A few remarks of an introductory nature may not be considered out of order. Remarks pertaining to the general setup of this rubric.
Our editor of the Standard Bearer has requested, that those contributing to this department could write exegetical studies. These should be of a consecutive nature. In attempting to meet with this requirement the undersigned has agreed with the Rev. H. Veldman to also write on the first section of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Rev. Veldman would write on the first 6 verses, and I would continue from thereon.
Naturally, each would then be free to write according to his own mode of procedure and method. Those who have followed the articles of Rev. Veldman rather closely will have noticed that he followed the analytical method. He has written an article on each of the verses, and carefully analyzed each phrase and concept. That was his privilege.
It appears to us that with the analytical method it is more (difficult to bring the unity of thought to the foreground that underlies each element of thought in this section. We say this, not because we would affirm that it is an easy matter to bring this unity of the apostle’s thought, as presented in this epistle, to the foreground. This will ever remain a difficult task, whatever the method of treatment. Yet we feel confident that the synthetic treatment of this passage will show us more of the building and less of the component parts that are used in the making and structure of the building, than is the case with mere careful analysis of each verse and clause.
The Rev. H. Veldman has, according to agreement, called attention to the verses 1-6 of chapter 1 of Ephesians. Our interest in continuing the discussion of this Scripture passage is particularly to the verses 3-6. We need not enter into any details as to what our esteemed co-laborer has written. His articles on these verses are in our possession and are written in clear and concise language, speak for themselves and are not in need of further elucidation.
In the course of our discussion in this article and those to follow, we will, of course, have opportunity to refer to these verses and to the explanations given by the afore-mentioned author. Indeed, the proper understanding of the verses 7-14, in no little way, hinges on the correct understanding and exegesis of the verses 3-6.
Permit us to call your attention to the fact that we wish to discuss the verses 7-14 by dividing it into two sections. The former of these will be the verses 7-10; the latter the verses 11-14.
We will first call attention to the verses 7-10. These verses read as follows: “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded (which He hath made to abound) toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good-pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: That in the (unto a) dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one (sum up)’ all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him (in Him, I say)”.
The above quotation forcibly and clearly places two matters, two benefits of grace on the foreground. The one benefit is: That the Church of the New Testament Dispensation, as a living, spiritual organism in Christ Jesus, has in the beloved (Son of God) the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. The other benefit is: That to this Church, who thus has been redeemed, God has caused to abound all wisdom and prudence, by revealing the mystery of His will to them. The former of these propositions we find clearly stated in verse 7; the latter in verse 8.
In attempting to understand the implication of each of these benefits we wish to call attention to the following:
Let us begin with the former of the two questions just enumerated.
The text that we have in mind first of all is verse 7. It reads: “In whom we have the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions”. This phrase calls for rather careful analysis. It is pregnant with theology.
The first question is: What is the meaning of: “The redemption through His blood”. The term “redemption” really means: That which has been brought about by paying a “ransom” price, release by ransom. In olden times a slave could be set at liberty, either by paying a great price of money to his owner himself, or by another who paid the price for him. Hence, redemption touches the question of becoming a free man, a son in contradistinction from a bondman, a slave. This is very suggestive in this connection in our text. For the “we” who have obtained this redemption, are, according to chapter 2:3, children of wrath even as the others. All are fallen men, subject to the penalty of sin and death, and therefore, to the wrath of God. We are all in the moral and spiritual bondage of corruption and death. We have not the right to serve God, to love Him, to dwell before His face in holiness, to live the spotless life of the sons of God; in His tabernacle and in His communion. That is the slavery of sin. When the apostle here speaks of “redemption” he means therefore: that act of God’s grace whereby He has paid the price, brought about the release by ransom, so that we are no longer slaves, but free-born sons. By virtue of this ransom by paying the price we receive the right to the friendship and love of God.
“Redemption” is therefore a legal act of God changing our status in relationship to the law of God and to “all things”. It is the cornerstone, the immoveable Rock upon which all God’s dealings with the church rest. This is something to ever bear in mind when beholding the “blessings in heavenly places”.
