A Gospel of Redemption

Acts 20:28.---' The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.'

Man does not find God; it is God who finds man. The whole of the Old Testament is a revelation of God's search for man. It is not simply a collection of the experiences of men who are seeking after God. May we not call it the story of God's increasing clutch upon man, who He is seeking? May we not think of the revelation of Jesus Christ in its manifestation upon the Cross as the ultimate success of God in His campaign to recover man's will---within the lost province of the human heart? We stand upon the basis of redemption. We are people who recognize the movement in the Godhead which has achieved our redemption. 'We love him because he first loved us.' The motive which drives us on to service with loving hearts is the motive of gratitude to God, who has loved us with an everlasting love. The first point, then, is this: that the Church exists not as a result of man's search for God, but as a result of God's clutch upon man, achieved finally in redemption.

The Church needs a renewed sense of its redeemed status. All the great phrases which we hear of today, and which mean so much to the world, are phrases to which we should give a special interpretation as a redeemed society. 'Fellowship.' What has the Church to say about fellowship? We must recognize that not only is fellowship achieved along ethical lines---'If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another'---but that we cannot achieve lasting fellowship apart from an experience of redemption---'and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' 'Re-union.' We know that it is as the Cross becomes more and more central to us in our experience that the hope of re-union grows brighter and brighter. When men speak of 'Liberty' we must teach them to interpret it in the terms of redemption---'that glorious liberty of the children of God.' We must see that liberty includes liberty of mind, liberty of soul, liberty from sinning, and liberty to enjoy God. 'Service.' When we have to choose between competition and cooperation, between service of others and service of self, we take our cue from the blessed Lord Himself. 'The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.' The spirit of Jesus is the spirit that manifests itself in the spirit of fellowship, of re-union, of liberty, and of service.

The gospel which the Church has to preach is the gospel of redemption. What do we need to press home today on the world? The reality of sin, the love of God as the operating force in man's destiny, the call to service. It is to the Cross of Jesus that we must go for vision and inspiration if that gospel is to be made effective in society and in the lives of men.

The reality of sin. We are pledged to believe in the reality of sin, otherwise the redemption that is in Jesus Christ is thrown away. The final proof of the reality of sin is that God fights against it upon the Cross. How are we to bring men to see its reality, to bring them to the Cross of Jesus? There is the story of God working not from without but from within. Inside the misery and shame, inside all that is evil, inside society organized as we know it, with all its impurity, uncleanness, greed, and hatred. On the Cross we see God in the middle of all that. As we look upon the Cross we come to see the aggressiveness and the hatefulness of sin. What we see on a small scale in the story of Joan of Arc or any other romantic figure, we see on a vast, world-wide scale in the story of Jesus. It is the world's sin which submerges Christ and slays Him with every conceivable torment and ignominy and shame. There is the religious bigotry of the High Priests, which hates to hear the voice of God coming from outside its own ranks; there is the profiteering spirit---not the modern, but a very ancient growth---seeking vengeance on Him who cleansed the Temple and robbed the Jewish profiteers of their market; there is political ambition, seeking to remove the idealist as a disturbing and impossible factor; there is the blind impulse of the mob goaded into violence, cruel, unreasoning, bestial, which fills the streets of Jerusalem with shouts of 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!' And as it was then, so it is now. there is a dreadful solidarity about human sin with unites the sinning ages one to another. Whenever we consent to the sins that nailed Christ to the Cross, when covetousness, malice, selfishness, lay hold of us, whenever we sacrifice goodness for the sake of passing pleasure or advantage, we crucify Christ afresh.

How are we going to persuade men that love is really the great operative force in deciding man's destiny? Does the world speak to us with absolute clearness of God's love? Can we find elsewhere than at the Cross, and in the story of Jesus, absolute, convincing, and overwhelming proof that human life is surrounded with love, and the great dynamic force is love itself? It is the Cross that we must go. there all the wonder of God's love is revealed. Whatever people may say about the rationale of the particular method that He took, the fact remains that there is nothing to which the Church has ever put its hand in the effort to save men, there is nothing which has so lifted men out of sin and raised them up to communion with God as the Cross of Jesus.

It is still the love that is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities which breaks in us individually and corporately---there is no other way.

It is the Cross that shows us the one way in which the Church can save the world. We are so tempted to put our faith in a political program, so tempted to think that we have discovered the quick and easy way, so tempted to identify ourselves with one particular order of society or one particular line of conduct. But there is no other way than Christ's way, the way of service, the way of sacrifice, the way of love. The Church which is built upon redemption cannot depart from the methods of redemption.

We cannot separate Christ's death from His life. The life is crowned by the death, the death is explained by the life. Everything that He lived for burns more brightly in His death. His unfaltering service, His faith in the Father's kingdom, His love for man, His denial of the false, His belief in the appeal that love can make---all this is illuminated in the Cross with a light that can never die. there is no other way for us, in our dealing with the world or with poor, broken, sinful humanity, than to go back to the Cross of Jesus for light, for inspiration, for power, for service.

What the world needs today is people who believe that Christ's way can redeem the world, people who, in the language of the New Testament, 'have put on Christ, been crucified with Christ, and who are risen with Christ.' Until we identify ourselves in mystic experience with the whole life of Jesus, the Church will be weak in the presence of its problems and its task. Meanwhile society is in chaos, the world is perishing, and people are not saved. We too must be wounded for the world's transgressions; we must be bruised for the world's sin.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha