February 2009 Issue
Son ~ His Redeeming Work on the Cross
by Jerry Garrard
There are some aspects of our belief
that leave no wiggle room. What a person believes about Jesus
and His work on the cross is one of those; that belief makes all
the difference in the world now and for all eternity.
In a taxi ride a few days before Christmas, I bolstered up
the courage to interject discussion about Jesus into polite conversation
with the driver. I learned early in the exchange that he was from
Africa and had been living in the United States for about a decade.
After some pleasantries and with some trepidation I asked, "What
do you believe about all this emphasis on celebrating the birth
of Jesus Christ?" He said, "Oh I think it's wonderful.
I'm a Muslim. but I think it helps people to be better" (his
English was a little disjointed).
"We can all learn to be better," I said.
If you have been in one of these conversations, you know how
challenging it is to maneuver through the maze of language and
culture, present the Gospel, and not become a traffic statistic.
I pressed on, "Are you aware that Jesus Christ was not only
born but He died on the cross for our sins?" I was not fully
prepared for his answer. "How sad," he said.
I quickly flashed through all my training EE, CWT, FAITH
more degrees than a thermometer. I'm definitely going to
fail this course, I thought.
"No, no," I said, "that's not sad; it's the best
news anyone could ever hear. Jesus was born, lived a sinless life,
died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected from the grave,
and is alive here today in this cab with us."
He went on, "I didn't know that, I don't know that much
about Jesus." Given enough time I would have gone into "most
of the world doesn't know that much about Jesus either,"
but that was for another day.
John A. Broadus, considered one of the greatest men to have
served among Southern Baptists,
wrote, "My hearers, what is the most wonderful event that
ever occurred on earth or ever happened in the universe? The history
of our race is so full of wonderful events you might well pause
for your answer. My answer would be this: by far the most wonderful
thing that has ever happened in the universe is the atoning death
of Jesus Christ the Lord."1
That's what I was trying to communicate to the cab driver.
It would be difficult to get into a long lesson in systematic
theology in a short cab ride, but I wanted to get to the heart
of the Gospel.
So I left him with, "Would you be willing to check out
the truths about Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins?"
He was gracious, and with that I was off to my ministry meeting
about reaching the world for Jesus. But that encounter reminds
us of what sets our faith apart from every other religion
God's provision for redemption from sin.
The Reality of Redemption
Many of us have memorized Romans 3:23, but look at it in the
context of the verse that follows it:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24, emphasis added).
One of the occupational hazards of ministry is the temptation
to forget or "get over" some of the foundational realities
of our faith. The reality of redemption is foundational, indeed,
but it should never be relegated to the distant and dusty memories
of classroom lectures and theology notes. It impacts every move
that we make every day as followers of Christ. Let's take a moment
to briefly remind ourselves of this precious truth.
The article entitled "God the Son" in the Baptist
Faith and Message states: "In His substitutionary death
on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from
sin."2 It further states in the article
on "Salvation," "Who by His own blood obtained
eternal redemption for the believer."3
This is the central message of the Bible and the main reason Jesus
came to earth. It is taught from Genesis to Revelation.
Because we have heard these verses so many times, we may gloss
over them, or even take them for granted, but consider these verses
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the
forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His
grace (Ephesians 1:7, emphasis added).
For you know that you were redeemed from your empty
way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things,
like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ
(1 Peter 1:18-19a, emphasis added).
The root Greek word for redeem in these two passages
is lutron; in ancient Greek culture it most commonly referred
to the ransom that was paid to free a person from slavery.4 Paul makes it clear that we were enslaved
by sin (Romans 6:17), so the use of this word is even more poignant.
Jesus Himself used this word when He declared:
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to
serve, and to give His life a ransom for many
(Matthew 20:28, emphasis added).
Of course the concept is not new to the Gospels or to Paul's
writings. God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus
15:13; Deuteronomy 7:8; 13:5), and that redemption was directly
linked to the blood of the Passover lamb. This and the system
of sacrifices that He established at Mt. Sinai pointed all the
way forward to Jesus' redeeming sacrifice on the cross. And in
that context, the author of Hebrews reminds his readers:
Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things
that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not
made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the
holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves,
but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For
if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling
those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal
Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences
from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrew 9:11-14,
The powerful and glorious reality is that though we were enslaved
by and to sin, and we could never, ever buy our freedom from it
or its consequences, God lovingly and graciously provided that
ransom, our redemption, through the precious blood of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the only One who offers a ransom for
our slavery to sin and the eternal hell we deserve not
Mohammad, not Buddha, not any other religion.
The Implications of Redemption
The theological significance of these truths may seem obvious,
but consider again Paul's words to the Colossian Christians:
When you were dead in your transgression ... He made you
alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees
against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of
the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14,
Some commentators suggest the "certificate of debt"
was an allusion to the charges posted against an offender that
would remain in effect until the sentence of payment was met.
There is some evidence that this "certificate" would
be nailed just outside the guilty party's cell so all could see
the crimes for which the prisoner was being punished. If that
is the case, what a glorious thought that the charges against
us have been taken away by Jesus Christ through His death on the
At the core of our faith is the truth that man is a sinner
and cannot make himself right with God. Our sins have separated
us from God with absolutely no hope of bridging the gulf by our
own efforts. The redeeming work of Jesus Christ accomplishes for
us what we could never accomplish on our own.
