God's Purpose for our Redemption

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

The popular teaching about God's purpose for our redemption leaves us with many questions.  We were told that Jesus took the punishment for our sins, and that He died as our substitute so that our sins could be forgiven and we could go to heaven after we die.  In order to avail ourselves of this great salvation and be rescued out of eternal hellfire we had to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.   At that time we did not know that the word “hellfire” is not even in the Greek New Testament, and that it has been inserted by the translators.  

This teaching produced many questions.  For example, how could Christ’s three days of death in hell substitute for an eternity in hell for us?  If eternal hell was our punishment, how could Jesus get away with three days?  The answer we received was that  due to Christ's innocence, three days would suffice as a substitute for humanity's eternal torment.  This only left us with more questions.  We wondered what Jesus meant when He told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise."  How could He be in hell if He was in Paradise?  Can these two concepts be reconciled?  Then there were many things Jesus told us to do, which to our knowledge were completely impossible this side of heaven.  How could we be holy, even as God is holy, when we could never be that holy before we die?  Why would God tell us to be something He knew was impossible for us?  How could physical death make us holy and perfect?  Why would God, knowing the result, create man when most of humanity would spend eternity in physical agony too gruesome to even contemplate?

Let's examine the scriptures to receive more light on this subject.  In order to receive truth, we have to begin with truth.  We have to quit spinning our wheels in the lies of traditional teaching and receive truth, and move on in truth.  We have to stop interpreting the scriptures according to our own ideas, and hear what the Spirit is saying.  As we do this, we will be filled with awe and amazement at God's great purpose for us and for all humanity, and we will marvel at the wisdom of our God!  We will see that His purpose is infinitely higher than the doctrines of men can ever imagine or declare. 

To understand God's purpose we have to begin with Genesis 1:26 where God said, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."  In order to accomplish this, He had to make a spiritual man - one who would be connected with creation, yet have the same nature that God has.  He had to know evil, yet not desire it; he had to know the depth of God’s love and be filled with love and light even as God is. Yet how could man know the vastness of love without knowing evil?   Even though God knew everything that was involved in making man in His own image, He wholeheartedly purposed to make a creature that would be like Him, for He said, "Let us make man in our image."

To accomplish this purpose God would have to reveal Himself to a creation that could not see nor understand the invisible realm.  Yet without this revelation man could not know whether or not God had accomplished what He said He would do. 

God is never in a dilemma.  He had a perfect plan.  He would first form a man from dust, and that would unite him to the creation that God had already created.  Then He would unite this man with Himself by blowing His breath into him.  However, this man could not yet be the finished product, for he was still a combination of dust and spirit – and there is no dust in God.   To bring him into a completely spiritual realm, as well as to reveal Himself to humanity, He would send His Son (the Word made flesh), born of a woman, into this world.  

So let’s take a closer look at what transpired and   learn to understand the process God used to create this man.  In Genesis 1 we see the finished spiritual man prophetically. Everything was good, and no restrictions were placed on him.  He could eat whatever he wished, and he was given dominion over creation, and told to be fruitful and multiply.

This is not the case in chapter 2.  Here God began the process by forming (not creating) Adam out of the dust of the ground - out of preexisting material.  Then He blew His breath into his nostrils, and Adam became a living soul.  This man was a mixture of dust and spirit.  He was ruled by his soul (his mind, emotions, will and circumstances), not by the Spirit of God. Although Adam was sinless at the beginning, a creature full of light and wisdom, enjoying his relationship with God, yet he was not fully in God's image.

How do we know that he was not yet a spiritual image of God?  If Adam had been the finished product, he would not have sinned, for Christ, the perfect image of God, never sinned.  Adam was ignorant of evil and death, ignorant of the meaning of love and forgiveness, and ignorant of the true essence of God.  Adam was only an earthy image of God, for he could worship and create things out of existing materials, but he was not yet a spiritual image of God.  He was the beginning of the process to make man in God's complete and perfect image. 

To acquaint Adam with evil, God planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden.  The serpent belonged in the field, but he had access to the vicinity of this tree.  Adam had received instruction from God, and was told that if he ate of this tree he would die.  If Adam would pass this test, it would reveal that he believed God over and above his understanding and feelings.  It would prove that he did not desire evil, but he would miss the opportunity of learning to know the depth of God’s love and forgiveness.  However, he was led by his soul – by the things that looked advantageous to him – so he ate of the forbidden fruit together with Eve, and they died spiritually. 

This changed their perception of God and their perception of themselves.  To heal their fatal flaw, they brought religion into being – salvation by one’s own works and right choices, for they made aprons to hide their nakedness.  They had so much to learn about God! 

