Redeemed for What?*

By means of this article I suppose I am addressing people who, without exception, profess to be redeemed children of God; people who can and occasionally do sing:

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed by His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

It’s wonderful that you can sing this song. I rejoice with you in this.
But have you ever asked about the reason or the purpose of your redemption? You, no doubt, know who your Redeemer is—God through Jesus Christ. You, no doubt, also know you’ve been redeemed—by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, again, have you ever inquired concerning the why, the reason, the purpose of your redemption? It’s essential that you make this inquiry. It’s essential that you ask this question because the glory of your God and the spiritual well-being of yourselves and your children are involved.

Consider with me then the question: REDEEMED FOR WHAT?

All of you are familiar with the Bible passage found in Genesis 6:1–8:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose. And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah.

This passage speaks of the sons of God who were the Sethites, those in whom Cod had performed and carried out his work of redemption; and of the daughters of men who were the Cainites, those in whom the power of sin was dominant. The passage tells us that the Sethites—the sons of God—intermarried with the Cainites—the daughters of men. Further, this commingling resulted in such rapid development of sin that God visited this earth with the judgment of the flood.

Why did this happen? Why was there this intermarriage between the people of God and the children of the world? Many and varied answers have been given to this question. But I am convinced that the Bible shows that this intermarriage and rapid development of sin occurred, in large part, because the people of God failed to ask the question: REDEEMED FOR WHAT?

Let’s go back to the beginning, to the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning God created all things in heaven and on earth. He created all things for a purpose—the highest purpose possible—his glory and his praise. In the beginning God also created man, and he created man in his image. By creating man in his image, God established covenant between himself and man. In this covenantal relationship man lived as a friend of God and as a servant, an office-bearer of God. Man was commanded to have dominion over all creation. He was to exercise this dominion in order that he might cultivate the creation, that is, open the creation so as to cause to come out of it all the treasures which God had stored there for man’s use in serving God. Also man was to preserve the creation and protect it against evil and the service of corruption. Finally, man was to bring his work and its fruit in worshipful praise to God.

Thus, it became evident that God willed through man to bring creation to its fulfillment and goal, namely, his glory. This is the way it was in the beginning.

But the following chapter of human history is filled with tragedy. Man sinned against God by eating of the fruit of the tree which God had forbidden to him. In doing so man showed himself unwilling to be a friend and a servant of God. As a result, the covenantal relationship of God with man was broken, and the relationship of God with his creation through man was broken as well.

Thus, questions arise. Will God leave matters thus? Will God leave his purpose with man and his creation unfulfilled and unrealized?

The answer is no, for immediately God acted. And he did so by establishing an antithesis in his world. He put enmity between the woman and the serpent, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. In the full light of Scripture we know that the woman and her seed represent the Christ and all those brought by faith into his body. We know too that the serpent and his seed are all those who live in enmity against God and persist in apostasy. By putting enmity between the woman and her seed and the serpent and his seed, God graciously and redemptively restored his covenant with part of fallen humanity.

But why did God do this? For what purpose? This question is to be answered by returning to that initial covenantal relationship between God and man. God created man to live in covenant with him so that, through man, he might fulfill and bring to fulflllment the purpose of his creation, namely, his glory. God recreated, redeemed part of fallen humanity unto gracious covenant with himself, that through redeemed humanity he might yet fulfill his purpose. Redeemed man was and is to live as a friend of God and work as a servant of God. Redeemed man was and is to serve God by cultivating, preserving, and bringing his work and its fruit in worshipful praise to God.

This antithesis, to which we referred earlier, comes to clear expression in the lines or families of Cain and Seth. Consider, first of all, the family of Cain. In this family we sec the rapid development of sin. This development is evidenced in Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel. It was a premeditated act, an act in which Cain denied any fault and showed concern only for the consequences of getting caught. But there was no evident awareness of offending God.

At the same time, by the working of God’s common grace, we find the Cainites exercising the gifts of invention in the advancement of civilization. They made and lived in tents. They raised cattle. They handled the harp and the pipe. They forged cutting instruments of brass and iron. The Cainites worked with the things of God’s creation. They developed a culture. Was this in itself bad? Of course not. But for what purpose did they do these things? The Song of Lamech indicates that this working with God’s creation was to build man’s ego, to feed man’s pride, to establish man’s greatness. In all this man sought to establish his own greatness in independence from and in antipathy toward God.

When we—the redeemed of the Lord—read this we become sick at heart. Imagine man using God’s world in antipathy toward God! And so we turn with eagerness to the family of Seth. This was the family of God, the line of redemption. Here we will find God’s people cultivating, preserving, inventing and working in the creation and bringing all in praise to their Creator and Redeemer.

But when we actually do turn to the family of Seth we are greatly disappointed. We behold a keen awareness of sin. We sense a desire to keep the family of God free from the sinful influences of the Cainites. We see Enoch walking with God and being exempted from death. But, all in all, we see nothing more than a holding action. There is no evident progress in the knowledge and service of God. Nothing is said about the Sethites influencing the Cainites. There is no word which indicates that the Sethites asked the question: REDEEMED FOR WHAT? Nor is there anything which indicates that they answered the question by seeking to serve God in the cultivation of his creation unto his glory.

