. Unfailing renewal. Daily forgiveness for daily sin, a flesh spring rising for fresh thirst.
III. The manifestation of this pardon. 1. Forgiveness of sin comes to us entirely through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and if we go to Jesus Christ, fixing our eyes especially upon His atoning sacrifice, we have pardon by virtue of His blood. Pardon by any other means is impossible, but by Jesus Christ it is certain. Everything else fails, but faith in Christ never fails. 2. This pardon is a possession. “We have” it. No longer is the weight and burden of sin lying on your conscience and heart: your load is lifted; you are forgiven. If your child has been offending you, and you are angry with him, he feels ill at ease in your presence. At last you say, “My boy, it is all gone now; do not offend again. You are quite forgiven; come here, and let me kiss you.” Does he reply, “Father, I am afraid”? If so, it is evident that he does not understand that you have forgiven him: and even if he receives your kiss, but still remains unhappy in your presence, it is clear that he does not believe in you or in the sincerity of your forgiveness. As soon as the light dawns on his mind “Father has quite put all my fault away,” then he is merry in his play and easy in his conversation with you. Now, be with God like a child at home. Do not act towards Him as if still He frowned upon you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The forgiveness of sins:—The earlier verses of this chapter contain Paul’s conception of the Divine ideal of human nature. It was the Divine purpose “before the foundation of the world” that men should share the life and sonship of the eternal Son of God. It was for this that human nature received its wonderful capacities. Its sanctity and righteousness were to be secured by union with Christ. The human race was to be a great spiritual organism, having Christ for the root of its life and blessedness. Abiding in Christ, the race was to abide in God; and only by abiding in Christ could the race achieve the perfection and glory for which it was created. But the Divine purpose did not suppress human freedom. It could be fulfilled only by the free concurrence of the race with the Divine righteousness and love; and the whole order of the development of the Divine thought has been disturbed by sin. In His infinite goodness God has delivered us from the immense catastrophe which came upon us through our revolt against His authority. In Christ we have redemption and forgiveness. I. What forgiveness is not. 1. Forgiveness is not a change in our minds towards God, but a change in God’s mind towards us. Take an illustration. A son has been guilty of flagrant misconduct towards his father; has insulted him, slandered his character, robbed him, and almost ruined him. The son discovers his guilt and is greatly distressed. He does all he can to atone for his wickedness. He has become a better man, and there is a great change in his mind and conduct towards his father. But it is possible for all the change to be on one side. He may be unable to remove or even to lessen his father’s indignation against him. His father may continue for years bitter, relentless, unforgiving. I do not mean to suggest that God will be hard with us when we repent; but if we are to have any clear and true thoughts about this subject we must see distinctly that it is one thing for us to repent of sin and to become better, and quite another thing for God to forgive us. 2. Nor must the Divine forgiveness be confounded with peace of conscience. I have known many people who were restless and unhappy, dissatisfied with themselves, and unable to find any rest of heart in the Divine mercy. The reason was plain: they were not troubled by the Divine hostility to their sin, and therefore the assurance that God was willing to forgive them afforded them no relief. It was not God’s thoughts about them that occasioned their distress, but their own thoughts about themselves. They did not want to obtain the Divine forgiveness, but to recover their own self-respect, which had been wounded by the discovery of their moral imperfections. But it is clearly one thing for God to be at peace with us, and quite a different thing for us to be at peace with ourselves. 3. We must not suppose that as soon as God forgives us we escape at once from the painful and just consequences of our sins. The sins may be forgiven, and yet many of the penalties which they have brought upon us may remain. There is a certain alliance between the laws of nature and the laws of righteousness, and there is a similar alliance between the natural laws of society and the laws of righteousness. No Divine act arrests the operation of the natural laws which punish the penitent for his former drunkenness. There are vices, such as flagrant lying, gross treachery, deliberate dishonesty, which involve a man in heavy social penalties. He does not escape these penalties when he repents of the vices and receives the Divine pardon. He is maimed for life. His chances are lost. He will recover with difficulty the confidence of even kindly and generous men. Positions of public trust and honour will be closed against him, He will be excluded from many kinds of usefulness.
- What it is for God to forgive sins. 1. Forgiveness among ourselves implies that there has been just resentment against the person whom we forgive, resentment provoked by his wrongdoing. When we forgive him the resentment ceases. And so also does God regard, not with disapproval only, but with resentment, those who sin; and when He forgives men, His resentment ceases. 2. When God forgives, He actually remits our sin. Our responsibility for it ceases. The guilt of it is no longer ours. When His resentment against us ceases, the eternal law of righteousness ceases to be hostile to us. When He pardons our transgressions, the eternal law of righteousness no longer holds us responsible for them. The shadow which they had projected across our life, and which lengthened with our lengthening years, passes away. We look back upon the sins which God has forgiven and we condemn them still, but the condemnation does not fall upon ourselves; for God, who is the living law of righteousness, condemns us no longer. 3. The peace and blessedness of this release from guilt are wonderful. The soul is conscious of a Divine freedom. It can approach God with happy trust and with perfect courage, for the past is no longer a source of terror, and the future is bright with immortal hope. (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)
Forgiveness defined:—Forgiveness may be defined—1. In personal terms—as a cessation of the anger or moral resentment of God against sin. 2. In ethical terms—as a release from the guilt of sin, which oppresses the conscience. 3. In legal terms—as a remission of the punishment of sin, which is eternal death. (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)
The forgiveness of sin and the death of Christ:—That our Lord Jesus Christ declared that men were to receive redemption or the remission of sins through Himself, and especially through His death, appears from several passages in the Gospels; and the great place which His last sufferings occupied in His thoughts from the very commencement of His ministry, the frequency with which He spoke of them, the wonderful results which He said were to follow them, the agitation and dismay which He felt as they approached, and His anxiety to pass through them and beyond them, show that to Christ His death was not a mere martyrdom but an awful and glorious crisis in His own history and in the history of the human race. The apostles Peter, Paul, and John, though each had his own characteristic conception of the work of Christ and the Christian salvation, are agreed in declaring that the ground of our forgiveness is in Christ, and they are also agreed in attributing a mysterious importance and efficacy to His death (2 Cor. 5:14; Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:18; 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rom. 5:8; 3:24–26). But no collection of isolated passages gives an adequate impression of the strength of the proof that both our Lord and His apostles taught that in Him “we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of [God’s] grace.” This truth is wrought into the very substance of the Christian gospel.
