Boasting in Christ: Christ is Our Redemption

boast-in-the-lordIt’s hard to imagine a more obvious statement that Paul could make about Jesus: Christ is our redemption. Christians know this; acknowledgement of this truth is kind of key piece to becoming a Christian in the first place. But, of course, though we understand it, we do not always gather all that this simple phrase means for us. Unpacking what it means to call Christ our redemption will elicit the humble joy of boasting in the Lord.

Redemption carries with it two ideas that are both helpful for understanding the role of Christ as “redeemer.” The slave markets of the ancient world give us the first picture of redemption. To redeem means to buy back from slavery. So a man who went to the slave market and bought the freedom of a slave was a redeemer. That is a good picture of what we encounter in the gospel. You and I are slaves to sin apart from Christ’s intervention. His rescue of us is a redemption, a buying us back from the slave market and granting us true freedom. So Paul writes to the Romans saying:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,  18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.  22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:17-22)

The idea of being bought back from slavery is a key redemption motif, but the Biblical concept of redemption has roots much deeper than just those of the ancient slave market. In fact, I would argue that this idea of redemption goes all the way back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The Exodus is, in fact, a paradigm for New Testament salvation.

The story of the Exodus event is a story of Redemption. The people of Israel, God’s specially chosen people, have been slaves under the heel of Egypt for something like 430 years. They have cried out to God but to no avail, and so they remain slaves. Finally, however, God decides to act and he sends Moses to encourage the people and to warn Pharaoh. God says to Moses, and to all of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6b). The means of their redemption is important too. After God has demonstrated His power over and over again, He finally comes to the climax of His plagues on Egypt. The final plague will be the death of all the firstborn males in the land. God’s Holy Spirit will sweep through the land and kill every male. But God offers a means of escape to His people. If they will take a pure, spotless lamb, and kill it and smear its blood on the door posts of their homes then the Spirit of God will enter the land, see that blood and it will literally pass over that house, sparing the people inside. This is the event that marks the traditional Jewish celebration of the Passover. It is both a reminder that they have been redeemed by God’s intervention and mercy, and that they were sparred the wrath of God by means of a substitute. The pure lamb dies in their place that they might escape death by God’s Spirit. This lamb is a pointer to the greater redemption that was to come.

In the New Testament we read that Jesus is called the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). We read from Jesus’ own lips that the Passover meal is about Him (Luke 22:1-20). Jesus is the pure spotless lamb whose shed blood can save us from the wrath of God. Jesus’ is the substitute for sinners. Jesus’ death is the means of our redemption. Jesus is our redemption!

Without Him we are not merely still slaves, but we will also die under the judgment of God. Again, Paul reminds us to be humble. We did not free ourselves from bondage, we could not save ourselves. We need Jesus, our redemption, if we are to live. If this does not instill humility there’s not much that will. All of this, Paul says, is why we can “boast in the Lord.”

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