And what was the result? This! “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.” Genesis 6:1, 2. Concerning this period Gerhardus Vos writes:

Nothing is said about any influences proceeding from the Sethites upon the Cainites. While the power of redemption remained stationary, the power of sin waxed strong, and became ready to attack the good that still existed. The character of the period in this respect finds clearest expression in what is said…about the commingling of the Cainites and the Sethites through intermarriage. The latter allowed themselves to become assimilated to the wickedness of the former. Biblical Theology, p. 59.

It appears that the youth of the covenant looked about themselves. They looked first to their own family, the line of the redeemed. They saw them drinking in the grace of God and growing fat on that grace. They saw them holding on and preserving themselves in that grace, lest it slip from them. Meanwhile, they saw also that the line of which they were a part was doing little or nothing in the power of that redeeming grace. Evidently the youth of the covenant came to the conclusion that the whole thing was insignificant and meaningless. These young people were wrong. They sinned. But can’t you understand something of the reason why they came to this conclusion?

The youth of the covenant also looked to the world, the line of apostasy. Doing so, they saw invention and investigation, progress and activity. They saw that something was happening. They evidently saw things which impressed them as being significant and meaningful. And it was in this setting that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair. Their parents no doubt uttered warnings: “You must not do this, for you are redeemed.” “REDEEMED FOR WHAT?” There was no satisfying answer. And so the sons of God took wives of all that they chose. In so doing they sinned. The sin cannot be excused. But perhaps it can be understood.

And now we take a big leap from the far distant past to the present. And, having done so, we see that the present is not much different than the past has been.

Humanity is yet divided. Our God has graciously seen to that. There is the world of apostasy—Cain’s line—which is yet very busy with and within God’s creation. They are yet making music, producing art, writing books, waging political campaigns, building factories and organizing labor unions. But, in all that they do, the apostate mind is evident. Every product of hand and heart constitutes a malevolent sneer at God and a benevolent smile at man.

There is also the world of belief—Seth’s line—the redeemed family of God, of which we believe we are a part. Purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, we’ve been made the objects of his grace through faith. And, as the redeemed of the Lord, we’ve preached the Word, administered the sacraments, engaged in church discipline, and performed the work of evangelism and missions. Singing “Faith of Our Fathers” we’ve fought for truth against heresy. We’ve struggled to preserve ourselves from worldliness. We’ve put forth every effort to resist the forces of secularism.

Do I criticize this? Of course not. I thank God for those who fought in the past. T join those who are willing to fight now and in the future.

But in all this we have failed to ask the questions: “REDEEMED FOR WHAT” “DOCTRINAL PURITY FOR WHAT?” “AN ORTHODOX CHURCH FOR WHAT?” And, ignoring the fact that we have been redeemed unto the fulfillment of our cultural mandate in the world, with the exception of Christian education and a few timid exercises in other areas, we have left the creation of our God to the apostate mind and the Devil. This is not to say that we have done nothing with or in God’s creation. But too often we’ve done it in the spirit of the Christian cobbler who was asked, “Sir, what is your vocation?” He answered, “I’m a soul winner.” “Why then do you cobble shoes?” “Just to pay expenses,” was his response. But, in spite of the fact that this attitude is often commended among us, it is neither sufficient, nor is it biblical. It fails to recognize that the fruit of the Christian’s labor—be it a well cobbled shoe or an ear of corn—is to be presented, in itself, as an offering of worship to God.

And do you realize what is happening because of our failure to ask and answer the question: REDEEMED FOR WHAT?

We are now confronted with a generation which takes a different attitude toward what Cain’s line is doing. They have accepted its art and sung its music. They have been driven by its politics and made dependent upon its economics. They have been formed by its literature and bombarded by its film productions. They have acquiesced to its philosophy of law and been absorbed into its labor unions. And, as a result, they are not so concerned about the pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of Christian discipline. They are not so sure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problems tearing at men. They are not convinced that sexual activity outside the bond of marriage is sin. They seriously wonder if God did create this world. And they see no reason why everyone should not be saved—if there is such a thing as salvation or sin to be saved from.

The sons of God are looking to the daughters of men! They think them fair! They see no reason why they should not take them wives of all that they choose. Shall we remind them that they are redeemed? Of course. But do not be surprised if they ask, “REDEEMED FOR WHAT?”

YES, REDEEMED FOR WHAT? From the Scripture we know the answer and we have known it for a long time. Years ago Dr. Abraham Kuyper wrote:

Man has been created to serve. He was born “ebed Jahveh” the servant of the Lord, and only in the service of his God is he invested with power and dominion. The service of God is the whole of his worship. Religion and service coalesce. The whole of the creation must serve man, in order that man might serve his God. Through sin man withdrew from this service of his God. For this reason Christ has been put in the place of Adam so that, as our Head and in our Name, he might perform this service, which we had refused to undertake….Thus, it is Christ who accomplishes the service of God. He alone is the Anointed, the true “ebed Jahveh.” The office in the midst of the church is His alone. However, Christ has been exalted to sit on the Father’s right hand, and, therefore, can Himself no longer perform the service of His God…in the flesh; He makes use of persons called and appointed on earth for this service.

