Redeemer and Redemption

“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14

NO DISCUSSION OF God’s promised deliverance of his human creatures from sin and death would be complete without taking into consideration the one chosen to be the Redeemer and Deliverer. Who is this great one, and from whence did he come? Why was he above all others, qualified to be the Savior of a condemned and dying race? The Bible alone furnishes us with the answers to the questions, and if we do not attempt to be wise above that which is written, we will find the testimony of the Bible on this subject marvelously harmonious and satisfying.

In our text the Apostle John tells us about Jesus, referring to him as the “Word” (Greek, Logos). In verse 1 of this opening chapter of John’s Gospel we are informed that the ‘Word’, the Logos, was with God “in the beginning,” and that he was a god—a mighty one. Although the English translation does not show it, the Greek text reveals a distinction between “the” God—the great Jehovah of the Old Testament—and the Logos who is indicated to be “a” god. If this basic fact of truth is ignored we are at once confronted with the incongruous idea that the Father and the Son are one in person, which in turn would mean that much in the life and teachings of Jesus was merely farcical. His prayers, for example, would be to himself and not to his Heavenly Father, for he would be his own Father. Actually, the thought is too inharmonious for serious consideration.

The name Logos means ‘Word’, or ‘mouthpiece’—in a broader sense, ‘one who speaks for, or represents, another’. This was the relationship of the Logos, the Son of God, to his Father, the Creator. John explains that the Logos was in the beginning with God. In Revelation 3:14 Jesus is referred to as “the beginning of the creation of God.” John informs us that “all things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3) Paul confirms this in Colossians 1:15-17, where we read concerning Jesus, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

Since the Logos was the beginning of the creation of God, it is obvious that he is excepted in the statement that ‘all things’ were made by him. The harmony of this combined testimony is seen when we recognize that the Logos, being the ‘beginning’ of God’s creation, was also his only exclusive creation, the Logos being his Father’s agent or representative in all the remaining works of creation. This illuminates the expression in Genesis 1:26, “Let US make man in OUR image.” This is evidently the Father addressing his Son, the Logos, giving him directions concerning the creation of man.

Jesus, then, had a prehuman existence. This is indicated in Micah 5:2, in a prophecy showing that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and concerning him it adds, “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”—that is, from the beginning, when there existed only his Father and the Logos. Jesus himself declared, “I came down from heaven.” And again, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” (John 6:38,51) To the Pharisees Jesus said, “I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” (John 8:42) Jesus also said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” that is, I existed.—John 8:58

“Made Flesh”

Our text states that the Logos, the only begotten of the Father, was made flesh. The Apostle Paul says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” (II Cor. 8:9) John observes that Jesus was “full of grace and truth,” and Paul calls our attention to the glorious virtue of humility possessed by Jesus, saying, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [Revised Standard Version], but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”—John 1: 14; Phil. 2:5-7

Paul adds, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) David testified that man was made a “little lower than the angels,” and Paul writes concerning Jesus that he “was made a little lower than the angels [made flesh, that is] for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”—Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:9

Paul wrote, “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Tim. 2:5,6) The word ransom used here by Paul means a ‘corresponding price’. This gives meaning to the great emphasis which the Bible places on the fact that the Logos was ‘made flesh’. It was a fleshly being, Adam, whose transgression of the divine law brought death upon himself and upon his offspring, and only another fleshly being could be a corresponding price in death for Adam.

But more than this, Adam was a perfect man when he sinned, and therefore none of his imperfect offspring could be a corresponding price for him. Speaking of the members of the fallen and dying race, the psalmist wrote, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Ps. 49:7) In order for Adam and his children to be redeemed from death, a perfect man would have to be provided and one who would be willing to lay down his life in sacrifice for this purpose. The Heavenly Father, in his love, made this provision, for he “so loved the world” that he gave his “only begotten Son,” and the Son was humbly “obedient unto death,” giving himself a “ransom for all.”—John 3:16; Phil 2:8

Not An Assumed Body

Our text emphasizes that Jesus was ‘made flesh’. The point here is that he did not merely assume a body of flesh. His body was developed as all human bodies are. God had previously sent angels to perform various missions and while in some instances they materialized as humans, it was different with the Logos. Concerning him Paul wrote, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.”—Gal. 4:4

“Holy, Harmless, Undefiled”

God, in his limitless power and infinite wisdom could have created a perfect man to redeem Adam, even as he originally created Adam. But he chose not to do this. God also could have created a wife for Adam without removing a part of Adam’s body. Adam, knowing the circumstances under which Eve was created, said of her, “This is now one of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen. 2:23) Concerning Jesus we read, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” (Heb. 2:14) And again, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.”—Rom. 8: 3

Just as God, in creating Eve, designed the vital relationship that should exist between her and Adam, in his wisdom also decreed that the one who was to redeem the children of men should likewise become a vital partaker of sinful flesh which he came to redeem. That God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh does not mean, however, that Jesus was himself sinful. He proceeded forth and came from God. His human organism was received from his mother, but in the divine arrangements he did not partake of her imperfections. Thus it could be said of him that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”—Heb. 7:26

How the life of the Logos was transferred to the womb of Mary to be born as a babe in Bethlehem is beyond human comprehension. There is much in the outworking of the divine purposes which we can neither explain nor understand. Life itself is a mystery to us. The begetting and birth of a child in a so-called natural way is a miracle so far as we are concerned. But the Creator of all life and its functions can easily change the normal procedure of nature, because he designed them in the first place. In order to appreciate God’s plan of salvation through Jesus it is necessary to believe that he was raised from the dead by the power of the Creator, but we cannot explain how it was done, only that it was a miracle, even as his being ‘made flesh’ by being born of a human mother was a miracle.

Nor is it necessary to believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was herself free from Adamic imperfection. The doctrine of the ‘immaculate conception’ of the mother of Jesus is not taught in the Bible. The virgin birth of Jesus is taught, which means that by the power of God’s Spirit, and without the necessity of a human father, the life of the Logos, through Mary, was transferred to the human plane, and, as the Apostle Paul writes, was “found in fashion as a man,” but free from any taint of sin because decreed so by the Creator.—Phil. 2:8

Offered In Sacrifice

When Jesus was thirty years of age he entered upon the ministry for which his Heavenly Father had sent him to earth. David penned a prophecy descriptive of Jesus’ spirit of devotion at this time, which reads, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”—Ps. 40:69

Under the great lawgiver, Moses, and in connection with the services of Israel’s Tabernacle, certain animal sacrifices were required. These could not actually take away sin. In Hebrews 10:1 we read, “The Law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the corners thereunto perfect.” Jesus, and the sacrifice he was to offer instead of the typical bullock, was one of the ‘good things’ foreshadowed by the Tabernacle and its services.

Jesus himself knew this. Realizing that the animal sacrifices under the Law did not take away sin, but that they foreshadowed a sacrifice which he had come to earth to make, gladly said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of me [that is, as the Old Testament foreshadowed and foretold]. I delight to do thy will, O my God.” These words describe Jesus’ attitude of consecration to his Heavenly Father when he presented himself to John at Jordan to be baptized.

John the Baptist at first declined to baptize Jesus, saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee.” (Matt. 3:14) John recognized the purity of Jesus, and said, “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (John 1: 27) In John 1:29 we read, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

The title, “Lamb of God,” as applied to Jesus, is most significant. In Eden God had said that there would come a “seed” which would “bruise” the serpent’s “head.” Probably Eve supposed that this would be one of her children, perhaps her firstborn, for when Cain was born she said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” (Gen. 4:1) Then Abel was born. In due course the two men brought sacrifices to the Lord. “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground,” and Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” (Gen. 4:3,4) In Hebrews 11:4 we read, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” How Abel knew that a lamb for sacrifice would be more excellent we may not understand, but evidently the Lord’s hand was in the matter, and we can see a connection between this and the promised ‘seed’.

We have noted in a previous article that the promise of the seed was in reality an assurance of deliverance from sin and death for Adam and his race. But sin had brought God’s just condemnation upon humanity, and for this penalty to be set aside, sin must be remitted. So, having indicated his purpose to provide deliverance, the Lord also began to point forward to the method by which it would be accomplished—that it would be by a flesh and blood sacrifice. In Hebrews 9:22 we are informed that “without shedding of blood” there can be no remission of sin.

