The following is a lightly edited transcript.
The Lamb purchased a people scattered among the nations. He purchased a people from the nations. He bought them from the nations. He paid for them out of the nations of the world. This is what John was showing us in John 10:15–16 when he quoted Jesus like this. He says,
I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
That’s why any evangelism succeeds. By his blood, he purchases a people — his sheep — and he gathers them by means of missionaries and witnesses who speak the words of the Shepherd. And the sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd and they follow him and he gathers them from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and they are his kingdom.
“Jesus will die to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
This is what John meant in John 11:52 when he said that Jesus will die “not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” Or consider Acts 18:9–10 where God encourages Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Jesus will die to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. This is what Paul meant when he said to the Ephesians elders, “Care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). That’s also what he meant when he said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Don’t love every woman like you love your wife. And it’s what Jesus meant when he said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).
What did the blood of the new covenant purchase? It’s different from the blood thrown against the altar at Sinai. I’ll read it to you. This is Ezekiel 36:26–27:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
In other words, the blood of the new covenant — the blood of the Lamb — purchased a people who, by the blood, are kept from worshiping the beast. Their names are in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). They’re a chosen people by grace before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). And those whom he chose he purchased, and those whom he purchased he called, and those whom he called he delivered from the heart of idolatry, and those whom he delivered and gave a new heart he justified, and those whom he justified he glorified (Romans 8:29–30).
The purchase of the blood of Christ is a real purchase, not a possible purchase. It’s a real purchase that he obtained forever. What he paid for he will have. The Lamb will have the reward of his suffering. It is sure. It is done. That’s the first thing to say about the question, Who are these people for whom he died or whom he purchased? They are the people in the book of life chosen before the foundation of the world: the church, the bride, the sheep, the children — all believers.
Revelation 5:9 says that these people for whom Jesus paid this price and did this liberation come “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” What should I say about that, of all the things I could say? This isn’t political nation-states. There are six thousand languages, untold numbers of tribes in this world, and God is moving toward every one of them with a purchase that’s finished, and he’s sending us to trumpet the word of the Shepherd, which the sheep will hear and come.
I want to look at Philippians 3 and lay these texts on top of each other. When Paul wrote Philippians 3, he was trying to help a certain group of opponents realize that their vaunted boast in their ethnic and religious pedigrees were useless without Jesus. Here’s what he says:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4–6)
Historic people — Israel. Honored tribe — Benjamin. Cultural, linguistic, ethnic elite — Hebrew of Hebrews. Highest religious exclusivity — Pharisees. All of them honored, all of them esteemed, all of them historically venerated, and in relation to God, all of them precious, beautiful — and yet all of them are worthless when Christ is missing.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7)
And yet as a slain Lamb, Jesus purchased a people from all of them. All over the world, people feel superior in their tribe, their people, their language, their ethnicity. Or all over the world, people feel inferior in their tribe, their people, their language, their ethnicity. Their sense of ethnic superiority makes them feel more worthy of God’s favor, or their sense of ethnic inferiority makes them feel less worthy of God’s favor.
“The Lamb will have the reward of his suffering. It is sure. It is done.”
And into that universal pride and fear or pride and shame, Revelation 5:9 says that the Lamb of God, by his blood, infallibly purchased a people — a single people — from all of them. All of them.
The effectiveness of his blood purchase can’t be stopped by ethnic pride or ethnic fear. He has conquered by his blood. He will have what he purchased. His blood will break the back of all ethnic pride. His blood will overcome ethnic fear. The blood will shatter tribal superiority, and the blood will surprise tribal inferiority. The blood will bring down linguistic snobbery and give hope to linguistic shame.
In other words, Revelation 5:9 — “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” — tells us not only the multiethnic global reach of Christ in his purchase, but it also points to the kinds of obstacles, ethnic pride or ethnic fear, that cannot defeat the achievement of the blood.
The price is paid. The people are purchased. No ethnic boast and no ethnic embarrassment can change the achievement of the blood. Jesus will have his reward from every people.
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