Redeemed or Forgiven?
Part 2 of 8
This Part 2 will cover the the distinctions and understanding between redemption and forgiveness.
Are you redeemed or just forgiven?
If you are redeemed, who was your captor, and how did you know you were captive? Where is your captor now and do you need to return to those things that were evidences of your captivity?
There is no reason to intentionally separate redemption and forgiveness but they are distinct. It is not my intention to create any separation but in order to understand both of these terms, we do need distinguish them from each other.
Understanding the difference between forgiveness and redemption is going to be the most crucial foundation of this whole series of articles.
I don’t know if Christianity has ever examined these two subjects in contrast to each other very much, but it will be the key that unlocks the mystery as we look into the Redemption and original sin.
The word ‘redemption’ is a very common word in Christianity but it’s hardly ever put into a context, and it is even less likely to ever hear of it being put into a personal context (in my opinion). We do hear of deliverance more often than redemption and this is an acceptable synonym, but deliverance is usually spoken of in relation to a post-salvation experience where someone is delivered from a specific vice, sin, situation or mentality. Deliverance and redemption should have a unique relation to all Christians as a general principle of salvation, but it should also have a unique relation to each persons experience of salvation. Original sin effects everyone differently and therefore redemption and deliverance will have its own uniqueness depending on the individual. Psalms 107 offers a shadow of how we are redeemed from different places as individuals:
…whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”
I truly believe that there is one single message and theme to the whole Bible. This message is the plan of God for the redemption of mankind. The Hebrew Roots Movement believes this also, but their version of the one message is not the same as that of the Bible. The HRM only focuses on the issue of forgiveness of sins in relation to Law-keeping and Law-breaking, but they overlook the issue of captivity, bondage and redemption. The HRM only views the Cross as a fulfillment of the shadow and type of animals sacrifices and Messianic prophecies, but captivity, bondage and redemption are the more pronounced and specific aspects that give us a clearer outline and context to the one message of the Bible.
The one single message of redemption should ultimately lead us to understand that the true enemy of God’s people was themselves and sin. While the HRM may overwhelmingly agree with this, they still fail to explain what it means to be redeemed and what role the Law plays in understanding what we were held captive to, and what we were redeemed from. The HRM only puts forth the limited scope of forgiveness and not the full spectrum of redemption.
FORGIVENESS VS. REDEMPTION-
There are 3 definitions of the word redeem, or redeemed that I will using as a basis:
1) To recover ownership of by paying a specified sum.
2) To set free; rescue or ransom.
3) To save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences.
Equally, here are some definitions of forgiven:
1) To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.
2) To renounce anger or resentment against.
3) To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example).
The concept and principles of forgiveness are universal throughout the Bible. Forgiveness invokes the concept of a legal transaction whereby God dismisses the charges against the transgressor and restoration is made between God and the offending party.
Personal sins and forgiveness are a very real thing in the OT. We don’t have to look any further than the example of David and Bathsheba and Psalm 51. David’s sin was very personal and he sought forgiveness from God on a very personal level. There is nothing in the NT that would distinguish how we approach God from how David approached God concerning forgiveness.
Humility and repentance have always remained the foundational principles and initial basis of forgiveness, but the means of forgiveness have changed from animal sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ.
This forgiveness however, whether it be in the OT or NT, or whether it be through animals or Christ, does not define redemption.
Everyone who has been redeemed has also been forgiven, but being forgiven does not necessarily equate to being redeemed.
Redemption, or deliverance has always been about God bringing His people back from a lost or dispersed condition in which they were held in bondage and captivity to a third party. This is far more than legal restoration as we see in forgiveness. It involves an act of God whereby He separates His people from their captors and captivity through miraculous means. Forgiveness calls to mind the benevolent attributes and characteristics of God in resolving a legal matter, but redemptions calls to mind the the actual hand of God in bringing His people to a separate place unto Him. It is one thing for God to pass over the sins of the people who’s doorposts are covered in lambs blood, but it is another thing for Him to bring them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and signs and wonders.
I don’t think I need to explain these differences any further but now we come to another distinction. Everybody knows how forgiveness has changed from animal sacrifices to the blood of Jesus Christ, but forgiveness is still forgiveness and it is in relation to sin and transgression. The question is whether redemption is still the same redemption and what is it in relation to? We are redeemed through the blood of Jesus just as we are forgiven, but are we redeemed from the same things that the Israelites were redeemed from? Let’s look at redemption in the Old Testament.
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT-
The concept and principles of redemption are universal throughout the Bible but redemption is not the same in the OT as it is in the NT.
God is the same Redeemer and Deliverer today as He was in the OT, but the difference is in recognizing who is the captor and enemy of God’s people.
In the OT, 99% of the time, redemption is always in relation to the physical world. The greatest example of redemption begins with the Exodus of the Israelites from the physical bondage of Egypt.
“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
“…the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
The Psalms are the greatest compilation of examples about deliverance from bondage but they are almost entirely in relation to the physical deliverance from physical enemies. Some of the Psalms are about deliverance from single physical enemies while other examples are about deliverance from armies and captors on a national scale:
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”(Psalms 107:2-3)
The enemies of Israel were always physical nations and peoples. When God’s people sinned and fell into captivity and bondage, it was always to some other person, peoples or nations. Is this how it is in the NT?