What does this mean for us? Of course, the most obvious and
perhaps most cited result is the provision of eternal life. John
3:16 has been branded upon so many of our hearts, and rightly
so. God loved the world so much that He sent His Son Jesus to
pay for our sins and provide a way for us to have eternal life.
Our belief about the redeeming work of Jesus has direct bearing
on our eternal destiny. Because the price for our ransom has been
paid, we can have the assurance of deliverance from hell, and
conversely, life with Him forever. But that reference to eternal
life in John 3:16 also addresses the quality of life we now live.
Hebrews 9:14 says that His blood cleanses our consciences
from dead works to serve the living God. This indicates that
His redemption delivers us from the futility and guilt associated
with legalism and ritualistic religion. What an incredible relief!
Because He paid the price in full, we don't have to labor under
the crushing burden of trying to earn His favor through religious
activities! How many of our members indeed, how many of
us have borne that unnecessary weight of thinking we can,
and must, perform in a way that in some way gains His favor? His
redemption removes that burden forever, making such efforts not
only futile and unnecessary, but even offensive to God. It frees
us from the guilty conscience produced by a works-based
religion, and it frees us to serve Him with a clean conscience.
In addition, we have daily even moment by moment
access to a loving, gracious, and merciful Heavenly Father. In
fact, after addressing the Lord's redemption in 9:12, the author
of Hebrews goes on to say that the Lord's provision makes it possible
to actually enter the heavenly sanctuary and "draw near to
God" (10:19-22, NIV).
Not only that, he further indicates that because of Christ's
work on the cross, we can stand steadfast in the face of trials,
confident of His faithfulness (Hebrews 9:22-23).
Also, Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 2:13 indicate that His redemption
provides forgiveness from our sins not just when we die,
but NOW! His redemption frees us from daily slavery to such a
cruel master. As Paul points out in Romans 6:14-18, we are free
from that bondage to sin!
Finally, Peter reminded his readers that the Lord provided
redemption from an empty and futile way of life (1 Peter 1:18).
Each meaningful breath we take as one of the redeemed is truly
because of the One who has redeemed us.
Spatial limitations prevent an exhaustive treatment of the
practical outworking of the Lord's redeeming work on the cross,
but suffice it to say that everything good that we are and become
in this life, and all that His followers will experience in the
next, is directly and inseparably linked to the magnificent reality
of Christ's glorious work of redemption on the cross.
The Urgency of Redemption
As a nine-year-old, I first understood the truth of our Lord's
sacrifice for our sin in an evangelistic meeting held by Dr. Jesse
Hendley, a Southern Baptist evangelist for more than sixty years.
Before his death a few years ago, he gave me a book by Dr. James
Denny titled The Death of Christ. Inside the front page
Dr. Hendley wrote these words:
"To Jerry, My beloved son in the faith: This volume is
enormously important. When I first began to preach, most people
knew they were lost and the Gospel of the grace of God
the central truth of the Bible God made the atonement of
the cross in the death of Christ God's beloved Son.
Today, I believe few of our church members really understand this.
I am telling my young preacher friends to study the profound and
only saving truth and to preach it constantly. What value is it
to teach the other great truths and people remain without understanding
clearly that God and Christ settled it all at the cross."
I have the book in my office situated so I see it every day
a reminder along with other books, pictures, and additional
items, that Christ died for my sins and the only merit I will
ever have before God is what Christ accomplished for me. Reflect
again on John's opening words in the Book of Revelation:
To Him who loves us and has set us free from our
sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and
Father to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.
Amen (Revelation 1:5b-6, emphasis added).
Has this truth somehow gone out of vogue? Have we become ashamed
of the Gospel? Is the redeeming blood of Christ no longer a significant
part of our theology? Do we really help people to "be better"
if we assist with their family, finances, and perhaps their fun,
but never point them to faith in the redeeming work of Christ?
What was I to say to the cab driver? How would this sound?
"There are many ways to God. You go yours, and I'll go mine.
See you in heaven!" God forbid!! As I said, there is no wiggle
room here. Our belief about the redeeming work of Jesus is the
bedrock of our faith.
Isaac Watts, the prolific hymn writer, penned:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!5
I hope to see that cab driver again, and I'm praying that the
Lord will touch his heart and prompt him to investigate the truths
about Jesus and His redeeming work on the cross. If he does, he
will find that it is there, and only there, that we find true
redemption from life-strangling and eternally-damning slavery
to sin. And may we never let that glorious truth diminish in our
hearts or from our mouths.
1 Necessity of
Atonement, John A. Broadus (1827-1895).
2 Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Article II, B.
3 Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Article IV.
4 Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 3, s.v.
"Redemption," lytron, 189-190.
5 Alas and Did My Savior Bleed, Isaac Watts (1674-1748).
Dr. Jerry Garrard is a member of First Baptist
Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, and serves as vice president
of Institutional Advancement at New Orleans Baptist Theological
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