The redemption of man by Christ Jesus has been tearfully contemplated, angrily debated, reduced to mathematical equations, abandoned as incomprehensible, and, sometimes, made a matter of scorn.
Some have thought that the Lord Jesus succeeded in placating a fiercely angry Deity and caused Him to turn His face toward us when hitherto He had been wrathful and unforgiving. Others have regarded redemption like a system of weights, pulleys and strings by which the redemption of man was, as it were, mechanically contrived. Yet others have taken it as a spiritual business transaction whereby the inestimable value of Christ’s blood was paid to a being known as the Devil in order to secure the release of sinners from his evil grasp. Some have found it helpful to look upon Christ’s death as substitutionary: that is, that Christ went to the cross instead of us, paying in this way the price for our personal sins. And some have regarded his death as a tragedy, an accident of wicked circumstances, and in no way of itself redemptive.
What is the truth? How can one find a way through this maze of speculation? As in everything else, there is only one sure way, and that is to let the Bible do the teaching and guiding, and to submit humbly to the discipline of this instruction.
Let us start by dismissing the notion that Jesus was pleading on bended knee to a God whose anger had caused Him to turn His face away from us. The secret of the cross is love, the love of God and the love of His Son. Whatever else we may have to consider, let us lay down this foundation: the motivating force for redemption is love:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
“The Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
Love is the reason for redemption. Love flowed first from God, and therefore from the Son whom He sent into the world. Love cannot be and must not be reduced to law or considered in terms of rights and earnings. Love is above and beyond all considerations. Love owes nothing to any goodness or merit in us. Love comes from God who is “merciful and gracious”.