Monday, April 30, 2007

The Drama of Redemption (Lesson 1, Part 1)

It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two. (Zech. 6:13)

This is a new Sunday School series which will be largely based on R. C. Sproul’s audio series The Drama of Redemption, available from his website.


Many of us tend to view the Old Testament and the New Testament quite differently. Even though we know better, or we should know better, we see the Old Testament as mostly about God the Father. And our view of the Old Testament God, in spite of ourselves, leans toward the impression that he is, as often as not, reactive rather than proactive. We sometimes get the sense that God tries something with the Jews and when that fails he shifts gears and tries something else. Yes, in our heart of hearts we know and acknowledge that God is sovereign, and that he has an eternal plan that cannot be thwarted. But we act as if God’s desires for the human race are easily derailed.

A few years ago a young man, who was in our church at the time, gave a presentation about missionary activities of the Campus Crusade for Christ. He related the following story, variants of which are common. In fact, I’m not sure this is how he told it or how others told it or simply an amalgamation of similar stories. Anyway, it goes something like this:
There was a young missionary, a college student. He and his buddy were in Africa, heading to this remote village in Kenya. Before they set out, he was supposed to check the spare tire in the Jeep, but he forgot. Sure enough they got a flat in the middle of nowhere, and when they went to change the tire they discovered the spare was also flat. They ended up getting to the village a day late. Once there, they had a lot of success witnessing, and a lot of the natives came to Christ.

About a year later, the young man gets a letter from a young woman of the village, thanking him for his ministry and telling him how the faithful were doing. At the end, she told him that the only sad thing was that her grandfather died the morning the missionaries rode in. She wished he had lived another day to hear the gospel.

Now of course, this young man remembered that they lost a day due to his mistake of not checking the spare tire. It shook him up just thinking about it. That lost day, in his mind, might have cost someone his soul. To anyone who will listen he now warns: Be careful, don’t get lost, don’t get lazy, every day is crucial—once I was lazy and an old man may have paid a terrible price.

What’s wrong with this story? Everything is wrong. It paints a picture of a God who is not in control, a god who is little more than a cheerleader, a God that is shaking his head in heaven and saying “Man, I wanted to save that old guy, but those American college kids really screwed up. What a bummer.”

Now if the young missionary would state that his lesson learned was that we should behave as if a lack of zeal or as if a lack of preparedness could cost a soul, we’d not argue the point. But as stated we are compelled to object: No, that is simply wrong. God is sovereign. God’s plan for salvation cannot be derailed by human shortcomings—indeed God’s plan is designed with those shortcomings in mind.

Other than scripture, nothing states it quite as well as the Westminster Confession (Chapter 3):
  1. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
  2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
  3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
  4. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
  5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
  6. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

That’s how we must approach the study of redemption in the Old Testament. It was not trial and error with God finally giving up and sending Christ. It was all in God’s control, all ordained by God, all the time. Which gets us to the point of this class: a look at the unfolding of a perfectly executed and never deviating plan of redemption. It’s not a plan developed after man’s fall and later fine tuned in response to repeated Jewish national failures—it’s a plan that was conceived before man fell, even before creation itself.

The bible, Old and New Testaments, is the history of God’s plan of redemption. There are about 1189 chapters in the bible. Two deal with creation. One deals with the fall of man. The other 1186 deal, more or less, with redemption. Our goal is to come away with an appreciation of the continuity and integrity of this plan, to combat the view that after trying this and that and giving the Jews chance after chance God finally threw in the towel and sent his son as a last resort.

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