- We have the forgiveness of our trespasses “in Christ.” It is in harmony with the fundamental law of human nature that the reason and ground of our forgiveness should be in Christ; for the reason and ground of our creation, of our righteousness, and of our blessedness as the sons of God, are in Him.
- We have the forgiveness of our trespasses in Christ “through His blood.” 1. The relations of Christ to the Father are the transcendent expression and original root of our relation to the Father. We are related to the Father through Him. And since the relation of moral submission on our part to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of the forgiveness of sin, it became necessary that Christ Himself should assume this relation of moral submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin, that His submission might be the transcendent expression of ours. 2. There is no righteousness in us which is not first in Christ. And since our submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of our forgiveness, Christ’s submission became necessary to render ours possible. His submission carries ours with it. 3. His death is the death of sin in all who are one with Him. (1) Christ, the eternal Son of God and the root of our righteousness, having become Man, endured death in order to render possible our moral consent to the justice of the Divine resentment against sin, and to the justice of the penalties in which that resentment might have been revealed. Had God withdrawn from us His light and life, and destroyed us by revealing His moral resentment against our sin, this would have been an awful manifestation of the moral energy of His righteousness and of His abhorrence of moral evil. Its moral value would have been infinitely heightened by the intensity of His love for us. But God in the greatness of His love shrank from depriving us of that blessed and glorious destiny for which we were created; and in order to secure our moral submission to the righteousness of His resentment, a moral submission which was the necessary condition of our forgiveness, He surrendered His own eternal Son to spiritual desertion and to death. In this surrender, made for such a purpose, there was a sublimer moral manifestation of the Divine thought concerning sin than there would have been in condemning the race to eternal death. (2) The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the Moral Ruler of the human race. The moral supremacy of God in manifested and exerted through Him. It was His function to punish sin, and so to reveal His judgment of it. But instead of inflicting suffering. He has elected to endure it, that those who repent of sin may receive forgiveness and may inherit eternal glory. It was greater to endure suffering than to inflict it. (Ibid.)
The forgiveness of sins:—Forgiveness is much more than pardon. Pardon is not a New Testament word at all; it does not occur in the New Testament, only in the Old Testament. Pardon is only the remitting the punishment of sins; forgiveness goes deeper—it is the taking away the memory of sins; it is an act of the heart which cancels both the punishment and the sin itself. Both words, “pardon” from the French, and “forgiveness” from the English, or Saxon, both have in them the word “gift.” It is a gift. Both the remitting the penalty, and the banishment of the thought of the wrong thing that has been done out of the heart, both are a gift. But forgiveness is the greater gift; it is pardon and forgiveness as well, for if you are forgiven, the sin itself is divided from the person forgiven, as though it had never been. All that is wanted is to go for your forgiveness in a right state of mind. That state of mind means four things. I. You must feel and confess that you have sinned—sinned against God. It is not enough to feel that you have sinned against man, or to your own injury: you must feel and own from the bottom of your heart that you have offended God. “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” II. You must have a sincere and holy resolve in you heart that you will not commit that sin any more; that you will lead a better and religious life. This resolve must be firm and earnest, with a deep sense of your own weakness and inability to keep the promise; but you are prepared to meet any sacrifice, and overcome all difficulties, God helping you. III. You must come with the faith that God can, and will, and does forgive you, for the sake of Him who has already paid all your debt, and satisfied His justice. IV. You must be in a state of forgiveness, forgiveness with all who have ever injured you. These four are the only pre-requisites which God has laid down as necessary for the forgiveness of every sin. Besides these, not only you need not, you must not bring anything in your hand. No merit, no plea, but that you are a poor sinner, and that “God is love,” and that Christ has died for you and instead of you, and suffered your punishment. Can those forgiven sins ever rise up again? Never, never! See what God says upon that subject: “The scapegoat is borne away into a land not inhabited.” Who shall see them, or talk about them, where there is none to speak? “A land not inhabited.” They shall not be mentioned. They are nailed to the cross. They are dead and buried, and there is no resurrection to a forgiven sin. God has put them behind His back, where He cannot see them! Do you say I make it too easy? Would it not be presumptuous to believe in such an instant and complete forgiveness? Would there not be encouragements for the careless to go on and sin again, because they can again be so easily forgiven? Let me tell you what will be the effect. The feeling of that forgiveness, the wonderful surprise that you are forgiven; that God’s eye is on you; that you are His own dear child, and that you may, notwithstanding all the past, serve Him and please Him, and be happy in this world and go to heaven when you die; this will melt you to tears, it will melt your heart to tears. You will be so soft. Your penitence, after you feel forgiven, will be much deeper than before you were forgiven. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)
