The spiritual reproductive process is not solely God's work in us, but we also play a major role in what is happening. The work of God in this world is the implantation of His Spirit in us which gives to us the barest elements of the Divine nature, and then He works on the growth and perfection of holiness in His people. We are part of a work of transformation, of conversion, to holiness.
It is here that prayer fits into the picture because Peter writes in verse 17, "and if you call on the Father." That is prayer. Prayer is an integral part of the obtaining, the achieving, the process of transformation—from the glory of man to the glory of God. Prayer fits right into the scheme of things.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?
Redemption involves buying back something that has been taken away. Herbert Armstrong spoke metaphorically of our being kidnapped by Satan. Because the Devil has forcibly held us from the liberty God wants us to experience, we must be redeemed. We are in this humanly inescapable predicament because we have sinned in following the same manner of living as everybody else. We are released from this by means of the payment of the sinless life of Jesus Christ in a vicarious death in our place and by our repentance. Because He was sinless, our sinful imperfections can be overcome and paid for.
Would imperfection in an animal disqualify it from being offered on the altar? Yes, very much so, even if the imperfection was internal and invisible to the eye. If it had a lame leg, or if its hide was marred by scarring or was ragged and mangy in appearance, it was not acceptable. If one of its eyes had been gouged out or was infected, or if its ear had been torn by a predator, it was disqualified. If it had a disease, even an internal cancer or tumor, it was unfit, even though it might have looked reasonably healthy to casual, external observation so that only the owner knew of its imperfection.
Each of these physical flaws represents spiritual imperfections that could have been in Christ except that He was perfect in all His ways. For 33 ½ years, He never once had even a single, tiny, solitary moral or spiritual imperfection. He never did anything unethical, immoral, or unspiritual. Not one instance of any kind of carnality marred His life. Even if the thought of sin arose in Him, He quickly put it out of His mind. Always, in every instance, He used the mind of God.
Thus, sin never desecrated or blemished Him in any way, internally or externally. He did not carry around any envy, bitterness, or gall—there was nothing in Him that would disqualify Him in any way from being a fit sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. It is astounding that anyone could live this way for even a day or two, let alone 33 ½ years!
Christ qualified in every way to be the sacrifice for our sins. Consider, however, that the literal sin offering He made at His crucifixion took only a few hours to unfold. By comparison, His efforts to qualify to be the sin offering by being a perfect burnt, meal, and peace offering required 33½ years of sinless living!
Reflecting upon what Christ accomplished is sobering to anyone of a mature mind who has attempted to duplicate even a small portion of what He did. It should certainly lead us to the deepest gratitude we can offer. Isaiah 53:9-10 gives us an insight into God's attitude toward His Son's sacrifice:
And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
Not even one time did Christ's heart rise up in an attempt to deceive or to strike out in violent anger. He was childlike in attitude yet mature in His wisdom, but it pleased God to bruise and put Him to grief as the offering for our sins.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering
Redeem means "to buy back." The essential purpose of biblical redemption is to deliver a person or thing from captivity or loss, and as such, it becomes an almost-perfect image for God's saving actions in behalf of sinning mankind. How much would we be willing to pay for the life of someone we love dearly? Kidnappers take perfidious advantage of this desire for the safety of a loved one. They steal a person precious to another—usually a child but sometimes a mate—and hold them for ransom to extort a grand sum of money they think will put them on easy street.
God the Father was willing to pay the ransom price for us by giving up the life of the One He loved most, His own Son, the only other being in all of creation that lived life on the same level as He did. He freely made this sacrifice in exchange for our liberty from our bondage to Satan and our debt to death at the same time. Likewise, the Son willingly volunteered to be the payment in full.
Now, let us turn this reality around and examine it from the perspective of the one released. As one released, how great a sense of loyalty and obligation born out of gratitude do we feel toward the One who came to our rescue by paying such a huge price for our freedom? Plainly and simply stated, this is the issue in regard to our spiritual obligation. This aspect of our salvation is one of the major themes of the book of Ruth. At one point in the narrative, Ruth prostrates herself at her redeemer's feet (Ruth 3:7-14), illustrating her recognition of her obligation.
The book of Philemon relates an interesting event in Paul's life in which he calls upon Philemon's sense of gratitude and obligation to him. In verse 8, Paul says he could use his authority to order Philemon to accept the slave Onesimus back, charging any debt he owed Philemon to Paul. However, he appeals to him through other means. In verse 19, he delivers a double-barreled proposition. First, Paul himself writes in his own hand that he will repay any of Onesimus' indebtedness, putting Philemon in greater-than-normal obligation. Then, Paul reminds him that he owes Paul his very life spiritually. He implies that Philemon's spiritual indebtedness to him should more than cover any material debt Onesimus owed to Philemon.
Therefore, Paul suggests that Philemon charge it to his account. What Paul did for Onesimus reflects in a small way what Christ did for us. As Paul laid himself out for Onesimus, Christ did for us in a much greater way to pay our spiritual indebtedness and set us free. As Paul claims Philemon's indebtedness to him, so Christ claims our indebtedness to Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation