Thursday, August 9, 2012

The God centered congregation celebrates redemption

Ephesians 1:7 "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin"

A God-Centered Congregation Will be Cross-Centered
As we continue in our blog series on what makes for a God-centered congregation, we focus today on the celebration of redemption.  The local church that is God centered will center its living and mission around what Christ accomplished on the cross.  The Apostle Paul writes these words in 1 Corinthians 2:2 - "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."  

In the Bible redemption refers to God's purchasing of His people out of bondage of slavery to sin into the salvation of freedom in Jesus Christ.  In yesterday's post, we noted that a God-centered congregation's strength is scripture.  With that said, what is it that comprises the God-centered congregation's joy, celebration?  It is that chief work of God - prescribed and pictured in the Old Testament and accomplished in the New - redemption.

Redemption was central to God's plan for the congregation of Israel
When God brought Israel out of Egypt in Exodus 13, we read these words in Exodus 13:2 "“Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”  Now why would Yahweh, the LORD, make this statement? In Exodus 13:14-15 we see why: “And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15‘It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’

It was in this decree of God to redeem His people, as well as to remind them of His action on their behalf - that God ordained this law of redemption.  It is in Numbers 3:40-51 that we see God revisiting that decree He had made over a year prior in Exodus 13.  As God sets the foundations for His God-centered congregation, He places at the center of His instructions the celebration of redemption.

What is there to celebrate about redemption?
Our particular text on redemption is Numbers 3:40-51.  In this text, we find four details about redemption that make cause for celebration.  There are four traits about redemption that we find in Numbers 3:40-51.  Today we will consider the first two, noting how they are fulfilled and completely worked out by Jesus Christ in the New Testament:

1. Redemption has a specific focus - you. Numbers 3:40
God wanted Moses to take a census of the every first-born son among the Israelites and record their names.  This tells us something: that when God wants to reveal or accomplish redemption - He has a specific focus, a specific intent.  Who or what is His specific focus? You.  1 Timothy 4:10 states - "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." 

Historically speaking Christ is the Savior of all men - since by His death He paid the price to hold off the judgment that is otherwise set to come upon this world.  All men right now get the opportunity to hear the Gospel as a result of God's common grace extended to all, since it is is God's preference that none would perish, but all would come to repentance. (1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9) Eternally speaking Christ is the Savior of all who believe.  We know that all who believe on Jesus Christ will in no way be rejected by God. (John 6:37)  Anyone who believes in Jesus does so due to God's calling, drawing grace given in the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. (John 6:44; 16:8-16)   

2. Redemption is about Substitution. Number 3:41-43
In Number 3:41 we read twice that the Levite firstborn and cattle were numbered "instead of" the the first born sons and cattle of the remaining Israelites.  Why? Because the Levites was the tribe that represented the people before God in the service of the temple.  In the arrangement of the camp - the tabernacle or worship center of Israel was central, with the Levites camped all around it.  Any other Israelite would had been camped at least a mile away. 

Unless one brought a sacrifice to the doorway of the tabernacle, no Israelite was allowed - save the Levites.  Even then, when an Israelite brought the sacrifice - it was the Levites who took the sacrifice from their hands.  The sacrifice itself was slaughtered in the place of the offerer.  All of this points to Jesus Christ, who died in our place. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Truly Christ was the Lamb of God who was spotless and blameless, suffering the wrath of God instead of us and dying so that all who believe could enjoy eternal relationship with Him. (1 Peter 1:17-18)

Tomorrow we will consider two more features about redemption that make cause for celebration in the God-centered congregation.

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