04. Man in need of redemption
Since the fall into sin, all human beings have been sinners: they have been tempted to sin by the evil one. No human being can live without sin. Each one is mired in sin. It is from this condition that God desires to liberate—in other words, redeem—mankind.
The original meaning of “redemption” had to do with the act of untying ropes and shackles. In the context of the sacrifice of Jesus, “redemption” refers to the liberation of human beings bound by the shackles of the evil one.
It is impossible to rationally comprehend or explain where evil comes from.
Evil is a destructive power opposed to God.
Evil reveals itself in various ways, for example, in the form of destruction, lies, envy, or greed. It ultimately leads to death.
Yes. Evil is also manifest as a person and, among other things, is called the “Devil” or “Satan” (cf. Matthew 4: 1; Mark 1: 13). As an enemy of Christ, he is also described as the “Antichrist”.
God gave human beings the opportunity to decide for obedience or disobedience toward Himself. When human beings turned away from God and decided for disobedience toward Him, evil was manifest. Evil is thus not created by God, but likely permitted by Him in that He did not prevent human beings from making their own decision.
No. Evil will not always exist. The power of the evil one has already been broken by Jesus Christ. In 1 John 3: 8 it says the following concerning this: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” After the kingdom of peace, evil will be given one last opportunity to stand up in opposition to God. Thereafter it will be fully neutralised. In the new creation, evil will have no place.
God had commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which stood in the middle of the garden of Eden. God also made them aware of the consequences of breaking this commandment: “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2: 17). The Devil influenced the first human beings and awakened doubt in God’s word: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 4, 5). Adam and Eve gave in to temptation. They rebelled against God, transgressed His commandment, and ate of the fruit of the tree. This disobedience toward God is described as the fall into sin.
The fall into sin brought about changes in the lives of human beings, which they could not reverse. They began to be afraid of God and hid themselves from Him. The relationship of human beings toward one another also suffered, as did their relationship with the creation. Since then, the life of man has been filled with toil—and has been limited: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3: 19).
Another consequence of the fall into sin was the separation between mankind and God: God drove the first two human beings from the garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3: 23-24).
“Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Genesis 3: 23-24
God’s love for mankind remained intact even after the fall into sin. Despite their disobedience, God attended to them: in His loving care, God even clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin (cf. Genesis 3: 21).
The love of God for fallen mankind is revealed in perfect fashion in the send God’s love for mankind remained intact even after the fall into sin. Despite their disobedience, God attended to them: in His loving care, God even clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin (cf
Genesis 3: 21).
The love of God for fallen mankind is revealed in perfect fashion in the sending of Jesus Christ, who conquered sin. “Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5: 18-19).
After the fall into sin, the sins of mankind increased at an appalling rate: first Cain slew his brother Abel even despite God’s warning (cf. Genesis 4: 6-8).
As time progressed, human beings began to sin more and more. God decided to punish them and sent the great flood. Only Noah found grace in the eyes of God. At God’s commandment Noah built an ark in which he and his family were saved (cf. Genesis 6: 5-7, 17-18).
Even after this judgement, human beings persisted in their disobedience toward God. For example, the Bible tells of the tower of Babel. God caused the builders of the tower to fail in their endeavour owing to their arrogance and striving for fame: He confused their languages so that they could no longer understand one another (cf. Genesis 11: 1-8).
“Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel and killed him.”
Genesis 4: 8
Yes. Since the fall into sin, all human beings have been subject to the power of sin. Sin leads to separation from God, in other words, spiritual death: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5: 12). The inclination to sin (concupiscence) remains present within mankind. Human beings cannot return to a state of sinlessness through their own power.
Inclination to sin (concupiscence): Through the fall into sin, a predisposition to sin came into being in man. This is called ‘concupiscence’. It is from this that all sinful thoughts and deeds originate. Even though sins can be forgiven, the inclination to sin remains intact.
Yes. Mankind’s fall into sin had far-reaching consequences for the creation: the ground was cursed: “Because you have [...] eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field” (cf. Genesis 3: 17, 18). The creation, which was originally perfect, has since been damaged. The creation must also be liberated from the curse that rests upon it.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. [...] For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.”
Romans 8: 20-22
Sin is everything that opposes the will of God and is contrary to His being. This includes all words, deeds, and thoughts that are contrary to the will and being of God. It is also sin to intentionally neglect to do good (cf. James 4: 17). Human beings incur guilt with God with every sin they commit.
Sin is absolute. It can therefore not be relativised. It separates from God.
By contrast we may assume that God, in His righteousness and mercy, assesses the degree of guilt an individual incurs with Him through sin differently in each case.
Explanation concerning the extent of guilt incurred: A distinction must be made in assessing the amount of guilt associated with a sin, for example, if someone has stolen out of hunger or to satisfy a craving for some luxury. In both cases a sin has been committed, namely a violation of the Seventh Commandment. However, the degree of guilt a person incurs through this sin can be different. In His omniscience, God will always be fair in judging the degree to which a person has incurred guilt through this sin. Certain influences and situations to which people are exposed, for example, societal structures, situations of need, and pathological dispositions, will also play a role.
In order to enter into the nearness of God, sin must be forgiven.
God defines what constitutes sin. By no means can human beings define this for themselves.
We learn what is sinful—in other words, what is contrary to the will of God— from Holy Scripture. This includes:
- violations of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20: 20),
- breaking vows given to God (cf. Deuteronomy 23: 22),
- refusing to believe in Christ (cf. John 16: 9),
- stinginess, envy, and the like.
This is also made clear to us in the sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit.
God has endowed human beings with a conscience, reason, and faith. When human beings make use of these gifts, it is the correct response to God for the care He shows them.
The conscience, reason, and faith are always to be aligned with Jesus Christ.
The conscience can help a human being make decisions that correspond to the will of God. The conscience distinguishes between what is good and what is evil. In addition, if the conscience is governed by reason and faith, it allows human beings to recognise whether they have incurred guilt before God or their neighbour through their conduct.
Reason can lead human beings to conduct themselves in a manner pleasing to God. Reason is demonstrated when human beings are able to account for their actions before God and their neighbour. Reason is also necessary in order to understand the gospel and profess one’s faith.
Yes. In its finiteness, human reason is incapable of grasping God in His endlessness. God’s nature and actions far surpass all human reason (cf. Philippians 4: 7). As a result, reason cannot be the measure of all things.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4: 7
Faith incorporates trust, obedience, and loyalty toward God. From it, human beings gain confidence in God’s mercy and help. In Hebrews 11: 1 it says the following concerning this: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith always starts with God, who reveals Himself through His word and His works. Faith is a gift of God. True faith is based on God’s grace of election. At the same time, faith is an obligation for human beings. Whether and to what degree a human being comes to believe is also dependent on his own effort: a person must want to believe. For this reason it is necessary to pray for faith.
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 9: 24
Human beings are called upon to accept God’s word, trust in it, and act in accordance with it. Jesus Christ demanded: “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14: 1). He promised that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16). He also emphasised the consequence of unbelief in all its implications: “For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8: 24).
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Romans 10: 17
Belief in Jesus Christ is a prerequisite for salvation. One must believe
- that God reconciles sinners to Himself,
- that human beings can become children of God (cf. John 1: 12),
- that human beings can enter into eternal fellowship with God.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God].”
Hebrews 11: 6
Holy Scripture uses the term “salvation” in the sense of “deliverance”, “protection”, and “redemption. The term “salvation history” is understood to mean the activity of God that allows human beings to receive salvation.
The events between the fall into sin and the new creation are described as God’s “plan of salvation”. We human beings may not know the entire plan of God in all its fullness, but from the course of salvation history we can recognise that it is God’s intention to help mankind.
The manner and measure of salvation varies throughout the different phases of salvation history, however, God’s will to save—which is valid for all people of all time periods—stands above everything.
In Old Testament times, the hope of salvation was primarily focused on deliverance from earthly need and captivity. Israel’s hope for salvation eventually started to focus more and more clearly on the expected Messiah, however.
Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5: 9). He is the only Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Timothy 2: 5). Acts 4: 12 attests: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus Christ is the Saviour sent by God. He is the Redeemer who has conquered sin. In Him human beings find salvation from the harm caused by sin: the sacrifice that Jesus brought on the cross makes liberation from sin—and the undoing of permanent separation from God—possible.
