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Written by Ronald J. Gordon ~ Published January, 1996 ~ Last Updated, January, 2015 ©
This document may be reproduced for educational purposes, with the provisions that the entire document remain intact and full acknowledgement be given to the author.
This article is not an official voice on Church of the Brethren theology, beliefs, and practices, but rather intended for a wider audience
seeking deeper biblical understanding of how God has interacted with humankind through Jesus Christ.

Many gifted biblical authors have penned a multiplicity of words to describe how God has interacted with men and women, and especially through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. This work endeavors to outline and interpret a few of the more significant passages of holy scripture dealing with His ministry and the subject of redemption or salvation. It is by no means exhaustive but rather intended to give the novice to intermediate biblical student an opportunity to more clearly understand the scriptural basis of God's plan for us. This work is not to be understood as the official position of the Church of the Brethren, nor does it reflect any special group or interest within the denomination. Although the concept of salvation and redemption is multi-faceted, especially in a pluralistic society, it is entirely appropriate that a voice be given to this plan because words relating to redeem occur 162 times in the Bible and words relating to save or salvation occur 561. Additionally, one of the underlying purposes of Church of the Brethren Network is to also share the gospel of Christ to the world, as commanded by Him in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

...from the Foundation of the world

The biblical author who best addresses the initiation and scope of God's Plan of Redemption or Salvation is Apostle Paul. He states in Galatians 1:11-12: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul did not receive his understanding of God and the earthly ministry of Christ from a seminary, a college, literary works, or another gifted individual. What he knows about Jesus has been an ongoing revelation communicated to him directly by Jesus over a span of many years. This relation started on the road to Damascus where he was first introduced to Jesus, “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,” Acts 9:5-6. Over the years Jesus continued to reveal many things to Paul as well as frequent bodily appearances such as at Corinth, “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city,” Acts 18:9-10.

In the first chapter of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul carefully explains many details of this Plan of God for humanity through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus. He outlines the broad scope of God's intervention into the human race. Many details exhibit a higher understanding of God's plan not previously revealed in the four Gospel accounts. For example, God chose people to be recipients of grace before there were nations, cultures, or races. God intended his love to be available, unbounded by lines of nationality or colors of the skin. It was a decision of personal grace untarnished by environment, heritage, privilege, social class, breeding, intellect, appearance, clan tartan, wealth, or talent. God made a decision before the foundation of the world. Before there was humankind.

EPHESIANS 1:4: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

Scholars have interpreted the words “foundation of the world” in various ways. Does this mean before the Genesis record and before the earth actually took shape? After Genesis at some foundational moment of history? Sometime during the Genesis account? This moment in time may not be as important to our current study as the more obvious fact that God was revealing a Plan for humanity and that this decision took place a very long time ago. Chosen indicates a decisive action. God decided to do something. It was proactive, not reactive. God does not operate through trial and error, caprice, or afterthought. The Divine does not play quarterback on Monday morning for all the details of Sunday's game were known the previous Friday. God's actions are the result of omniscient wisdom and prudence. Biblical commentator Albert Barnes emphasizes that “us” means God had individuals in mind, not a specific community or nation: “It includes Paul himself as one of the chosen, and those whom he addressed, i.e., the mingled Gentile and Jewish converts in Ephesus.” Love and providential grace was the motivation. God wanted people to live in holiness, without blame or reproach. The Plan began a very long time before Mary gave birth in a stable or the prophet Isaiah wrote the first Messianic prediction.

EPHESIANS 1:5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself...”

We were elected by God to be adopted as His children through Jesus. The Greek manuscript word for predestinated literally means to “set bounds before” or “pre-determine.” Calvinists understand election as an irresistible choice while Arminians perceive election as conditional. Regardless of which theory is ultimately correct the significance for this study remains that a Plan has been initiated and God is describing how it is being deployed. We are to be adopted by God through Jesus, thus Jesus Christ is at the heart of this Plan. Adopted means that we are being accepted into a new family, that our heavenly Father wants to give us a better home than the father of our sinful earthly condition.

