Al Mohler, Monday, January 10, 2011
The third great movement in the Christian metanarrative begins with the affirmation that God’s purpose from the beginning was to redeem a people through the blood of his Son – and that he does this in order to show the excellence of his name throughout eternity. The God of the Bible is not a divine strategist, ready with a new plan in the event his original plan fails. The God of the Bible is sovereign and completely able to accomplish his purposes. Thus, when we come to the great act of God for our redemption we come to the very heart of God’s self-revelation.
Beyond this, an adequate understanding of human sin brings us to the inescapable conclusion that there is absolutely nothing that the human creature can do to rescue himself from his plight. We find ourselves in an insoluble situation and are brought face to face with our own finitude. What is worse, all our efforts to solve the problem on our own lead only into an even deeper complex of sin. We are rebels to the core, and our attempts to justify ourselves lead only into deeper levels of sinfulness.
When we come to the rescue of sinners, the Christian narrative points directly to Jesus Christ as the one sent by God to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin and to inaugurate the kingdom of God as Israel’s Davidic messiah.
Of course, Jesus Christ does not enter the biblical narrative only at this point. As the prologue to the Gospel of John makes clear, Jesus Christ is the eternal Logos through whom the entire cosmos came into being (John 1:1-3). The Word through whom the worlds were made now enters human existence, assuming authentic humanity, in order to identify with us and to save us from our sins. The doctrine of creation leads to the doctrine of redemption, for the cosmos was created as the theater of God’s redemptive acts.
Redemption is God’s work from beginning to end. The Gospel explains that God, in order to maintain his own righteousness, must to exact an adequate punishment for sin. Yet, while we were his enemies, God saved us by providing the very sacrifice that he required.
Just as God revealed himself in the most exclusive terms (monotheism), he also reveals his gospel as exclusive of any other means of salvation. And as at every other point in the story, we are completely dependent upon the Bible for our knowledge of Christ and of the Gospel. It is only through the Bible that we come to understand who Jesus is—very God and very man—and to understand the purpose for which he came, suffered, died, and was raised from the dead. We come to understand that the Gospel alone explains how the requirements of divine justice can be satisfied and sinful humanity can be rescued from the wrath of God.
Once again, God’s sovereignty and holiness are displayed even as the drama of redemption demonstrates God’s power and character. The Gospel does not reveal God’s mere intention to save. At every turn, the Bible reveals God’s power to save and his determination to do so for the glory of his own name.
The plan of redemption is set out in Scripture through a succession of covenants that find their fulfillment only in Christ. As the New Testament makes clear, there is one Gospel that is addressed to all people and all peoples. God’s determination is to redeem the people from every tongue and tribe and people and nation in order to show the excellence of his name.
The Christian worldview must also be framed around the fact that God is calling out a people, cleansed by the blood of his son. Over against the autonomous individualism of contemporary American culture, the Christian narrative establishes our identity in Christ as part of a new humanity. This new humanity is, in this age, established as the church. Those who come by faith to know the Lord Jesus Christ are incorporated into the life of the Church as a foretaste of the fullness of life in Christ that will be fully known in the kingdom yet to come.
Every worldview must explain if there can be some rescue from the human predicament, however that predicament is described. The master narrative of Christianity defines that predicament in straightforward terms — we are lost, dead in our sins, and the very enemies of God. But, thanks be to God, we are not left there. The Gospel of Jesus Christ declares salvation and redemption to all who believe in him.
Our salvation is not a matter of therapy or technique. There is nothing we can do to earn or to deserve God’s salvation. But what we were powerless to do, God did in Christ. No other promise of salvation will do. The Christian master narrative excludes all other means of rescue and redemption. This central truth explains why the Christian worldview is filled with such hope, but is grounded in such humility. God is saving a people from every tongue and tribe and people and nation, and the story of our redemption is the great turning point in the narrative, but it is not the end of the story.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary