While teaching through the Old Testament book of Hosea, I was deeply moved by its depiction of God’s redeeming love. Hosea repeatedly rescues Gomer, his prostitute wife, from degradation and sin, purchasing her out of slavery and lovingly receiving and restoring her. Such biblical accounts of God’s pursuing love are riveting, and it is little wonder that history’s greatest works of literature and music have used God’s stories as source material.
But in the biblical sense, what is meant by words like “love” and “redemption?” Our culture often defines love in terms of emotion or how someone or something makes us feel. But in a scriptural sense, love is the commitment to meet another’s need. Commitment breeds action, making “love” more a verb than a noun. Biblical love stands undiminished even in the face of changing circumstances or personal betrayal. As Scripture says, “… not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The Christian concept of redemption is unique among world religions. Elsewhere, one may find examples of offerings paid to appease offended deities, or acts done to earn divine favor. But God's work of redemption as presented in the Bible is unparalleled.
Redemption means “deliverance through payment of a price.” In ancient times, prisoners of war could be released on payment of a ransom. The Bible says Christ gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and that we have “redemption through His blood” (Ephesians 1:7). This redemption has more than averted sin’s punishment. Certainly, the redeemed have been cleared of sin’s guilt, but the saved are also declared righteous—justified—and are adopted into God’s family.
The Old Testament alludes to the work of the coming Messiah when Isaiah 53:5 says He was “pierced for our iniquities.” Scripture presents human redemption as completely dependent on the blood of Christ. Indeed, He has “released us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). Hebrews 9:22 teaches that Christ's work on the cross is God's once-and-for-all payment of our debt of sin. Scripture is clear that if not for Christ's blood, given on the cross, no redemption would be possible.
Some ministers, writers, and composers try and “clean up” the gospel for a modern audience, eliminating the unsettling (to them) concept of blood from their presentation of Christianity. Such revisers present a message that fails to convey God's wonderful plan of redemption. Removing Christ’s blood payment from the message has serious theological implications, and presents a gospel with less love, not more.
Redemption is offered to all and is found only in Jesus Christ. Years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote in the book, The Everlasting Man, that God’s work of redemption “makes nothing but dust and nonsense of comparative religion…. nobody else has any good news; for the simple reason that nobody else has any news.” In triumph, Jesus stated from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Nothing more need be done, or could be done, for God’s love to be shown and for the work of redemption to be completed.