God had a purpose in letting Adam fail the test.  He failed it because he was a mixture, and the earthy part of him birthed a desire to become like God by his own effort.  By listening to a voice other than God's voice, something within him died.  Instead of enjoying fellowship with God, he now was afraid of God, and tried to hide from God.  He now had the idea that God was out to punish him.  In Adam's mind God had become his enemy instead of his friend.  Since Adam had listened to the serpent and obeyed a voice other than God's voice, he received the serpent's mindset - the mindset that is against the Spirit of God. 

God did not change; He still loved Adam and Eve; He forgave them and gave them hope.  However, man's idea of God had changed.  In man’s deceived new mind-set, he forged a religion that mirrored his false ideas of God.  He now viewed God as his enemy, and self and selfhood became his god. 

Humanity is still immersed in religion, and it has forged many myths and doctrines that oppose the teaching of the scriptures.  Religion is a counterfeit of God’s great salvation, but outwardly it resembles the truth.  This counterfeit looks very attractive to the natural man, for it deifies his natural understanding

Let’s look at some of religion’s doctrines.  One of its popular teachings is that man has a free will. The important characteristic of a free will is that it cannot be influenced. A will that can be influenced is not free to do its own will.  However, difficulties, trials, pain, suffering, etc., will influence our will, but it would not influence a free will.  A free will plus infinite knowledge would make man responsible for his own destiny.  In order to make a right choice, he would also need to have a strong hatred for evil and a passionate love for righteousness.  However humanity is deficient in both areas.

A free will would make it impossible for God to influence man, and consequently negate God’s sovereignty.  This would do away with God’s gracious intervention in the affairs of man, thus leaving humanity rudderless and drifting aimlessly to his death in his own sad state of affairs.

Let’s take our first parents as an example to illustrate man’s lack of a free will. Even while Adam and Eve were in their sinless state, their will was influenced by the serpent’s teaching, and they made a wrong choice.  This proved that they couldn’t make a right choice, but we are taught that although we have come into this world dead in our transgressions and sin, we can do better than Adam and Eve did.  Adam and Eve’s experience shows us that our will can be influenced - and a will that can be influenced is not a free will.  Since our will is influenced by our emotions, desires and situations, it is not a free will. 

God knows all about our lack of understanding and our inability to make right choices, so He has called us to be obedient to whatever He tells us to do.  Only God knows the end from the beginning, so He alone has the right answers for us!  He tells us that we need to be obedient children!  Disobedience has its source in the carnal mind, and this mind elevates itself above the mind of Christ, and sits on the throne of our government as god.  In Christ there is only obedience; in the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil there is choice.  If we live in the realm of choice, we will eat of that tree - and let’s remember that NONE of that fruit was to be eaten!  If we live in the realm of obedience we will shun that tree, and live in obedience to Christ.  

The scriptures teach that God has chosen us (Eph. 1:4), that we are God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10), that salvation is not by works but by grace (Eph. 2:8), and that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him. (Jn. 6:4; 65)  However religion claims that man can independently decide whether or not he will follow God.  How can those who are dead in their trespasses and sins make right choices?  Let's thank God for waking us out of our deadness, and drawing us to Himself!  He deserves all the glory!

When Adam sinned, it looked as though God's plan had failed.  But God's plan never fails, and He never has a plan B.  It was God's plan to acquaint man with evil.  Now that humanity had come to know evil, and was dead in its trespasses and sins, it was God's responsibility to provide a way for man to get out of his dilemma. God's justice is not against the sinner, demanding eternal condemnation, but for him, insuring his salvation.

Man's failure did not come as a surprise to God.  God had the plan for man's redemption before He formed Adam from the dust of the ground.  His plan was greater than just a restoration of man to his former state; His plan was to take humanity out of its former state and bring it into a higher state - a spiritual state of life in which there is no decay, deterioration or death.  Inherent in this life would be the nature of God - the very essence of His being of love! 

To accomplish this, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Through Mary, Jesus Christ received a body of flesh, so He was joined to humanity.  Jesus identified Himself as the Son of Man - a corporate man.  Since Jesus Christ was joined to humanity, He could die for humanity; He could take all of humanity with Him in His death. 

To understand this better, let's look at 1 Cor. 15:22 where it says that, "In Adam all die."  It's not hard for us to understand that in Adam all die because we see both physical and spiritual death in humanity.  The seed of all humanity was in Adam, so in Adam all die.  Jesus Christ is not the continuation of Adam's seed, for Christ is the last Adam.  That means that Adam together with his seed died in Christ.  The scriptures tell us that Adam is the first man and Jesus is the second man.  So there can be no man between the first and the second man.  Therefore, every human being is either in the first man or the second man.   This tells us that Jesus Christ is the beginning of a new generation that has nothing in common with the old Adam generation. 

In Romans 6 we read that Jesus died to sin.  This death began when Jesus left His glory with the Father.  It continued throughout His lifetime and culminated on the cross!  His death was a glorious victory over every desire that could rebel against the Father's will.  He could have come down from the cross, but He didn't because He knew it was His Father's will for Him to stay on the cross. 

