Title Sovereignty in Salvation: The Doctrines of Grace on blue mountain background

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing the doctrine of total depravity and its deep implications for our understanding of man’s condition before a thrice-holy God. We have, in essence, talked about what it truly means to be lost. Believers who got saved later in life have clear memories of their life before Christ, and they have a wealth of experiential knowledge of their enslavement to sin and what it was like to live with complete and total disregard for the things of God. Conversely, there are believers, such as myself, who got saved while in their youth and therefore never got to experience their total depravity fully blossom. But regardless of when the Lord saved you, all of us started out as slaves to our own sinful lusts and desires. Yes, even when you were five years old and singing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” in Sunday school, you were in fact a whole-hearted, fully devoted servant of sin if you were not yet converted. Yet God, because of His great love for us, did not leave us in darkness, but shone the light of Christ in our hearts, and opened our eyes so that we may see the beauty of His grace and truth. This of course poses the million-dollar question: how did God accomplish this? To answer that question, let’s recap what we have discussed so far in this series and understand the tension that exists.

First, we have established that mankind is inherently wicked and sinful, unable to perfectly obey the law of God. Second, mankind is, legally speaking, guilty before God and deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Since our issue is legal in nature, any solution that exists must likewise be legal. A payment has to be made that can cancel our sin debt and satisfy justice. What can satisfy the wrath of God and the justice that He demands? There is only one answer according to Scripture, and that is the shedding of blood, for “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

This rules out the possibility that we can atone for our own sins by our good deeds, because as we just read, a blood payment is required. Furthermore, as we have learned from last week’s study of the doctrine of Total Depravity, our sin nature runs so deep that it affects every thought and intention of our heart, and all that flows from it are our sinful passions, even in our apparent good works. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6). So, does this mean we shed our own blood to atone for our sin? No, because we are stained with sin and would therefore not be an acceptable sacrifice before God. How about someone else’s blood? No for the same reason. As noble of an act as it is for someone to lay down their life for the sake of their neighbor, that person too would be an unacceptable sacrifice because of original sin. How about an animal’s blood? Animal sacrifices were an integral part of the Old Covenant, but as the author of Hebrews plainly states, “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Though animal sacrifices did provide a temporary covering of sin, they were only intended to be a picture that foreshadowed the one and only sacrifice that could actually atone for and take away sin.

In the Levitical law, there were many requirements regarding animal sacrifices, but there was one specific requirement that I want to focus on. According to Leviticus 23:12, we find that the animal that was to be offered as a burnt offering during the Feast of Firstfruits was to be a one-year-old male lamb without blemish. This is a repeated theme we see throughout the Pentateuch, beginning with the institution of the Passover in Exodus 12. What this foreshadowed was the perfection of the sacrifice that God requires. So, we have our list of qualifications for an acceptable sacrifice that actually atones for our sin. It must involve the shedding of blood, it must be the blood of a man, and it must be from one who is perfect and without sin. It was a man who plunged the entire world into darkness, and it must therefore be a man who can bring us out of our darkness. We need a sacrifice that actually represents humanity, something that no angel or animal could ever do. But didn’t we already establish that no man can be a legitimate sacrifice? Not exactly. What we established, in more precise terms, was that no man under Adam’s federal headship can be a legitimate sacrifice because of original sin. The real question is this: has there ever been a human being not under Adam’s federal headship who offered himself as a sacrifice for sin that was acceptable to God?

This is where we really begin to behold the beauty of God’s plan of redemption. All through the Old Testament, a Messiah was promised who would save His people from their sin. The apostle Paul explained this plan eloquently when he wrote, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law…” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus Christ is indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, the “seed of the woman” promised immediately after the Fall. He was born of a virgin, which means that His mother Mary had never known a man and she conceived supernaturally. Therefore, Jesus is not under Adam’s federal headship and did not inherit his sin nature, yet He is very much truly a man.

Furthermore, the fact that Jesus is the Son of God also means that Jesus is equal with God, and only God can be equal with Himself. Jesus is indeed truly God in human flesh, born without a sin nature and also completely incapable of sin, unlike Adam who did not originally have a sin nature but was still capable of sin. Our great Redeemer and Savior lived the perfect life that none of us could live, so that He can be the truly acceptable propitiation for our sins. Jesus, our unblemished Passover Lamb of God who willingly laid down His life at Calvary as our once-for-all blood sacrifice, did so as a man to represent mankind.

This raises one final question regarding our salvation: how can we ever hope to have the perfect atonement of Christ applied to us if we are stuck in our total depravity? We have already established that apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we remain perpetually enslaved to our sin, so what must we do to be saved? The Bible gives a very clear command, and that is to repent of your sin, and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The moment you place your trust in the Savior, you can be confident that God has already done His miraculous work of transforming you into a new creature, with a new heart and new desires. You will not achieve perfection in this life, but you will have a new direction towards godliness and holiness, and the indwelling Holy Spirit will unceasingly guide you every step of the way until the day when the Lord takes you home.