Basic Biblical Words: What does God’s Word say about love and redemption?
While teaching through the Old Testament book of Hosea recently, I was deeply moved by its depiction of God’s redeeming love. The prophet Hosea is a vivid portrayal of a loving Savior. Gomer (the prostitute wife) is repeatedly rescued from degradation and sin. When purchased from out of slavery by her longsuffering husband, Gomer is lovingly received and restored. Such Biblical accounts of God’s pursuing love are riveting enough; 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 really meant by words like “love” and “redemption?” Our culture often defines love in terms of emotion, and the way another person or thing makes us feel. But in a scriptural sense, love is the commitment to meet another’s need. Commitment breeds action, making love more “verb” than “noun.” Biblical love stands undiminished even in the face of changing circumstances or personal betrayal. It is the type of love Jesus shows humanity (“… not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10).
The Christian concept of redemption is absolutely unique among the pantheon of world religions. Elsewhere one may find examples of offerings paid to appease offended deities, or an act done to earn divine favor. But as doctrinal truth and historical fact, 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 that Christ gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and that we have "redemption through His blood" (Ephesians 1:7). The Bible assures us that in redemption, we have more than just averted sin's punishment. Negatively speaking, the redeemed have been cleared of sin's guilt, but from a positive standpoint the saved are declared righteous- justified- and are adopted into God's family. The Bible uses legal terminology that readers of that day would easily recognize. The captives to sin were freed by payment of a price (redeemed), and though not kindred by nature, endowed status and privilege as sons (adopted).
The Old Testament alludes to work of the coming Messiah when in Isaiah 53:5 it says He was "pierced for our iniquities." Scripture presents human redemption as completely dependent on the blood of Christ: (Christ has) "released us from our sins by His blood" (Rev. 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 fails to convey God's wonderful plan of redemption. Removing Christ’s “blood payment” from our 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 about God's work of redemption that was finished on the Cross: "(Christ's work) ... makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion. No one else has any good news, for the simple reason that no one 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.