The Plan of Redemption
Nov 16, 2018
The first sin caused Adam to incur a debt that he could not pay. God was not taken by surprise, of course, so the plan of redemption from debt had already been established.
The legal process was stated in the third chapter of Genesis, although at the time it is unlikely that God had revealed to Adam His laws of redemption. Such revelation, we know, was given to Moses nearly 2,500 years later when he wrote the Torah.
Nonetheless, God judged Adam according to His law by the principles that were revealed later. In the law, if a man incurred a debt he could not pay, he was to be “sold” (Exodus 22:3) to a slave master to work off his debt. His new owner did not have absolute rights over him, as we see in most examples of slavery throughout history. The owner was really only a steward, because both slave and master were owned by God. Hence, the slave owner was to treat his slave with love, even as God’s love for His own slave (Israel) was evident to all.
Anyone who purchased a debtor-slave was called a redeemer, because he redeemed the debt of the debtor. In other words, by purchasing the slave, he took upon himself the responsibility for his debts. The amount of his debt, then, combined with the value of his labor, determined the length of his sentence (as a slave).
Hence, if the debtor had incurred debt through sin (as opposed to a mere adversity or calamity), he was to pay off the debt. Whatever assets he had were to be sold in order to pay the debt. If his assets were insufficient to pay the debt, the debtor was sold, along with his family.
Enter the redeemer. Whoever stepped forward to purchase the debtor was legally defined as his redeemer. The redeemer provided immediate relief to the victim by paying the debt of the sinner. In turn, the slave had to repay his redeemer by working as a slave over a specified period of time that was determined by the judge in the case.
Of course, the Sabbath laws gave temporary relief to the debtor/slave, and the law of Jubilee provided an outer limit to his time of slavery. A slave’s rights were reduced but not eliminated.
The Earth as a Redeemer
When Adam sinned, he incurred a debt, and the law of God demanded payment. It was in God’s heart of love to forgive in the end, but He was also determined to train Adam (and later those of his household) in the ways of God. In other words, divine judgment, whether it was paying restitution or being sold into slavery, was designed to correct the sinner and to teach him the ways of righteousness while under the authority of a redeemer.
God investigated Adam’s case from Genesis 3:9-13, and then judgment was rendered in Genesis 3:14-19. In that judgment, God sold Adam and Eve to the earth (or ground), saying, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).
The curse is the judgment of the law upon the guilty. But the curse (judgment for sin) was placed upon the ground, for it was made liable to pay Adam’s debt. In return, Adam, his wife, and all that he had was sold to the ground and became enslaved to it. The ground played the role of redeemer in this sale, and man’s time on earth (and under its authority) was to be used to teach man the ways of righteousness.
This is the origin of the historical problem of man on earth. In Romans 7:14 Paul says,
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
It is hardly possible to understand Paul’s writings without having some knowledge of the law. Paul knew the law and showed how it was the basis of understanding our slavery to sin and our redemption in Christ. No one truly understands New Testament redemption without knowing the laws of redemption.
Because sin is reckoned as a debt, Paul was saying that he (in his flesh, or “old man”) had been “sold into bondage” on account of debt. As a child of the flesh (being descended from Adam), Paul had been enslaved to the earth. Adam is from adama, “earth, or ground” Adam means “earthy” (1 Corinthians 15:47). It does not refer to the planet per se but to dust, from whence the old self had been formed and which became the fleshly identity of all men.
Paul was saying that the slave master of his old man was the adama itself, which might have been a very good thing, except that the entire creation had been corrupted as well through Adam’s sin. Hence, the earth began to produce thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18) and only God knows what else! The earth became a carnal taskmaster, much like slave owners among men throughout history who have treated their slaves without regard to God’s laws.
The Redeemer of Israel
Because of the rigorous slavery imposed by the uncaring ground and its lawless men, Christ came to earth to redeem it. In other words, He came looking for unhappy slaves to purchase, so that they could be enslaved by One who loved them. This entire experience of mankind on earth is a time of redemption, where Christ is looking for slaves. All men are born into slavery, but not all men are enslaved to the uncaring, unloving ground with its “law of the jungle.” Atheists, materialists, and evolutionists know only “nature,” an often-brutal taskmaster. But others, who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, serve a loving Master.
The first major example of Christ’s redemption is when He came to Israel that had been laboring in the house of bondage (Egypt). We are told in Exodus 6:6 and Deuteronomy 7:8 that God “redeemed you [Israel] from the house of slavery.”
The law of redemption also tells us that the slave must serve his redeemer (Leviticus 25:53). The redeemer is not one who gives money to the slave so that he may purchase his own freedom. A redeemer is one who purchases a slave. For this reason, God had the right to expect Israel to obey His commandments. The people did not have the legal right to do as they pleased, although history shows that they did indeed rise up in a slave revolt against their Master.
If they had revolted while in Egypt, they would have been met with force, and many would have been killed. The Egyptians ruled by fear, not by love. God ruled by love, and the people took advantage of His love by becoming lawless. Judges 21:25 sums up the nation this way:
25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The example given in Judges 19-21 is a horrendous account of how the Israelites were ruled by their own man-made conscience, not understanding that self-interest, lust, and greed ruled their hearts. Their confidence in the flesh made them think that they were capable of deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Scripture calls this “lawlessness.” Samuel, who wrote the book of Judges, understood the carnal mind by which the Israelites worshiped God.
Christ the Redeemer
The New Testament uses the pattern of Israel’s redemption to reveal a greater manifestation of this principle. Even as God redeemed Israel at Passover by the blood of the lamb, so also did Jesus die on the cross at Passover to redeem the entire creation by His blood. Hence, the redemption of Israel was only a small prophetic pattern of a much greater redemptive work, where He was to redeem all of mankind from slavery dating back to Adam’s sin. This slavery was not just to Egypt but to the earth itself.
In purchasing us from our slavery to the adama and its “natural man,” we became God’s slaves, or bond servants. So Paul says of himself in Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bond-slave of Christ Jesus.” Having studied the laws of redemption, he understood that when Christ redeemed us, we were not given the right “to continue in sin” (Romans 6:1). Instead, we were set free from the dictates of the earth and the natural man, for the “old man” commands us to violate the law of God.
But once Jesus redeemed us, the old man lost his authority over us. He no longer has the right to expect us to obey his lawless commands. Being released from the earth, we became slaves of heaven. Being released from sin personified, we became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:16). We have been set free to follow the commands of our righteous Master.
The problem is that the old man (natural self) is not yet dead, even though we have “reckoned” it to be dead (Romans 6:11 KJV). To reckon (logizomai) is to call what is not as though it were, as defined in Romans 4:17 KJV. The problem is that the natural self does not actually die that easily, nor can it rid itself of its devotion to sin. When we are begotten as new creatures by faith in Christ, our new man does not simply replace the old man. We simply add a second “self” to the equation, a new self that finds itself at odds with the old self.
The result is an inner conflict between the two “I’s” that Paul revealed in Romans 7.
Reforming Ishmael? Or Redeeming Isaac?
Here is where many people misunderstand the plan of redemption and salvation. They think that their old man (“child of the flesh”) is being saved, and so they work to reform it and perfect it so that it can be saved. But this “child of the flesh” is Adamic and is by nature earthy (of the adama). Its nature can be altered to some extent through self-discipline, but it can never be perfected, and therefore, it can never fulfill the purpose for which God created man.
Many Christians do not understand this, so they devote a lifetime to reforming their inner Ishmael, hoping that he will somehow be transformed into Isaac, the inheritor of the promise. But that is not how it works. The plan is to become a new creature, not to reform the old creature. When men attach their salvation to their success in reforming the old man, they are soon discouraged (if honest) and wonder what they are doing wrong.
It is only by understanding how the new creation man is begotten by God that we truly can understand the concept of the sons of God. Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that Hagar represented the Old Covenant which could only produce a child of the flesh (Ishmael). Sarah represented the New Covenant which could only produce a child of the promise (Isaac). A child of the Old Covenant can never inherit the promises, regardless of how “good” he may try to act. Keep in mind that Paul was not speaking racially but allegorically (Galatians 4:24).
Paul himself, while he was acting according to the flesh (persecuting the church under Judaism) was an Ishmaelite, a child of Hagar, the earthly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:25). Only later did Jesus Christ apprehend him, and by faith Paul became a new creature, Isaac, a child of Sarah, the heavenly Jerusalem.
We are all born of Hagar in our natural self when our identity is in Adam or in Israel, or whatever earthly genealogy we claim as our identity. Though we may claim to be children of Isaac, though we may claim racial status as an Israelite, and though we may even give lip service to the New Covenant, we are deceived if we believe that the flesh is being saved or that it is “chosen” to inherit the promises of God.
Just as Abraham begat Isaac through Sarah, so also must we be begotten by faith in the promise of God through the New Covenant. Then the Christian life is spent not in reforming Ishmael but living according to a new identity known prophetically as Isaac. Isaac was willing to be offered as a sacrifice to fulfill the will of his father. He is the biblical example of the obedient servant.
Paul gives us a practical statement about the outworking of our salvation in Romans 7:25,
25 … So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind [new self, Isaac] am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [old self, Ishmael] the law of sin.
Again, he says in Romans 6:19,
19 … For just as you presented your members [limbs] as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness [akatharsia, “uncleanness”], resulting in further lawlessness [anomia], so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
The carnal man serves the law of sin, which is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), while the new creation man serves the law of God. The old man despises the law of God and attempts to put it away. The new creation man loves the law of God, as did David (Psalm 119:97). Paul, speaking from the point of view of the new creation man, says, “we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).