The Exegetical Systematician: Beyond Even a 99.99% Accomplishment

If we concentrate on the thought of redemption, we shall be able perhaps to sense more readily the impossibility of universalizing the atonement. What does redemption mean? It does not mean redeemability, that we are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased and procured redemption. This is the triumphant note of the New Testament whenever it plays on the redemptive chord. Christ redeemed us to God by his blood (Rev. 5:9). He obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). “He gave himself for us in order that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2 :14). It is to beggar the concept of redemption as an effective securement of release by price and by power to construe it as anything less than the effectual accomplishment which secures the salvation of those who are its objects. Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people. We have the same result when we properly analyze the meaning of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. Christ did not come to make sins expiable. He came to expiate sins—“when he made purification of sins. he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Christ did not come to make God reconcilable. He reconciled us to God by his own blood. —John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

The Exegetical Systematician: The Future Determined the Past

There are other considerations, also, which may be derived from these passages, especially Hebrews 9:9-14, 22-28. They are the considerations which arise from the fact that Christ’s own sacrifice is the great exemplar after which the Levitical sacrifices were patterned. We often think of the Levitical sacrifices as providing the pattern for the sacrifice of Christ. This direction of thought is not improper—the Levitical sacrifices do furnish us with the categories in terms of which we are to interpret the sacrifice of Christ, particularly the categories of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. But this line of thought is not the characteristic one in Hebrews 9. The thought is specifically that the Levitical sacrifices were patterned after the heavenly exemplar—they were ‘patterns of the things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23). Hence the necessity for the blood offerings of the Levitical economy arose from the fact that the exemplar after which they were fashioned was a blood offering, the transcendent blood offering by which the heavenly things were purified. The necessity of blood-shedding in the Levitical ordinance is simply a necessity arising from the necessity of blood-shedding in the higher realm of the heavenly. —John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Definitions and Stories, Redemption and Incarnation (Ruth 4)

“What I have found over the years is that the effort to define things, at the beginning, almost always reveals that what we thought we were dealing with is merely the tip of an iceberg.” —John Piper, Living in the Light

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story.” —Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners

“You see, that what we are doing today as we look out upon our current religious modes of speech, is assisting at the death bed of a word. It is sad to witness the death of any worthy thing, —even of a worthy word. And worthy words do die, like any other worthy thing—if we do not take good care of them. How many worthy words have already died under our very eyes, because we did not take care of them!” —B.B. Warfield, “Redeemer” and “Redemption”

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” —C.S. Lewis

I believe there are two central places in the Old Testament where “redemption” isn’t simply defined, but made real. It’s the difference between reading a definition and experiencing the reality. It’s one thing to read what baklava is, another to taste it. Stories can take us higher than definitions up to the very cusp of experience. The law’s definitions of redemption are true and nourishing, but there are two narratives that make redemption walk before us. The definitions themselves are enmeshed in one of the narratives and help make sense of the other. The stories are the exodus and Ruth.

Each story has unique elements. In the exodus, God redeems His people with a mighty arm, with wonders of judgment, and with the blood of the Passover lamb. He redeems them out of slavery to the promised land. In Ruth, Boaz, acting as a kinsman redeemer, restores land, a widow, and a name. These things were precious because of God’s redemption in the exodus. Every slap of the foot on the dirt of your inheritance given you by God was a sign of the covenant. Boaz, at cost to himself, in covenant love, redeems these things that had been lost.

Some are shy to say Boaz is a type of Christ. Even if you are cautious, do you think all those laws about the kinsman redeemer were simply utilitarian? Boaz is a type of Christ for the same reason Josiah is. Josiah was a king. Boaz is a kinsman redeemer. Jesus is the King. Jesus is the kinsman redeemer.

I think this is the unique element Ruth adds to our picture of redemption. The Redeemer must be a kinsman. He must be one of us. If there is to be redemption, there must be incarnation. Jesus became the Second Adam so as to create a new humanity in Him. He is our elder Brother, who paid the redemption price to reconcile us to the Father. Jesus took on flesh so that He might have representative union with His bride. Our debts became His. His wealth became ours. He took our sins. He gave us His righteousness. But to make this payment, He must take on flesh. To make this payment, He must also be God. Exodus tells us God redeems by blood. Ruth tells us that the blood will be that of the Son made flesh.

Creating Word, Sustaining Word, Redeeming Word (Colossians 1–20)

Jesus created the spheres and circles of the universe and set them spinning. From the macro-cosmos of Jupiter its 53 named moons, the Sloan Great wall of galaxies, and the colossal star UY Scuti, to the micro-cosmos of uranium 235, protons, and quarks—all things visible and invisible—all were made through Jesus.

Further, Jesus is no deistic spinner of the watches He has made. He is no grand designer of perpetual motion machines. The universe was not an epic pitch of the omnipotent one, wherein he wound up and let go. Jesus not only creates, he sustains. By His word creation is—always, at all points of its is-dom. It came into being by His word and is sustained in being by His word (Hebrews 1:3). You walk around on, breath in, and are made of nuclear energy. Micro-cosmos, capable of undoing you a million times over, are not simply held together by His hand, they are by His hand. They don’t have an independent existence. Jesus doesn’t simply do maintenance on the stars. He does stars at every point of their existence.