“Mediator”: On the one hand Jesus Christ is a “Mediator” in the sense that He mediates between God and mankind. This means that He represents mankind before God, and God before mankind. He is the Advocate of mankind before God, and acquaints human beings with the divine will. On the other hand, as “Mediator” He is also the way of salvation that leads back into fellowship with God.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
1 Timothy 2: 5, 6
Salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to all human beings, both living and dead.
Today we are living in that phase of the divine plan of salvation in which the bridal congregation is being gathered and prepared for the return of Christ. To this end, the Apostles impart salvation through the proclamation of God’s word and the dispensation of the sacraments.
No one can attain salvation on his own. Human beings attain salvation by believing in Jesus Christ and availing themselves of the sacraments and the word of God, which Jesus Christ has made available for the salvation of the world.
The bridal congregation will already enter into eternal fellowship with God at the return of Christ in the marriage feast in heaven.
According to Holy Scripture, the plan of salvation will be fulfilled in the new creation.
Election is always rooted in God’s will. No one can influence the decision of God.
God calls individuals or groups of people out of humanity because He has a specific purpose in mind for them. He thereby makes them responsible to Him.
Yes. Already in the creation there is a reference to divine election: of all His creatures, God elected man and gave him the commission to make the earth subject to him. Many other examples of election can be found in the Old Testament:
- Noah was elected to build the ark.
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were elected so that all families of the earth would be blessed through them.
- Moses was elected to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and Joshua was elected to bring them to the Promised Land.
- The people of Israel had also been elected: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you” (cf. Deuteronomy 7: 6-8).
“For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.”
Wisdom of Solomon 2: 23
From among His disciples, Jesus elected the Apostles and sent them into all the world with the commission to teach and baptise. Thus the election of the people of God is no longer limited to Israel, but incorporates all those who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile. Thus the people of the new covenant has been chosen by God (cf. 1 Peter 2: 9).
Peter was elected to a special function in the church, namely the Petrine office.
Since Old Testament times, all non-Israelite nations were designated as “Gentiles”. These were people who did not serve the God of Abraham, but rather served other gods. Even in New Testament times, non-Jews were designated as Gentiles, whether or not they had been baptised.
No. No one has any right to God’s election because it is rooted in God’s free decision. Election cannot be comprehended with human reason.
From the perspective of the gospel, election is a gift of God’s love. Human beings have the freedom to decide whether to accept or reject this gift. Election by God does not mean that the actions of human beings are predetermined.
God elects human beings for their own salvation as well as the salvation of others. Whenever God elects anyone, there is a certain task or responsibility associated with it. Acceptance of one’s election in faith means following Jesus Christ, the author of salvation, conscientiously. This involves arranging one’s life in accordance with the gospel. This attracts the blessing of God.
Election also has effects for the future: when Jesus Christ establishes His kingdom of peace, the royal priesthood will proclaim the glad tidings of salvation in Christ to all human beings. Those who partake in the first resurrection are elected to this task.
Blessing is an expression of God’s loving care, which no one can earn. To be blessed means to receive good things from God. Blessing contains divine strength as well as the assurance that God grants His help and guidance. The opposite of blessing is curse.
God often imparts His blessing through human beings who have been commissioned by Him to this end. No one can bless himself.
Blessing can unfold when it is grasped in faith. Whether it has enduring effects also depends on the attitude and conduct of the person being blessed. Blessing is a gift of God that can always be renewed. Blessing can, however, also extend beyond the person who received it to future generations.
God has blessed His creation and laid the law of multiplication into everything that lives. He has entrusted the creation to man and has blessed him for the task associated with this.
Although this blessing of God was limited in its effect through the curse of sin, it was not suspended. God even renewed it after the great flood. The promise of God clearly states what this blessing includes: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).
The New Testament also attests to this blessing in the creation: “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God” (Hebrews 6: 7). This blessing serves to the benefit of all human beings.
“For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Matthew 5: 45b
The promise of blessing is a component of the covenant which God made with Israel. In the old covenant, the blessing of God was revealed primarily through earthly wellbeing. For example, this included such things as victory in battle against enemies, long life, wealth, numerous descendants, and fertile land.
