The Logic of Redemption
The glorious doctrine of God’s redemption of sinners through the sin-bearing, sin-vanquishing death of Christ on Calvary’s cross lies at the heart of the Christian faith – and at the heart of every Christian’s faith. We believe this. We love this. We sing this. ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph. 1:7). So far, so good. Now consider this question: What impact and influence is Christ’s redeeming work to have on our relationships with other Christians?
The New Testament is emphatic that there is a vital, inextricable link between what our Saviour has done for us and how we are to treat one another. Listen to the Apostle John: ‘Beloved, if God so loved us (in giving his Son as a propitiation for our sins), we also ought to love one another’ (1 John 4:11). For John there is logic to redemption (the phrase is Philip Hughes’), the logic of selfless love for others. If God in Christ has loved us selflessly, and he has, how can we partake of that selfless love and not exhibit something of its grace in our relationships with others?
This is no arcane question. Our Lord Jesus said ‘by their fruit you will know them’. He also said that love for one another would be the distinguishing mark of our Christian profession. This is the logic of redemption. Where this is absent, the experience of redeeming love can hardly be present – can it?
It has often been said that just as everything in Christianity flows from the cross, so everything returns to the cross. It is when we become distant and detached from the wonder of Calvary’s redeeming love that we become careless, even indifferent in our relationships with fellow believers. It would transform the way we speak about other Christians and to other Christians if we always did so ‘in the shadow of Calvary’. The selfless love of Christ is both the foundation and pulsebeat of the Christian life. The mark of the Selfless One has been indelibly etched on the life of every Christian. What the Holy Spirit first produced in Christ he comes to re-produce in his people.
The Apostle John learned this well: ‘By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers’ (1 John 3:16). This kind of Christianity is light years from what passes as Christian in this world. It would be only too easy to look out and see and point the finger at the lovelessness in the liberal, unbelieving church. But what about us, we who call ourselves evangelical and Reformed. Does the logic of redemption pervade our relationships with one another? Does it?
It is not a matter of trying harder, although we need to try much harder. It is a matter of becoming soaked in the logic of redemption. We all need day by day to come afresh to the foot of Calvary’s cross not to gaze upon a dying Saviour (he is risen!), but to be reminded of the selfless love that purchased our redemption at a cost we will never ever fathom. I know that is my great need. If you are anything like me, it will also be your great need.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in the Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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