This redemption is designated; in the text as being the redemption. It is singled out by the writer as standing in a class all by itself. That it stands thus by itself is due to three reasons. The first is, that He who brings about the “redemption”, who pays the price of release is the “Beloved”. He is God’s own Son, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, in whom all God’s good-pleasure is. Secondly, because those who He redeems are under the debt of guilt. They are under the guilt of sin, are guilty before the living God! And, lastly, this is the redemption because of the “ransom” that is brought. The ransom price in this case is not the blood of goats and bullocks () nor corruptible things as silver and gold ( ) but by the “blood of Him, that is, of the Beloved”. The “blood” stands for the life of the “Soul”. Man becomes a living soul. As to the physical side of man he lives a life of flesh and blood. And the life is in the blood, but not in the flesh. Thus it is with the animals, and thus also with man. And whereas Christ took upon Himself our flesh and blood ( ) He could in deepest obedience of love give His life as a ransom price for sin. The meritorious cause of the freedom that we have is alone this “blood” of the beloved, the “blood of the New Covenant”. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is thus the way to the right to sonship; it is the establishment of the love of God for us. Redemption is basic in the work of God; it underlies all God’s dealings with us.
This brings us to the second; part of this text, “the forgiveness of transgressions”. In this connection there are two matters that merit our attention. The one is: What is the meaning of this phrase; the other: what is its relationship to “the redemption in His blood”.
“Transgressions” is the term the apostle employs in the original and not “sins”, as in Colossians 1:14. Not that there is an essential difference between these two terms, that each would designate a different reality in fallen and depraved man. Both refer to man as he is a moral slave; both refer to man in slavery as he stands in relationship to God and His holy law. They differ only in the imagery employed. The term “sins” looks at man’s “missing the mark” of living in perfect love toward God and the keeping of His commandments, while “transgression” refers to this same offence” as an overstepping” of the path marked out by God. We should not overlook the fact, that the apostle in bothand here in speaks in the plural. He says “transgressions”, not transgression”. The implication being, that the apostle has not only in mind sin viewed as one whole, but rather in its many offences. Two matters are thus brought to the foreground. Firstly, that each individual sin is in the sight of God the transgression of His holy will. Secondly, that in our life each transgression counts, it weighs heavy on the balances of God’s justice, cries for vengeance. They all point an accusing finger at us, condemning us to death and hell! By them we are marked and branded as slaves of iniquity, sold under sin!
With this in mind we are in a position to ask: What is forgiveness of transgression? The term forgiveness” literally means: To let go, to permit to depart. In connection with our transgressions it means: not to impute our transgressions to us.
Thus understood the question cannot be suppressed, as to what the difference is between “redemption” and “forgiveness of transgressions”. Grammatically it is possible to view forgiveness as being identical with have the following: “In whom we have the redemption through His blood, namely, the forgiveness of our transgressions”. However, it can hardly be considered correct to thus construe the sense. In the first place it may be remarked, that “redemption” is quite a different act than “forgiveness”. The former is brought about by the blood of Christ once and for all on the accursed tree. It is the laying of the Cornerstone of the building of Salvation. This is not the case with “forgiveness”. Forgiveness is a benefit of God’s grace that we daily receive. And in the text it is therefore not so immediately connected with the “blood” of Christ as is our “redemption”. In close connection with the foregoing remarks, it should not escape our attention that the idea of redemption and of forgiveness are not identical. Forgiveness is: not imputing sins; not condemning on account of actual transgressions. Redemption is the making possible this forgiveness—possible so that the justice of God may stand and the just demand of the law met. Forgiveness is therefore rooted in redemption.
We may, therefore, conclude that both the “redemption in Christ’s blood” and the “forgiveness of sins” are related as follows:
The legal element in the work of God is placed on the foreground; and that not without good reason.
But to this we hope to call attention in subsequent articles.