Ephesians 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"
This morning, there are still opponents to the doctrines of grace as espoused by the Bible's teachings. Some of these enemies are enemies to the cross of Christ in general that do not have the love of God residing within them. (Philippians 3:18) Others are enemies of the true gospel of Christ though still beloved according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:28) Regardless of the source of the attack, it is unquestionable that the household of faith will receive opposition to their beliefs in free grace, election, predestination, particular redemption, etc. These attacks will manifest themselves through different arguments and thought processes, but one that has come up a lot lately is the argument of how one can believe in election and predestination and still honour the need of Christ's sacrifice. All too often, people show a failure to see how things either go or do not go together.
When someone who believes in the doctrines of election and predestination engages in a discussion with one who does not, sometimes the argument is presented, "If you believe in election and predestination, then why did Christ have to come? By your reasoning, the people of God were already secured, and your argument renders the sacrifice of Christ unnecessary." Without controversy, the doctrines of election and predestination ensure that – from all eternity – there has never been a question that any of God's children are secure in the love and mercy of God. As Paul has laboured in the verses before our study verse to show (Verses 3-6), we were chosen in Christ before time and predestinated according to the adoption of children by God. Positionally and through the covenant of the Godhead, no heir of grace will ever be lost.
Yet, Paul addresses the point of the necessity of Christ's sacrifice in our study verse. By looking at his terminology, I believe we will find the answer to the scoffer that fails to see how election and predestination can co-exist with Christ's work. Paul terms the sacrifice of Christ as "redemption." This redemption came completely and fully through His blood, which He shed on the tree of the cross. However, if one believes that the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice nullifies the idea of covenant theology (election and predestination), consider that Paul's case proves the very opposite. Redemption literally means to "buy back" and has connotations of prior position and ownership. Only through covenant theology does the term "redemption" make sense when talking about Christ's work. He did not come to make salvation possible. He came to make it a reality to those of His ownership.
Looking at the doctrines of covenant theology, we see that we have always belonged to God. Looking at the doctrines of redemptive theology, we see that Christ's work bought back what was already His. The easiest natural analogy to prove the point is the pawn shop example. If a man pawns a possession due to some financial hardship, he can only go to the pawn shop to redeem what belonged to him. He might buy something else available in the pawn shop, but he can only redeem something in there that belonged to him. In our condition, we were pawned to sin and depravity – by our own actions not Christ's – and therefore, Christ redeemed those that belonged to Him. His sacrifice and offering was not for all people in all places, for all people in all places were not given to Him before time. So, the redemption through His blood came to those that belonged to Him in the covenant of grace.
Furthermore, Paul's language annihilates the idea that Christ's work was an offering to man. Scripture nowhere proclaims Christ's work as an offering to man. It was an offering to God. (Hebrews 9:13-14) Paul's added description of Christ's redemption of us shows the cause and effect of it. The effect of the redemption was and is the forgiveness of sins. Now, were it true that man had to secure something to make this redemption real and vital to him personally (i.e. be born again), what would happen to this man if he failed to do it? More pertinently, what is the state of the man who has not yet accepted the sacrifice? His state, according to Paul's language, is that he is forgiven. If the blood of Christ is shed for all men in all places, then all men in all places are forgiven of their sins. Should this be true and God send one person to hell, then that person would be a forgiven individual in hell forever. That begs the question exactly as to why he is there and what he is not forgiven of?
Since God does not send people to hell whose sins are paid for, the conclusion must be inescapable. If we are forgiven through His redemption, we will be forever secure in that work and purchase of blood. Why was it done? What was the cause? Paul's language attributes it solely to the riches of His grace. No other cause could be conceived. Surely those objects of His possession had done nothing to merit it. Quite the opposite. We had not remained neutral in the conversation. We went the opposite way from God as enmity with Him, according to the desires of the flesh and of the mind. However, His mercy and grace being set upon us from all eternity, shed forth that grace in the Person of His Son through the redemption of His blood. No one that Christ died for deserved it, nor desired it. Yet, He did it anyway, solely and steadfastly by the grace of His righteous character.
So, Paul's argument for the position of God's people in Christ should be very clear. Our redemption is based upon – not apart from – His eternal purpose and covenant. It was brought about solely by His grace and the riches thereof, and the effect is complete forgiveness and absolution from the condemnation that our sins brought. Going back briefly to our pawn shop analogy, how foolish would it be to consider that the pawned item refused to be bought back by its owner? If I pawned my car and then later went to retrieve it from the grip of the dealer, it would be unthinkable for the car to tell me, "I like it here and will not come with you." Likewise, not one heir of grace will be put from Christ in eternity by a failure to "act upon" His work of blood-bought redemption. We belong to Him, and we will not be kept from Him. He came to get us legally, and one day He will come to get us finally and really to take us home.
Friends, legally we have been pulled from the clutches of sin, Satan, and death. While we still fight with those foes through our daily fights and struggles, may we take solace in the fact that death has no more power over us as it cannot keep us from Christ. Satan cannot overthrow the work of God, and sin – though daily plaguing – will not separate us from God's love or ownership of us. One of the last arguments that one might have to free grace is that it gives a license to sin. How much further from the truth could a thought be? Confidence plays a large role in the success of an army or team. How much confidence should we have? Considering that all of our foes have "lost the war," we can have great confidence and hope when going about our daily struggles. Knowing that though battles may be lost but the war cannot be lost, we can labour confidently while resting in the comfort knowing that our Lord has bought us back to Himself according to His grace affording us the complete forgiveness of sins.