Value of forgiveness:—History relates the story of a many a sagacious and far-sighted man, whose example it is our safety, our salvation to follow. He had committed heinous crimes against his sovereign and the state. He knew his life to be forfeited; and that if, allowing events to take their course, he waited to be tried, he was certain to be condemned. The case is exactly ours. In these circumstances he repaired to the palace to fling himself at the feet of his sovereign, and making full confession of his crimes, to beg for mercy. Through the clemency of his king, and the intercession of a powerful friend at court, he found mercy; and, with a full pardon in his bosom, signed by the king’s own hand, left the royal presence a happy man. In course of time, the day of trial arrives, gathering a great concourse of people. He repairs to the place. Ignorant of his secret, anxious friends tremble for his fate; and the spectators wonder at his calm and placid bearing as he passes the scaffold where they think he is so soon to die, and enters the court, certain, as they fancy, to be condemned. He steps up to the bar as lightly as a bridegroom to the marriage altar; and, to all men’s surprise, looks boldly around, on the court, his judges, and his accusers. At this, however, they cease to wonder, when, after listening unmoved to charges enough to hang twenty men in the place of one, he thrusts his hand into his bosom to draw forth the pardon, to cast it on the table, and find himself, amid a sudden outburst of joy, locked in the happy embraces of his wife and children. Let us go and do likewise. The bar of Divine judgment is a place not to sue for mercy, but to plead it. Appearing there robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, justified, forgiven, in our hands a pardon signed and sealed with blood, we shall look around us undismayed on all the terrors of the scene—to ask with Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” (T. Guthrie, D.D.) According to the riches of His grace.—
The riches of God’s grace:—
- The riches of God’s grace are illustrated by the nature and cause of these evils from which God is willing to redeem us. It is not misfortune we are suffering from, but guilt; the anger of God has not come upon us by accident; hell is not a mere calamity, the pains of eternal death are not undeserved. All the evils of our condition, from which God is eager to save us, are the result of our own fault. We have sinned; and the sin is regarded by God with deep and intense abhorrence. If a man whom you have trusted lies to you again and again, you fling him off from you with contempt. If you have detected a man whom you have trusted in an attempt to commit deliberative fraud upon you, you close your doors against him and forbid him ever to enter your house. If he be drunken, profane, and profligate, you think of him with disgust. And whatever abhorrence and loathing we may feel for gross sin, God, who is infinitely purer than we are, feels for all sin, and it is sin which has brought all our woes upon us. We have sinned, not ignorantly, but knowingly. We have sinned for years, and perhaps some of us are only now beginning to think of amendment. And yet to us sinners, to the guiltiest and most flagrant sinner among us, God offers redemption, and shows “the riches of His grace.”
- The riches of His grace are illustrated in what He has none to effect our redemption. “Through the blood of Christ.” The Son of God, the Creator of our race, the moral Ruler of the universe, with whom it rested, when we had sinned, fully to express the Divine sense of the magnitude of our guilt, and to inflict the penalties which we deserved; laid His glory by, in order that He might endure the penalty instead of inflicting it, that He might express His sense of our sin by enduring death before He forgave it, instead of inflicting death on us because we had transgressed.
III. The conditions on which God offers salvation illustrate the riches of His grace. A free gift—the only condition being that we be willing to receive it. “Arise, and be free!” is Christ’s message to all.
- The very name by which the Christian revelation is known illustrates this. It is not called a system or doctrine, else it might be necessary to master the doctrine before you could secure redemption. It is not a moral but a spiritual discipline, else it might be necessary that you should subject yourself to its vivifying and invigorating power before redemption could be yours. It is not a law, else you would have to obey it before its promises could be fulfilled. It is not a promise of redemption, nor an assurance that God is willing to accomplish your redemption, else there might be conditions attached to the promise by which you might be perplexed and hindered. No; but it is a gospel—good news from heaven to earth, from God to man; good news of the Divine love which anger against sin has not quenched; good news of a great redemption wrought out in us; good news that God through Christ is nigh at hand and eager to forgive sins; good news that everything that is necessary to complete our salvation God has actually conferred upon us through Christ Jesus our Lord, and that we have only to receive it in order to rejoice in eternal blessedness.
