2.27 The Lord's Blood was Shed for our Redemption. Christ died for us.
Looking For Christ's Return
If we understand something of the 'mechanics' of the atonement, and graspsomething of the fact that they were outworked in a real, historical man, we will see that the final realization of the redemption achieved at the cross will be when Christ comes back. Having expounded the Lord's cross for several chapters, Paul concludes: " So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28). Here we see two fundamental first principles linked: If we understand something of the atonement, we will earnestly look for the second coming, when the redemption achieved on the cross will be brought unto us (cp. 1 Pet. 1:13). An enthusiasm for the second coming, spurred by a realization that the bringing of salvation then is an outworking of the cross, the implication of the simple fact Christ died for us, will lead to a loose hold on the things of this life.
Paul had a debt to preach to all men (Rom. 1:14). But a debt implies he had been given something; and it was not from " all men" , but rather from Christ. Because the Lord gave us the riches of His self-sacrifice, because Christ died for us, we thereby are indebted to Him; and yet this debt has been transmuted into a debt to preach to all humanity. Our obligation to the Lord for His death for us issues in an obligation to preach that message to others.
Consider the implications of 2 Cor. 5:20: " On behalf of Christ, as though God were intreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ: be ye reconciled to God [because] him who knew no sin he made to be a sin [a sin offering?] on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" . Because of the cross, because Christ died for us, because of the atonement which God wrought in Christ's offering, we beseech men to be reconciled to God. Appreciating the cross and the nature of the atonement should be the basis of our appeal to men. And indeed, such an appeal is God appealing to men and women, in that there on the cross " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" . The blood and spittle covered body of the Lord lifted up was and is the appeal, the beseeching of God Himself to men. And this is the message that we are honoured to preach on His behalf; we preach the appeal of God through the cross.
The reality of the Lord's crucifixion was the basis of Peter's appeal for men to repent: " Repent ye therefore [and he spoke not only to those who had crucified the Lord], and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:17-19). And think through the reasoning of 1 Cor. 1:13: " Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" . The fact Jesus died and was crucified for us means that we should be baptized into that Name, and also be undivided.
Throughout the NT, there is a clear link between the preaching of the cross, and men and women being converted. There is a power of conversion in the image and message of Christ crucified as our representative. Man cannot remain passive before this. Baptism is an appropriation of His death and resurrection to ourselves. This is why the response to the preaching of the cross in the 1st century was baptism. And the response doesn't stop there; it continues, in the living of the life of the risen Jesus in our lives after baptism: " For the death that he died, he died unto sin…the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to dead unto sin but alive unto God [because you are] in Christ [by baptism into Him]" (Rom. 6:10,11 RV). The death Christ died for us, the life He lives, are all imperatives to us now. Some were tortured " not accepting redemption" (Heb. 11:) ; by implication they accepted the true redemption of the blood of Christ rather than the pseudo-redemption offered by this world. Again, the redeeming work of Christ is what fortifies men against the fake Kingdom and redemption of the anti-Christ anti-Kingdom of this world.
The Truth of the Gospel of the cross is the only way to come to salvation. All other religions apart from true Christianity will not give salvation nor a relationship with God. Realising this, David pleads with his people to be a missionary nation: " Give thanks unto Yahweh, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people...for great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols; but Yahweh made the heavens" (1 Chron. 15:8,25,26). The more we realize the pathetic fallacy of human religion, indeed the whole and utter vanity of life under this sun, the more we will preach Yahweh's Truth to a tragically wandering, aimless world.
Loving Our Partner
Therefore, " husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it...so ought men to love their wives" (Eph. 5:25). The Greek for " gave himself" is mainly used of the Lord Jesus giving up the spirit to the Father. We have shown elsewhere that His death was as an act of the will, He gave up His life rather than it being taken away from Him. This matchless peak of self-control and self-giving for us must somehow be replicated in the humdrum of daily domestic relationships. He carried our sins " that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes (Gk. Wheals- Peter saw them) ye were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).The husband should love his wife, " even as Christ also the church; because we are members of his body" (Eph. 5:30 RV). Jesus loved us as much as He loves Himself; He " cannot be separated from the work which He came to do" (R.R.). He saved Himself so as to save us. And this isn't just atonement theology- this is to be lived out in married life. As Christ died for us and gave up His last breath for us, so as a supreme act of the will, the husband must give up his life for his woman. And she can only but respond to this. These are high ideals. But the very height of them can transform human life in practice.