Abraham was blessed by God: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12: 2-3). This blessing extended beyond the promise of personal wellbeing. It also enabled Abraham to become a blessing for others.
For the Israelites, the blessing of God depended on whether or not they obeyed God’s commandments and served Him alone. Disobedience toward God was associated with curse for the people. This decision lay in the hands of the people themselves: “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 11: 26-28).
Divine blessing in the new covenant emanates from Jesus Christ.
Jesus blessed through His word, His miracles, and His conduct. He placed His hands upon children to bless them, and forgave sinners. The greatest blessing is that He gave His sinless life as a sacrifice for the reconciliation of all human beings.
The blessing of God, which is made accessible through Jesus Christ, has its emphasis in the spiritual domain. Concerning this, Ephesians 1: 3 states: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
This blessing includes
- election before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1: 4),
- redemption and forgiveness of sins (cf. Ephesians 1: 7),
- insight into the will of God (cf. Ephesians 1: 9),
- predestination as heirs of future glory (cf. Ephesians 1: 11),
- the knowledge of divine truth in the gospel (cf. Ephesians 1: 13),
- sealing with the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 1: 13).
Many divine blessings are made accessible to the believers in the divine service. Sacrifice also brings blessing—this is the fundamental experience of the Christian.
Human beings are called upon to pray for the blessing of God and to conduct themselves in such a manner as to show themselves worthy of this blessing. Believers demonstrate their gratitude for the blessing of God through a life defined by the fear of God, obedience, and faith.
The fullness of blessing consists of sharing in the glory of God eternally.
Yes. God gave the people of Israel a law through Moses. It is contained in the Torah and is called the “Mosaic Law”. Its principal contents are summarised in the Ten Commandments. The commandments to love God and one’s neighbour are also part of the Mosaic Law.
The Mosaic Law provides instruction for God-pleasing conduct. It is a help in life given by God, which shows the way to goodness and helps avoid evil.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6: 8
In Old Testament times, the Mosaic Law was considered the highest binding order by the people of Israel. It was understood as the path to salvation. People assumed that human beings could please God and be accepted by Him by strictly observing this law.
From the perspective of the gospel, the Mosaic Law is not the way to salvation, but it points to the way that leads to salvation: Jesus Christ.
No one can keep the whole of the law. For this reason it is not possible to attain salvation through one’s own endeavour alone. The individual must come to the conclusion: “I am a sinner and need forgiveness of sins.” However, forgiveness of sins requires belief in Jesus Christ.
The content of the gospel includes the activity of God in Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind. The gospel encompasses everything that Jesus taught and everything that has to do with His person, from His birth to His crucifixion, to His resurrection, and His return. The gospel makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
The gospel is also known as the “message of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1: 18) and the “word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5: 19).
Both the law and the gospel reveal God’s will to help sinners come to salvation. The law primarily lists commandments and prohibitions that instruct human beings with regard to God-pleasing actions. The only human being who perfectly fulfilled this law without any violations is Jesus Christ: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil” (Matthew 5: 17).
The elements of the Mosaic Law that are always valid and necessary were summarised by Jesus Christ into the commandment to love God and one’s neighbour: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. [...] You shall love your neighbour as yourself ” (Matthew 22: 37, 39).
After His resurrection, He explained to the disciples that everything written in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, had found its fulfilment in Him (cf. Luke 24: 44).
From this follows that Christ is both the fulfilment and the goal of the law. The old covenant’s understanding that the law was the way to salvation has come to an end through Christ. Jesus has established a new way, the way of grace.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Romans 10: 4
First of all, the individual must recognise that he is a sinner. Then he must come to believe that it has become possible for the sinner to be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, and that the sinner can attain the righteousness valid before God through belief in Christ: “Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5: 18).
Righteousness before God / justification: to be righteous before God—in other words, to have attained justification—means: the believer is pleasing to God. God accepts the sinner, and grants him grace and forgiveness.
Redemption cannot be earned through good works. It can only come from the grace of Christ. This requires belief in Christ.
Good works are the expression of a living faith. Thus an individual’s faith should lead him to strive for holy conduct, which is also demonstrated in his works.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” The response of the individual to this should be to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Titus 2: 11-14