- The concern God has shown about our salvation illustrates the riches of His grace. We sometimes speak of those who are seeking God. The New Testament speaks of God seeking us. The Good Shepherd goes out into the wilderness after the sheep that has gone astray, before there is any terror felt at its danger, or any desire on its part to return. This is God’s conduct towards us. Is it not so? Why is it that any of you are at this moment restless because of your guilt, alarmed because of your danger, and longing to find your way into the peace of God? Is it the result of strenuous and laborious effort of your own to discover whether or not you had incurred guilt and exposure to danger? Has it not all come to you, you know not how? And yet, when you begin to consider, you conclude that it has been awakened in your heart by God. Can you be so ungrateful for His persistent love? (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)
The treasure of grace:—
- First, consider the riches of His grace. In attempting to search out that which is unsearchable, we must, I suppose, use some of those comparisons by which we are wont to estimate the wealth of the monarchs, and mighty ones of this world. It happened once that the Spanish ambassador, in the halcyon days of Spain, went on a visit to the French ambassador, and was invited by him to see the treasures of his master. With feelings of pride he showed the repositories, profusely stored with earth’s most precious and most costly wealth. “Could you show gems so rich,” said he, “or aught the like of this for magnificence of possessions in all your sovereign’s kingdom? Call your master rich?” replied the ambassador of Spain, “why, my master’s treasures have no bottom”—alluding, of course, to the mines of Peru and Petrosa. So truly in the riches of grace there are mines too deep for man’s finite understanding ever to fathom. However profound your investigation, there is still a deep couching beneath that baffles all research. As by necessity of His Godhead He is omnipotent, and omnipresent, so by absolute necessity of His Divinity is He gracious. Recollect, however, that as the attributes of God are of the like extent, the gauge of one attribute must be the gauge of another. Or, further, if one attribute is without limit, so is another attribute. 1. Now, you cannot conceive any boundary to the omnipotence of God. What cannot He do? He can create, He can destroy; He can speak a myriad universes into existence; or He can quench the light of myriads of stars as readily as we tread out a spark. As He hath power to do anything, so hath He grace enough to give anything—to give everything to the very chief of sinners. 2. Take another attribute if you please—God’s omniscience, there is no boundary to that. We know that His eye is upon every individual of our race—He sees him as minutely as if he were the only creature that existed. It is boasted of the eagle that though he can outstare the sun, yet when at his greatest height, he can detect the movement of the smallest fish in the depths of the sea. But what is this compared with the omniscience of God? 3. There is no limit to His understanding, nor is there to His grace. As His knowledge comprehendeth all things, so doth His grace comprehend all the sins, all the trials, all the infirmities of the people upon whom His heart is set. The next time we fear that God’s grace will be exhausted let us look into this mine, and then let us reflect that all that has ever been taken out of it has never diminished it a single particle. All the clouds that have been taken from the sea have never diminished its depth, and all the love, and all the mercy that God has given to all but infinite numbers of the race of man, has not diminished by a single grain the mountain of His grace. But, to proceed further; we sometimes judge of the wealth of men, not only by their real estate in mines and the like, but by what they have on hand stored up in the treasury. God’s treasury is His covenant of grace, wherein the Father gave His Son, the Son gave Himself, and the Spirit promised all His influence, all His presence, to all the chosen. This, my brethren, if ye think it over, may well make you estimate aright the riches of God’s grace. If you read the roll of the covenant from beginning to end, containing as it does, election, redemption, calling, justification, pardon, adoption, heaven, immortality—if you read all this, you will say, “This is riches of grace—God, great and infinite! Who is a God like unto Thee for the riches of Thy love!” The riches of great kings again, may often be estimated by the munificence of the monuments which they reared to record their feats. We have been amazed in these modern times at the marvellous riches of the kings of Nineveh and Babylon. Modern monarchs with all their appliances, would fail to erect such monstrous piles of palaces as those in which old Nebuchadnezzar walked in times of yore. We turn to the pyramids, we see there what the wealth of nations can accomplish; we look across the sea to Mexico and Peru, and we see the relics of a semi-barbarous people; but we are staggered and amazed to think what wealth and what mines of riches they must have possessed ere such works could have been accomplished. Solomon’s riches are perhaps best judged of by us when we think of those great cities which he built in the wilderness, Tadmore and Palmyra. When we go and visit those ruins and see the massive columns and magnificent sculpture, we say, Solomon indeed was rich. We feel as we walk amid the ruins somewhat like the Queen of Sheba, even in Scripture the half has not been told us of the riches of Solomon. My brethren, God has led us to inspect mightier trophies than Solomon, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Montezuma, or all the Pharaohs. Turn your eyes yonder, see that blood-bought host arrayed in white, surrounding the throne—hark, how they sing, with voice triumphant, with melodies seraphic, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” And who are these? Who are these trophies of His grace? Some of them have come from the stews of harlotry; many of them have come from the taverns of drunkenness. Nay, more, the hands of some of those so white and fair, were once red with the blood of saints. I see there Manasseh, who shed innocent blood so much, and the thief who in the last moment looked to Christ, and said, “Lord, remember me.” Now we turn to another point to illustrate the greatness of the riches of God’s grace. A man’s riches may often be judged of by the equipage of his children, the manner in which he dresses his servants and those of his household. It is not to be expected that the child of the poor man, though he is comfortably clothed, should be arrayed in like garments to those which are worn by the sons of princes. Let us see, then, what are the robes in which God’s people are apparelled, and how they are attended. Here, again, I speak upon a subject where a large imagination is needed, and my own utterly fails me. God’s children are wrapped about with a robe, a seamless robe, which earth and heaven could not buy the like of if it were once lost. For texture it excels the fine linen of the merchants; for whiteness it is purer than the driven snow; no looms on earth could make it, but Jesus spent His life to work my robe of righteousness. Look at God’s people as they are clothed too in the garments of sanctification. Was there ever such a robe as that? it is literally stiff with jewels. He arrays the meanest of His people every day as though it were a wedding day; He arrays them as a bride adorneth herself with jewels; He has given Ethiopia and Sheba for them, and He will have them dressed in gold of Ophir. What riches of grace, then, must there be in God who thus clothes His children! But to Conclude this point upon which I have not as yet begun. If you would know the full riches of Divine grace, read the Father’s heart when He sent His Son upon earth to die; read the lines upon the Father’s countenance when He pours His wrath upon His only begotten and His well-beloved Son. So much, then, concerning the riches of His grace.
- For a minute or two, let me now dwell upon the forgiveness of sins. The treasure of God’s grace is the measure of our forgiveness; this forgiveness of sins is according to the riches of His grace. We may infer, then, that the pardon which God gives to the penitent is no niggard pardon. Again: if pardon be in proportion to the riches of His grace, we may rest assured it is not a limited pardon, it is not the forgiving of some sins and the leaving of others upon the back. No, this were not Godlike, it were not consistent with the riches of His grace. When God forgives He draws the mark through every sin which the believer ever has committed, or ever will commit.
