Atonement: Redemption’s Sacrifice


We saw last time that the judgement of sin and therefore sinners can happen without the need for Jesus to be crucified. Considering this, we must then consider what happens to that judgement if it doesn’t reach those for whom Christ died. This is where many illustrations of substitution fail to explain with accuracy the cross of Christ. We have all seen those films where one person stands in the place of another, where one man assumes the identity of another in order for him to not face the firing squad. Perhaps, we have seen this in a courtroom setting. Where an innocent person stands in the place of a guilty person so that he doesn’t have to go to prison or worse (death row). But such illustrations of substitution are inadequate in representing the accomplishment of God in Christ Jesus.

To be clear, we must begin by defining what redemption means. To redeem is to buy, to purchase, imagine a slave in a slave market and how his freedom can be bought and therefore his freedom comes with a cost. That cost is carried by the one making the purchase. It’s true that our salvation can be understood in terms of redemption but not exclusively, there are other important factors to consider. Such as the two barries to redemption, the first being our sin and the second being God’s wrath. Our sin prevents us from getting close to God, for if we were to come to God in this condition, God would justly judge us in our sin and we would take the full punishment for that sin against Him. God’s wrath, as we can see is the other barrier to reconciliation and it is only in the cross of Christ, where Jesus takes care of both barriers to reconciliation.

Who pays?

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we see the value of a sinless life. Firstly, by recognising that only a perfect sacrifice would do and secondly be seeing that we become righteous because of Christ’s perfect life and sacrifice. In this verse, we also see, how Christ deals with our sin, the judgement upon our sin, our need for righteousness and the redemption cost. Christ Jesus on the cross turns away the wrath of God from us to himself (Propitiation: turning aside the wrath of God), Jesus also removes our guilt by exchanging our sin for his righteousness (Expiation: the removal of our guilt before God). Therefore, we see that the substitute must be God for it cannot be anyone else. Since all men are sinners before God, where would such a person come from to stand in our place and receive our judgement? Even if this were possible, God cannot judge an innocent person for another person’s sin. What we have in the cross of Christ is God standing in the place of the sinner. The one who is owed the debt pays the debt and Christ in taking our sin upon Himself is, therefore, the only one who can then take the judgement of God in our place.

The redemption price is our debt before God. The wages of sin is death and the judgement of God upon sin is heavy. As we then think of redemption, we should not think in terms of buying something which is corrupted and therefore at a discounted price, but rather buying people corrupted by sin in order for them to be sinless and reconciled to God at the greatest cost that could ever be paid, the death of Christ.

By Daniel Ralph

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