The pain Jesus suffered is unimaginable!  His back was bloodied and torn by the many stripes of a whip that had pieces of flint inserted in it, His head was pierced by sharp thorns, His face had the beard pulled out, and His hands and His feet were nailed to the cross!  During this intense physical suffering, people were making fun of Him.  He became a sin-offering for us, and God had to hide His face from Him!  In the midst of dying a physical death, Jesus gloriously triumphed over sin as He remained obedient to the Father's will, praying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."   So we see that Jesus died two deaths on the cross: a physical death and a death to sin.  Our death to sin brings us into the image of Jesus Christ.

This helps us to understand the process God is using to make man in His image.  God planned and achieved a way to get humanity out of the flesh realm by having it experience a new spiritual birth.  This new birth brings us into the spiritual realm, and we become a new creation in Christ.  This new spiritual creation knows what evil is, but it does not desire it.  The resurrection power that now resides in us in the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome evil in all its deceptive forms. 

In Christ Jesus we see the unfolding of God's great plan to make man in His image.  God sent His Word made flesh to dwell among us.  As the Son of Man, Jesus overcame every temptation.  He walked in obedience to the Spirit, died to sin, and was put to death in the flesh.  He overcame death and rose victoriously.  This marked the beginning of a new generation - a spiritual life-giving generation in which there is no death but the death to sin.  To become a part of this new generation, we have to repent of our sin and be born of the Spirit.  Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ puts us into Christ - into the second man.  We have been born of an incorruptible seed - the living Word of God.

This new creation is devoid of flesh.  Flesh cannot enter this realm because it is always against the Spirit.  In 1 John 5:18 w read, "We know that no one who is born of God sins…"  We find it hard to identify with this statement because we know we still sin even after we have experienced the new birth.  How can we reconcile these facts?  Paul gives us light on this in Romans 7 where he makes a distinction between the spiritual man and the flesh man.  Sin dwells in the flesh, but the new creation man that we are in Christ does not have flesh, for he is a spiritual creation.  So it is not the new man in Christ who sins, but the old flesh man, that we no longer are.  We are no longer in the old Adam man, but we have not yet been entirely delivered from his thinking.  Overcoming the old thinking brings us into maturity.  So we see that God's purpose for our redemption is to fulfill His plan to transform man into the image of Christ

In order to be in God's image, we also need to know the essence of His nature.  This is revealed to us in His work for our redemption.  It is a revelation of God's love!  Without this revelation we would not know what love is, and we would not know that God does not need to be reconciled to us.  It is a revelation of the perfect unity between God and His Word working together to bring about humanity's reconciliation to God.  It reveals that God did not need to be reconciled; He loved us so much that He initiated this reconciliation, and gave His only begotten Son to die for us and as us.  It was God in Christ that brought it about and reconciled the world to Himself.  (2 Cor. 5:19) 

Furthermore, it is a revelation of God's justice. Having an innocent man die for a guilty man, is not justice.  To think that God's wrath against sin could only be vindicated by the death of an innocent man is against all moral reasoning.  God's justice is revealed by the fact that He was responsible for getting humanity into this sinful state and therefore He is also responsible for getting humanity out of it.  The popular teaching declares that only a small percentage of humanity will be delivered,  Most Christians do not understand that at present God is choosing the firstfruit (the bride of Christ), and that after that comes the harvest, and then the mopping up  operation.  God's plan would be a dismal failure if He could not bring everyone into Christ.  God in Christ is completely dedicated to this task of delivering humanity out of its sinful state, and we know that He is able to perform His will!

It is also a revelation of Christ's identification with humanity.  Whenever Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection, He identified Himself as being the Son of Man, and this Man is a corporate man.   Jesus never said that the Son of God will die.  The life of God cannot die!  If His life could die, there could not be any everlasting life! He died as the Son of Man, taking all of humanity with Him in His death.  Humanity was unaware of what was taking place.  In its ignorance of God and in its religious zeal, it rejected the perfect image of God, and crucified the Son of Man. 

Humanity thought this act would be the end of Him.  At that time no one understood that the old humanity was crucified together with Him!  He did not die as our substitute, but together with us, and for us.  He did not die to save us from the penalty of sin, but from sin and death itself.  He died to deliver us out of the death we were already in, and to bring us into life.  His resurrection life and power in us overcome all our wrong thinking.  God's power in us will keep on working until we come into the perfect image of Jesus Christ! 

God's plan is so much greater than we could ever have imagined!  We thought His redemption was just to save us from the penalty of sin and get us into heaven, while God was doing away with sin, uniting us with Himself, and giving us His nature!  How we rejoice in His wisdom, purpose and ability to accomplish His will!

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