When God made promise to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed, the patriarch doubtless believed that Isaac would be that seed of blessing. But when Isaac was grown to manhood, God directed his father to offer him in sacrifice. Abraham proceeded to obey, and had Isaac bound on an altar and his knife raised to slay him when an angel intervened, directing him to use a ram, a male lamb, which he would find in the bushes nearby as a substitute for Isaac. In this way the Lord first tells us that before all the families of the earth could be blessed through a seed, a loving father must give up in sacrifice his beloved son. In reality it is the Heavenly Father who does this, giving his only begotten Son, that through his sacrifice the world might live. The lamb being used as a substitute for Isaac indicates that the beloved Son of God would become known as the Lamb of God, which, as John the Baptist announced, ‘taketh away the sin of the world’.

In Isaiah, chapter 53, we are presented with a stirring account of the suffering and death of Jesus. In verse 1 he is referred to as the “Arm” of the Lord. Verse 10 of the preceding chapter also refers to Jesus as the Arm of the Lord. This verse reads, “The Lord hath made bare his holy Arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” What a gloriously reassuring promise this is! The thought of making bare this holy Arm suggests that his glory and saving power will be revealed worldwide. As the promise states, “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

But with the opening of the next chapter the question is raised, “To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?” Instead of being revealed in his glory and saving power “he is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him. … We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (vss. 3,4) Continuing the description of Jesus’ rejection, affliction, and death, verse 7 reads, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Thus was foretold that Jehovah’s Arm, who was to bring deliverance and salvation to ‘all the ends of the earth’ must first of all be led as a Lamb to the slaughter. So it was that when John the Baptist announced the presence of Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), this is the one foretold in the Old Testament by both type and prophecy. He is the one who will take away the sin of the world and open the way for all mankind to return to health and life.

Jesus Gives His Flesh

Through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit Jesus knew that he was to give his flesh, his humanity, for the life of the world, and said so. John 6:51 reads, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: … the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” It was for this purpose that Jesus was “made flesh,” born into the world as a perfect human being. In Matthew 20:28 we read, “The Son of man came not [into the world] to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

In the text last quoted the title “Son of man,” is used. This title does not imply that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but the “Son of man” in the sense that he is the seed of David, and of the seed of Abraham. He was also the seed of Adam, through Mary his mother, hence, the seed of the woman. (Gen. 3:15) As we continue our examination of Jesus and his high position in the plan of salvation we will find that many titles are applied to him, and that each of these calls attention to a particular aspect of his work as the Redeemer and Deliverer of the sin-cursed and dying race. Thus the title, Son of Man, identifies his humiliation in taking on the form of a servant, and ‘being found in fashion as a man’.

And this title will ever belong to Jesus, although he gave his flesh, his humanity, in sacrifice. It is a title of high honor and a perpetual reminder of his great victory in humbling himself in obedience to all the Heavenly Father’s arrangements for him, including his death, even the death of the cross. And this was indeed a glorious victory. We read, “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.” (Heb. 12:3) This contradiction of sinners against Jesus is manifested more or less throughout the entire course of his faithful ministry, but is particularly apparent at the close, when he was tried, condemned, and crucified.

He was the glorious Son of God, but charged with blasphemy because he acknowledged this fact. He was born to be the greatest of all kings, but in irony a crown of thorns was cruelly placed upon his head. He was spat upon, and beaten. He was nailed to a cross over which was placed the inscription, “This is Jesus the king of the Jews.” While hanging there in agony his enemies shouted, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt. 27:37,40) And again, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (vs. 42) How little did they realize that by refusing to save himself he was providing salvation for them, and for all the families of the earth.

So Jesus died. On the cross, and quoting from Psalm 22, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46) In death Jesus took the sinner’s place. What an agonizingly painful moment this must have been for Jesus! He drew his last breath amid jeerings and contradictions of his enemies.

But despite this, Jesus’ faith and confidence rallied, and his dying words were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit [my life].” The record is that having said this, “he gave up the ghost [his breath].” (Luke 23:46) While the English translation of this text is faulty, causing the meaning to be ambiguous, the thought simply is that Jesus surrendered his life, placing himself entirely in the hands of his Heavenly Father. Jesus knew he had been promised a resurrection from the dead, and he was willing to trust his Father to fulfill his promises.

