Do you intend to atone for your mistakes? When we get into difficulty—usually difficulties of our own making—and need to get out of it, we talk of “redeeming ourselves.” For instance, when we say something cruel to a friend, we may regret our words and desire to make amends.
“God has given us this grace in the one he dearly loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offenses, according to the riches of his grace.” – Ephesians 1:6b–7
Redemption refers to freedom from an adverse circumstance or danger that threatens us. It is about being delivered to a location of freedom or safety after being rescued from a predicament. Personal connections and other circumstances are both subject to redemption in this brief verse from Ephesians. The redemption he refers to is crucial because it affects our relationship with God. We can see from a closer examination of these Ephesians texts that we cannot atone for ourselves before God. Instead, God must and has already accomplished our redemption. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Redemption is a Gift from God
The atonement is a gift from God. We don’t carry it out for our benefit. Our redemption is “due to the riches of his mercy” and that God has “given us this grace.” The word “grace” refers to a gift that God gives to us. From his abundant resources, God has bestowed the gift of salvation upon us. We have redemption since he employs the present tense to explain it. Redemption is neither something we must accomplish in this life nor something we must look forward to in the future. We currently possess it, and we do so because God has granted it to us. But what exactly is this gift of atonement? Why has he saved us? And from what have we been saved?
The One He Dearly Loves
God has saved us “in the one he dearly loves.” This expression refers to the prophetic book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, which mentions a character known as the “Suffering Servant.” God loves and chooses this Suffering Servant, and they endure suffering. He feels a strong bond with the Israelites, endures hardship, and ultimately perishes because of Israel’s misdeeds.
Here is a well-known verse from Isaiah:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds, we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
– Isaiah 53:5–6 ESV
Isaiah claims that the Suffering Servant will die to redeem Israel’s people. It reflects the time when Israel was exiled and held as a slave nation by an ancient empire known as Babylon. God had vowed to deliver his people, the Israelites, from that slavery. However, Isaiah claimed their political return from exile was not the fullest form of salvation. It was planned to be a representation of a far greater atonement.
Israel had defied God, which was why they were exiled in the first place. They had “sinned,” “transgressed,” and “committed iniquity” against God. In other words, they had consistently and purposefully disobeyed God’s good intentions for them. Therefore, as a punishment for their transgression, God exiled them. The Suffering Servant was harmed as a result and endured suffering in place of the people who atone for their sins. He was pierced, crushed, and wounded in order to atone for sinners and bring about redemption. It was the redemption not just from captivity but also from sin and God’s wrath.