III. And now I conclude by noticing the blessed privileges which always follow the forgiveness which is given to us according to the grace of God. 1. Peace of conscience. That heart of yours which throbs so fast when you are alone, will be quite still and quiet. When once a man is forgiven, he can walk anywhere; and, knowing his sins to be forgiven, he has joy unspeakable. 2. Then, to go further, such a man has access to God. Another man with unforgiven sin about him stands afar off; and it he thinks of God at all it is as a consuming fire. 3. Then another effect of this is that the believer fears no hell. 4. Once more, the forgiven Christian is expecting heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The riches of God’s grace:—In a country village if a man has a few hundred pounds he is thought to be quite rich. In a large town a man must have several thousands. But when you come to London and frequent the Stock Exchange you inquire of so and so—Is he a rich man? And someone will perhaps reply, “Yes, yes, he is worth a hundred thousand pounds.” Put the same question to a Rothschild with his millions, and he answers, “No! he is a little man: he is not rich: he only owns a hundred thousand pounds”; for these great bankers count their money by millions. Well, but what are these great Rothschilds with all their millions when they are reckoned up according to the wealth of heaven? The Lord alone is rich. God is so rich in mercy that you cannot tell how rich He is. His is overflowing riches, marvellous riches, exceeding riches. (Ibid.)
God abounds in grace:—An indigent philosopher at the court of Alexander sought relief at the hand of that sovereign, and received an order on his treasurer for any sum he should ask. He immediately demanded ten thousand pounds. The treasurer demurred to the extravagant amount; but Alexander replied, “Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher’s way of thinking: he has done me a singular honour. By the largeness of his request, he shows the high opinion he has of my wealth and munificence.” Even so they do most honour God’s grace who remember that it abounds towards us. Abounding grace:—Payson, when he lay on his bed dying, said, “All my life Christ has seemed to me as a star afar off; but little by little He has been advancing and growing larger and larger, till now His beams seem to fill the whole hemisphere, and I am floating in the glory of God, wondering with unutterable wonder how such a mote as I should be glorified in His light.” But he came to that after a long life. (H. W. Beecher.)
7. So what is it we are praising that involves Jesus? That is the theme of verses 7–12. It is redemption through his death, forgiveness and the riches of grace. In him we have redemption through his blood. Technically, ‘in him’ is ‘in whom’, which refers back to the Beloved One (v. 6)—that is, ‘in Christ’. Jesus’ death is what the reference to the blood points to: an act that has brought a rescue (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25, 27; Heb. 9:11–12). Redemption points to the payment of a price that leads to something (often the freeing of a slave: Exod. 21:8; Lev. 25:48; Letter of Aristeas33; Philo, Good Person 114). Here it is Jesus’ sacrificial death that pays the moral penalty of the debt sin creates (Rom. 3:24; Heb. 9:15). Ransom is a common idea in the New Testament (Mark 10:45; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; Heb. 9:12; Rev. 1:5; 5:9). The image of Jesus as a lamb of sacrifice underscores this picture (1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:9–12; 6:1). It is him for us. The New Testament is not concerned with to whom this debt is paid, but focuses instead on the fact that it is paid, with the gift of the indwelling Spirit delivering spiritual capability and freedom to walk with God as a result. The expression pictures deliverance (Exod. 6:6) and the resultant position in which we now exist. The verb we have is present tense, so it looks at where we are now in the light of what we were given by grace. Redemption includes the forgiveness of our trespasses (cf. Col. 1:14; Titus 2:14). None of this is deserved; it is according to the riches of [God’s] grace. Later Paul will pray that the Ephesians might appreciate the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ, another allusion to verse 6. This redemption and forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrificial death is a key part of that treasure.
7. The blessing of redemption follows, for our prior need of grace is of redeeming, restoring grace. Such redemption is found in Christ—not merely through him, but by coming to live in him (cf. Rom. 3:24; Col. 1:14). Again the Old Testament provides the background for our understanding. There, provision was made for the redemption of lands or persons that had passed from their original owner to become the property of another (see Lev. 25:25–27, 47–49; Num. 18:15). The people of Israel, moreover, were themselves essentially a redeemed people. They had been slaves in Egypt, and later, through their own sinfulness, in Babylon as well. Yet God had redeemed them, and by redemption they were made his people (Exod. 15:13; Deut. 7:8; Isa. 48:20; 52:9). The fundamental idea of redemption is that of the setting free of a thing or a person that has come to belong to another. Sometimes, in both Old and New Testaments, there is no specific reference to the price paid for redemption, and in some places the word has the basic sense of release (e.g. Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23; Heb. 9:15). But Paul’s mind often dwelt on the thought of the costliness of redemption, and in a number of places in the New Testament this is obviously present (see Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; Rev. 5:9).
We cannot say here that Paul speaks explicitly of the cost of redemption, but he says immediately that it is through his blood. Nor would he have hesitated to say that what is the means of liberation is in fact also the price. In the case of the Passover, a sacrifice was associated with the redemption of the people. The primary object of most of the old sacrifices, however, was the setting aside of sin. Instilled deeply into the consciousness of the people was the fact that sin could not be set aside lightly. Sin required sacrifice: ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11). Christ fulfilled the need expressed throughout the Old Testament sacrificial system. His death means that blood has been shed as a sacrifice for sin; it may also be described in terms of sin’s defeat and so the release of men and women from its bondage. The sacrifice is thus the means of redemption which is the forgiveness of our trespasses. Sin involves the bondage of mind and will and members, but forgiveness is freedom, and aphesis, the word used here, means literally the loosing of a person from that which binds. This forgiveness, Paul says, is according to the riches of his grace, grace which is rich beyond human understanding and infinitely beyond any earthly wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19–20; 1 Tim. 6:17–19; Heb. 11:26). Six times in this letter the apostle speaks thus of the riches of God, revealed and made available, the wealth of his grace and mercy and glory (v. 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16), and the expression is characteristically Pauline (cf. Rom. 2:4; 9:23; 11:33; 2 Cor. 8:9; Col. 1:27; 2:2). And God’s giving is not merely out of these riches but according to their measure (cf. Phil. 4:19).
7 In this verse we now come to the subject of redemption. Redemption! A word, taken in all its vast dimensions, bigger than a thousand such worlds as ours. Let us, however, proceed regularly into this mysterious subject. We have noticed, (though briefly,) in the former verses, the gracious personal acts of God the Father, in relation to the Church. Here we enter upon the gracious personal acts of God the Son, resulting, as this verse expresseth it, and as the former had done, from the riches of his grace. This is a precious point always to be kept in view. For, as it was said of the Father, his sovereign acts of grace flowed from the good pleasure of his will; so the Son’s from the riches of his grace; and so the Holy Ghost’s, as we shall hereafter (when we come to that part of the subject) discover, from his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself, verse 9.
I begin the subject contained in this verse, with observing, that when the Apostle, in reference to Christ, saith, that we have redemption in his blood, there is included in it the cause of this redemption, in the Church’s union with her Lord, as her Head and Husband. This is of course implied. Christ’s redemption of his Church presupposes his interest in his Church, and, of consequence, in all that belongs to her. It is a comprehensive way of speaking. Redemption includes every thing, in relation to the Person, work, offices, and characters, in which the Son of God engaged, when assuming our nature, and when he came into this our world, in this time-state of the Church, and accomplished redemption by his blood and righteousness.
But though the vast subject of redemption compriseth every thing that is blessed for the Church to meditate upon, night and day, during the whole of her present time-state upon earth, as it will call up her intellectual faculties, when full ripened hereafter in heaven, to dwell upon for ever; yet, I must not in this place enter at large upon it. In several parts of this Poor Man’s Commentary, as the scriptures led to it, I have glanced at it, and, therefore, would there refer the Reader. See all the Gospels upon it. See also Rom. 3:25. Gal. 3:13. and Commentary on both. A few of the outlines only can I here detain the Reader with.
And first. The Apostle speaks of this vast work of redemption, as a thing possessed. We have redemption. Yes! Christ on the cross declared it to be finished. John 19:30. But for the matter itself, who shall speak its value? Its dimensions are infinite, for it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And the nature of it, as well as its duration and extension, is attended with such difficulty to explain, that unless we could determine the nature of sin, we can never determine the vastness of redemption. But so infinitely important is it in itself, that without an interest in it, notwithstanding the Church being chosen in Christ, predestinated to the adoption of children in Christ, and accepted in Christ; yet, having forfeited all right to these blessings by the Adam-fall, and our whole nature being thereby degraded and sunk, but for redemption we must have remained in the captivity of sin, and under the heavy penalty to the breaches of it, as well as also been totally unqualified to enjoy the privilege of children to all eternity. Oh! the unspeakable blessings included in redemption!
Secondly. The greatness of redemption is enhanced by the greatness of the Redeemer. We may in some measure form an idea, however imperfectly to what it really is, of the immensity of the blessings, by the immensity of his nature, who alone could accomplish it. God and man in one Person. In whom, (saith the Apostle,) we have redemption. How blessedly Scripture speaks of Christ in numberless places. For thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his Name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, The God of the whole earth shall he be called! Isaiah 54:5. See also Isaiah 43:1–7.
Thirdly. How redemption hath been wrought. Through his blood. Here again, all created wisdom is incompetent to enter into any adequate apprehension of the mysterious work. The Scriptures declare the fact itself. But no created powers, either angels or men, are able to conceive of it, with any clearness of knowledge. We are told, indeed, that the angels do not understand, but desire to look into. 1 Pet. 1:12.
Fourthly As the Person who alone could bring salvation, and the work he wrought in the accomplishment, exceed our utmost faculties to describe; so the effect baffles all conception also, to form equal ideas. We are told, that we have by it the forgiveness of all our sins; yea, in Him himself we have this vast mercy. But who shall calculate the greatness, or the number; the nature, or the quality of sins. It takes in, and includes our whole lives, past, present, and future. And, therefore, so infinitely extensive in its efficacy is redemption, from sin in all its consequences, that it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And so infinitely great in its power, that it cleanseth from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
And, fifthly, to sum up all, as if to silence for ever all the pretensions of the proud, and all the fears of the humble, the whole is said to be the sole result of the riches of his grace. So that grace, and the riches of that grace, provides the remedy, and grace accepts its own providing. And all, from beginning to end, is the sole effect of grace.
Some have stumbled at this account of the Holy Ghost, and in the pride of their unhumbled heart, have boldly questioned, how free grace can be said to do all, and yet Christ hath purchased the redemption of his people by his blood? But such men have not been taught of God, and, therefore, err, because they know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Matt. 22:29. It was free grace to admit a Surety for the Church, when in the Adam-nature she had sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And it was not only free grace, but the riches of that grace, not only to admit a Surety, but to provide One. And this God the Father did, when he gave his dear Son as the Head, Husband, and Surety of his Church. For Jesus was made a Surety. Heb. 7:22. Now the Lord Jehovah magnified the riches of his grace, in this very way and manner. He had chosen the Church in Christ, to be holy in Christ, to a sonship in Christ, and to an acceptation in Christ, and that from all eternity. But to magnify the riches of this grace, the Church, during the time-state of her being, falls into sin, and forgets her adoption-character, and comes under the curse of a broken law. Here then opens a way for the fullest display of grace, in causing her recovery, and by such a plan of wisdom, love, and power, as enhanceth every blessing tenfold. Jesus shall redeem her by his blood. So that redemption is the effect of the original grace. And so far is it from militating against the freedom of that grace, that it is in fact, one of the highest fruits of it. God’s children in Christ, when fallen in sin, shall be redeemed by Christ, and redemption, which is the biggest of all blessings, in the time-state of the Church, shall be found to be the result of the first, original, and eternal design of God, in his purposes towards the Church, from all eternity. And God the Holy Ghost elsewhere beautifully expresseth the precious truth, when he saith, we are justified freely by his grace; but he adds, it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24. Redemption purchaseth not our sonship, for that was from all eternity. But redemption purchaseth our pardon, when as children we had sinned, and come short of God’s glory. Hence this blessed Scripture declares the soul refreshing truth; In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Hence, also, the song of heaven. Rev. 5:9.
