Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 

Redemption involves recovering something by paying the debt against it. A redeemer is a one who buys back, or pays ransom, or makes amends. There are many passages of Scripture in the Old Testament (especially in Isaiah) that speak of God being the redeemer of his people, and the New Testament tell us that Jesus, the Son of God, is our redeemer. But I found it hard to understand why redemption is necessary at all. I could see how God saves his people, but how is paying a debt involved? Who must God pay in order to redeem us? And why did Jesus have to suffer and die for that? It made no sense to me. It was a great mystery. But after much prayer and study I think at last I now understand, and I would like to share with you what I have found about the beautiful meaning of God's redemption.

Godís throne is founded on justice 

I will begin with Adam and Eve. As you know, they were severely punished when they disobeyed God. But remember, Satan was also severely punished for tempting them. Why was Satan so eager to cause them to sin? Surely he knew that he would also be severely punished? First, I must point out that justice is the very foundation of Godís throne, for it is written, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before thee" (Psalm 89:14); and again, "Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne" (Psalm 97:2).

Justice or forgiveness: the dilemma

Pure forgiveness violates justice; and when justice is violated law and order is undermined. When murderers, adulterers, and thieves are excused, or inadequately punished, then murder, adultery, and theft multiply. Now, Jesus commanded law abiding citizens (his disciples) to forgive each other because we ourselves are guilty of occasional offenses. Coupled with love this kind of forgiveness promotes law and order. It is just for those in debt to repay those indebted to them. Thus, justice demands that if I offend others, and I want forgiveness from them, I must forgive them of their offenses against me. Of course, the rule is not limited to specific persons and cases. It does not mean that I must only forgive John for committing X against me, because I committed X in an equal amount against John. Otherwise such forgiveness would be unworkable; for nothing is ever exactly comparable. Thus, we are commanded to forgive minor offenses in the general sense. However, major offenses, such as murder, adultery, and theft, are offenses against God's commandments. And he does not excuse such things. Authorities who have the power and the responsibility to administer justice against major offenders, themselves become guilty of offending God when they excuse or inadequately punish violators, for they are his servants to administer his justice, as Paul said:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:3-4). God never sins, therefore he is under no obligation to forgive. Of course, he certainly has the right to forgive, but simple forgiveness undermines justice; and since God is no fool, he will do nothing which undermines his very foundation. Moreover, God cannot be just if he arbitrarily punishes the offenses of some, while excusing the offenses of others. For if God excuses our offenses, then justice demands that he must excuse others who offend him as well. So you see, when Satan tempted God's children to offend him, he was guaranteeing (no doubt he thought) that God could not destroy him without also having to destroy his children. Otherwise, God would violate justice; something he cannot do because it is his very foundation. Hence, Satan constantly reminded God of our guilt: And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God" (Revelation 12:10). Without our redemption justice demanded that if God was going to cast Satan into Hell, he must also cast us into Hell with him because we all sin. Therefore, Satan accused God's children day and night in order to save his own skin, because he was not fully cast out of Heaven until Christ redeemed us.
Godís ingenious solution

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). You see, God knew from the beginning how he was going to save us from being condemned with the devil (Ephesians 3:7-11), but he did not reveal the details of his great plan for our deliverance until the time actually came to carry it out. He only made subtle references to it, such as Isaiah's reference to the Redeemer coming to Zion (Isaiah 59:20). There were many things God did not make clear in the Old Testament. Just as the Old Testament contains only subtle references to life after death, so too, it contains only subtle references to the Son of God. Here are two from Isaiah: "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts..." Isaiah 44:6), and, "Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One..." (Isaiah 49:7). God's plan included combining mercy with justice. Amazingly, his plan enables him to show mercy by forgiving his children of their guilt (Romans 5:10), while at the same time condemning his enemies (1 Corinthians 15:25) for their guilt-yet still being perfectly just. Who could have thought of it? No doubt Satan believed it was impossible. But with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

Here is how it happened. Remember, God cannot violate justice. Guilt without condemnation violates justice, and so all who offend God must be condemned, whether they are his children or not, for God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). However, condemnation without guilt also violates justice. You see, our Redeemer lived a perfectly sinless life. Thus, he did not deserve suffering and death. Yet, in obedience to his Heavenly Father, Jesus worked unselfishly, doing good, even allowing himself to suffer and be put to death. Is this not unjust, to let perfect holiness be punished? Would this not be a great violation of justice? Yes! It would be a colossal injustice if there was no compensation.  Therefore, Jesus' suffering and death cannot go without reward. Consequently, since God commanded Jesus to go through that ordeal, and Jesus obeyed fully, then God owes Jesus compensation. Is God not a God of justice? Now, there is no way we human beings can fully appreciate the value of a completely sinless life-absolute spiritual perfection. In God's sight, such a one is a priceless treasure. And so, because of Christ's perfect obedience, God gave him a perfect reward. He was made Lord of all, both in Heaven (except, of course, the Father) and on earth. Moreover, all men who willingly sacrifice their lives here on earth to follow Jesus, and who accept his Lordship will be redeemed from condemnation. For you see, Jesus has already paid the price for us. It is part of God's compensation to him. Our redemption from guilt and condemnation is not a matter of simple forgiveness by God, it is an act of justice for Christ. God owes Jesus the right to free us from our guilt. Thus, we were "bought back", or "freed from blame or debt" by the payment of Jesus innocent blood on the cross. For Paul told his Christian brothers, "...you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20). 

And the words of that holy man of God, Isaiah, who said that God is our redeemer, are now fulfilled. For he spoke the words of God, when he said, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25). These words were fulfilled at the cross, when the innocent Messiah died in obedience to the Father's will in order to be able to pay the debt for our sins. And Paul could tell his Christian brothers,

And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, [I say], did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:13-15). Thus, by redeeming us, Jesus, "blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us." Moreover, by so doing he "despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." For Satan and his mighty allies no longer had an excuse for their own guilt. Thus, God's great adversary was defeated and cast from Heaven: And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death (Revelation 12:9-11). And now, God the Father will no longer remember our sins for the sake of God the Son, for the author of the book of Hebrews said, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Is our beloved Heavenly Father not a God of life giving mercy, as well as justice? For Isaiah also said: "Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him" (Isaiah 30:18). How wonderful God's justice is, for it requires him to show mercy to all who belong to Jesus Christ.
Our debt to Christ

And now, those of us who genuinely commit ourselves to Christ are ever struggling to purge ourselves of our impurities, striving for his perfection, trying to become more worthy of such mercy (2 Corinthians 7:1). We sacrifice our earthly selfishness, and follow the footsteps of Jesus, as he commanded: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34), and "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). In this evil world, no man (save Christ himself) ever reaches perfection, or complete worthiness. Even the great apostle Paul confessed, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12). But one great day perfection will come, for Jesus has purified our spirits (1 Corinthians 6:11), and we will be given new bodies of holiness (Philippians 3:21). Moreover, in that new world, the congregation of his sanctified-those whom Christ, the Son of God, purchased with his own blood-will be glorified with him. 

But mercy will be only for those who accept Christ. Not all will be redeemed. Our brother, the apostle John, said it so much better than I can:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18). A note about Islam: The word of God teaches that Jesus alone is qualified to be our redeemer. Thus, Mohammed, who claimed to be greater than Christ, is a false prophet. The truth is, Mohammed was a disciple of Satan, used by him to destroy faith in Christ, our only redeemer. Do not be deceived by the seductive words of his followers. This false religion is is a growing threat to Christianity. Be a faithful soldier of Christ, and fight against it with "...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17) at every opportunity you have. 

Postscript: 

Some may wonder why Satan wanted to have Jesus killed if it meant losing his case with God. It is possible that he simply did not recognize the full implications of Jesus' perfect obedience; for the bible says the plan of our redemption remained a great mystery until it was fullfilled.  On the other hand, perhaps it was because he saw that he was losing anyway, and he wanted to preserve his earthly power. Apparently he had run out of ways to try to defeat Jesus, for he saw that he had resisted every effort he made to tempt him. Moreover, Jesus was getting more influential, with a growing number of disciples. It was, of course, fear of Jesus growing influence on the people that led the leaders of the Jews to have him crucified. Thus, it seems, Satan's last tactic was to subject Jesus to this final, terrible ordeal in a "last ditch" effort to cause him to disobey God. And if that failed, it would at least disrupt his following, and remove him as a threat to his earthly dominion. God, it seems, has allowed Satan to gain and maintain the kingship of this world, for Jesus referred to him as "the prince of this world." And when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he did not dispute Satan's boast about ruling over all nations. Thus, by getting rid of Jesus, Satan would have an easier time maintaining his power on earth, which would make it easier for him to continue his quest to defeat God. For the Bible says that the Devil knows his time is "short" (no doubt meaning relative to eternity). And so he continues trying to destroy all on earth who are on God's side (See Revelation 12:12-17). Thus, Christians will always have to "fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 6:12) as long as God tolerates the existence of Satan and his disciples in this world which is dominated by God's enemies.



1.Many in this permissive generation say that God is now a God of love and not justice. The truth is, love is impossible without justice, for injustice is cruel.

2.All of us suffer unjustly from time to time. But since we are all guilty anyway; and whatever suffering we experience is never comparable to what we deserve for our guilt against God, then such unjust suffering deserves no reward. Yet God will reward us if we endure unjust suffering for his righteousness sake; although not because he owes it to us, but because of his grace.

3.See for examples, Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:9-10, 1st Peter 1:10-12.

4.The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him" (John 12:19).

5.God allows all on earth to sin against him-to a point-in accordance with God's own great purpose.

6.See for example, John 12:31

7.And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine (Luke 4:6-7).
 
 
 

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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