The excellency of the gift of Christ will also be manifest from the benefit which accompanies it. Man was very needy. He had fallen into a state of sin and misery, from which he could not deliver himself. Nor was it in the power of any creature to afford him any effectual relief. He was bound by a holy law to suffer a dreadful penalty which could not be set aside unless an adequate atonement should be made. And even if this penalty were removed, he could not enjoy true happiness by reason of the inherent disorder of his nature. Sin has infected all the faculties of his soul, so that nothing truly good is found in any of the children of Adam in their natural state.
In Holy Scripture, men are considered as in bondage under the slavery of sin, and subject to the tyranny of Satan. From this state of thraldom they can be delivered only by an almighty Redeemer. But power alone is not adequate to the work of redemption. A price – a ransom sufficient to satisfy divine justice – must be paid. Silver and gold and all earthly treasures avail nothing in the redemption of the soul. Blood must be shed and life sacrificed. But no blood of lambs and bullocks can answer the purpose; such blood was shed in profusion for many ages but could not take away the guilt of one sin. It represented, typically and in lively figure, the atonement necessary, which God had determined should be made. Neither would the blood of prophets and martyrs serve as an adequate atonement. The blood shed, and the life given, must be divine. But how can this be? The eternal Son of God offers Himself to be the Redeemer and to pay the price required. “Lo, I come,” He says, “in the volume of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God . . . by the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” He was named Jesus because He should save His people from their sins. “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Salvation from sin is the great object of the sacrifice of the cross. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” The removal of the punishment of sin was the direct object of the sacrifice of Christ, when He gave Himself for us and made His soul an offering for sin. But deliverance from guilt is not the whole of redemption. Sin is not only a crime which exposes to punishment, but a disease which disorders the whole soul and renders it unfit for the service of God and entirely incapable of the enjoyment of the happiness of heaven.
Redemption therefore delivers from the defilement of sin. This is effected by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration and sanctification of the soul. This work of renovation is carried on by appropriate means, especially by the Word, during the whole period of the Christian’s pilgrimage. And when the soul is separated from the body, to enter into the eternal world, we believe that it will at once be delivered from all iniquity. Although this renovation was not the direct object of the atonement, yet this sacrifice was necessary before the Holy Spirit could be sent to renew the depraved nature of man. The relation in which the sinner, as a justly condemned criminal, stood to the law rendered it altogether unsuitable that this divine Agent should visit him. And it may properly be observed here that, as the work of sanctification is carried on by the truth perceived by the enlightened soul, so no view of truth is so important and efficacious in producing holy affections in the believer as the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is the wisdom and power of God to every one that believeth.
When the chosen people of God are freed from all their sins, they will be presented by their Redeemer before the presence of His Father “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”. Having begun this good work, He will not abandon it, but will carry it on to the day of redemption. None of those for whom He gave Himself can possibly fail of salvation. He is their surety and bears their names on His breast as He stands pleading as their Intercessor, for “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”. By giving Himself unto death, He paid a sufficient ransom for them, redeemed them from all iniquity, and purchased them as a peculiar people for Himself. And none shall be able to pluck these redeemed ones from His hand. These are the sheep for whom the great Shepherd laid down His life. But, as the work of sanctification is carried on by the use of means, the active diligence of the soul in the use of them is necessary. The Spirit works by setting the soul to work. We are commanded therefore: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”. Hence, the Scriptures are full of earnest exhortations to Christians to let their light shine, to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
The sanctification of His people is the great end of the whole mediatorial scheme. But it was consistent with neither His justice, His truth, or His wisdom to suffer sin to go unpunished. God is known to His intelligent creatures by His acts and dispensations. If He were to treat the transgressor as the obedient subject, it might be inferred that He entertained no abhorrence of iniquity. It was necessary therefore that the sinner should not be taken into favour and renewed again in the image of God unless a satisfactory atonement was made. For God must show that He is just when He justifies the sinner.
This redemption from all iniquity is not accomplished suddenly. For wise reasons, the redeemed soul is not taken to heaven at once after justification and regeneration (two benefits occurring together), but it is left in this world exposed to various temptations, in a state of imperfection. No man can truly say, “I am free from all sin”. The inbred corruptions of the heart are permitted to vex the Christian, and sometimes to overcome him. A perpetual conflict is kept up between the flesh and the spirit – that is, between the renovated nature and the remaining corruptions which are opposed to holiness.
But this work, though imperfect in all believers during this life, is progressive. Believers die daily more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness. Their growth in grace too is connected with their own diligent efforts. By an increase of knowledge and of faith, they attain to much higher degrees of holiness than they possessed at the time of their conversion. One reason for this part of the economy of salvation is that they who are redeemed from sin may more thoroughly understand the great evil of sin, and the utter inability of man to extirpate it from his nature. Thus he is more and more convinced that his salvation is all of grace. And by being left to struggle with evil, he comes to know experimentally the unchanging love and faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God. In heaven the gratitude of the saints will be greater in consequence of the severe trials and temptations in their pilgrimage on earth. When they lay aside their clay tabernacles and are admitted into the presence of their Saviour, they shall be free from all sin. This completion of the work of sanctification is not produced by death, as some seem to suppose, but by the same divine Agent who commenced the work. Then will the Saviour redeem His chosen people from all iniquity.
1. An extract from Alexander’s Practical Sermons, p 97ff. His text was Titus 2:14: “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”.