Monday, March 23, 2009

History of Redemption Sermon 1

Because this sermon begins the entire series, JE begins with the foundational text (Isaiah 51:8). From that verse ("For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.") JE draws a contrast between the happiness of the church of God and the fate of her enemies. The happiness of the church consists of God's righteousness and salvation. The former (righteousness) JE identifies as God's faithfulness to his covenant promises to the church (N.B. this is similar to some scholars today, though instead of it being faithfulness to the covenant of grace they would argue it is his faithfulness to his covenant with Israel). The latter (salvation) is the outworking of God's righteousness. Based on the mention of "forever" and "from generation to generation" JE asserts that the work of salvation began with the generation of man and will continue until the generations end at the end of the world. All that is left to do in the introduction is to state the doctrine that governs the entire series: "The Work of Redemption is a work that God carries on from the fall of man to the end of world."

Because this opening section sets the stage for the entire series I have given a sizeable summary, but from this point forward in this and the remaining sermons I will be much more selective.

From here JE moves to define terms (he's a Puritan, what else would you expect?). On the one hand the Work of Redemption is used narrowly in Scripture to refer to the purchase of salvation accomplished through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ (what I might refer to as the micro-gospel). On the other hand, the Work of Redemption more broadly refers to all that God does towards the purchase of salvation, including both what God does to prepare for the purchase and the application of that purchase to his people (what I might refer to as the macro-gospel).

Although JE focuses on the Fall as the beginning point of the Work of Redemption, he takes pains to indicate that there were many things done for the Work of Redemption even before the creation of the world. Indeed, JE argues that God's creation of the world and his ongoing providence over it are for the greater purpose of the Work of Redemption.

The remainder of the sermon identifies five things God purposes to do in the Work of Redemption: (1) place all his enemies under his feet; (2) restore the ruins of the Fall with respect to both the elect and the creation itself; (3) bring into union all of the elect in Christ; (4) complete and perfect the glory of all the elect by Christ; (5) accomplish the glory of the Trinity to an exceeding degree.

Two things in particular strike me from this sermon. First, I appreciate how JE holds together both the micro and macro gospel. In our own day some focus on one to the neglect of the other. Some focus almost exclusively on the death and resurrection of Jesus and its benefits for the salvation of the individual sinner; consequently, they lose sight of the fact that the cross is the inauguration of the new creation that will eventually result in a new heavens and new earth. Others focus almost exclusively on God's plan to make all things new things; as a result, they lose sight of the need for personal repentance and faith to participate in the new creation that God is bringing about through Jesus Christ.

Second, the five distinct purposes of God in the Work of Redemption capture the different strands of the biblical testimony quite well. I know that in my own upbringing within the evangelical tradition that the focus was almost exclusively on God saving the lost. That of course is true, but it was not until I was introduced to the writing of John Piper that I became aware of God's greater end of glorifying himself. And it wasn't until sometime later that the purpose of God defeating his enemies came onto my theological horizons.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

Dr. Harmon,
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts from reading Edwards. It definitely whets the appetite for one who has only read a little of Edwards. I appreciate the thorough, yet concise synopsis of his redemptive sermons. I look forward to reading this volume someday, but until then I will continue to enjoy your snippets!! :)