This past week I was discussing with a Muslim gentleman about Jesus……for which he declared that he also believes in Jesus and he believes that there are no differences between the two religions.
I then responded by pointing out that according to Islam, Jesus did not die on the cross, but Allah took him away – and according to the bible Jesus died (in fact at the centre of Christian faith is the death of Jesus Christ).
I would like to reaffirm that statement and point out that without the cross of Jesus, we have not Christianity…..we are still in our sins…..
Just as the heart is at the centre of every life – so is the cross of Jesus, the crucifixion is at the centre of every Christian…..
Without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection…..without the resurrection there is no hope for eternity (since our hope to new life is intertwined with the resurrection of Jesus Christ).
Would you then turn with me to Ephesians 1:7ff
Note what this text does not say;
“In him we have redemption through church attendance, through our parents’ faith, through our own good works……through our own. At the centre of our redemption is a person (In Him)…..it is through his blood”.
But what it does say is:-
Through the blood
In him (Christ), we have redemption through his blood…..
But before we focus on this, some explanation of term ‘Redemption’ is necessary:
Redemption is an act whereby a price is paid to free another (could be a slave, land, someone who went bankrupt).
Redemption for our text has an understanding of someone who was enslaved to hell, and complete bankruptcy towards heaven / towards God.
In this text it says “In Him we have redemption through his blood”.
In other words in Christ, man’s bankruptcy towards God is brought to an end. The one who couldn’t come into the presence of God can now stand before God in his presence.
The one who couldn’t cry out to God, today, when he or she turns to God, knows that he can be heard……
The one whose life was confused, had no direction, no hope……today has hope and a clear direction for his life, because God in him, has drawn himself to us and drawn us to Him (heaven has come down to us, and us have been given a place heaven).
We are known, we are loved, we are cared for, we are shielded, we are guided, and we are not alone…..
In this life, that can be lonely and scary, we can know that we are not alone (God has come down to us from heaven).
All this has been made possible through his blood……
Without the blood……it is for this reason I said, “The cross, the crucifixion, the death of Jesus is at the centre of our move and being and our faith”.
This was a message that God has been communicating right from the beginning of time…..
For Adam and Eve, God killed an animal and used the skin to cover their nakedness.
An idea that seem to have come to the fore even with the offering of Abel.
Then the whole sacrificial system in the OT, was a prophetic word to his people, that God would one day let one die for the sake of the other……
Animals had to be slaughtered.
Animals had to be killed. These animals would serve as an substitutionary atonement for sin (the idea of the substitute did not start with soccer, but it started with God).
When an animal would die as a substitute for man….
There is a beautiful story in OT that illustrates this so well; Leviticus 16:20-22 reads “when Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of Israel – all their sins and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place and the man shall release it in the desert”.
On the Day of Atonement, two goats were required (one was slaughtered as a sin offering), the other was then brought before the people and the priest would pronounce all the sins of the people). He would say something like this –
”Idolater here is your sin, immoral people here is all your sin placed on this goat ….”
God taught his people the idea of another given for the sins of another.
That is what God did in Jesus (he punished him for our sins). He paid the prize for us (he punished his Son for our sins).
God still punishes sin (instead of punishing you – he has punished his Son).
So that it would be possible for you to live your life (in a riddled with sin, fear, sickness, death), you are able to stand and face life because God has made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for you…..
You can face life – because God is on your side…..God is for you – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” says Paul elsewhere.
I want you to get this right: God has done all this for you and I (not because we were good people, but rather the opposite).
Look at vs.7c, “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”.
That simply means our forgiveness or his blood was offered because God is rich in grace.
Rich in grace – God is very generous in giving that which we don’t deserve. What motivated him was his generous heart in giving that we don’t deserve (that is what grace is) getting what we don’t deserve….
God’s heart is so generous – so generous that he would have a plan to give his own Son so that justice will be served on him instead of us…..
So generous that he would not treat us as our sins deserve…. That is the God we serve; is that not good enough reason for you and I to offer our lives as a praise of his grace?
This plan was not an afterthought, it was not trial and error – look at vs.8:
Vs.8b “in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will”.
This was done with precision and complete knowledge on what he was doing – of course revealing the mystery of his will”.