Quoted in Christian Counseling in the Light of Modern Psychology, G. Brillenburg Wurth, pp. 89,90.

Who are these persons? The redeemed. And what are they to do? As servants of God through Christ they are to employ all creation in the service of praise unto their Maker and Redeemer. We know this! We talk about it all the time. But we have done very little with all our knowledge and our talk.

Consider for example what the Christian Reformed Church has said concerning the Christian and the Film Arts. It has said that our cultural task in the area of the film arts is two-fold:

1) The Christian community should “engage in the constructive critique of the film arts, being led by those who are specialists in art and in Christian ethics.”

2) “There is an urgent need for the production of film arts materials that bear the stamp of the regenerate heart and mind.” Acts of Synod 1966, p.35.

Now that we have said this, what have we done? There has been some critique of the secular film arts. But, comparatively speaking, this is not too difficult to do. All that is required is that the Sethites evaluate, in the light of the Word, what the Cainites are doing. But what about the production of film arts materials that bear the stamp of the regenerate heart and mind? This aspect of our task is more difficult. It cannot be accomplished by individual film directors seeking positions with M. C. M. The production of Christian films will require the development of a Christian perspective in the film arts and the organization of a Christian film company for purpose of production. It will require Christian action. But, since this charge was placed before us three years ago, I have not heard one word or whisper which indicates that the Sethites are willing to move into the area of the film arts to do to the glory of God what the Cainites are doing to the glory of man.

Or consider the political, governmental aspect of life. This certainly is an area in which we believers can and must serve and glorify Cod. We receive our guidance and direction for this service from the Word of God, which has much to say concerning this matter. The Word tells us that God is sovereign over all things, including government (Romans 11:36). The Word teaches us that God has endowed government with divine authority (Romans 13:1). As ministers or servants of God “for good” (Romans 13:4) it is the duty of those in government to so function as to promote justice, order, and decency, and to seek the well-being of the nation in its parts and as a whole. Taking these and other principles revealed in the Word, it is the responsibility of believers to serve and glorify God in the political sphere by functioning according to these principles, and by calling upon other citizens in the land to do likewise.

But it cannot be said that we have done this. We have left the political sphere to the humanists and their anti-christian political philosophy. Without protest or counter-effort we have sat by quietly while they established a principle and practice of politics, which views government as deriving its authority from the people rather than God; government which functions of, by and for the people rather than of, by, and for the sovereign God; government which is directed by the will of the majority, rather than by revealed principles of truth and righteousness. Naively accepting the humanist claim that this concept of government guarantees national unity and freedom for all, we have allowed ourselves to be placed in bondage. We have stood and watched as government has become a tool in the hands of individuals and groups of individuals to be used for the advantage of some rather than the welfare and liberty of all. This use of government has resulted in closed-shop legislation which has deprived Christians of their freedom in labor. It has also resulted in one school system (the so-called public school system) receiving tax benefits, while Christians have had to establish and maintain schools which reflect their perspective without these benefits. This is freedom with penalty, which in reality is not freedom at all.

And what have we Christians done in the way of protest or positive action in these areas? Very little! For the most part, we have acquiesced. We have allowed ourselves to be drawn into this humanistic political structure. We have participated in and cast our votes for the very political parties which promote this humanistic philosophy. We are helping to pull the trigger of the gun which is aimed, not only at our heads, but at Christ and his Kingdom.

Is it any wonder that many—especially our youth—are coming to the conclusion that we are just talking when we speak of doing all things everywhere to the praise and glory of our Maker and Redeemer? Should we be surprised when there are those who conclude that the principles of the redeemed life have no meaning or significance for the world and the times in which we live?

It is time that we not only talk about, but also demonstrate that we know the answer to the question: “REDEEMED FOR WHAT?”

For this reason I am thankful to Cod for Christian Action Foundation. Indeed, it is another organization, of which we already have more than enough. And, no doubt. it will remain just another organization to many. But to those who are deeply concerned about an answer to the question, “REDEEMED FOR WHAT?” C. A. F. provides an answer and a challenge. It calls us to the propagation of biblical principles in the various spheres of society, recognizing that to do so will require much study, talk, discussion, preaching and teaching. But, at the same time, C. A. F. challenges us to sponsor and engage in Christian communal action in society. It is for this that C. A. F. is working. It is to this that C. A. F. is calling us by its first Social Action Congress this summer.

We must respond to this challenge. Only when we do so, in the power of Christ’s Spirit, will we fulfill the purpose of our redemption, truly glorify our Maker and Redeemer, and avoid a situation in which the sons of God will look upon the daughters of men and exclaim, “They are fair!”

Rev. J. B. Hulst is College chaplain and professor of Bible at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.