The “Heart” of the Atonement (Part 4): The Redemption Model

Sacrificial Lamb better“Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it.” That line from an old protestant hymn is a declaration of praise. The thought of redemption draws this response from those redeemed. It is a glorious truth that the work of the atonement is a work of redemption. To continue exploring the manifold beauty of the cross we should consider the redemption model and all that its implications.

The term redemption means to be liberated, freed, or delivered. Its use in the New Testament as the language of salvation stems from two contexts. The first context would have been the slave markets of the ancient world. The more prominent context, however, would have been the bondage and deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Understanding that context a little bit may help us understand the concept of redemption better.

The people of Israel, God’s specially chosen people, have been in slavery for something like 430 years. Finally, God decides it is time to act and he sends Moses to usher the people out of captivity and into freedom. It’s important to note that while the people of Israel are sufferers, they are also sinners. They have adopted for themselves, over the years, the gods of the Egyptians and turned their back on Yahweh. We know this because no long after they escape Egypt they revert right back to worshipping one of its common idols, a golden calf. Yet, even though they are undeserving God decides to rescue them and deliver them.

Pharaoh’s stubbornness and hard-heartedness will not keep God from freeing Israel. By a “mighty hand” God brings them out of Egypt. The whole idea behind the redemption account in Exodus is one of transference of kingdoms. Israel is enslaved to the kingdom of Egypt, but God will redeem them to make them into His own nation, His own people. Paul speaks of salvation in these same terms when he writes to the Colossians saying, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). The Exodus is, in many ways, a paradigm of New Testament salvation.

The relevance of this story for our own redemption is importance, as Paul alludes to in his letter to the Colossians. We are slaves. Like the Egyptians we are in bondage to sin. Repeatedly the Bible tells us that we are slaves to sin. Jesus says “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34b). Paul writes to Titus saying that apart from God’s intervention we are all “slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). Even those things that we love can enslave us, own us, trap us in bondage. Paul speaks too of us all at one time being “slaves to sin” and therefore being “free in regards to righteousness” (Rom. 6:20). We are slaves to sin, and like Israel, we need to be redeemed from our bondage.

Redemption is found in Christ. Paul writes to Titus about this redemption, and note particular the language of allegiance present in his words. Redemption is not just about bald freedom, it is about being set free from sin that we might serve God. Paul writes:

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)

To speak of redemption is to speak of being set free from something evil to serve something good. Throughout the New Testament we read that we are redeemed from and to many things. Gerry Breshears catalogues just a few of these things when he writes:

Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law to live transformed lives by the power of God the Holy Spirit (Ga. 3:13)

Jesus has redeemed us from Satan and demons to a new life made possible by the forgiveness of all our sins (Col. 1:13-14)

Jesus has redeemed us from our sinful flesh to live a new life of freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:6-12)

Jesus has redeemed us from being dead to God and alive to sin to being dead to sin and alive to God (Gal. 6:14-15) (Death by Love, 70)

Redemption is about being set free to serve God. This is an important angle of the work of the cross to consider.

We sell the gospel, and potential believers, short when we communicate that their redemption is simply about their being set free from sin and hell. That is a profound truth, no doubt, but their salvation is also about being redeemed to obedience to God, to new life in Christ, and to the power of the Holy Spirit. Redemption communicates more than just freedom from the consequences of our sin. It communicates freedom to a new way of living! That’s the power of the gospel not just for the past forgiveness of sins, not just for the future hope of eternity, but for the present struggle with the flesh in this world. Redemption is an important, powerful, and motivating model of the atonement. We ought to rejoice in it, sing about it, and indeed proclaim it.

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