EPHESIANS 1:6: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

The Plan is being instituted because of grace, or God's unmerited love. To further understand this Plan we must better understand the quality of God's love, for it is the centrality of the Plan. God's special love is the reason that the Plan was initiated in the first place. Without grace there would be no Plan. “The Beloved” refers to Jesus. The ancient Syriac and Ethiopic versions read, “his own beloved Son.” Some translations capitalize the word Beloved. Paul meant Jesus and translators clearly understand this point. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) actually reads, “because of the Son”. We are therefore acceptable to God because of Jesus. The Plan is a result of God's undeserved grace through the special ministry of Jesus and is worthy of our praise or gratitude.

EPHESIANS 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

“In whom” (Jesus) we have redemption. We are purchased of God because of the death of Jesus, “Through His Blood.” Commentator Adam Clark states: “Christ’¬ís blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence“. Thus far we know that God initiated a Plan with Jesus as its principle agent and that it all takes place because of the special grace or unmerited love of God.

EPHESIANS 1:8 “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”

Paul exuberantly declares that God’s love is unconfined, beyond measure. This Plan is the result of God's unlimited wisdom and excellent judgment. There is intelligent design behind it. We do not behold the final result as that of a scheme or accident, but rather a skillfully crafted and marvelously instituted process. We see here not a reticent God of desperation but a loving Divine richness that is boldly and precisely defined.

EPHESIANS 1:10 “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ.”

When God decided that the time was right, all things would be finally reconciled to God because of the special redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ.

EPHESIANS 1:20 “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

That special time came to pass when God raised Jesus from the dead and placed Him in heaven at “his own right hand,” in other words, the most favored place of honor. In ancient times, the right hand of the kings's throne was the most privileged and enviable of any place in the kingdom.

EPHESIANS 1:21 “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”

The short explanation is that God has placed Jesus in a more favored and powerful place of honor than anything else in existence. Jesus is above (more important) than anyone or anything else, now and at any time in the future. This might simply be expressed in the street language of our day as: “Jesus is it!”


The Pocket Gospel

he word “gospel” occurs frequently in the New Testament: 104 times in 98 verses (KJV) and 97 in 90 verses (ASV). The manuscript word euaggelion (Strong 2098) translated as gospel means “good news” and euaggelizo (Strong 2097) means to announce good news. When the Greek letter gamma appears twice in succession, the first one is phonetically inflected as our letter N. Our English word evangelize stems from this latter word, and the word gospel itself comes from the Middle English words “goode spel” or good story. This phrase Good News appears 108 times in the New Testament of the World English Bible. The gospel was the core activity of Jesus' ministry and He instructed His disciples to deliver this message to the entire world. “And the gospel must first be published among all nations,” Mark 13:10. Other examples might be, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” Matthew 4:23; or “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel Luke 4:18. Apostle Paul certified that he preached this same true gospel, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,” Galatians 1:11-12. Evangelism is a continuing process of telling people about this same Good News concerning Jesus that the Apostles were announcing in their day.

ut what is this gospel or good news? If evangelism is the process, then what is the content? We could spend a lot of worthwhile time researching the teachings of Jesus as found in the first four books of the New Testament, or we could focus on what some have called “The Pocket Gospel.” In a nutshell, we find the principal elements of the gospel message. Paul articulates, explains, and compresses much of the gospel in such a way as to provide us with a brief, yet easy way of understanding how God regards the human condition. His reasoning is simple and his interpretations are not at variance with any part of the narration of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Paul gives us a welcome opportunity to enjoy the complexities of the message in a simple and brief offering.

