Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Drama of Redemption (Lesson 1, Part 2)

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.

Lesson 1: Part 1

§1. The Eternal Drama

Sproul entitled his series The Drama of Redemption. His point is not that the story of redemption is dramatic fiction—but that it is a well directed, well crafted true-life drama—a reality show if you will. We all are actors, but some have leading roles. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Angels and men, men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the apostles. And there is unfolding action that spans history. This plan of God's is not a Rube Goldberg contraption—it is orderly, efficient and precise.

What we'll see, contrary to our view of the Old Testament as rather haphazard, is that this comprehensive story of redemption has a structure to it. And the skeletal framework of this structure is comprised of the biblical covenants. This does not mean that we must approach of God's redemptive plan through the eyes of what is called Covenant Theology. Both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism agree that there has been a series of biblical covenants referenced in scripture.

Now a covenant is an agreement or pact. It stipulates what two parties bring to the table, and what they receive. A covenant is usually of mutual benefit. Sometimes covenants are between equal partners, such as the marriage covenant. Other times they are between unequal partners, such as the agreement between an employer and the employee. In the case of covenants between God and man they are 1) between infinitely unequal partners, 2) acts of grace: God is not obligated to enter into any sort of contract with his creation, and 3) unlike human-human covenants that are negotiated, covenants between God and man are unilaterally imposed by God. Man does warrant a seat at the negotiating table,

However, none of that applies to the first covenant that we will discuss: the Covenant of Redemption which reformed theologians (most of them) state is inferred from scripture.

There are two unique features of the Covenant of Redemption:

  1. It doesn't involve man; the parties in this covenant are the members of the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  2. It was agreed upon prior to creation.

The Covenant of Redemption is an agreement among the three persons of the Trinity, established before the earth was created. It is the agreement that the Father would give a people to His son, the Son would perform the work necessary to redeem them, and the Spirit would sanctify them and give them second life.
18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Pet. 1:18-20)

Peter teaches quite explicitly that Christ's role in redemption was not devised after the fall, or after the Jews failed in their obedience, but that it was already in place even before creation. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, Paul writes (Eph. 1:4).

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines the Covenant of Redemption rather well:

The Covenant of Redemption is the eternal agreement within the Godhead in which the Father appointed the Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem the elect from the guilt and power of sin. God appointed Christ to live a life of perfect obedience to the law and to die a penal, substitutionary, sacrificial death as the covenantal representative for all who trust in him.

This covenant is not appreciated by many Christians. Many view Christ's work not as a voluntary commitment from all eternity, but as a corrective measure. God made man, this way of thinking goes, and hoped that man would not fall. But fall man did: strike one. And after man fell, it is reasoned, God provided a way out for the Jews. But they were never able to respond with the required obedience: strike two. And so, to correct these mistakes, or perhaps to change the Father's mind, Christ had to come. A homerun off an 0-2 pitch.

This view is simply not true. As scripture clearly teaches, Christ knew he'd be coming to redeem a people before any people existed. His role was established prior to creation.

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