Let us talk about the doctrine of divine redemption. If you read Psalm 19, the final statement of Psalm 19 is, “O Lord, our rock and our Redeemer.” Many places in the Psalms, God is referred to as Redeemer. Psalm 78:35 calls Him the high God who is Israel’s rock and Redeemer. It was Job who, in the midst of his horrific situation, said, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
Even at the end of Luke, redemption comes back as a very important theme. The apostle Paul wrote of our God and Savior Christ Jesus who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us. Peter said we were not redeemed with silver and gold and precious stones but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb. And in Revelation 5, we find around the throne of God all the saints singing a new song of redemption.
So the doctrine of redemption is at the heart of what salvation really is. We started with the perseverance of the saints; which means that if you’re saved, it is forever. And our eternal salvation is predicated upon eternal election, the sovereign choice of God in eternity past. We saw that sovereign election and irresistible grace are necessary for salvation because of man’s total depravity.
In other words, man is absolute unable to save himself or make any contribution to his own salvation. We saw, then, that if God had predetermined who He would save, if God had chosen to awaken certain sinners to salvation, it was for them that He provided, in fact, an actual atonement so that Jesus really died to pay in full the price for the sins of those who would believe.
We also looked at the doctrine of divine love. Behind it all, God so loved us. It is that divine love that led to that divine election. That divine election led to our absolute inability to save ourselves. That divine election led to providing an actual atonement which is, in fact, to be understood as a redemption of sinners. When we are saved we have been redeemed by God.
Ephesians 1 tells us beginning in verse 4, “God in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us.”
We have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. Many times redemption is referred to in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, it is all over the place. It is a critical doctrine to understand and it takes us to the heart of the gospel. If we want to talk about knowing God, being saved from sin, being rescued from judgment, becoming a true believer and experiencing the love of God, we have to understand redemption.
And redemption is all predicated on understanding the human condition. We need to understand that man is guilty before God. Man is under condemnation, under just judgment, because he has incurred a debt to God by violation of His law and he has no capacity on his own to pay. His only hope is to be redeemed, to have the price paid by someone else to be delivered from judgment.
And if we do not understand redemption, then this will blaspheme God by stealing the glory that belongs to Him as our Redeemer. Salvation has become some kind of therapy, a kind of a spiritual experience where Jesus makes good people better and unfulfilled people fulfilled and discontent people content. That’s the therapeutic view of salvation, but that is not the biblical view.
God is not a therapist, God is a Redeemer. People are not just unfulfilled, they don’t just lack purpose. They are under the just condemnation of God. They are on death row, headed for a judgment that they deserve without the capability to change that. And the glory of the gospel is that God is a Redeemer who has provided redemption, a payment in full, so that we can be bought back from judgment.
Look at Galatians 3. This is the simplest and the most straightforward passage of the Bible. I have been worried by a lot of things that go on in the name of Christianity. And one of them is the misunderstanding of the doctrine of redemption because we are so unwilling to assess the human condition accurately as sinners in need of a Savior, because the culture is totally oblivious to this and resent that idea.
When we are afraid to tell people the truth about their condition before God, salvation becomes a superficial thing. Essentially we can’t talk about redemption if we don’t talk about the desperation of those who need to be redeemed. In Luke, it wasn’t that the people hated Jesus and killed Him because they hated heaven. It was because they would not accept the diagnosis of their condition.
The Jews prided themselves on the fact that they were righteous before God, and Jesus came along and told them the very opposite about themselves, and that’s why they killed Him. It’s still an unpopular message. The only sinless person who ever lived, the greatest communicator who ever lived, the One with the greatest insight into human need, Jesus Christ, could not convince them because that was unacceptable.
And if people are going to understand the truth of the gospel, they have to accept the diagnosis, so they understand what redemption means. Then they can give God the glory that He is due as the Redeemer. Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to do them. 12 However, the law is not of faith; on the contrary, he who practices them shall live by them.”
The law acts in behalf of God upon every soul, all are held accountable. Most people think that the law of God is a noble, ethical code summarized in the Ten Commandments. An elevated standard of living that God would like people to achieve. And that’s what the Jews believed. They thought that they had accomplished at least enough of an interest in the law and enough of an achievement in law-keeping.
They believed that God would be satisfied with them and that they were pleasing to God and that they had possessed their own righteousness having achieved it through their attempt to keep the majority of the Law of Moses. The typical Jewish rabbi at the time of Jesus believed that only the common people who had neither knowledge nor interest in the law were actually under the curse.
They limited the curse to those who were indifferent to the law. In fact, in John 7:49 mockingly the leaders said, “This multitude which does not know the law is accursed.” For them, knowing the law and being able to articulate the nuances of the law and the embellishments of the law with all the minutia of the law that was tantamount in their minds to satisfying the obligation to the law.
