The Gospel 5: Redemption
By: Deji Yesufu
The lockdown and isolation measure that countries have embarked upon to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus that is ravaging the world at the moment has precipitated all kinds of reactions from people all around the globe. Someone said on Facebook that having undergone two weeks isolation, he now realizes that he would not make a very good prisoner and thus he must do everything not to be incarcerated anywhere. While I do not personally know anyone that has been to prison before, I know that many people love their freedom. In fact “freedom” is the central philosophy of the world’s greatest superpower, the United States of America. That country obtained her freedom from England at great cost and continues to do everything to preserve it. A man who has been bound and has now obtained his freedom has found redemption.
Biblical Definition of Redemption
Spiritually speaking also, God desires to bring redemption to all of humanity. The difference between physical and spiritual redemption is that while one is aware of his incarceration in the former, those who need spiritual redemption hardly ever know they need it. In fact the natural man’s tendency is to cherish and preserve his bondage to sin. The Christian gospel seeks to reveal every man’s depravity to himself; the gospel seeks to show us the magnitude of sins; and then it shows us the path to spiritual redemption.
Redemption is a key concept that runs throughout scriptures. In the Old Testament, God enters into relations with Abraham and tells him that through his seed the nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). In a later scripture, God informs Abraham: “…Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterwards they shall come out with great possession…” (Genesis 15:13-14). In other words, God was saying, “your descendants will be servants to a foreign nation but I will come and redeem them”. God kept his word. Israel was held captive in Egypt for 430 years and in God’s time he sent Moses and delivered his people from bondage. God redeemed Israel and brought them to himself to worship him.
When God moved into Egypt to redeem Israel, he commanded the children of Israel to slaughter a lamb and put some of the blood of the lamb on the lintel and side posts of their homes. The angel of death went over the nation of Egypt and when he saw the blood on the lintel and side posts of an Israeli home, he passed over it (Exodus 12). By the morning, all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were dead, from the child of Pharaoh to those of the slave. God moved on Egypt and brought his judgment upon that land as he had told Abraham he would. This was the tenth plague that God brought on Egypt and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Pharaoh immediately commanded Israel to leave his land. The people of Israel obtained their redemption by God through the shedding of the blood of the lamb.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus for the first time, he proclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was referred to as a lamb. The angel had said to Joseph at his conception that Jesus would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). But as he began his ministry, John gives us a hint at how he was going to do this. Even close observers would never have been able to piece the puzzle together. John himself, who proclaimed those words, would at some point become disillusioned and return to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or whether Israel should look forward to another (Matthew 11:3).
The Holy Spirit and Redemption
The first step in gospel preaching must be a revelation of the sins of men to them. People must realize their bondage to sin. They must realize their need for a Savior. Man must realize his need for redemption. So while the minister proclaims the gospel and the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, God meets the sinner with the good news of redemption. Halleluyah! Paul the apostle writes “… In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…” (Ephesians 1:7). Just as the blood of the lamb brought redemption to Israel, the blood of Jesus secures eternal redemption from sin for the Church.
This is the gospel message that the sinner is confronted with after he has been made to realize his utter depravity. This is the towel that receives the body that has been washed from sin. This is God’s grace to sinful humanity.
The story of redemption does not end at the point of salvation alone. Some have the thinking that Christ’s blood is efficacious only at the point of entry into the kingdom. True. But even more, the blood of Christ avails to the saints for the rest of their days here on earth. Why? We must return to our earlier concept of sin. We must understand the sinfulness of sin. The depth to which we understand the greatness of our sins shall be the height with which we shall praise the grace of God that has redeemed us sinners.
Christ Redeems a Harlot
We return to the gospel writers and focus on one of Luke’s account. Here was Jesus Christ coming into a house filled with people who had been longing to meet with him. He sits down and he is accorded the welcome of royalty. His disciples are also given the place of honor on the high table. Then in comes a woman with a box of very expensive perfume. Everyone knows this woman. Is she not the harlot that lives at the edge of town with whom the lowest of men pour out their lustful passion? What is she doing here? Their minds are racing. She ignores them. She has a target. It is the man of royalty at the head of the table. When she gets to him, she goes on her knees. Peter makes to grab her but Jesus restrains him. She takes the jar of perfume she is carrying out of the cloth she had wrapped it in and pours its whole content at the feet of Jesus. The whole house is filled with fragrance. The people there recognize the smell; it is the perfume worn by the rich. It would have cost her a fortune. But she appeared unperturbed. She is rubbing on Jesus’ legs with her hands and hairs, and wiping them clean with her tears. It is a poignant moment and Christ does not hinder her.
Jesus’ host, Simon, mutters to himself: “If this man was a prophet he ought to know that this woman is a sinner now…” Then Jesus tells Simon a parable. He says there is a money lender who lends money to two individuals. One borrows a large sum of money; the other borrows something little. At the close of the day, none of them is able to pay. The money lender decides to forgive them both. Jesus asks Simon: “who of the two debtors will love this man the most?” Simon responded: “the one that owes the larger sum”. Jesus then uses that point to explain this woman’s action of pouring an expensive perfume on him. But there is another perspective to this story which is not clearly stated in Luke 7:36-48.
If in our gospel preaching we succeed in showing our listeners the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the overpowering holiness of God, we would realize that no man owes God little as far as sin is concerned. We are all debtors to God because of our sins and are greatly indebted indeed. It does not matter what the nature of the sin is, our debts are so high that the best exchange for them is incarceration. We are indebted and we deserve to be locked up forever. Even that, obviously, is not sufficient to pay for our debt. Thus we can understand redemption as God forgiving us our sins on Christ’s behalf; we see him release us from the bondage of our indebtedness. We have been forgiven much and indeed we would love much.
Also, while we possess a sense of forgiveness at the point of our salvation, this sense of being forgiven much never leaves us. In fact, the very presence of continued sin in our lives which brings much grief to our hearts is a reminder of the manifold grace of God that has forgiven us and still forgives us (And, yes, we should forgive others for this reason). We do ourselves a huge disservice when we say we would not preach on sin so that people would not feel a sense of their condemnation. The fact is that we can boldly look on our sins and confess them; we can proclaim our sins and conjure up all the condemnation it brings because we see the might of God’s grace in the blood of Jesus to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Redemption is freedom from sin. Redemption is a reminder of God forgiving us in Christ Jesus. Redemption is a continual reminder of the grace of God that forgives our daily sins – even sins that we commit as Christian people. Redemption is a concept of the Christian gospel that we ought to rejoice in. Redemption is freedom from the isolation that the virus called sin has kept us in. We are indeed free to meet with our God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are redeemed from sin; from sin alone are we free.
We have sinned much and we have indeed been forgiven much. Amen.