1:7 / There is a definite parallel here to Colossians 1:14, where redemption and the forgiveness of sins are closely connected. But in Ephesians, the means of redemption is amplified by the phrase through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. The emphasis here is upon forgiveness, which in turn is followed by the resounding response concerning the greatness of God’s grace. Since sonship takes place through baptism, and since sonship and forgiveness are so closely linked in this passage, one wonders if the author still has the baptismal event in mind when he speaks of the forgiveness of sins.
Redemption (v. 7)
In Jesus, Paul reminds us, we have “redemption through His blood.” Redemption is a slave-market term. In the ancient world, if a person desired to grant freedom to a slave (or if a slave had the wherewithal to purchase his or her own freedom), a redemption price would be paid to the owner of that slave; a sum of money would be handed over in order to redeem that man, woman, boy, or girl from his or her enslavement. This, says the apostle, is also what God has done for his people! We were enslaved to sin. We were in bondage to our own sinful natures and lusts. And yet our Father in heaven paid the price to set us free. We have “redemption through [Jesus’] blood.” This is why we can now become “holy and blameless” (v. 4)—because we are no longer slaves to sin! Remind yourself of that fact when temptation tugs like a chain around your ankle, dragging you back toward your old ways. Say to yourself, “In Christ, I am no longer a slave! God paid my redemption price through the blood of Jesus! I am free! And I’m going to live like it! I have ‘redemption through His blood.’ ”
Forgiveness (v. 7)
In addition to having been set free from sin’s power, Christians have also been redeemed from sin’s debts. “Redemption,” Paul says in verse 7, includes “forgiveness.” An ancient slave, in some cases, might be not only a slave, but also a debtor. The whole reason he or she was owned by another human being was because of a failure to pay some debt. So, if such a person was redeemed, if his or her liberty was purchased, the debt was, at the same time, canceled out as well! This person was now not only free, but also forgiven! And so it is with the Christian. We owed a great debt to God because of our trespasses and sins. But “through [Jesus’] blood,” the debt was paid. “Through His blood” we are set free, not only from slavery to sin, but also from our debt to God and from its corresponding penalty! Restitution has been made in full. “Through His blood” we have “the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Do you have forgiveness? Do you know that your sin debts have been removed by the blood of Christ?
Redemption—and Its Cause (1:7a)
The reclamation process Paul first describes is “redemption” (Eph. 1:7a). Redemption involves the payment of a ransom to reclaim something that has been taken away or is held captive. Sin (both our personal sin and the sin nature we inherited from Adam) takes away the righteousness God intended to characterize our lives and holds us hostage to Satan’s purposes. Apart from Christ’s provision, we would perpetually exist in a prison of guilt and shame. We cannot escape by our actions. They too are tainted by our sin. We have to be rescued from this sinful state by something outside ourselves. The price for our ransom from sin’s captivity is the sacrifice of God’s Son. By the gift of his life, we are freed from our captivity to sin. Here, as elsewhere (e.g., Col. 1:20), this redemption clearly is tied to Christ’s shed blood on the cross. Paul also emphasizes the redemptive nature of Jesus’ “blood” in Romans 3:25; 5:9; and we honor this redeeming sacrifice in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25, 27).
We know the truths so well that it may be hard for them still to affect us as the apostle intends. We who were made in God’s image, holy and privileged, through the fall of our first parents became slaves to sin and bound to its penalties forever. Yet God so loved us that he sent his own Son to die in our behalf. We are purchased with a price, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 1:18–19). With his blood the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world purchased persons for God from every tribe, and language, people and nation (Rev. 5:9; 13:8; and see Eph. 2:13).
Along a highway near St. Louis, a row of blossoming pear trees lines the border of a state prison. In the springtime all that highway drivers see is the appearance of beauty, but behind the blossoms are razor wire and imprisonment. We are to understand that this is the Bible’s perspective on the condition of humankind. Each day we can put on the appearance that everything is fine, even beautiful, but behind the appearance is imprisonment to our sin nature from which release does not come except at the price of Christ’s blood.
Remission—and Its Extent (1:7b–8)
There is an additional effect of this shed blood: forgiveness—or, more specifically, the remission of sins. When you remit something, you cancel a debt or remove a penalty. Because of Christ’s death for us, we have no penalty to pay for our sins. In this passage the general term “sins” actually translates a word that could more literally be translated “trespasses.” We trespass when we cross boundaries God has set for us to obey or veer off the path he has designed for our righteousness. Because the blood of Christ also deals with our trespasses, we know that his blood redeems us not only from the original sinfulness of our human nature, but also from the guilt of our individual and daily transgressions. Every dimension of my sin—all my individual trespasses—was covered by the blood of my Savior.
