Redemption and Forgiveness in Christ
The epistle to the Ephesians is a fantastic letter. It has one encouragement after another and even begins with the richness of the Gospel of Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8, for example, reminds us that, “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us. . . .” Meditate on that thought for a moment. Sit back, and read those phrases again slowly.
Two parallel ideas come together here- we are redeemed, and our sins are forgiven. To be redeemed picks up the act of freeing a slave by payment. The word means “buy back” or even “ransom.” The fundamental idea of redemption is that of the setting free of a thing or a person that has come to belong to another. The New Testament teaches that before we are united with Christ (notice the “in Christ” language at the beginning of the verse), we belong to the realm of darkness, we are fallen humanity, we are slaves of sin. God the Father has sent His Son who voluntarily took our place on the cross to redeem us, to bring us back. We have now been rescued for darkness and welcomed into His marvelous light! We are no longer slaves of sin to fulfill its lusts. We are now free to pursue everything that is good and godly. The Old Testament exhorts, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”
Also, in Christ our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is about pardon for a transgression, taking away sin, it’s about making right any wrongdoing. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned, that we have gone our own way, that we have transgressed the law of the Lord, and not just the written law, but the law that is in our hearts. If we all admit, we have done things in our pasts that were damaging to ourselves and others. These things are called sins, and they are offensive to our perfect, holy, and righteous Creator. To restore our relationship with Him, He extends forgiveness to us for our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While we may deal with the consequences of some sinful choices throughout our lives in this age, there will be no eternal ramifications for our sins if we are “in Christ.”
True atonement, which is unique to Christianity, is shown in these two parallel statements concerning redemption and forgiveness. Our past sins are taken away, we have been welcomed into a right relationship with God, and we are now free to pursue those things that are healthy and beneficial to us and those around us. Notice that the apostle does not leave the subject without making clear, as he always does in his letters, that all of this is by God’s grace. Grace, of course, is unmerited favor, unearned privileges. We are redeemed and forgiven by simply repenting of our sins and trusting Christ with our lives. The Lord has done all of the work necessary to bring about true atonement by Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead. We now simply believe in Him and freely receive His benefits. What an awesome God we serve!