If you are anything like me – you would agree that there was a time in your life where you thought you knew all things? Where you thought you were the wisest man to live on earth?
Maybe you were 18, 28, 38, or even 58, then something happened (bang) then you realized that you were not as knowledgeable and wise as you thought ….
You don’t always have the answers, you don’t always know what will become…..
But what we are dealing with here – it’s something completely different from what you have seen before “in all wisdom and insight, making known the mystery of his will”.
God has a clear picture, not just how to do it but also what it will achieve, when it will happen….he knows all angles….
He possesses wisdom and insight into all things – He is the all-knowing and the all-wise God.
He doesn’t walk by faith as we are, he walks by sight ……the full plan was laid before him.
He possesses all wisdom and all knowledge….. The plan of Salvation and our redemption as Paul says was planned before the foundations of the earth…. He will die for us…..he dies in our stead….
However for many this is foolishness – The cross is foolishness – who should send his son to die for the sins of others? (that is foolishness)
From 1 Cor. 1:18 Paul writes “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.
It doesn’t make sense – for them – God is like a foolish old man.
Paul wants you and I not to get confused – God’s plan was done with all wisdom and insight…..
Mind you, the pagan gods of the time were understood to be often inconsistent or bound by an uncertainty as to what they could do.
Paul says, “Don’t confuse them with God, he is the all knowing and all wise God at his best……. Revealing his plan”.
A plan that he had put in place…..
Know this and receive this – you are not an afterthought!
You are not second thought; You are not a product of trial and error…..
You are a product of the One and Only who planned his Son to die for you…..and planned your life to be found in his Son…..
Paul questions, “Is that not sufficient for you to join with us and offer your life in praise of this God?”
God has this plan perfect for you, that at the exact moment he sent his Son……
“Making known to us the mystery of his will according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”.
“For the fullness of time” – there was an exact moment and time that God’s plan, which comes from his full understanding and wisdom, would be fulfilled…..
In AD27 Jesus began his ministry up to the year 30AD. For man, this was an opportunity to get rid of him at his prime time dying at the age of 33yrs.
However, as he walked up to Jerusalem – in AD30 – telling his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed, he knew this was the moment – God’s plan had reached its climax….the time had come – the Son of Man was to be given to man to spit upon and even be killed.
Jesus was not killed by circumstances – by chance – it was all the plan of the all knowing – all wise God…..
God doesn’t work through guess work…..or throwing dice…..no!
In fact, in Acts 17 we have a similar statement made about you and I in 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhibit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
He didn’t guess when you will be born (he set your day of birth) he didn’t guess and be surprised where you were born (he set the exact places where you and I should live).
That was his accuracy…..it’s all the plan of this wise, all knowing God.
The purpose – For what purpose?
Vs.10c “To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”.
That which was not revealed in full previously…….that which was according to his purpose.
That which was worked with such precision and foreknowledge – was done to unite all things in Him.
What does it mean “all things united in Him” (in heaven and on earth)? It seems Paul has in mind the cosmic renewal – where creation finds it restoration and its purpose again….
It is in Jesus’ ministry that everything is restored to God’s first intended plan…..
As we stand today the whole of creation is fragmented and frustrated……
Romans 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of child bearing until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”.
Somehow in Jesus the whole creation finds its meaningful and restful relationship in God….
The purpose for all of this is to make sure that God’s creation is restored to God’s intended plan…..
To that meaningful relationship with God…….to that relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall…..
The entire salvation history has been directed and guided to just this one purpose: the unification of all in things in Christ…..
From a troubled, fragmented, frustrated creation – To a restored, restful, in the right place in God (its all been heading towards this aim….this Man, Jesus Christ)
So for you, child of God, I wonder if you can see part of something bigger than yourself …..of something that history has been directed towards … it’s a grand plan of God….. to restore you your Creator God?
This is not an overnight cooked plan…..this plan has existed throughout eternity…..it’s been guided by the hand of God throughout history and in the fullness of time – It’s been brought through…..in the person and the ministry of Jesus…..
Creation finds its purpose – man and woman find their purpose…..
Maybe you haven’t come? There is something bigger than you at stake here……will you ignore such a great plan? Amen.