Christ wants me to know how vast is the mercy that covers matters small and large. Helpful translators rightly note that this forgiveness is “in accord with,” not out of the riches of, God’s grace (Eph. 1:7c). The One who possesses the riches of the universe does not reach into his penny purse to provide a little grace to cover my sin. No, his grace is in accord with his vast riches. The abundance of his heavenly goodness is raining down on me, immersing me, washing me, taking my sin away as far as the east is from the west, so that now, continually and forever, because I am united to Christ, I am clothed with the righteousness of God’s own Son.
This redemption and remission are “lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (v. 8). Commentators struggle over this phrase. Does God lavish on us “wisdom and understanding” (i.e., are the wisdom and understanding ours), or does he lavish us with grace through his wisdom and understanding?4 I think that it is the latter. While wisdom and understanding (or insight) regarding himself and his ways are surely benefits that God grants to us when he redeems us, in this particular case he seems to be measuring the lavishness of his grace by saying that he grants it despite his insight into us. Think of that. In his wisdom he knows more about the nature and horror of my trespasses than I do—and he is wise enough to know what will be needed to compensate for my wrong. He understands that my trespasses will require the blood of his own Son to cancel my debt, and still he redeems me and remits my sin so that I have Christ’s own righteousness to my credit.
This idea is exemplified in our friends who have adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. They are wise enough to know that the background of this child will result in many problems. Enslaved to its birth nature, this child will tax them—they will pay as with blood for this child’s future good. But, despite this insight, they offer themselves to one to whom they owe no obligation or debt. They simply give themselves to reclaim this child from the horror of her background, and the misdeeds of her present and future, purely for the good of this child. As our Savior gives himself to reclaim us, so they reflect his grace in their care of their daughter. This is truly rich.
Once I sensed a measure of the lavish richness of Christ’s reclaiming blood in a phone call from a leader in our church. Though he was responsible for the spiritual oversight of others, he became enslaved to sexual sin. Cover-up lies further bound him in a web of deception which was eventually discovered and led to his discipline and departure from the church. He left very angry, but the Spirit was working in his heart. Years later he asked to enter a process of restoration. We allowed it with very strict conditions relating to confessing the sin, counseling, and accountability measures. He agreed to every condition. He even asked, “Dr. Chapell, is there anything else I should do, or anyone else I should tell, or anything you want from me?” How different were this tone and attitude from those of the one who had once hidden his sin and resisted discipline. He did all we asked and still wanted to know what else he could do to satisfy his debt. He was so changed. I told him as much. “Bill,” I said, “you are so different. Why?” His reply reflected his knowledge of God’s lavish mercy. He said, “I know now that I do not have to hide any of my sin. His blood paid my debt and canceled the wrong of my sins. Now a phrase from a Christian song has become the motto of my life: ‘Jesus paid it all.’ I can live free of guilt and shame because Jesus paid everything I owed.”
My friend now wants to do more than anyone on earth requires. He is motivated by the love that reclaimed him through Christ’s redemption and the remission of sins. The Lord has lavished such grace upon this man that he knows whatever has happened or will happen in this life, he remains God’s beloved by Christ’s provision.
7 Those who were chosen in Christ before the world’s foundation have been redeemed in him in the course of time. The mention of redemption and forgiveness is paralleled in Col. 1:14, on which indeed it may depend, except that “sins” in Colossians is replaced by “trespasses” here and the reference to redemption is amplified by the phrase “through his blood.”58 The blood of Christ, that is, his sacrificial death, is the means by which his people’s redemption has been procured. A similar explanatory phrase occurs in Rom. 3:25, and while there it is more closely attached to “atonement”60 than to “redemption” (in v. 24), in sense it is applicable to both.
“Trespasses” and “sins” are used as synonyms by Paul and other NT writers. In Eph. 2:1 the two words are used together to express one idea. If “sins” is the word used in Col. 1:14, “trespasses” is used in Col. 2:13; in both places they are the object of God’s pardoning act.
“Wealth” is a term found repeatedly in this letter with reference to the divine attributes: “the wealth of his grace” is mentioned again in Eph. 2:7, “the wealth of his glory” in Eph. 1:18 and 3:16 (cf. also Eph. 3:8). It is a Pauline usage: cf. “the wealth of his kindness” in Rom. 2:4; “the wealth of his glory” in Rom. 9:23; “the wealth of God’s wisdom and knowledge” in Rom. 11:33.
7 Paul takes his worship to the next level, exulting in what Christ specifically did for us (parallels Col 1:14, with eight identical Greek words). In Christ we possess “redemption.” Perhaps related to the word for “ransom” (Mk 10:45), in Greek usage “redemption” denoted deliverance from bondage or imprisonment through the payment of some price. For example, a slave attained freedom (i.e., was redeemed) from slavery upon the payment of the required fee. The concept occurs in the OT as well (Ex 6:6; 21:30; Nu 18:15–16; see 2 Sa 7:23 for redeeming a people). Using this metaphor, Paul pictures what Christ has done to secure forgiveness for his people: he died for them. Paul probably doesn’t intend us to understand “blood” as the literal price paid, as some medieval theologians theorized. (Paul does say we were bought with a price in 1 Co 6:20; 7:23.) Rather, he appears to switch to a biblical metaphor, the sacrificial system that required the shedding of blood to gain forgiveness (e.g., Ex 30:10; 2 Ch 29:24; Heb 9:14, 22; 13:11; 1 Jn 1:7). Through his death, Christ secured forgiveness of his people’s sins. “Sins” here translates paraptōma (GK 4183), a word that means a violation of moral standards, an offense, wrongdoing, or sin (cf. BDAG, 770) and one of several terms Paul regularly uses for “sins.” Paul reiterates the essential foundation of the biblical message of salvation: by Christ’s own violent death on a Roman execution rack, he secured his people’s release from their slavery to sins. He died so that people dead in transgressions and sins (2:1) might live.
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