Service To God
Romans 6 compares baptism to a change of masters. The point has been made that this is a reference to manumission, whereby a 'redeemer' gave a 'ransom' to a god, which meant that a slave was freed from his master and became a free man, although he was counted as a slave to the god to whom the redeemer had paid the ransom. Indeed, lutron , one of the words translated " ransom" with regard to the blood of Christ, has this specific meaning. Deissmann comments: " When anybody heard the Greek word lutron, " ransom" , in the first century, it was natural for him to think of the purchase money for manumitting slaves" (1). This means that when we come to understand the atonement, we understand that the price has been paid to free us from slavery into the service of God. We are in the position of a slave who suddenly discovers some gracious benefactor has made the longed for payment of ransom. And so he goes free, but is willingly and eagerly in slavery to the god to whom his redeemer had paid the price. In our case this is none other than the One, Almighty God of Israel. And the ransom is the precious blood of Christ, which thereby compells our willing slavery to the new Master. There are other references to manumission in Gal. 5:1,13 RV: " For freedom did Christ set us free…ye have been called unto freedom" and in the references to our being bought with a price, i.e. the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). And this is the horror of 2 Pet. 2:1- " denying even the Master that bought them [out]" . To turn againsttheir gracious redeemer was the ultimate sick act for a slave freed through manumission. And this is the horror of turning away from the Lord. The death of Christ for us is thereby a warning to us of the end of sin and therefore the need to change.
The death of the covenant victim was to act as a warning for what would happen to those who broke the covenant. Thus " The men who transgressed my covenant…I will make like the calf which they cut in two" (Jer. 34:18 RSV). In the account of a Babylonian covenant it was written: " This head is not just the head of the goat…it is the head of Mati'ilu…If Mati'ilu breaks the oath, then as the head of this goat is cut off…so shall the head of Mati'ilu be cut off" (2). Thus the dead animal was seen as a representative of the person who entered the covenant. The death of our Lord, therefore, serves as a reminder to us of the end for sin. We either put sin to death, or we must be put to death for it. Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:16 and other passages liken the blood of Christ to a covenant; and yet the Greek word used means definitely the last will and testament of a dead man. His blood is therefore an imperative to us to do something; it is His will to us, which we must execute. Thus His death, His blood, which is also a symbol of His life, becomes the imperative to us for our lives and living in this world. Note how blood is a symbol of both life and also death (Gen. 37:26; Num. 35:19,33; Lev. 20:9). Both His death and His life form a covenant / testament / will for us to obey- in both baptism and then in living out the death and life in our daily experience. We cannot be passive to it.
Loving Our Brethren
Exactly because Christ died for us, because the ecclesia has been purchased with the Lord's blood, we are to seek to feed it and not draw men away after ourselves (Acts 20:28,29). This means that the fact Jesus died to redeem the whole ecclesia should lead us to value and care for those whom He has redeemed.
We are only forgiven our sins through the blood of Jesus. Yet in the real life events of sin, the tendency is to allow the fact we forget about sin to achieve a kind of pseudo-atonement; we tell ourselves it’s all really OK, we forget about the sin. But this is to actually turn our back on the Lord’s blood, and to assume that we are the ones who have made atonement. The Hebrew text of Prov. 30:20 provides insight here- the sinful woman has a mouth that ‘blots out’ [AV “wipeth”- but the Hebrew word is always used about ‘blotting out’ sin] and says “I have done no wickedness”. Our mouths, our self-talk, our self-persuasion, cannot atone for sin. A very deep belief that only the blood of Christ who died for us can atone for sin will lead us to a more ready confession of our sin.
Dying With Jesus Day By Day
In baptism we died with Christ. We share His death. His death was representative of us, and we seek to be His faithful representatives in our turn in this world. But what do these phrases mean? Unless we know Jesus as a person, until we have realistically tried to reconstruct how He was, who He is, and what happened physically and concretely in His death, those phrases will remain mere abstract theology. It’s been observed, and you and I know it to be true, that each of us dies a little in the death of those we love. You drove home from that funeral never quite the same, and she or he lives and dies with you or me over and over through the years. The richer our relationships, the more effort we’ve put into them, the deeper and richer this sense will be; for it is, in the end, an enriching experience. Again I say it, that each of us dies a little in the death of those we love. This, I suppose, is the only way in which we who haven’t yet died have some personal experience of death and can share in it. And it’s the only way my restless mind can grapple with what it means to me, to die with Jesus. If we know Jesus as a person, the recollection and attempted reconstruction in our minds of His death- and His death for us moreover- will have the same effect. In His death, we die. This is the teaching of Romans 6, the chapter read at our baptism probably, and so little understood by us then. We are not only baptized into His death, we live out that death day by day, as we do likewise in the death of those whom we knew and loved, and whom we still know and love insofar as like Jesus, they live in our hearts and inner consciousness.
(1) Adolf Deissmann, Light From The Ancient East (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978) p. 323. C.K. Barret in The New Testament Background (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1989) p. 52 agrees with this.
(2) A. Jeremias, The Old Testament In The Light Of The Ancient East (New York: Putnam’s, 1911), Vol. 2 p. 49.