The Redemption from Lawlessness
Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…

When we hear that we are not under the law, there is a danger of our allowing ourselves to feel a vague impression that the requirements of the gospel cannot be quite so strict, and that we are now a good deal more free to take our own way than if we were under the old bond of legal restraint. A general laxity of moral tone has too often been disguised under a title of Christian liberty; and a reference to the consolations of the gospel and the provisions of grace has too frequently prevented any serious distress and contrition at the consciousness of the inconsistencies and shortcomings of an unholy, self-indulgent life. In making the Christian revelation, God has been careful to guard against such an abuse of gospel truth by exhibiting side by side, as correlative and mutually dependent truths, the proclamation of pardon, and the provision for holiness. If we fall into the Antinomian snare, it will be not only in spite of the plain teaching of Christ, but also in defiance of the great moral lesson exhibited in the Atonement. "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity," that is the negative object of the teaching of grace; and purify "unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," that is the eternal and positive purpose of God towards the elect bride of His Divine Son. The word translated in our version of this passage — iniquity — might literally be rendered lawlessness, and suggests the moral attitude and condition of him who is altogether ignorant of, or indifferent to, the claims of the Divine law, or who wantonly sets them at defiance. From such a state of soul and habit of life Christ is here represented by St. Paul as dying to redeem us, and we may add, from all that in any way savours of or leads up to these; for it is from all lawlessness that we are redeemed, whatever specific form it may assume. Let us consider a little more closely how our natural disposition towards lawlessness is affected by the influences of true Christian experience; in other words, how grace guards against or triumphs over lawlessness. This life of lawlessness is quite compatible with knowledge of the law; indeed it only assumes its worst moral type when the sinner is familiar with the law's claims and sanctions, just as the worst criminals are those who know that the State has enacted laws against the crimes they are committing, and who yet continue to commit them; but, whether ignorant of it or familiar with it, the lawless will resent or endeavour to evade legal restraint, and to a greater or less extent act as though no law existed. The great attraction of the life of lawlessness is the liberty which it seems to promise. The lawless soul recognises no superior authority, and is ready to ask defiantly, "Who is Lord over us?" For while the life of lawlessness appears to be a life of liberty, when we come to examine it a little more closely, we make the startling discovery that it is really a life of skilfully concealed bondage. The truth is, that lawlessness itself becomes a law, and operates with inexorable force upon those who have sought their liberty in it — the apostle calls it "the law of sin and death." We may illustrate this by referring to the analogies of social life. We know well that in human society lawlessness must mean tyranny. Any one member of society who acts out of law will be sure to infringe the rights of some other which the law was designed to protect. The thief leads a life of lawlessness, but it is at the expense of others on whom he preys. Lawlessness must ever mean the subjection of the weaker to the stronger, and from this we may judge what must inevitably be the condition of the lawless man. If in such an one the higher elements were really the stronger, no worse consequences perhaps might happen than the production of a morbid asceticism or a stoical insensibility; but unhappily with such this is not the case. The lawless man, by his very lawlessness, is cut off from God, and therefore from all those holier influences which might have stimulated these higher elements of his nature, and enabled them to hold their own, while by the same lawlessness he is exposed to the influence of the great author of lawlessness, with whose spirit in this respect he is in perfect sympathy. Hence the lower elements in the man's nature, in one form or another, are sure to carry all before them, and to exercise a certain tyrannous supremacy by virtue of the right of the stronger. Thus we see that there comes into existence a certain law of lawlessness, which is the most execrable of all forms of slavery, and which binds, as with an iron yoke of bondage, those who, to realise their foolish dream of independence, have turned their back on the law of God. Lawlessness becomes law, and when, wearied with the tyranny of lawless forces, the lawless heart would fain return to a state of allegiance to law, it finds itself precluded from doing so by that anarchical force, that other law in the members, which will not submit to the dictates of the will, any more than to the commands of God. Herein lies the most startling illustration perhaps that can be found of that dread law of Nemesis in which the ancients believed so firmly, and not without good cause. By and by voluntary yielding becomes compulsory submission, and he is the slave to a greater or less extent of that habit of lawlessness to which he has surrendered himself. But there is more than this to be said. When we consider the position of God as the moral Governor of the universe, it is easy to see that it is a just and righteous thing that they who reject His authority should be allowed to find their punishment in their own miserable experiences, that He should ordain the self-imposed tyranny of lawlessness to be the scourge of lawlessness. But if this be so, this cursed bondage comes upon the lawless not merely as a natural sequel attributable to the force of habit, but as a part of the effect o! that Divine law of retribution which backs with terrible sanctions the revealed law of God, the complete effects of which will be exhibited in the doom of the lost. Now if a man turn his back upon his allegiance to the law, it will follow a s a matter of right as well as of necessity that he shall fall under the supremacy of the great lawbreaker, and become the slave of that spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Hence, although Satan's authority over us is a usurpation, yet there is a certain sense in which his sway is backed by right. We have given him a claim over our desecrated nature by our wilful apostasy from God. Sin and death form as much the subjective law of the sinner's experience as life and holiness constitute the law of the experience of the saint. Just as this outward world itself has laws of its own laid down by infinite wisdom, which regulate its motion and form its character; as every flower of the field is possessed of a law of its own, in obedience to which it assumes a certain form, and passes through a definite process of development; even so the experience of the lawless has a certain subjective character, and is governed by laws which belong to it. As nature has fixed laws of its own, so fallen nature has fixed laws of its own; and this law of fallen nature, the law of sin and death, springs into existence, as I have been endeavouring to show, as the direct Nemesis of