Atoning Blood 5

By Philip Graham Ryken

Atonement by Redemption

Thankfully, the Book of Romans is not just about the problem of sin and death, but also about God’s solution to our problem in Jesus Christ.  Yes, the wages of sin is death, but as Paul goes on to say, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). 

This saving grace comes as a gift.  God intervenes in the history of fallen humanity to provide a new and free way of salvation.  The provision of that gift is marked by the adversative “But now.”  To quote Paul’s fuller argument:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Rom. 3:21-25).

Notice again the universal problem of sin: all of us fall short of the glory of God.  Notice as well the language of presentation.  The righteousness of God is offered to sinners as a gracious gift.  But notice especially three vocabulary words that the apostle uses to define and describe our salvation—the doctrines of the atonement. 

First there is the word redemption—a term for atonement that comes from the marketplace.  “Redemption” refers to the procurement of a release through the payment of a price.  The word is a commercial term that describes salvation as a business transaction.  In fact, some of the common biblical words for redemption (agorazo, exagorazo) are derived from the Greek word for an open marketplace (agora), where a variety of goods were sold.  Probably the most dramatic example of redemption from the ancient world was the price paid for the manumission of a slave.  A slave would be offered for sale in the city marketplace, where anyone who was willing to pay the price could purchase the slave’s freedom. 

When the New Testament talks about redemption, the emphasis almost always falls on the costliness of the price.  Here in Romans 3, where redemption is described as a gift, it becomes apparent that the price of that gift is paid in blood.  We are redeemed from our bondage to sin through the cross, where Jesus offered his blood as the payment for our sin.

In any redemption, it is necessary for the payment to be made in full.  My wife Lisa and I learned this during the first months of our marriage.  We had very little money to spend on anything extra in those days, so we were delighted to get a cereal box with a coupon for an ice cream Blizzard at Dairy Queen.  Carefully we cut the coupon from the box, walked downtown, and presented it for redemption.  The server at the window studied our coupon disdainfully and then pronounced, “We don’t make that size!”  Not having enough money to buy a Blizzard, we sadly walked away.

Praise God that Jesus paid the full price for our redemption!  Here is a unique claim in the history of religion.  What other deity has ever offered his own blood for the salvation of his people?  Only the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. 

Never discount the cost of salvation.  The grace of God did not come cheap.  We were “bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20): the blood of the Savior who “purchased men for God” (Rev. 5:9).  In the words of an old Easter hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.”[1]

[1] “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” (1848).