REDEMPTION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT-
If redemption in the OT is almost always, and predominantly in relation to physical captivity, why then does Paul tell us in the NT:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 6:12)?
Why does Paul tells us in the NT:
“Christ has REDEEMED us from the curse of the Law…”
Did the Apostles preach redemption from the Romans through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?
What’s up with all the Apostles claiming that people have been redeemed when all of the known world was in captivity to the Romans? Captivity is captivity isn’t it? When Israel was in captivity to the Babylonians, wasn’t that captivity? When Israel was in captivity to the Assyrians, wasn’t that captivity? When Israel was in captivity to the Egyptians, wasn’t that captivity? The Bible sure says it was, and it also says that they were redeemed from their captivity, so how can the apostles claim that mankind had been redeemed when they were still in bondage to Rome? All the Apostles who claimed to be redeemed, lived and died under Roman captivity. How can that be if they claim to have been redeemed? From what or from whom were the Apostles claiming to be redeemed?
THE MINISTRY OF JESUS-
At the time of Christ, all of Israel was in bondage and captivity to the Romans, but was this the message of Jesus Christ or the Apostles? Did Jesus Christ preach redemption from the Romans through repentance and faith in Himself?
When Jesus begins His ministry, He begins by quoting from Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”(Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1-2)
Isaiah 61 reads slightly different than Luke’s “set at liberty those who are oppressed” by saying:
“…And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
(Isaiah 61 NKJV)
If we go by the OT examples and standards of redemption from bondage and captivity, then Jesus obviously failed in His ministry to set the captives free because everyone alive at that time who turned to Him in faith and repentance was never freed from Roman captivity and bondage.
Jesus failed in His ministry only if we fail to understand who was the real captor and oppressor of God’s people.
Who did Jesus believe was the real captor and oppressor of God’s people? Who were the captives that Jesus was going to preach liberty to? What prisons did Jesus open for those in bondage?
We can see who was the real captor of God’s people when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said:
“…and you shall call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins.”(Matthew 1:21)
But wait just a minute!!!
Didn’t God save Israel from their sins in the OT also?
Salvation through Christ may be superior to animal sacrifices but weren’t the Israelites saved from sin before?
What kind of sin are we talking about?
Lets face some facts here. Jesus claimed that He came to set the captives free, and the Apostles claim we are redeemed but those who were redeemed remained in physical bondage to Rome. This is not Old Testament redemption in any way shape or form, whatsoever!
You can’t say that Jesus redeemed mankind when He obviously didn’t in the OT sense. Yes, people’s sins were forgiven in Christ just as they were by sacrifices in the OT and we have been redeemed from sin and death through His blood, but this still doesn’t add up to the OT standard of redemption.
You can’t simply say that Jesus would have redeemed Israel from the Romans if everybody would have repented.
Many did repent any many were added to the church at Pentecost but still no redemption from Rome.
We have to identify the true enemy and captor of God’s people so that we can solve the problem of understanding our restored identity.
If redemption is no longer in relation to bondage and captivity to a physical enemy or third party, then we truly have something unprecedented in the Bible and this throws a giant kink in the HRM idea that nothing new has occurred with Christ that would alter our view and perception of the law.
It would be theologically short-sighted to rest on the statement that we have been redeemed from sin and death, or that we have been redeemed from the curse of the Law. We have to study this captor known as “sin” to understand its functions and how it plays out in the redemption of mankind.
THE REAL TOPIC OF DEBATE-
What we have to understand when it comes to debates between Christians and the Hebrew Roots Movement, or between Calvinism and Arminianism, is that the core of the debates calls into question what state of existence or what state of obligation we are in after we have been forgiven through the Cross and sacrifice of Christ.
Are we in a state of grace, or immunity, or obligation or law?
The questions that seek to determine what state we are in after salvation miss the mark entirely because the personal aspect of our salvation comes along the lines of redemption more than it does by forgiveness. Forgiveness is the legal basis but our identity is built upon redemption and what we have been delivered from on a personal level. This plays into what the context of our life is subsequent to salvation, but if we only view salvation as forgiveness then we run the risk of looking at everything after salvation as being separate from salvation. If we only view salvation as forgiveness, then the rest of our life is a vacuum for either liberalism or legalism. When our post salvation life is not filled with the proper context and perspective of righteousness then we run the risk of being an ultra-Pharisee or an ultra-sinner.
This is what happened to the Israelites who made and worshipped the golden calf but it may also be why Moses was refused entry into the promised land. Both of these cases can give us an understanding of Luke 11:24-26:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
According to this verse, if each of us does not come to understand the nature of the universal deliverance in Christ and our own personal deliverance in Christ, then we will be even more callous and oblivious to what is sound doctrine about Christ and what has happened in our lives because of it. The sinner will become all the more sinful, and the legalist and self-righteous will become all the more legalistic and self-righteous but both will claim to have obtained the same forgiveness. If the focus was placed on determining what they were redeemed from then I doubt both cases would be so polarized and they would not be in bondage to such extremes.
We have to fill our post salvation lives with an understanding of what we have been redeemed from universally and personally.
In the next article, Part 3 we will look at the specifics and generalities concerning original sin.