photo by Laura Evans
[W]e were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
Galatians 3:23 ESV
Dear ICB family,
On Sunday we gathered in close and heard the story of God's grand gospel retold through three precious biblical metaphors: the metaphor of the guilty being declared innocent in God's courtroom (that's justification), the metaphor of the slave being released from bondage and granted freedom (that's redemption), and the metaphor of the orphan being adopted into a new family (that's adoption).
Each picture provides us as believers with deeper understanding into the great work of salvation that God has accomplished for us.
A question arises here. What did God have in mind when he went to such lengths to secure our salvation? What was he driving at? What was his aim? His hope? His goal?
Three passages give us a glimpse into God's purposes. First, consider Exodus 19:3–4. After Israel fled Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai, "[t]he Lord called to [Moses] out of the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself."
Did you catch that? God hadn't merely afflicted the Egyptians. He hadn't only rescued Israel from bondage. His work was not just an act of miraculous deliverance as if on eagles' wings. It was all that. But it was more. You see, in delivering Israel, God was bringing his people to himself.
Israel's greatest gain in casting off their old masters' shackles was not a reduced workload, the right to self-governance, or even freedom from institutionalized slavery—as great as such blessings are. Soaring high and above all those blessings was this: Israel got God. God took Israel out of Egypt so that he could reveal himself to them on Sinai and form with them a covenant through which they could commune with the living God. God sets his people free for relationship with him.
In delivering Israel, God was bringing his people to himself.
Skip ahead in time over 1400 years and dip down into the first century A.D. Years after Peter had walked with the Jewish Messiah, witnessed his death, wondered at his resurrection, and seen him rise back up into heaven, he penned these words: "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? Why did Christ suffer? Why did the righteous one die in place of the unrighteous? The answer could not be clearer: Jesus justifies the unjust that he might bring us to God. We rejoice in the great doctrine of justification; however, we don't stop rejoicing as soon as the judge reads the verdict "not guilty." Christ's provision of a way that guilty sinners could receive an innocent verdict was aiming at something. That was the only way the Judge could leap off his bench, race over to the formerly guilty defendant, and embrace him! God makes his people righteous for relationship with him.
Jesus justifies the unjust that he might bring us to God.
Back up in your Bibles to Ephesians 1:5–6, where we read, "[God] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace." Adoption involves a lot of time. There's endless red tape. The costs are huge. What was God after?
Different from our two previous answers, here Paul says that God gave his people the destiny of being his adopted children "to the praise of his glorious grace." In other words, God adopted his people so that his mind-numbingly beautiful grace might be sung on the lips of his people for all eternity. God has adopted us so that he might receive the praise that is due him for his matchless gift of unmerited grace.
God adopted his people so that his mind-numbingly beautiful grace might be sung on the lips of his people for all eternity.
You might be tempted to ask, OK, so which is it? Did God save us to bring us to himself (Exodus 19:3–4; 1 Peter 3:18) or so that his adopted children would sing the praise of his amazing grace (Eph. 1:5–6)? Of course, just like we don't have to choose between understanding salvation as a declaration of not guilty, as freedom from slavery, or as adoption, neither do we have to choose between God's aims in securing his people's salvation. In fact, if you hold the diamond of salvation at just the right angle, you see that even these two ends are intertwined.
One way of summing it up would be to say that in saving his people, God was aiming at reconciling a people to himself for his glory. When God makes a way for his people to come back to him, what else could they do but sing the praises of his grace?
So as we experience the gifts of justification, freedom, and adoption, let us come to God and sing his praise.
Coming and praising with you,