And only those who didn’t know the law or were indifferent to it, were under the curse. Jesus came and condemned them all by the law, and they killed Him for it. Romans 4:15 says, “The law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” Every person in the world is born with a sin nature and therefore sins, violating the law, and therefore all are subject to eternal judgment.
Let me tell you a few things about the law, because we cannot understand redemption if we do not understand the curse. Number one, the law requires behavior contrary to your nature. The law of God asks you to do exactly what you don’t want to do. It is opposite your longings, your lusts and your desires. The law calls for you to love what you hate and hate what you love.
Secondly, the law requires behavior that is impossible. It’s not only against your will, it’s against your ability. You couldn’t do holy things. Your best righteousness is only filthy rags. You can’t think holy thoughts and speak holy words. There’s not any of us who is good, there’s not anything in us that’s good. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself” and we can’t do that.
Thirdly, the law requires perfection. It’s not what we want, it’s not possible, and the standard is way too high. Matthew 5:28, “Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” that’s the standard. And it never ever relents. We’re trying to do what we don’t want to do, we’re trying to do what we can’t do, and we’re commanded to do it perfectly, which is beyond our capability.
Four, the law does not accept good intentions and effort as compensation. This is why the Jews missed it. They thought that their meager longings toward goodness, that their religious activities, that their efforts counted. Well, trying counts in some worldly areas, but not in law-keeping. Effort counts for nothing. Good intention counts for nothing. There’s no second place in the law.
Number five, the law accepts no pay-later plan. Now, there are a lot of people who think, “Well, I know in the past I’ve been a bad person, but now I’m going to be a good person. I know I’ve done a lot of bad things, but now I’m going to do a lot of good things and maybe as I do good things, they will cancel out bad things.” No, the debt is never negotiated. The debt of all your sin is never repaid.
Even if you were to break the law of God once in your life and never again, the rest of your life doing what was right wouldn’t cancel what was wrong, and what was wrong would be enough to damn you. Or if you lived your whole life and kept the law of God and broke it just before you died, all that accumulated merit would count for nothing. There’s no payback and there’s no prepayment.
Number six, the law is an unrelenting task master. It never says take the weekend off and do what you want. It never eases up. It never lightens the load. The law never relaxes its requirements. It never gives the sinner a moments of rest. It is stringent, unbending and unrelenting. It continues every second, every minute, every day as long as you live, because the Law is really a reflection of the nature of God.
Number seven, the law destroys happiness. When you really come under the law, it produces shame, guilt, remorse, sorrow, fear, pain, hopelessness, anxiety and depression. That’s why you find a sinner in a synagogue pounding his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He has no joy, no peace and no happiness. He can’t find any relief and so he beats himself in an act of contrition.
Number eight, the law requires the severest penalty. The law only has one penalty, hell forever. There’s no parole. There’s no time off for good behavior. And nobody gets a shorter sentence. You break the law, you get eternal judgment. Number nine, the law demands but doesn’t help. It offers you nothing to help you. It can’t make you different and it can’t save you. Salvation is by faith only.
Number ten, the law listens to no one’s repentance. It doesn’t care that you’re full of shame and guilt and remorse. It doesn’t care that you’ve lost your joy and lost your peace. It doesn’t care how penitent, how broken, how sorry, how sad you are, it does not respond. It is indifferent to all repentance. Throughout the history of mankind, people do whatever they think is going to break the terrible pressure they feel.
Number eleven, the law offers no forgiveness. There’s no mercy in the law and there’s no grace, that’s why it’s law. Therefore, there’s no hope. There’s no promise that it will get better. That the future will get better. No, the future will be worse. The future is horrible and it lasts forever. I don’t think you want to work your way to hell thinking you’re working your way to heaven.
And that’s what brings us to verse 13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” Now you understand the death of Christ. He dies on the cross and pays your debt and my debt. It is at the heart of the Christian gospel, it’s about redemption. He became a curse for us. He took our punishment. That’s the gospel. In Romans 5:6, “At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Criminals sentenced to death under Mosaic Law were usually executed. The Jews didn’t crucify. So when they had executed a person, they would tie the dead body to a post and they would let that body be seen by others to cause fear. Similar to that Old Testament pattern was Christ being put on a tree, cursed by God for us. He became sin for us. He took our place that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Galatians 3:24, “The law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” The work of the law produces wrath but it also drives the sinner to Christ so that he can place his faith in Christ and be justified by that faith. Verse 14, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
What is the blessing that came to Abraham? Romans 4 tells us the great blessing God gave to Abraham. “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” in Genesis 15. What was the great gift that God gave Abraham? Righteousness. He removed the curse. Not through Abraham’s works, but through Abraham’s faith. So the first purpose is justification by faith.
We are free from the penalty of the law, but we’re not free from the obligation to obey God. Christ became a curse for us to position us as righteous and holy and then to place His Spirit in us to progressively make us righteous and holy in practice. This is the glory of redemption. Let us rejoice in worshiping our God, the Holy One, our strength and our Redeemer. Let us pray.