While hanging on the cross Jesus also used the expression, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus knew that the purpose of his having been made flesh had been served. Since the death of his humanity was now a certainty, he could very well feel that he had given his flesh for the life of the world, even as he had previously said he would. It was by this willing sacrifice of his perfect humanity that he became “the propitiation, the satisfaction, of our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:2

“In this,” wrote John, “was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9,10) Jesus’ love was equally manifested in this sacrifice for sins, because he gladly acquiesced in his Father’s plan for him. “I and my Father are one,” he affirmed. (John 10:30) When Philip requested, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus replied, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”—John 14:8,9

Jesus did not mean by these statements that he and his Father were one in person. It was his way of emphasizing his complete oneness with his Father’s plans and purposes. The words he spoke, the works he did, were not his own, but the Father’s. No one can actually see the great Creator of the universe, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, our Heavenly Father, and live. Just as the perfect Adam had been created in the image of God, so the perfect man Jesus was in the divine image; and besides, so fully devoted to his God that his every word and act were just what God would have said and done.

Therefore, those who saw Jesus, and were acquainted with his words and ways, saw the characteristics of the Heavenly Father manifested in him. Thus they saw the Father in the only sense it is possible for a human to see him. That Jesus’ oneness with his Father was merely a oneness of purpose is revealed in his prayer when he asked his Father that his followers be made one with him, even as they were one. Notice the similarity of language, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”—John 17:21

Love and Justice

As we have seen, it was divine love that provided a way for setting aside the just penalty for sin, which was death. Worldly wisdom is prone to take a wrong view of this. It is claimed that a loving God would not demand the bloody sacrifice of his Son. In their opposition to the Bible’s teachings on the subject of redemption through the blood of Jesus, some insist that a loving God overlooks sin, and all that is necessary to obtain divine forgiveness is to repent of sin and seek God’s forgiveness.

But think where such a liberal viewpoint leads! We believe all will agree that God has a right to establish laws for governing his creatures. It was proper that he should expect Adam to obey his law. It was proper also that a penalty be attached to disobedience. But after having given Adam his law, and warning him as to the penalty for disobedience, what would have resulted had the Creator not enforced the penalty? If, after having disobeyed, our first parents would simply have said to God, We are sorry, please forgive us, and forgiveness had been granted, how much dependence could they thereafter have put in their Creator? Both men and angels soon would have realized that the infraction of divine law was of little consequence, and there would have been chaos and rebellion throughout the universe. Besides, if the foretold punishment for sin was not imposed, how would anyone know that God’s promises of blessing would be fulfilled?

The penalty for sin was not merely a few years of confinement in a prison, or of isolation from friends. Such a penalty could be paid by the individual involved and then he could justly go free. But, the penalty for sin was death—not merely dying, but death, eternal death. The only way anyone could pay that penalty himself was to remain dead forever. If he were ever to be released from the great prison house of death, the penalty would have to be paid by another. And this was the loving arrangement the Creator made through Jesus.

Herein both the justice and love of God are manifested. His justice could not free the sinner from death; so at great cost to himself, he gave his Son to be the Redeemer. No one can say that God changed his mind about the penalty for sin. All that could be said is that he had such great love for his human creatures he was willing to give the dearest treasure of his heart as a payment of the penalty which his wisdom decreed was just. No wonder the Bible says that “God is Love.”—I John 4:8

And, as we have seen, God’s beloved Son willingly and gladly cooperated with the Father in this plan of redemption, at great cost to himself. And why should we not adore and worship the Son for his great sacrifice? Today, the world over, one who rescues another from death through an act of heroism, risking his own life, is properly honored. From this standpoint, Jesus was the greatest hero of all time. He did not merely risk his life, but gave his life, and under the most trying circumstances.

We might imagine a brave man entering into a burning building to rescue a friend, with the crowds on the street shouting their approval and their words of encouragement. But it was not so with Jesus. Even his few friends thought he was making a mistake by surrendering to his enemies and allowing them to crucify him. And his enemies only added to his hardships with their sarcasm, their jeers, their contradiction and stripes. But he was supported until the end by his Heavenly Father’s hand! What a hero Jesus was to die under such circumstances that all mankind might have an opportunity to live!

What modernist can properly say that this was anything else than an outstanding manifestation of divine love on behalf of a sin-cursed and dying race? And think not that the Heavenly Father did not himself suffer while Jesus was thus painfully laying down his life! He did suffer, and thus together our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, who was made flesh for the suffering of death, demonstrated their great love for those of whom the Father spoke, when to his Son, the Logos, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) Together they had created man, and now, through the death of Jesus, their love had provided for release from the just penalty of death which had come upon him, when the Creator said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:19

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