“AND THEY SANG a new song, saying,
‘Worthy art thou to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for thou wast slain and by thy blood
didst ransom men for God
from every tribe and tongue and
people and nation’ ”
(Rev. 5:9, RSV).
The redemption of mankind was accomplished by the blood of the Son of God, shed on Calvary’s cross. This is affirmed many times in the New Testament, and the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed toward the death of the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world.
Man’s insistent question, “Why did God have to die for me?,” can be answered only when he understands the nature and depth of sin in the human heart. He must, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, have some understanding of human depravity before he can appreciate that the cure could be effected only by the death of God’s Son on his behalf.
During forty years of practicing medicine, I repeatedly saw patients who showed, symptoms of great distress but whose sickness could be determined only after X-rays and extensive laboratory tests. To have treated symptoms without seeking out their cause would have made me guilty of quackery, while failure to treat the cause when discovered would have been malpractice.
In the spiritual realm there is an analagous situation. All around, one can see the symptoms of a sick society—that is, the elongated shadow of sin-sick individuals: bitterness, conflicts, crime, broken homes, delinquency (juvenile and adult), trouble and sorrow of every kind. We see a social order sick unto death—and we set up courts of inquiry, commissions, antipoverty programs, and a thousand and one agencies and institutions to treat the symptoms. Even the Church often joins in promoting secular programs while ignoring the one and only cure.
Satan will settle for any treatment that concentrates on symptoms and ignores God’s cure. We think of our generation as intelligent and sophisticated, but it is also lost as long as it ignores God’s solution to its problems. One day the Pharisees complained to Jesus that his disciples ate without the ceremonial washing of their hands. In reply our Lord spoke of the defilement Of sin, and his diagnosis applies equally to all of us: “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mark 7:20–23). A very high percentage of the headlines of any newspaper have to do with one or more of these defiling things listed by our Lord.
At the forefront of the list Jesus put “evil thoughts.” How well he knows us! Little wonder that the Prophet Isaiah cried out, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (Isa. 55:7a), or that the Apostle Paul admonished us: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Let us again go over the sordid list of sins that proceed from the human heart. Let us eliminate, if we can, any that do not apply to us in either our actual behavior or our unchecked imagination. If we are honest we will be forced to cry out in desperation, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
The sickness of the human heart is indeed to death—spiritual, eternal death, separation from God. But for this disease of sin, of human tragedy, God has the remedy. It is nothing less than the blood of his Son shed on the Cross of Calvary.
Man may recoil from the thought that his sins required the death of God’s Son, He may insist that blood shed nearly two thousand years ago can have no power today. He may consider a blood-bought redemption to be distasteful. He may refuse to admit the disease of the human heart that separates man from God. And he may refuse to accept by faith the forgiveness of sin that God so freely offers. But the fact remains: This is God’s way and his offer, and there is no other.
Little wonder that our Lord said, “You must be born again.” for redemption is a supernatural act of God’s grace and mercy that demands a new heart.
Salvation has to do with man’s eternal soul. It has to do with those things that mar the spirit and offend a holy God. It is, in fact, nothing less than a miracle of God’s grace offered as a free gift to those who will accept it. Who is man to question how God saves?
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives this solemn warning: “A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?” (10:28, 29).
God has provided the detergent of the ages in the blood of his Son. It, and it alone, can atone for the guilty sinner and make him clean in God’s sight. Who is man to look askance at God’s offer?
The Apostle Paul, who cried out under conviction of sin and asked who could deliver him from spiritual death, went on to answer his own question: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom: 7:25a).
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, goes on to answer every honest inquirer: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3, 4).
Our Lord diagnosed the desperate disease of the human heart and then gave himself to provide the divine cure. Deep in the human heart are the seeds of every evil deed. Proffered from the Cross is the perfect cure. The depth of man’s depravity is exceeded only by the greatness of God’s love.
The divine X-ray reveals “evil thoughts, fornification, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Christ says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), and he describes the agent of redemption, “This is my body which is given for you.… This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19b, 20b).
Our redemption is blood-bought. Just as we do not question the antibiotic or surgical procedures by which we are cured of a disease, so we should say, “God forbid that we should question his means of redemption from sin!”
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