Jesus doesn’t complete the watch to set it in motion independently of Him. He motions it at all times. Man makes a generator because he is limited. He can’t produce electricity. Man isn’t more intelligent than God because he can make a hands off machine. God is unlimited in wisdom and power, such that, nothing works without Him; including you and your generator. God never has too many irons in the fire.

But what are all these ticks and tocks ticking and tocking towards? Has an alarm been set? Is a consummatory suppertime comming? Yes; one day this old creation will grow up, mature, and be born anew—a new creation, and then, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The cosmos isn’t an experiment. Men toy with magic and science and find power that undoes them. Jesus created and sustains that He might be preeminent in the redemption of all things by the blood of the cross. The Word delivers no impromptu speech. Every word—creating words, sustaining words, redeeming words—every word is scripted, with the basic plot outlined in the Scriptures.

All Concerns the Tabernacle and the Tabernacle Concerns All (Exodus 30)

When you’re going on vacation the final bits of packing might seem haphazard and chaotic, but two things could be happening.

1. Things really are a mess. You’ve run through the house last minute gathering up tidbits you either forgot to pack or now think you might need and just throw them in.

2. There has been a strategic ordering and packing up of things and you’ve simply come to remaining smaller items that could only be packed last and for which there was no room in any other bag.

God didn’t pack the tabernacle instructions like you might pack for vacation. Everything has been highly organized. Chapter 25 concerned the furniture of the tabernacle, chapter 26 the tent itself, chapter 27 the courtyard, chapter 28 the priest’s garments, and chapter 29 the priest’s consecration. Now it’s time to pack some remaining items. Remember that the chapter divisions are inserted by man. These chapter divisions have been very good in seeing some natural divisions, but we must remember that they’re divisions within a section all concerning the tabernacle. The smaller items that make up chapter 30 don’t cohere together the way the items in chapter 28 do, but they do cohere with chapter 29 the way that chapter 25 does.

How do these all things go together? The way everything in chapters 25–31 go together. All these chapters are about the tabernacle. All these chapters are packed into the same place, or rather, are about the same place.

Even if a neighbor looked in on a crazily packed family car and asked what all that randomness was about, they could reply, “Vacation.” It’s not unrelated randomness. It is all about vacation.

This chapter is neither unrelated or random. All concerns the tabernacle.

When Israel would sojourn through the wilderness, all of these things wold be packed together and carried by the Levites. All of these things relate to the tent. The tabernacle is diverse, but not because it speaks of a great many different things, but of the great depth and diversity of a single thing, Christ and His redemption—that thing which binds not only the tabernacle together, but everything together. All concerns the tabernacle, and the tabernacle concerns all. Jesus’ redemption is so big that it not only unites all the tabernacle, it also is uniting all creation as a tabernacle.

Blood-Splattered and Blood-Sandwiched Law (Exodus 24:1–8)

I don’t care much for red-letter Bibles. Every word is God’s Word. I don’t care for red-lettered Bibles, but I insist on a blood-sprinkled law. Give me the law blood-sprinkled and blood-sandwiched and give it to me no other way.

Moses’ reading the Book of the Covenant and the people’s responding “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient (Exodus 24:7),” is sandwiched between the blood being thrown against the altar and sprinkled on the people. The law is blood-sandwiched. Further, Hebrews 9:19–20 informs us that the Book was also sprinkled with the blood. This has been Israel’s experience. Before Sinai, the Passover Lamb’s blood was applied. Take away the blood, and the the law condemns and crushes. Take away the sacrificial blood, and the law demands our blood. But sandwich it and sprinkle it with blood, and it comes as grace on top of grace.

Dispensationalism, popularized by the Scofield and Ryrie Study Bibles, basically says that the law was for them and the gospel is for us; that God has two plans, one for Israel and one for the church. Raspberry. All is of Christ, it’s only that they had the shadow, and we have the light. Yet, it is the shadows that help us to know and understand the redemption of the One who dwells in unapproachable light. We know what it means when John says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” because of the Old Testament. The shadows help us understand the light as the light helps us understand the shadows.

We are redeemed by the blood to be ruled by the Book. We are saved by the Word to be ruled by His word. Christ rules to save and He saves to rule. Covenant with God means that the blood is applied and the book is affirmed.

The Puritan Samuel Bolt helps us to understand how we relate to the law after redemption, “The law sends us to the Gospel for our justification; the Gospel sends us to the law to frame our way of [life]. Our obedience to the law is nothing else but the expression of our thankfulness to God who has freely justified us.” To hearts brimful with joy for the salvation of God, longing to express praise and thanksgiving, the law comes as a gift to which we exclaim, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do.” We are sure that we will fail, but we are also sure of the blood of the covenant. We exclaim this because we are sure of the blood of the Shepherd and of all His promises to His sheep that are irrevocably secured by that blood.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20).”