The work of Jesus is the single most important event in human history. Jesus came to this world, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. Have you ever asked the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” Perhaps the more important question: what did Jesus death and resurrection accomplish?
Jesus described his purpose to his disciples: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life–a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus declared that the giving of his life would be a ransom. Most of us understand the general concept of a ransom. We usually do not use the word unless we are speaking about kidnapping cases. A kidnapper takes a child and demands a ransom. The ransom is the price that must be paid to release the child. Supposing the ransom is one million dollars, this price does not represent the value of the child. Of course the child is worth far more than one million dollars. The price is not equal to the child. But this is what is necessary to release the child from captivity. Christs death would release us from the slavery of Satan and sin.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Paul also describes the work of Jesus as a redeeming work. Redemption also depicts a price being paid. While ransom indicates a price being paid to bring about a release, redemption indicates a price being paid to buy something back. Redemption is the act of paying the ransom. We also understand this concept in recycling. The IBC root beer bottles that I like to drink say on the bottom “CA redemption value.” The bottle also reads “Michigan 10 cents.” The state of Michigan is willing to pay 10 cents for my IBC root beer bottle. The ransom is 10 cents. The act of paying me the 10 cents is the redemption.
BOUGHT FOR A PRICE
Early in the scriptures, with Adam and Eve, we learn the consequences for violating the law and nature of God. With sin, Adam and Eve had to be separated from the presence of the Lord. This is described as death, for God said, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the permanent separation of us from God.
Gods law is a reflection of Gods character. To sin is to violate the very holiness and nature of God. Spiritual death has spread to all people because all people have sinned (Romans 5:12). None of us have been like the character of God at all times. We have been unreasonably angry. We have treated others poorly. We have said hurtful words. We have not been like God. The word of God explains that we are held in slavery to Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15), are slaves to sin (Romans 6:17-23), and are under the fear of eternal separation from God (Hebrews 2:15).
We read that the Lord set up a system of sacrifices for when the people sinned under the law of Moses. Leviticus 4-7 describes what is involved in making an offering for sin. When a person sinned, a young unblemished bull had to be killed and offered. The blood of the bull was brought into the tabernacle of the Lord and the blood was sprinkled on the articles contained therein. The rest of the bull was taken outside the camp and burned up. God wanted people to know that sin required blood.
However, though God was forgiving the people of their sins (Leviticus 4:26), the scriptures are clear that the blood of animals did not take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). The people under the old covenant understood that their sins had not been truly taken away. The repeated need to offer sacrifices for sin reminded the offerer of their sins. David attested to this understanding of the sacrifices repeatedly in his psalms. David said, “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering” (Psalm 53:16). Therefore, the prophets prophesied of the coming Savior who would take away their sins. “My righteous servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). Jeremiah declares that God will establish a new covenant in God said, “I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The Messiah would be the Savior of the people from their sins.
To miss this aspect of the work of the coming Messiah is to miss the purpose of the Old Testament. After Jesus crucifixion, the scriptures tell us of two men on the road to Emmaus. They were discussing with each other what had happened to Jesus. They said, “But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Israel was looking for a Redeemer for the true people of Israel understood that their sins were not taken way by animal sacrifices.
But God cannot simply forgive all people of their sins and remain just. While it seems that such an idea would be wonderful, upon further thought we realize that God would be unjust and violate his nature by doing so. We would not like it if judges let criminals go free without punishment. The O.J. Simpson case is a classic example of people who believe justice was not served. We want and demand justice for violators of the law. We also demand justice from God. God cannot simply forgive every person and take them all to heaven. Would you like to spend eternity with some of the gruesome and hated people of the earth, murderers, rapists, and other evildoers? This proposition is not acceptable. While many scriptures address this problem, I believe Romans 3:21-26 gives the fullest explanation in one place of text.
21 But now, apart from the law, Gods righteousness has been revealedÃ¢â‚¬”attested by the Law and the Prophets 22 Ã¢â‚¬”that is, Gods righteousness through faith in Jesus Christa to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26; HCSB).
We will explain what this text means to us in the next article.