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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Redemption (2)

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REDEMPTION.—An Apostle writes of Christ—‘in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses’ (Ephesians 1:7). It is proposed in this article to inquire what redemption in Christ means, how Christ’s redemption is effected, and what blessings are included in it.

i. The Biblical doctrine

1. The vocabulary.—In the OT the idea of redemption is distinctively expressed by the two verbs נָּאֵל and פָּדָה, with their derivatives. The former term is used technically, in the Mosaic law, of the redemption by price of an inheritance (by a kinsman or the man himself, Leviticus 25:25 ff., Ruth 4:4-7, Jeremiah 32:7-8), or of things vowed (Leviticus 27:14 ff.), or of tithes (Leviticus 27:31 ff.): the latter of redeeming the firstborn of animals or of children (Exodus 13:13; Exodus 13:15; Exodus 34:20, Numbers 18:15 ff.). Outside the Law, and in relation to Jehovah, both terms are used of simple salvation or deliverance, especially when attended by impressive displays of power, or the assertion or vindication of righteousness, or vengeance upon enemies. נָּאֵל appears in this sense in Genesis 48:16, Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; repeatedly in the Psalms (Psalms 69:18; Psalms 72:14; Psalms 74:2; Psalms 103:4; Psalms 106:10; Psalms 107:2) and in Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:22-23; Isaiah 48:20 etc.), and occasionally in other prophets. פָּדה, on the other hand, is the favourite term in Deut. (Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26 etc.), is frequent in the earlier Psalms (Psalms 25:22; Psalms 31:5 etc.), but occurs only rarely in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 29:22; Isaiah 51:11). The person who has the right to redeem, or who undertakes the duty, is a נֹּאֵל, or ‘redeemer’ (Numbers 5:8, Ruth 2:20 etc. Authorized and Revised Versions ‘kinsman’); the term is used also to denote the ‘avenger of blood’ (Numbers 35:12, Deuteronomy 19:6 etc.); and elsewhere, as in the famous passage Job 19:25, in Psalms 19:14; Psalms 78:35, and Proverbs 23:11, but specially in Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14 etc.), is applied to Jehovah as the all-powerful, holy, and merciful vindicator, deliverer, and avenger of His people. A term related in idea to ‘redemption’ is כֹּפֶר ‘ransom.’ (See Ransom).

In the NT the terms by which the idea is directly expressed are ἀγοραξω, ‘to buy’ or ‘purchase’ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23, 2 Peter 2:1, Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3-4—the last translation in Authorized Version , ‘redeem’), and its compound ἐξαγοράζω, used by St. Paul in Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; but specially λυτροῦμαι (from λὐτρον, ‘a ransom’), and its derivatives (Luke 24:21, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18). The special Pauline word for ‘redemption’ is ἀτολύτρωσις (Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 1:7 etc.,—found also in Luke 21:28, Hebrews 9:15). The simple form λύτρωσις occurs in Luke 2:38, Hebrews 9:12. The meaning of these expressions is more precisely considered below.

2. The OT preparation.—The foundations of the NT doctrine of redemption are laid in the OT conceptions of the holiness, righteousness, and grace of Jehovah, and of sin as something abhorrent to Jehovah’s holiness, which He must needs condemn and punish, but from which He desires to save. He is the Holy One, who abhors iniquity. Sinners shall not stand in His sight. He visits with severest penalties those who disregard His counsels and persist in their wickedness. Yet He is the Lord God, merciful and gracious, full of compassion and ready to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7, Psalms 103:8 ff.); He desires not the death of any sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:12). More specially, He is the covenant-keeping God, who does not allow His promises to fail, but, even when the nation in the mass is rejected, fulfils His word in due season to the faithful remnant, or to the whole people when brought to repentance (Psalms 103:8-9, Isaiah 8:16-17, Jeremiah 32:37 ff., Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 2:14 ff. etc.). In this it is already implied that Jehovah will manifest His power, righteousness, and love in helping and saving His people, in vindicating their cause when oppressed, in visiting their adversaries with judgments, and in working out great and astonishing deliverances for them when the hour comes for the fulfilment of His promises. It follows that His relation to them, and His concern for their good, will be seen in the course of their history in a succession of acts of redemption.

It has been seen, accordingly, that while, in their legal usage, the OT terms for ‘redeem’ and ‘redemption’ imply payment of a price, or, in the case of the firstborn, substitution of a life, or a monetary ransom, these terms are often used in the more general sense of simple deliverance or salvation. The great historic instance of Jehovah’s redemption of His people was their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:8 etc.). That held in it already the pledge of every other deliverance which the nation or godly individuals in it might need. Prayers, therefore, are frequent that Jehovah would redeem from oppression, from violence, from sickness, from death, from captivity, etc. (e.g. Psalms 25:22; Psalms 49:15; Psalms 72:14; Psalms 103:4), and thanksgivings for deliverance refer usually to the same things (e.g. Psalms 116, 124, 126, Zechariah 10:8 ff.). Redemption in such passages is commonly from temporal calamities or ills, endured or feared. Only in one place is direct mention made of redemption from iniquities (Psalms 130:8). This last fact, however, must not mislead us. As, in the OT, outward calamities are usually connected with Jehovah’s anger, or with the hiding of His face, so, it is everywhere implied, the first condition of the removal of these evils is return to God and the forsaking of iniquity; if the individual is righteous, this is the ground on which he looks to God for vindication against the ungodly oppressor (Psalms 3, 4, 5 etc.). We must beware here, and throughout this whole discussion, of building too much on the mere occurrence of a term. The fact of redemption is often present, where the word is not directly used. Behind all interpositions for deliverance and help, whatever the words employed, stand Jehovah’s unchanging character, His pledged word, His inflexible will to uphold the right, His compassion for the afflicted and oppressed. Righteousness, in His deliverances, always counts for more than the deliverance itself, which is conditioned by His unerring knowledge of the moral state. Where sin has been the cause of judgments on the individual or nation, redemption includes, in the removal of these evils, forgiveness and restoration to the Divine favour and to righteousness (cf. Psalms 85, Isaiah 1:16 ff., Hosea 14, etc.).

The Deliverer of His people in the OT is Jehovah Himself. Hence the affection with which Deutero-Isaiah dwells on the idea of Jehovah as the נֹּאֶל, or ‘Redeemer’ of Israel. It is noteworthy, however, that in two passages redemption is attributed to the ‘angel’ of Jehovah—that mysterious personality, one with Jehovah, yet again distinct from Him, who figures so prominently, particularly in the earlier stages of revelation. ‘The angel which hath redeemed me from all evil,’ says Jacob, in the earliest instance of the use of the word נָּאֵל, in Genesis 48:16; and again in Isaiah 63:9 we have, with the use of the same word, the like idea: ‘In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them,’ etc. That is, Jehovah’s interposition in redemption is by means of His angel (cf. Psalms 34:7). There is a fore-gleam here of what comes more clearly to light in the NT.

It may appear a point of contrast between the OT and the NT conceptions of redemption, that in the OT the word is never brought directly into association with sacrifice, or the ritual of atonement. The use of ‘redeem’ in connexion with the firstborn (the substitution, e.g., of a lamb for the firstling of an ass) does not affect this statement, for these substitutions have not the character of atonement for sin. Here again, however, it is important to keep in memory the distinction between words and things. Apart from the use of terms, it is the case that the sacrificial ritual—so far as expiatory—was, in its own way, a means of deliverance from guilt, and, in that sense, of redemption. A direct connexion between the sacrifices of the Law and the forgiveness of sin is expressly affirmed (e.g. Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:35; cf. Isaiah 6:7); a fact irrespective of any theory of efficacy. Even in regard to words, there is the important point of connexion in the word כֹּפֶר ‘ransom.’ (See Ransom).

But there is a yet closer link. There can be no question that a peculiar line of preparation for the NT doctrine lay in the development by Psalmists and Prophets of the idea of the Righteous Sufferer. The culmination of that development is reached in the matchless representation of Isaiah 53, where the Servant of Jehovah is pictured as making expiation by His sufferings and death for the sins of the people. Here at length Prophetic and sacrificial teaching touch, for the language and whole idea of the sacrificial ritual are taken over upon the Suffering Servant. The iniquity of His fellows is laid upon One who is without sin; His soul is made a guilt-offering; He bears the iniquities of the people; He pours out His soul unto death; He bears the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:10-12). The later Prophetic teaching is not without refrains of the same ideas (Zechariah 13, Daniel 9:24 ff.). Malachi brings to a close the long preparation of the OT with his prediction of the Angel of the Covenant soon to come to His temple, whose work would be at once judging and saving (Malachi 3:4).

