In the beginning God created all things (Genesis 1). The culmination of His creation was humanity, created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). In the Garden of Eden, the perfect place prepared for Adam and Eve, our first ancestors were deceived by Satan to disobey God, introducing the first sin to humanity. As a result, corruption entered Creation and the human race (Romans 5:19). In accordance with God’s decree (that is the Law of Sin and Death— see Genesis 2:16, Romans 6:16, 8:2, and 8:13), Adam and Eve were ousted from the Garden and lost access to eternal life (Genesis 3:23-24). So from that day forth, the corruption introduced to humanity through our ancestral parents has given all humans a predisposition to sin. As Paul said: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Isaiah the prophet: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way.” Therefore, having alienated ourselves from God, we have become slaves to the one we obey (that is Satan), and through the Law of Sin and Death our end is shared with Satan and the other angels that rebelled against God. We await certain judgment and the Lake of Fire (see Romans 6:16 and Matthew 25:41). Satan laid claim on all men according to the Law of Sin and Death, and we were in bondage to him.
But God made a way. God sent His eternal Son Jesus: in nature, fully deity, one with the Father in likeness, but distinct in personhood. Jesus is the only begotten of the Father, true light shining from His Father’s being, born of a virgin, taking the form of sinful man, yet without sin. Jesus was sent not to change His Father’s mind about man, but rather change man’s mind about the Father. Jesus, God incarnate, made His dwelling among men to show man how to live in accordance with the Father’s will. Jesus, in the form of a man, humbly subjected Himself to all His Father’s teachings and obeyed the Father to the fullest—even unto death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus taught the very words of the Father to all men and showed us how to live by His example, so that we would learn to walk as He did. His mission was to introduce us to God and His ways, so that we could turn our hearts back to the Father through Him.
Through Him, yes—because apart from Him, there is no freedom from sin. God, through His incredible mercy and grace, sent His only begotten Son, not just to turn our hearts to Himself, but also to destroy the devil’s work, that is to set us free from the bondage of Sin and Death, and enslave us rather to righteousness. God gave His Son into the hands of sinful men, who mocked Him, scourged Him, and nailed Him to a cross unto death. Jesus’ blood flowed freely; it is by His blood our sins are cleansed, and by His broken body we are made whole.
We, being in bondage to Satan via the Law of Sin and Death, needed our freedom purchased. God offered His very own Son, perfect, without sin, in very nature deity in every way, yet in human likeness, as a ransom to purchase our freedom from Sin and Death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus, because He was without sin, was not subject to the Law of Sin and Death. As a result, Death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24). Jesus plundered Hades, the underworld or abode of the dead, and preached the Gospel to the dead for three days. Having set the captives free, Jesus returned to the earth in bodily form, with the keys to Death and Hades in His hands (Revelation 1:18). In resurrected form, Jesus taught the disciples for 40 days concerning the Kingdom until His ascension to heaven, where He now rules His Kingdom at the right hand of the Father, in all His glory and splendor (Acts 1:3, 9, Hebrews 1:3, 12:2).
The Bible says that Christ was sent as a ransom (Matthew 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:6). Let us consider for a second the dynamic of a ransom scenario, which was all too common in biblical times. Who is the ransom normally paid to? The captor of course! So under the widely-accepted modern doctrine of the atonement, who is the ransom paid to? God the Father. Let me clarify. The satisfaction theory of atonement says that Jesus was sent by God to satisfy His own need for justice. Otherwise, the payer is also the payee.
Compare this to what the early church believed: man was taken into bondage by Satan, and held under the Law of Sin and Death. Jesus was sent by God to pay the ransom and free us. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you have read or watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis, you have already been exposed to what once was the orthodox teaching of the atonement. The White Witch was Satan, Aslan was Jesus, Edmund was man, and the Deep Magic was the Law of Sin and Death. Edmund sinned and the Witch had a rightful claim to him because of the Deep Magic. Aslan was given as a ransom to free Edmund. Yet death could not hold Him because Aslan was innocent. This is how the deal went down for real.
Just like the white witch in Narnia overextended herself, in the real world Satan tried to grasp more than he was entitled to. He was allowed to abuse and torture Jesus. He was allowed to cruelly put Jesus to death on the cross. But he wanted to be able to hold Jesus forever in Hades—something to which he had no legal right. In the end, Satan was outwitted because of his own evil. The Father resurrected Christ from the grave. Through Christ the Victor, we have a hero who voluntarily sacrificed Himself as a sheep for the slaughter, knowing that through it all, Death could not hold Him and He would plunder Hades and conquer Death. He gave His life as a ransom, suffering humiliation and great agony, in order to steal the keys of Death and Hades so that through Him, all who call upon Him would be saved from Sin, Death and Judgment. Through the ransom He paid, Christ has set men free from the Law of Sin and Death.
Through the incarnation of Christ the Teacher, the living Word, we have been introduced to the very will of God in Christ’s life and teaching, such that we can simply repent and turn to Him and His ways. Our unconditional surrender, a broken and contrite heart, opens the floodgates of God’s mercy. Through our baptism, we partake in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-7). The doors of Death and Hades are opened wide and we go through unscathed, our sins washed by the water and the cleansing blood of Christ. We come up from the waters, chains loosed, free to fellowship with God in all holiness and righteousness. The old man dies with Christ and the new man is birthed; we are born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. The culmination of this mystery is our own bodily resurrection at the sounding of the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Now the purpose of the atonement is this: to restore our hearts back to God in true repentance, turning away from sin and towards holiness and righteousness. Our salvation is as sure as our changed heart. We are adopted as sons, grafted in as wild olive branches to the holy Vine, in communion with God and the saints—all partakers in the body and blood of Christ (John 6:54). Our invitation to the Vine comes by grace through faith, in repentance and baptism. We remain on the Vine by abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ is maintaining our obedient love relationship with Him (see John 15:10 below and John 14:15 and 21). There can be some level of obedience without love, but there is no love without obedience. And without such fruit, the branches will be cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:6 and Matthew 7:19). Our continued relationship with Christ, evidenced in our fruitfulness (that is, our obedient love relationship with Christ) demonstrates our perseverance in the faith and our hope for salvation (Luke 8:15).
Let us read the fifteenth chapter of John’s gospel to see how Jesus says it:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:1-11)
It is clear in this passage that we are to both get on the Vine and remain on the Vine. We will revisit this passage later. Thus far we briefly discussed several elements concerning the subject of salvation: man’s fall, Christ’s atonement, and the two discreet aspects of the Vine: getting on and remaining on. Next we will discuss the right foundation and related topics.