Verse 23 - All Have Sinned

”For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” All means every human being. Every man and woman has sinned and consequently is guilty. We're all in the same boat. There are no exceptions. The present middle indicative of the manuscript text suggests a continued action, that is, we are “still falling short.” The International Standard Version captures this essence: “... and continue to fall short of God's glory.” Thus, we are helpless to rectify our sinful condition. We initially fail to meet God's supreme expectations and we continue to come up short no matter how we might try. Everyone is guilty. Although people differ greatly in the extent and seriousness of their sins, God sees no difference between the best and the worst of us as far as our own righteousness is concerned. No one is righteous. We are not only guilty of transgression against God but we continually fail to achieve the necessary requirements that would permit us to escape this condition. It is a hopeless situation if left to the ingenuity and imagination of mankind.

Verse 24 - Redemption Is Available

“Being justified freely by his grace through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus.” There is a remedy for our hopeless condition. God knew that we would forever be helpless and hopeless, so He established a plan whereby we could be justified, or found not guilty. Freely is a very expressive word and suggests that God wanted to expiate us from this situation without any remaining grudges. This was possible only because of grace. God loves us so much that He made the first move, even though we did not deserve it. Apostle John explains this love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. Through grace we have been declared guiltless. We have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. Redeem means to buy back or to reclaim something that was previously owned. Originally we belonged to God but lost that position when sin entered the world and separated us. Because we were helpless and because God loved us so much, a special way of escape was provided. Without merit on our part, God furnished a way for us to escape our sinful condition through His matchless and indescribable love. Grace is a word that attempts to describe this unfathomable love. God loves us even though we do not deserve it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. This way of escape is a gift. A gift of love.

Verse 25 - Through God’s Substitute

“Whom God hath set forth to be a PROPITIATION through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Ok then, a way has been provided but what is that way? In this verse the word “Whom” is that way and refers to Jesus of the previous verse. Christ is the one who is our propitiation. This infrequently used word means to conciliate or appease. Christ became a substitute for us in order to appease the righteous standards of God. The righteousness that God expects is acquired by us through our “faith in his blood” (Christ). Forbearance is generally defined as “a refraining from the enforcement of something that is due.” Thus, during former periods of human iniquity, God was forgiving earnest pleas of repentance by patiently looking forward to Christ's future redemptive work. Refraining from enforcement further exemplifies God's true love and grace during Old Testament times, a period not usually identified with grace. This might suggest that there is more evidence of grace in the Old Testament than one might initially consider. Jesus died for everyone so that they may experience the fullness of God's unmerited love. “But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone,” Hebrews 2:9. Now, instead of being guilty, we are free. We have been redeemed or purchased back by God. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's,” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Our appropriate response to this grace is to exemplify our gratitude by telling others about the gospel or Good News.

t least three observations may reasonably be concluded from this passage of Scripture. (1) God has made a negative observation of the human condition, (2) God has therefore accomplished a means of redemption from that condition, and (3) we are informed that Jesus is the means whereby we are redeemed from that condition. He was and still is our propitiation for the appeasement of God, because of our faith in God's redemptive work through Christ. This message of freedom from sin through faith is the “good news” that Jesus proclaimed during His earthly ministry, and further commanded believers to likewise announce to the rest of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus did not spend three years telling people that they were sinful (bad news which they knew), but rather telling them that God was preparing a means of escape from their sinful condition through faith (good news which they wanted to hear). Should not we also be likewise demonstrating our gratitude to God by spreading this Good News?

Characteristics of God

God is love God is sovereign Sin separates people from God The penalty for sin is separation in hell Jesus is the Redeemer and Author of Salvation Jesus suffered the penalty for everyone Jesus was resurrected from the grave Jesus promised the righteous a place in heaven

Characteristics of a Christian

Confess that sin in your life is separating you from God Be baptized with water as Christ Change from your sinful behavior and attitudes Observe the commandments of Jesus Christ Pray to God frequently Care for the helpless and the needful Watch for the second coming of Jesus Christ Save lost souls until Jesus Christ returns for believers