3. Redemption in the Gospels.—With respect to the sources, it is acknowledged that a distinction is to be made between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. The last, however, is accepted in the present article as a genuine work of the Apostle John, embodying, if with a certain colouring from his own personality and interpretative comment, that Apostle’s reminiscences of the sayings and doings of Jesus, especially those of the Judaean ministry. Comparison will show that, fundamentally, the teachings of the four Gospels on our immediate subject coincide.

St. Luke’s Gospel begins by introducing us to the circle of those who ‘were looking for the redemption (λύτρωσις) of Jerusalem’ (Luke 2:38), or, as an earlier verse has it, were ‘looking for the consolation of Israel’ (Luke 2:25). Of these there were not a few. Zacharias and Elisabeth, Simeon and the prophetess Anna, were among the number. From the hymn of Zacharias in Luke 1:68 ff. we see how far the idea of ‘redemption’ was from being confined to temporal deliverance from enemies. Such deliverance was only a means towards serving the God who had redeemed His people in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:75). Redemption included the knowledge of (spiritual) salvation by the remission of sins (Luke 1:77). This salvation was to be brought in by one from the house of David, in fulfilment of the promises made to the fathers (Luke 1:69-73). John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Redeemer’s coming (Luke 1:76, cf. Luke 3:3 ff.). We are here, in short, on the threshold of the introduction of the Messianic salvation. In three of the Gospels, accordingly, we have preparatory notes struck, which show in what sense we are to understand this wonderful redemption of the Christ. The shepherds in Lk. are apprised of the birth in the city of David of ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). In Mt. the child is called Jesus, ‘for it is he that shall save his people from their sins’ (Luke 1:21). In St. John’s Gospel the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples as ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (Luke 1:29; Luk_1:36). All the Gospels give prominence to the Baptism of Jesus, with its consecration of Himself ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ (in Mt.), its acknowledgment of Him as ‘the Son of God,’ and the descent upon Him of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:31-34); and the Synoptics relate His Temptation, in which false ideals of Messiahship were rejected, and His true vocation was definitely grasped and chosen (Matthew 4:1-11 ||).

The important question now arises, How did Jesus Himself conceive of the work of redemption which belonged to Him as Messiah? The word itself is only once attributed to Him, and that in an eschatological connexion (Luke 21:28); it affords us, therefore, little help. His conception must be sought in a less direct way, by consideration of the aspects in which His saving activity is presented in the Gospels, and of the sayings and doings in which He connects the salvation of men with Himself. An error to be sedulously guarded against here is that of fastening on one or two isolated sayings of Jesus, for instance, on the passages about His death, and giving these an interpretation as if they were without any context in Jesus’ own thought, or in His general Messianic claim, or in earlier Prophetic revelation, or in the events which succeeded them, and threw light on them. A broader method must be followed if Christ’s idea of redemption is to be satisfactorily grasped.

It must impress us, then, that, in the idea of redemption, or what corresponds to it, in the Gospels, the spiritual elements are prominent as they were not in the OT. This was to be expected from the spiritual nature of the teaching of Jesus, and from the larger place given to the hope of the future life. The political aspect of redemption disappears altogether. The Kingdom Jesus came to found was not of this world (cf. Matthew 18:1-5; Matthew 19:27-30; Matthew 20:25-28; Matthew 26:51-53, Luke 17:21, John 6:15; John 18:36 etc.). Salvation from bodily ills, indeed, appears as an important part of Christ’s ministry, as in the healing of disease, the casting out of demons, the raising of the dead, the feeding of the multitudes (Matthew 4:23-24; Matthew 11:4-5 etc.). In these works of mercy Jesus revealed Himself as the Saviour of the body as well as of the soul. But the physical benefit was never an end in itself; it pointed up to, and prepared the way for the reception of, the spiritual blessing (Matthew 9:2-8, John 6:26 ff.). It was conditioned by faith (Matthew 8:10; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 9:28 etc.). The real evils from which Jesus came to redeem were spiritual evils; the priceless good He came to bestow was a spiritual good. Spiritual evil had its root and origin in sin; salvation takes its spring in the grace and mercy of God, and begins with forgiveness.

