The Purpose of Redemption

A friend stranded at a London airport after his flight was cancelled explained to me that, rather than wait till the next day for the rescheduled flight, he paid for flights that night with an alternative airline.  The prices involved were eye-watering – both to him and me – but because it was so important to him to get home that night, he paid it.

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The purpose of redemption

To deliver us from the curse of the law

God had a definite purpose in redeeming.  At the most basic level redemption fixes a problem, and the Bible confronts us with the uncomfortable problem all humans share: we are cursed because of our inability to live up to the requirements of God’s law:

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed [is] everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." (Galatians 3:10)

Man’s inability to keep God’s law perfectly was illustrated once and for all by the Jewish nation who were directly under that law; but all the world is implicated in their failure, because we are all made of the same stuff (Romans 3:19). Admittedly all people have not lived like the Jewish nation under the explicit standard of God’s law, but all of us have the “work of the law” written in our hearts – that inner voice which tells us that, at the very least, we fail to do what we instinctively know is right, and (who would deny?) that we sometimes do what we know is wrong (Romans 2:15).  That is a problem because God’s standard is perfection all of the time and without exception (James 2:10), and we all know that we’re not perfect.

Because of our inability to produce perfection the curse of the law applies to us all, and to be cursed of God leads ultimately to the terrible prospect of eternal separation from His goodness, and exposure instead to His wrath (Matthew 25:41).  But the glory of the gospel is that Christ’s death, which offers forgiveness and acceptance with God as a free gift, provides deliverance from the curse of the law to everyone who receives Him:

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed [is] everyone who hangs on a tree") (Galatians 3:13)

To deliver us from ungodliness

As a result of our fallen nature the default disposition of the human heart is to kick against God. We have an underlying resistance to His claims over us – sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle.  It not only affects how we live, it means we are fundamentally incapable of pleasing God. This brings inevitable misery into the human experience.  But liberation from our enslavement to ungodliness is available on account of Christ’s death:

(Jesus Christ) who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself [His] own special people, zealous for good works.(Titus  2:14)

Those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus become the objects of His special interest.  He acts in their lives to purify them “for Himself”, and to fill them with a passion for “good works”.  Good in the absolute sense is that which is in harmony with God’s essential nature.  For the Christian, living to please God is not simply an aspirational life choice; it is a moral obligation following on from redemption:

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

To deliver us from a frustrated existence

Redemption delivers from the eternal consequences of sin, but it also gives life an immediate purpose. As if to underline this point, Peter sums up life before coming to know God through Jesus Christ as “aimless”:

… you were not redeemed with corruptible things, [like] silver or gold, from your aimless conduct (received) by tradition from your fathers (1Peter 1:18)

As well as pointing out the aimlessness of life without Christ, Peter states the new purpose redemption gives to life:

…who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:21)

The secret to a fulfilled life is not to accumulate wealth, or to reach the pinnacle of a chosen career, or to tantalise our senses.  Everything we can touch and see will pass away, and we will before long meet our Maker to be judged based on what we have done with His Son, Jesus Christ.  To know Him as Redeemer is to be eternally safe. Not to know Him is to be eternally lost. The secret to a fulfilled life is in fact a relationship:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

Redemption is not only destiny changing, it transforms life in the here and now.  Life in this world inevitably brings difficulties (Joh 16:33), but this makes it an ideal school in which to learn to continually and joyfully place our confidence in God for all that belongs to this life, and all that belongs to the next (Romans 5:3-5).  The whole Christian experience is in fact summed up in six words, thrice-quoted in the New Testament:

"The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38)

Faith simply means to take God at His word as revealed in the Bible.  Placing one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem, to save, to justify, to forgive us – there are many ways we could say it – is the door into the Christian life.  And just as we enter God’s blessings by faith, we continue to enjoy them by faith. 

To deliver us from decaying bodies

There is a future aspect to redemption which all those who are God’s eagerly anticipate.  He has promised His people a new body free from the deathward tendency which so evidently binds us right now.  He has planned the moment so that it will take place against the fitting backdrop of a truly universal celebration of all that Christ achieved by His suffering for sin:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected [it] in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only [that], but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:18-23)

It will be a moment of scarcely imaginable glory, celebrated by all creation, which too will experience deliverance!

To showcase God’s glorious grace

In the ultimate sense we may ask: why?  Why did God at such cost provide redemption for sinners?  The Bible gives the answer:

In whom also (Jesus Christ), having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

God did it because it was the ideal way of demonstrating what He is like.  Like nothing else could, the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus” showcases, the gracious disposition of God toward the underserving. For all eternity those who receive God’s gift of redemption through His Son will be the standing proof of His glorious grace, and will never tire singing His praise:

And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9,10)