Salvation is the Restoration of Friendship
We are living in an unprecedented time. Covid-19 has taken the whole world by surprise. Globally, more than 100 million have been infected, and 2.5 million have died. The number continues to rise daily.The global economy is severely affected. Tourism and the airline industries are among the worst hit. The dreams and hopes of millions have been shattered. All these unpleasant events may give the impression that God is against humanity.
However, when we turn the pages of Scripture, they paint a different picture. In the Garden of Eden, God warned Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of eating is that “you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). This warning is a pregnant statement.
When death entered humanity, it is not just physical death (Rom 5:12). Embedded in this statement are all genocides, pandemic and ecological disasters from Adam’s time to the year 2021 and beyond. Covid-19 and everything evil are inbuilt in this pregnant statement.
By warning Adam, God did not want humanity to suffer. Since Adam was free to choose, God desired that he chose wisely. When Adam chose to eat rather than to heed the warning, God came looking for him.
Adam and Eve hid because they were afraid and ashamed (Gen 3:10). God knew where they were and what they had done. Nevertheless, he called out to Adam like a friend looking for a friend, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).
God’s coming to the Garden is a sign of friendship. Although Adam and Eve were afraid of him, God did not abandon his friends who did not heed his warning. Since every choice has consequences, God had the unpleasant responsibility of spelling out the consequences of his warning to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:16-19).
Despite Adam’s disobedience, God provided some relief for them. Since Adam and Eve were embarrassed by their nakedness, God killed some animals to clothe them. The animal skins provided some relief to their shame due to nakedness (Gen 3:21).
God kept the door for the restoration of friendship open, unlike the Devil, who has no hope of restoration. By turning away Adam and Eve from the tree of life, God showed mercy (Gen 3:22-24). It would be unimaginable if Adam and Eve ate from the tree of life. They would be perpetual sinners without hope of restoration. If this were the case, the fate of humanity would be sealed. By allowing Adam and Eve to return to dust, God kept the door open (Gen 3:19).
Since death reigns from Adam’s time (Rom 5:12), God could deal with humanity’s trespasses. God took personal responsibility for all the sins that came through Adam’s trespass. As God, he could not die. By becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ, God could die for humanity’s trespasses. God identified with humanity through Jesus Christ coming into the world by a virgin (Mat 1:18-25). As a son of Adam, Christ died on the cross for his family’s sins, Adam’s descendants (Luk 3:38). His blood covered the whole world’s sins (1Jo 2:2).
While the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary to deal with humanity’s trespasses and consequences, this act of propitiation and resurrection is not the ultimate of the Gospel but the penultimate. Without the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, God could not reach his ultimate goal. By dealing with Adam’s trespasses and consequences, God opened the way to fulfil his ultimate purpose to restore the friendship between God and humanity.
The friendship begins today for all who believe because God lives in them. God will walk with his friends through thick and thin on Earth until the New Heaven and Earth arrive (Eph 4:30). Then, God will live visibly among them as they will be his people, and he will be their God (Rev 21:3).
If you have accepted his friendship, God no longer condemns you in Christ. While God accepts us despite our imperfection, God urges us not to compromise by offering ourselves to do what is right (Rom 6:12-13). If we ask God to help us, he certainly will do so through Christ, who lives in us (Tit 2:11-12).
If you have not accepted his friendship, it is never too late to accept God’s offer of friendship. John Stott, the late vicar of All Souls Church, Langham Place, suggested a prayer for you.
“God, if you exist (and I don’t know if you do), and if you can hear this prayer (and I don’t know if you can), I want to tell you that I am an honest seeker after the truth. Show me if Jesus is your Son and the Saviour of the world. And if you bring conviction to my mind, I will trust him as my Saviour and follow him as my Lord” (Basic Christianity, 1980, 19).
Even at our final moment of life, it is never too late to believe in Jesus Christ. The God of the Universe is merciful and gracious to his friends, both estranged and restored.
Cheng Eng Hwa