(1) We have first, then, to look at sin and its consequences as the evil to be redeemed from. The teaching of Jesus on the love and mercy of the Father should not blind us to the depth of His realization of the awful evil of sin, of the wrath of God against it, and of the peril of eternal death which overhung the sinner. Rather, in His view, is the Father’s mercy to be measured by the depth of the sinner’s lostness, the heinousness of his state in the light of the Divine holiness, and his inability to deliver himself from that state or its consequences. The sternness of Christ’s teaching in this relation is sometimes very terrible. As the Baptist warned his hearers to flee from ‘the wrath to come,’ so Jesus has ever in the background of His most gracious teaching the thought of an awful Divine judgment, which surely one day will descend on the impenitent. He does not hesitate to speak of the fire of Gehenna (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29-30, and of God, who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28); of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched (Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48); of the judgment, less tolerable than that upon Tyre and Sidon, or even Sodom, which awaits cities like Capernaum (Matthew 11:20-24); of a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which shall not be forgiven, either in this world, or in that to come (Matthew 12:31-32 ||). His denunciations of the Pharisees are merciless in their severity (Matthew 23:14-15; Matthew 23:32-33); the language of judgment in many of the parables is hardly less strong (Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50, Matthew 18:34, Matthew 21:44, Matthew 22:7; Matthew 22:13 etc.). Those who speak of supposed judgments on others are warned: ‘Nay but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5); of a Judas it is declared, ‘Good were it for that man if he had not been born’ (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21); the parable of the Final Judgment has such a sentence as, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed,’ etc. (Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46). The Synoptic teaching on this point is identical with that of St. John, who declares that the wrath of God ‘abideth’ on him who believes (or obeys) not the Son of God (John 3:36), and habitually speaks of the world as perishing in its sin (John 3:16-17, John 5:29, John 6:53, John 8:24 etc.).

Exposure to the wrath of God, therefore, is one result of sin, from which, undeniably, redemption is needed; but this, in Christ’s view, is not the worst evil, but rather flows from the infinitely heinous and hateful nature of sin itself. Sin, considered in itself, is the real evil from which men need to be delivered. It is a fountain of pollution in the heart, defiling the whole nature (Matthew 15:18-20 ||; cf. Matthew 23:27); evolves itself in corrupt words and deeds (Matthew 7:16-20, Matthew 12:33-37); brings under subjection to Satan (Matthew 6:13, Matthew 12:29; Matthew 12:43-45); is the loss of the soul’s true life (Matthew 16:24-26); entails misery and ruin (Luke 15:11-16, Matthew 23:37-38); ripens into hateful vices (impurity, covetousness, pride, hypocrisy, mercilessness, etc.), and culminates in blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32 etc.). Souls in this condition are ‘lost’; need to be, in their helplessness and misery, sought after and saved (Luke 15:3 ff; Luke 19:10). The teaching of Jesus in Jn. is here again in accord with that in the Synoptics; only that in some respects St. John’s Gospel goes deeper, in explicitly affirming the need of regeneration (Luke 3:3; Luke 3:5), in laying more stress on the element of bondage in sin (Luke 8:33-34), and in giving greater prominence to the idea of Satan as ‘the prince of this world,’ whose power over men has to be broken (Luke 8:44, Luke 12:31, Luke 14:30, Luke 16:11; cf. Luke 10:17-18).

One thing still requires to be said to exhibit in its full extent man’s need of redemption. The deepest and most condemnable aspect of sin is that it is alienation from God Himself. The first requirement of the Law is love to God (Matthew 22:37-38); the proper attitude of the soul to God is that of humble dependence and trust (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10, Matthew 7:25 ff., Mark 11:22; Mark 11:24-25 etc.). But sin is the negation of this right religious relation. ‘I know you,’ said Jesus to the Jews, ‘that ye have not the love of God in you’ (John 5:42). Other and contrary principles—pride, self-sufficiency, self-will, the love of the honour that conies from men (John 5:44; cf. Matthew 6:2 ff.)—had taken the place of love to God; hence estrangement from God, antagonism to His will and spirit, enmity to Him and to His messengers (Matthew 23:29 ff.). Redemption means here the effecting of a change of disposition towards God, and the restoration of a spirit of love and trust—of the filial spirit (e.g. Luke 15:17 ff.). It is synonymous with reconciliation (see Reconciliation).

