Any conversation about salvation must begin with the idea of a loving God. Our salvation is about the deep abiding love of the God of the universe expressed towards us in the offering of redemption.
In thinking about the origins of salvation I use my imagination in a thought experiment about what it might have been like before time began.
The only thing present would have been three personalities: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As perfect beings they must have experienced incredible intimacy. Because they were without flaw, it is safe to assume that there was nothing but perfection and sufficency in the relationship. And emanating from this perfect union, like incandescent light, is God’s glory.
And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was….Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:5, 24)
God did not need to create Mankind, yet he created us for his own glory.
Think of God’s glory as a multi-faceted jewel. And one of the facets of that jewel is the joy that comes from being in relationship with the God of the universe. They were not lonely, they were not bored, and they were in perfect harmony, perfect community, and perfect joy.
Why risk the interruption of the bliss of perfect oneness and community? I suggest a dominant reason was for the joy of community. And this joyful community by its very nature aches to be shared.
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalms 16:11 (NKJV)
And in the sharing of that joyful community, nothing of the original quality or quantity of joy is diminished in any way. Like two people deeply in love and completely filled up with love for each other and then they have a baby and the joy of community is intensified and not diminished.
The Triune God enjoyed community so much that they decided to create a being, a race of beings with whom they might share this untrammeled joy. It was into this warm glow of hope, acceptance and love that God created mankind.
So imagine the Garden of Eden and there and see Adam and Even in perfect innocence. The lush Garden and the compatibility of all the creatures and nothing but perfection as far as the eye can see.
God and Adam and Eve are getting along in beautiful fellowship. Then God says, “I have one commandment I really want you to keep. There is one tree in the Garden I forbid you to eat from. And, the day you eat of it you will die!”
Would they obey the command of God or would they take it upon themselves to disobey God and suffer the consequences? The consequences were serious. Death. Everybody understood.
Then one day they were deceived by the Evil One. Satan convinced both of them that God was lying to them about death. He told them God would not destroy something He just created. No, the real issue was that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would become like God.
They were convinced by his deception so they ate the forbidden fruit. And the minute they ate it they began to feel an uncomfortable gaze. They felt uncomfortable with one another–where they were embarrassed to be naked so, they sewed fig leaves together to put around their loins.
Not only were they uncomfortable in one another’s gaze, now were uncomfortable with God’s gaze. So as God came to walk with them in the cool of the late afternoon, instead of an open, unashamed fellowship, they were embarrassed to be seen by Him so they hid themselves in the dense foliage, and made God ask that question, “Where are you? Why are you hiding from Me? Have you eaten from the tree?”
They stammered for a moment, looking at each other with blushed faces. They blamed each other and then the serpent, but God knew and they knew. The Bible says that God cursed the serpent and He cursed the man and woman and the ground–He cursed all of society. By doing so, He was saying, “Humanity will live with the residual effects of disobedience from here on out. All throughout history you are going to live in a sin-infested society. Now there is going to be disease and death. Now there will be pain in childbirth. There will be pain and heartache.”
But before God left them that day, He did something for their shame. God knew that their feeble attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves was insufficient. Adam and Eve thought they could just pull some fig leaves and stitch them together to cover themselves. God said, “Your human efforts aren’t good enough to cover what you have done.” So God slaughtered an animal and with the skins He covered the loins of Adam and Eve.
Up until this point in human existence Adam and Eve didn’t know anything about death. They had never seen blood flow before. They had never heard an animal cry out in pain. They had never seen the unsightly view of a crumpled corps as it’s blood is soaking into the soft ground.
I would imagine that they gasped in horror. They watched as God, who had meticulously created them and all living things, takes the life and spills the blood of an innocent animal. The hands that formed all life are now taking life.
What do you suppose Adam and Eve were thinking? “What’s going on here? We are the ones that sinned, not the innocent animal. What’s going on here?” God probably reminded them what His commandment was, and what the consequences were. He had said to them, “In the day that you disobey Me and eat of that tree, there is going to be a death around here. You are going to surely die.” I think that woke Adam and Eve up very fast to the fact that they should have died. They were the ones who should have been slaughtered.
If he would have exercised only the justice side of His nature, they would have died. But God isn’t only justice. He is also grace and mercy. And by His own choice, He decided to show grace to Adam and Eve. And He exercised justice on the innocent third party.
I promise you it was a lesson Adam and Eve never forgot. They would never forget how serious sin is. It’s serious because it’s a violation of the Holiness of God. God is so holy that even a shadow of a sin requires justice. And so justice was served…on an innocent third party and grace was extended to Adam and Eve.
“The wages of sin is death…
…But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
That’s why when Jesus’ last blood was flowing from His body on the cross, He cried out, “It is finished!” What was finished? “No more bloody sacrifices. No more innocent third party deaths! It’s over. It’s complete. The ultimate sacrifice had come. The ultimate price had been paid! All sins have been paid for in full!”
He was saying to all of mankind, “Know that you are loved! You now know that the blood has been shed. You know that God has visited his justice on me, so He wouldn’t have to place it on you. He’s not angry with you. He loves you. But you must trust in His Son.”
But that means that we have to turn from any hope of paying for our sins ourselves. We have to trust in what Jesus did on our behalf. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover their shame. I see us doing something like that with our little alibis for our sins. Our rationalizations and our comparison with other people…
All are going to stand before God one day and He is going to say, “What did you do with the blood of Jesus, My Son? What are you doing with fig leaves?” And metaphorical fig leaves won’t cut it when you had access to the blood of Jesus.
What esle can we do? We must marvel at this gift. We must hold with great honor this precious blood. It was poured out at such a great cost.
Remember, “it was for the joy that was set before Him enduring the cross….” With our salvation—the story is complete and the joy is fulfilled.