Moses negotiated redemption for the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Boaz redeemed Ruth from poverty and starvation. Joseph climbed a political ladder and saved his brothers from famine. Esther used her influence on a king to save her people from certain death. Though these may be viewed as mere interesting dramas, these accounts all provide a foreshadowing to the greatest rescue mission ever accomplished.
Why a Redeemer was Needed
“So as by one man came death…”
Through Adam, all men have sinned. As a result, all of Adam’s descendants (you and I and all of humanity) are born enslaved to sin, entrapped by a sinful nature that craves and pursues sin constantly. The burden of our guilt swells and crushes us slowly until, finally, the just penalty of death is realized. This is a sentence that hangs over all of us as surely as the sun rises and sets. We have no way of escaping it on our own. Thus, we need a Savior.
“…so by one Man came life.”
God loves us—despite our utterly miserable, unworthy, and unlovable state—and wants a relationship with us. And so, being the good, wise, and creative God He is, He worked out a tremendous act of heroism to save us and reconcile us to Himself. He sent His very Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. In the greatest act of love, Jesus Christ, the eternal, pre-existing Prince of heaven, left His throne and came to earth to redeem His people from their sin so that they may live eternally with Him.
Who The Redeemer Was
Here are three ways that Jesus was uniquely qualified to purchase our freedom from sin, pay the penalty for our sin on our behalf, and secure our relationship with Him.
Humanity – Jesus joined us in our humanity by taking on the nature of a man. He was fully human, born of a woman. He lived just as the people of his time lived. He lived with his family and community and worked as a carpenter. He spoke Hebrew with a Galilean accent, was left- or right-handed, and probably smashed His thumb with a hammer. He was as human as you or me.
Humanity was a necessary component of Christ’s redeeming act because sin came through one man (Adam), and a man had to pay the price for man’s sin. Hebrews 2:17 says, “[H]e had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Jesus took on human flesh (became ‘incarnate’) so that when He was punished for our sin, He would be punished as a stand-in for all of humankind. His humanity was a necessary part of His work as a redeemer.
Divinity – Jesus was not only a man but also fully divine. Luke 1:35 says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Jesus is fully God, and as such, He could serve as an intermediary between God and humankind. His humanity allowed Him to suffer the punishment due to humankind, and His divine nature allowed Him to implement the benefits of the punishment He suffered in mankind’s place (Hebrews 9:11-14). His human nature allowed Him to represent humankind to His Father, and His divine nature allowed Him to act on behalf of God toward sinful humanity (Hebrews 5:7-10).
It was also necessary that He have a divine nature because of the enormity of the sacrifice He was required to make. Human sin, while perpetrated by finite beings, requires an infinite punishment according to Scripture: eternal separation from God in Hell. No man can ever suffer enough to pay the penalty for his own sin, let alone the sins of others. But Jesus, because of His divine nature, was able to suffer the penalty of sin not just for one man but for mankind (1 John 2:2).
Perfection – In the Old Testament, we see that only a perfect, unblemished sacrifice can atone for sin. The perfect must die to cleanse the imperfect–throughout the Old Testament law, this is the requirement that we find. Substandard sacrifices were not acceptable to deal with sin. The Passover lamb of Exodus 12 had to be “unblemished.” The burnt offering of Leviticus 1 similarly had to be “unblemished.” This was true of the peace offering of Leviticus 3, the sin offering of Leviticus 4, and on and on and on. Unrelenting perfection was necessary for these sacrifices.
And in the same way, Jesus had to be perfect in order for His sacrifice to be acceptable. He could not suffer for others’ sins if He himself was marred by sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and because of this did not inherit the sin nature spoken of in Genesis 3. Even in His humanity, He was tempted in every way that is common to man, but He lived a sinless life on earth, resisting that temptation (Hebrews 4:15). This, in addition to His life free of sin and His righteous nature (in contrast to a sinful nature), means He was completely perfect. This enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
What the Redeemer Did
A sinless life – Christ lived 33 years on this earth and never sinned. He kept the whole law. He loved perfectly. He lived perfectly. He served the Lord perfectly. In this way, He succeeded where Adam failed, keeping the law of the Lord (Romans 5:12-17; Hebrews 5:7-9) and resisting temptation where Adam succumbed (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15-16).
A criminal’s death – After living a sinless life, performing miracles, and healing the sick, Christ was mocked, beaten, and scorned. His own friends betrayed Him. The very people He came to save sent Him to face a criminal’s death. He died a gruesome, drawn-out, agonizing death hanging on a Roman cross between two criminals (Matthew 27:38).
A victorious resurrection – Christ did not remain dead! On the third day, He rose again from the dead, having paid the penalty for our sins. This proved that death no longer had any power over Him; He had accomplished what He came to do. Redemption had been achieved.
What Redemption Achieved
Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross achieve much for the believer. His death paid the price for our sins and guarantees our forgiveness of those sins. His sacrifice ensures that our sin debt has been paid in full, and God’s just wrath against our sin has been appeased. His righteousness is wrapped around us like royal robes so that when God looks at us, He sees only perfect holiness. And Jesus mediates between us and God to restore our relationship with Him once again.
To “redeem” something is to “buy it back.” Jesus’ death breaks the shackles holding us to our sin, and His perfect life gives us the reward of a right relationship with God as righteous servants and adopted children. By living a perfect life, He possessed the requirements necessary to serve as a sacrifice on our behalf. His divine nature enabled Him to suffer sufficiently for humankind and mediate between us and God. And, in the act of that sacrifice, He bought humanity back from the destructive power of sin.
An ancient Anabaptist hymn sums up the glory of this truth: “What Adam lost, we find in Christ, beautifully adorned and clear.” The failure of Adam in the garden was corrected by Christ on the tree, making redemption available to poor, helpless sinners.
Editor's note: this originally posted at Thinking and Theology.