(2) This description of the evil to be redeemed from already determines the positive character of the redemption. The preaching of Jesus is described as the preaching of a ‘gospel’ (Luke 4:18-19)—. ‘the gospel of God’ (Mark 1:14)—and the ‘salvation’ (Luke 19:9-10) proclaimed in this gospel included deliverance from the whole range of evil covered by the word ‘sin,’ with introduction into the whole sphere of privilege and blessedness embraced in the term ‘Kingdom of God.’ Jesus in His teaching has much to say on the condition of mind necessary for the reception of this blessing. There is naturally the initial demand for repentance (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 11:20-21, Mark 1:15; Mark 6:12, Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5 etc.), which has the full weight of meaning involved in the etymology of the word μετάνοια, ‘change of mind.’ There is implied in this change of disposition a parting with all pride, sufficiency, and sense of merit (Luke 17:10); a coming to be humble, simple, trustful as a little child (Matthew 18:1-4); in a pregnant phrase, becoming ‘poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3, Luke 4:18). To those in this humble, trustful, self-renouncing state of mind every satisfaction and spiritual blessing are promised (e.g. Matthew 5:3 ff.; see Iverach, The Other Side of Greatness, p. 1 ff.). This blessing is always represented as mediated through Jesus Himself. It is only through the Son that men can receive the knowledge of the Father (Matthew 11:27); it is through coming to Him, learning of Him, taking His yoke upon them, that they obtain rest to their souls (Matthew 11:28-30); men are called to follow Him, to become His disciples, to acknowledge Him as their Lord and Master (Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 8:19-22, Matthew 23:8 etc.). He requires from His disciples the most absolute surrender to Himself (Matthew 10:37-39, Matthew 16:24-25); it is by relation to Him that men are judged at last (Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45). As King, He dispenses the awards of service (Matthew 16:27, Matthew 19:28, Matthew 25:34 ff.)—Of the dependence of salvation on His sufferings and death, more is said below. Those who stand in the above relation to Christ are ‘the children of the kingdom’ (Matthew 13:38), sons of God, and heirs of eternal life. Received into the Kingdom, they have the blessedness of knowing that their sins are forgiven them (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 9:2 etc.), though, reciprocally, there is laid on those who are thus forgiven the duty of forgiving others (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:35, Mark 11:25 etc.). They have the privilege of calling God their Father, of trusting Him for all their need (Matthew 6:25 ff.), of free access to Him in prayer (Matthew 7:7-11 etc.). They are acknowledged by Christ as His brethren (Matthew 12:49-50, Matthew 25:40). From the Father they receive mercy, and the satisfaction of their hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6-7); they are sustained in persecution and sacrifice by the promise of a thousandfold reward (Matthew 5:12, Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29-30); it is theirs to share in the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14); and as sons and heirs of God, they have the sure hope of ‘eternal life,’ in which is included blessedness and glory (Matthew 13:43) and the perfect vision of God (Matthew 5:8). These unspeakably lofty privileges and hopes imply corresponding responsibilities. It is constantly assumed that there cannot be true repentance, or genuine membership in the Kingdom, which does not manifest itself in ‘good works’ (Matthew 5:16), or in the doing of the will of the Father (Matthew 6:10). Only the doers of the Father’s will can be received into the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 18:4, Matthew 25:34 ff.). The disciple is to have for his aim to be perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Not a great deal, comparatively, is said in the Synoptic Gospels of the work of the Spirit in imparting these spiritual blessings. But the Spirit’s presence and agency are nevertheless constantly assumed. Jesus was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ after His baptism (Luke 4:1), and it was the Spirit of the Lord upon Him who fitted Him for His saving work (Luke 4:18). ‘The spirit of the Father’ speaks in the disciples (Matthew 10:20). He is, in Lk., the supreme gift of the Father (Matthew 11:13). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the last and highest crime (Matthew 12:32 ||). The Baptist announced Jesus as the One who should baptize with the Spirit (Matthew 3:11 ||), and the promise of the Spirit is Christ’s final word to His disciples (Luke 24:49). In the Synoptics, as in Jn., it is assumed that the Spirit was not yet given in His fulness, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39).

The Johannine teaching on salvation is once more, in all essential features, identical with that of the Synoptics. The change of mind insisted on by the latter is, in St. John’s Gospel, directly traced to a regenerating work of the Spirit (John 3:3; John 3:5), and the doctrine of the Spirit altogether is more developed (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:7 ff.); the condition of salvation is expressed generally by the term ‘believing’ (which includes in it the idea of ‘obeying,’ cf. John 3:18; John 3:36); sonship, as the fruit of regeneration, is viewed as a special supernatural gift, the prerogative of believers (John 1:12); salvation is connected with Christ’s being lifted up (John 3:14-17, John 12:32-33); ‘eternal life’ is regarded as already begun in the experience of the believer (John 3:36, John 4:14, John 6:47, John 17:3 etc.). But the necessity of union with Christ (cf. John 15:1-8), the salvation from wrath through Him (John 3:16-18; John 3:36, John 5:24), the dispositions to be laid aside in entering the Kingdom of heaven (John 5:44), and the essentials of character to be acquired by its members (humility, love, self-sacrifice, etc., John 13:4-17, John 15:12, John 12:25 etc.), the hope of the resurrection (John 5:28-29, John 6:40, John 11:24-26), and the prospect of ultimately sharing Christ’s glory in the Father’s house (John 14:2-3, John 17:24), are outstanding features in St. John’s teaching as they are in that of the earlier Gospels.

(3) The question now recurs as to the connexion of Christ’s own Person, and especially His sufferings and death, with this redemption, the message of which constitutes His gospel. Certain obvious aspects of that connexion have already been indicated. Christ’s ministry of teaching and healing was itself a means of redemption—of bringing men to the knowledge of it, of awakening in them the desire for it, of drawing them to the acceptance of it, of putting them in possession of part of its blessing. But in its substance also, as we have seen, Christ and His gospel could not be separated. He alone could reveal the Father, and give the world assurance of His grace; He already, as the Son of Man, exhibited in its perfect form what Divine sonship in the Kingdom of God meant; it was by coming to Him, and learning of Him, that men were initiated into His mind and spirit, which itself was salvation. His purity, conjoined with His sympathy and grace, acted as mighty moral motives in breaking down the enmity of the heart to God and in winning sinners to repentance. These also are the aspects of Christ’s connexion with redemption,—these, and not declarations about atonement,—which meet us on the surface of the Gospels. Christ is the Good Shepherd, seeking and finding the lost sheep (Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24; Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:3-7). All-compassionating, forgiving love is the power He relies on to draw out love (Luke 8:47-50). The very majesty of His claims and the manifest authority with which He spoke gave an added power to His gentleness and grace (Matthew 11:27-30).

We have still to ask, however, Is this the whole? Is this the only way in which redemption depends on Christ? If it is, what remains as the foundation of the Apostolic gospel, which undeniably connects redemption in a peculiar way, not with Christ’s life and teaching, but with His sacrificial sufferings and death? The question is further pressed upon us by particular utterances of Jesus, which likewise appear to point to such connexion. Is this aspect of redemption, as some think; to be excluded from Christ’s gospel? To find an answer we are driven back upon the wider question of how Jesus Himself viewed His sufferings and death. On this topic, it was remarked above that it is a very misleading method to confine ourselves to the exposition of isolated texts, without taking into account the whole context of Christ’s thought, and the ideas of OT revelation in which His thought was grounded. It will be necessary to begin at this point in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

A sure datum to start with here is the indubitable consciousness of Jesus—attested by the two names ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’—of His Messianic vocation, and consequently of the connexion of the Messianic salvation with His Person. It was He, as the whole Jewish hope implied, who was to bring in that ‘redemption’ for which Israel waited (Luke 2:38). That Jesus knew Himself to be the Christ, at least from the time of the Baptism, is implied in all the Gospels, though it was only to favoured individuals that the disclosure was directly made (in Jn. to Nathanael, Luke 1:47-51; to Nicodemus, Luke 3:13 ff.; to the Samaritan woman, Luke 4:26 etc.).

It is to misinterpret Peter’s great confession in Matthew 16:16 to take it to mean that up to that time the disciples had no knowledge that Jesus was the Christ. Apart from what is narrated by St. John (John 1:41 ff.), the whole ministry of Jesus, as recorded by the Synoptics—the claims He made, the authority He exercised—was by implication an assertion of that dignity; while to the direct testimony borne by the forerunner (Matthew 3:11-12 ||) was added afterwards the answer given to the Baptist’s doubts (Matthew 11:2 ff.). What was new in Peter’s confession was the inburst of new illumination, and unshakable strength of conviction, with which the confession was made (Matthew 16:17-18).

On the other hand, if Jesus knew Himself to be the Messiah of OT prophecy and hope, it is not less certain that He apprehended this great vocation, and the salvation with which it was connected, in a quite different way from most of His contemporaries. Messiahship for Him, as the account of the Temptation shows, meant the definite renunciation of all self-seeking motives, the rejection of all political and worldly ideals, the repudiation of all swerving from the sole end of seeking His Father’s glory. Holding such a conception of His mission, and rooted in His consciousness, as His habitual use of Scripture and manner of deducing deep principles from its simplest words show Him to be, in OT and specially Prophetic teaching, it is impossible that, from the first, He should not have clearly perceived the collision that must ensue between Himself and the ruling classes, and the persecution, and ultimately death, which their enmity must bring upon Him. With so clear a vision of the persecutions, scornings, and death that awaited His disciples (Matthew 10:16 ff. ||), He could not be ignorant of His own future. If, however, He saw thus far, it must be that He saw further. The path of self-renunciation and suffering that lay before Him must have presented itself, as we know it did, as part of His Father’s ordainment in the accomplishment of His vocation; not as a fate merely, or even as a martyrdom, but as a necessary step to the founding of His Kingdom, and procurement of the great end of His Coming—the end of salvation. If this, in turn, presented itself as a problem to His thought,—we speak, perhaps, too humanly of the way in which Jesus arrived at His convictions,—the light was near at hand for its solution in the Prophetic Scriptures, especially in the picture of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. His sufferings were expiatory. No one who reads the Gospels with care can doubt the familiarity of the mind of Jesus with this portion of Prophetic testimony. It is probably this prophecy that was in view in the Baptist’s announcement to his disciples (John 1:29; John 1:36); it is contained in the section of Isaiah on the Servant of Jehovah which Jesus cited in the opening of His public ministry as fulfilled in Himself (Luke 4:17 ff.); one interesting passage shows that it was directly before His mind in His last sufferings—‘For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was numbered with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfilment’ (Luke 22:37). It cannot have been absent from the numerous prophecies which Jesus declared were fulfilled in His death (Mark 9:12; Mark 14:21; Mark 14:27, Luke 18:31; Luke 24:26-27; Luke 24:46); But, indeed, the same strain of thought, sacrificial and Prophetic, which inspired the representation of Jehovah’s Servant as One who must and would take upon Himself the burden of the people’s sins, and, in substitutionary love, offer Himself in atonement for them, must have wrought as powerfully in the mind of Jesus, conscious as He was of His peculiar relation to both God and man, and fully aware of what sin was, and of what the forgiveness of sin meant to a holy God. If atonement for the world’s sin was possible, and Jesus in, His representative capacity, and Himself sinless, could offer such atonement, it cannot be doubted that He would desire to do so.

This point of the connexion of the sufferings and death of Jesus with redemption will receive elucidation afterwards; but already, perhaps, it is possible to see how, during His ministry, a relation of His sufferings to His saving mission might be present to His own mind, though He said little of it publicly, and only toward the end of His life spoke freely to His disciples of His approaching death. His reticence on His death would then be paralleled by His reticence on His Messiahship, which yet was present to His consciousness throughout. On such a view it may be found that the phenomena of the Gospels, as we have them, fall naturally into place,—His general silence on His death in His public teaching, the occasional disclosures in Jn. and the Synoptics, the connexion of the later announcements of His death with His resurrection, and, after His resurrection, of both with the preaching of remission of sins, and the promise of the Spirit; the coherence of this teaching with the Apostolic gospel.

For now it is to be observed that this silence of Jesus on the connexion of His sufferings and death with His saving work is far from absolute; on the contrary, the intimations of such connexion, when brought together, and read with the help of such a key as Isaiah 53 affords, are neither few nor ambiguous. It is not, indeed, till late in the ministry, after Peter’s confession, that Jesus begins to speak plainly of His approaching death, and then of that death as Divinely ordained and foretold, and to be followed by resurrection (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:9; Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 20:18-19 ||, see above). Thenceforth His death had an absorbing place in His thoughts. It was a ‘cup’ He had to drink, a ‘baptism’ He had to be baptized with. He was ‘straitened’ till it was accomplished (Matthew 20:22, Mark 10:32; Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50; cf. Luke 9:51). At the Transfiguration it was, according to St. Luke, the ‘decease (ἔξοδος) which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem’ which was the subject of His converse with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:31). But the very decision and circumstantiality of these first announcements to His disciples imply that the subject had long been before His own thoughts; and that, in conformity with what has already been said, this was really the case, we gather from such a passage as Matthew 9:15 (‘When the bridegroom shall be taken away from them’), but much more clearly from the sayings preserved to us by St. John from the Judaean and Capernaum ministries. Here, in the line of the Baptist’s opening announcement (John 1:29), the connexion between Christ’s death and the salvation of the world is unmistakably declared. Thus, in the conversation with Nicodemus, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,’ etc. (John 3:14-16; cf. on the lifting up, John 12:33), and in the remarkable discourse at Capernaum, in which Jesus dilates on His flesh as given for the life of the world, and on His blood as shed (we must presume) for the same end (John 6:51-56). In the light of these sayings we must, in consistency, interpret others more general in character (e.g. John 10:11; John 10:15; John 10:17-18, John 12:24; John 12:23).

