Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 18, 2016
“To Redeem Those under the Law”
Text: Galatians 4:4-5
Indeed, God sent forth His Son—and we celebrate this fact this season. We have seen a number of truth that rise from this claim—and those truths rise explicitly from Galatians 4:4-5. We have seen in past weeks that God sent His Son in the fullness of time, born of woman, and born under the Law. Today we see Jesus sent forth by His Father to redeem those under the Law—the likes of you and of me. Let us give our attention, then, to God’s Word, in order that we may understand more about this.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
I have mentioned the fact, at times here and in earlier pastorates, that my dad spent the major part of his working career as a pawnbroker. The word redemption in that trade is a technical term. When a client places an item with the shop and receives money, he may, at the end of the contract (usually about a month) either extend the contract by paying interest only or he may regain his item by repaying an amount equal to what he received initially plus interest. When he regains his item, that process is called in the trade redemption. It comes, at most shops, at considerable cost to the redeemer.
Similarly, to redeem, in the New Testament sense, is to cause the release or freedom of someone by a means which proves costly to the individual causing the release. Jesus Christ accomplished this very thing; He came to redeem those under the Law. Let’s look now at His redemption in fuller detail.
We, apart from Christ, are bound to keep every stroke of the Law without fail. Moses, led by the Spirit, wrote—and Paul, by the same Spirit, quoted—that cursed is everyone who fails to abide by all things written in the Law and do them (Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:11). God’s Word tells us that should we offend in one point of all the Law, we become guilty of (or accountable for) all of it (cf. James 2:10).
Alas, we, since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, cannot and do not uphold the Law. Paul spares no feelings to declare the miserable estate of mankind apart from faith in Christ; among other things, he writes, “There is none righteous; no, not one (Romans 3:10, cf. ibid. 3:10-18). Hence, all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). If we are not careful, we shall at times flatter ourselves for our righteous acts—or, at least, our less unrighteous acts. God, in His Word, reminds us that even our righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). How much more unclean, then, are our unrighteous acts? One shudders to think of it.
The penalty for such failure is severe indeed. Ezekiel tells us in his Spirit-led prophecy that the soul that sins shall die (cf. Ezekiel xviii.20a). Paul writes in a similar vein that the wages of sin is death (Romans vi.23a). Happily, Jesus Christ redeems us who stand under the sentence of death. Let’s look at exactly how He accomplishes our redemption.
Jesus is able to redeem us due to His perfect active obedience to the Law. That is, as we noted last week, He kept every point of the law without failure—without sin. Hence, He has the ability to redeem. He is willing to redeem due to His immeasurable love both for His Father and for each one the Father gives to Him. Moreover, Jesus wills to redeem us for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). As costly and as painful as this process be for Jesus, He esteems it not drudgery, but joy.
Jesus, our willing, able Redeemer, bears the Law’s sentence of death in our stead. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). What we gain from this is stupendous—the Father clothes us in Christ’s perfect righteousness, Who bears the stain of our sin to dark Calvary. We are thus justified, and that by faith in Christ. Indeed, our Substitute is our Advocate—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1).
Thus, we are freed. We are redeemed. This occurs, as we have seen, at great cost to God in Christ—but it occurs at no cost to us. Moreover, in view of God’s infinite being and power, this great cost He handles with plenty to spare. Hence, we are freed indeed. We are freed from God’s condemnation of us—and that on the basis of His righteous law. We rejoice in the truth from Paul’s pen, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We are freed also from a miserable present and the miserable prospect of an unspeakably miserable eternity—in that place reserved for the devil and his host. We are freed also from spiritual death, for the one believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
We are freed to some other things as well. However, let us, as Mr. Bennet urges in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, come to a right understanding. God has not redeemed us in Christ in order that we may behave licentiously. Rather, we are to be happy bond-servants unto righteousness. Also, we are not redeemed unto self-determination. We are not our own, but we are bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are the Lord’s, and we delight to do His will.
We are redeemed, however, unto liberty. We are not enslaved people, we are free in Christ. Much of Paul’s letter to the Galatians enlarges upon this truth. We are redeemed unto acquittal at Christ’s judgment seat. We are redeemed unto joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, among other flowerings of His precious fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). We are redeemed out of an empty way of life unto all that God created you and me to be, and we are redeemed in Christ unto all the benefits that flow from union with Him.
God sent forth His Son, among other reasons, to redeem those under the Law. In this we rejoice especially today. Therefore, either receive this redemption (and this Redeemer) by faith, or revel in it (and Him) once received.
 For this understanding of the Greek word here translated redeem (exagorazo [exagorazw]) I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).