sin. With these thoughts present to our mind, clearly discerning that lawlessness works out its own Nemesis and prepares its own retribution, we proceed to ask how can man he saved from penalties so justly incurred, and delivered from those legal provisions which render him the victim of his own lawlessness? St. Paul's words in the passage supply us with the only satisfactory answer, revealing to us an undertaking that was indeed worthy of a God. In one way only could a means be provided to enable those who had become the lawful captives of the anarchical powers of darkness to pass from that condition into lawful liberty. Whatever God does must be in accordance with law. God's dealings with humanity must be consistent with His dealings with other intelligences. God cannot, and will not, arbitrarily exercise towards man, however favoured man may be, an unjust and unholy partiality. So we read in this passage that "Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness." It was only by redemption that alike the claims of law and the force of lawlessness, as against the sinner, could be met; and the only redemption price that the great Judge of all could either propose or accept is that which is indicated in our text — "Christ gave Himself for us." Now it is evident that if the redemption of humanity is to be effected by the sufferings of Christ as the voluntary victim of the broken law, His sufferings should bear some close resemblance to those which sin has incurred; otherwise the great lesson suggested by His sufferings must be lost, and one supreme object of them be defeated. The passion of man for self leads man to submit to the tyranny of sin, even though he hates and despises it while he yields to it. The passion of Christ for human souls led Him to submit to be made sin for us, though He knew no sin, and intensely loathed it, even while He represented it. But the similarity extends even further. We have seen that it is part of the Nemesis of lawlessness that the lawless sinner comes under the power of him who is emphatically the lawless one, and that, having renounced all allegiance to Divine law, he should experience the results of the negation of law amidst the representatives of lawlessness beneath. Even so our blessed Lord was content to be given over, not only into the hands of wicked men, but in some mysterious sense to the cruel animosity of the lawless spirits of evil. "This," He exclaims, "is your hour, and the power of darkness." Perhaps, without intruding into mysteries that are too profound for our limited knowledge, we may even go a step further, and suggest that as it is doubtless part of the just retribution on lawlessness that the lawless should be left to himself, and cut off from all connection with Him who is the eternal source of law, even so Christ, representing our lawlessness, was cut off from all conscious connection with His Divine Father in those terrible moments spent upon the Cross, when the confession of inward and agonising desolation was wrung from His breaking heart. I picture to myself the dying Son of Man as in some sense outlawed, denied all recognition and protection from above, and victimised by violence and cruelty below. In this voluntary submission of the Son of God to penalties such as are due to the lawlessness of man, we have presented to our minds the most solemn and striking tribute that ever was paid to the majesty of Law. And now that the ransom has been paid, it is our blessed privilege to claim the full benefits of this redemption from all lawlessness, and to return in our own actual experience to the happy liberty of the law. From henceforth ours is to be a life of law, but not such a life of law as we vainly tried to lead before we accepted His redemption. Christ has not redeemed us from one form of bondage only to place us under another. He has redeemed us from lawlessness not to place us under law, but to place us in law, and law in us. Thus St. Paul speaks of himself as being, not without law, or lawless towards God, but lawbound to Christ. It suggests the thought that devotion to Christ had become a law of life to St. Paul, in the fulfilment of which he found his "perfect law of liberty." We are redeemed from lawlessness that we may enjoy the liberty and not feel the constraint of law, and this end is attained when law coincides with inclination, which it will when its seat is within the heart. Law is liberty when we live from law, not by law. The Christian carries the law of his being within him, just in the same way as the objects of the natural world carry the law of their own motion or development in themselves. He has but to be true to his new nature, to recognise its instincts, to yield to its impulses, to respond to its claims, to gratify its desires, and he will find himself fulfilling the law without any thought of fulfilling it, indeed without a thought of its being law. Christ has redeemed us from lawlessness that He may Himself become our life law, because He is our new nature. Two things surely are manifest in New Testament Scripture; first, that in redemption all has been done for us that is necessary to render it possible for us to "attain the prize of our high calling"; second, that we shall only attain the prize of our calling as we by faith appropriate to ourselves what has thus been made ours. It is most instructive, with these two thoughts in our minds, to notice how throughout the New Testament the work is represented as done, and yet to be done; the blessing as bestowed, and yet to be appropriated. A few instances out of many must suffice; but they might be multiplied almost indefinitely. We are spoken of as already saved, and as being saved, and yet are directed to work out our own salvation (Acts 2:47; Philippians 2:12). We are dead with Christ, and our old man is crucified with Him, and yet we are to mortify our members that are on the earth (Romans 6:6, 8; Colossians 3:5). We have put off the old man, and yet we are taught to put him off (Colossians 3:9, 10; Ephesians 4:22). Do you believe really that Christ has redeemed you from all lawlessness, whether in little things or in great? and do you claim the practical effect of the deliverance in the same way in which you once claimed the practical effect of His expiation for your justification? How many of us can believe readily enough that His redeeming grace may raise us above flagrant forms of iniquity, and yet doubt His ability to save us from the more common, and therefore less startling, forms of infirmity and sin. From all He has already redeemed us. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness; and He gives Himself to us, that He may become Himself our law. Yes, let us believe it, from all lawlessness. That embraces the little things as well as the great things. It embraces the little tempers, which are so lawless, the rattle of the tongue, which is a very lawless member. Be no lodger satisfied with hoping and longing, and desiring, and wishing for better things; but bring your strong faith to bear upon God's fact. Christ died to ransom you from all lawlessness, and He has not died in vain. Believe that you are redeemed, and claim it of the Redeemer that He shall apply His own redemption.

(W. H. M. H. Aitken.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

WEB: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

The Purpose of the Discipline of Grace
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