When we return to the Synoptics, we have again, in the closing period, more than one significant utterance. There is first the well-known passage preserved in both Mt. and Mk.: ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom (λύτρον) for many (ἀντὶ πολλῶν)’ (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45).

It does not rob this passage of its force that it occurs in impressing on the disciples the lesson that the true greatness lies in service. No one will suppose that Jesus could have used language such as He here employs about the disciples, or about any other than Himself. The incidental occurrence of the saying may rather suggest that there must have been other teaching on the subject, and that Jesus here assumes the saving purpose of His death as known to the disciples.

The significance of the word λύτρον is investigated in art. Ransom; it is enough now to say that the word is most naturally taken as the equivalent of the Hebrew בֹּפֶר (allied to בִּפֶד ‘to atone’), used of that which is given in exchange for a life, whether money or another life. The thought in Jesus’ mind may well have been that of Isaiah 53. The meaning would then be that His death is the redemption-price by which the many are delivered from the ruin entailed by sin (including both the guilt and the power of sin). There is, again, the passage already cited, Luke 22:37, directly glancing at Isaiah 53, and declaring it to be fulfilled in Christ’s death. There are, finally, the words at the Supper, which, amidst the variations in the four accounts we have of them (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25), present certain very distinguishable ideas. The bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood. The body is given or broken and the blood is shed for the disciples (in Mt. and Mk. ‘for many’). The very variations support the general meaning put upon the act. If Mt. and Mk. have not the words ‘given’ or ‘broken’ spoken of the body (Luke, Paul?), both have ‘shed for many’ of the blood. Lk. has both ‘given for you’ and ‘poured out for you’; St. Paul, on the other hand, has ‘My body, which is [broken?] for you,’ but not the corresponding ‘shed for you.’ All agree in the leading feature, that Jesus said: ‘This is my blood of the covenant’ (Mt., Mk.), or ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (Luke, Paul). Mt. adds: ‘which is shed for many unto the remission of sins.’ Even if it were conceded, what there is no necessity for conceding, that this logion is less original than the others [there is probably a reminiscence of Jeremiah 31:34], it has at least the value that it shows the sense in which Christ’s words were understood in the Apostolic age. That Jesus, therefore, in the words at the Supper, represents His death as a sacrifice for the salvation of many, and definitely connects the shedding of His blood with the remission of sins and the making of a New Covenant, is nearly as certain as anything in exegesis can be. The question that remains is—With what special sacrifice does Jesus regard His death as connected (Passover, ratificatory sacrifices at Sinai)? Probably it is not necessary to decide between different views. Jesus may well have regarded His death as fulfilling the truth of all propitiatory sacrifice.

There is yet one other fact to which attention needs to be directed in this connexion. The death of Jesus is evidently dwelt upon by the Evangelists with a special sense of solemnity and mystery, and there are features in the story of His Passion which deepen this feeling of mystery, and compel us to seek some special explanation. Such features are the mental perturbation which the thought of His death awoke in Jesus (‘Now is my soul troubled,’ etc., John 12:27); the sore amazement and sorrow even unto death in the Garden (Mark 14:33-34); the sweat as of drops of blood, and words about the Cup (Luke 22:42-44, Matthew 26:39); the awful words upon the Cross, speaking to a loss of the sense and comfort of God’s presence (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:14). We recall M‘Leod Campbell’s words: ‘When I think of our Lord as tasting death, it seems to me as if He alone ever truly tasted death’ (Atonement, ch. vii.). Is there nothing which connects itself with Christ’s position as sin-bearer here? It is not thus martyrs are wont to die; not thus did Stephen, or Paul, or Ignatius die. Why, then, so strange a contrast in the Lord and Master of them all? On any hypothesis, must we not say that we have here something which takes this death out of the rank of simple martyrdom? Let us now take with this Christ’s last cry upon the cross, ‘It is finished’


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Redemption (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/r/redemption-2.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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