When the time had fully come, God sent His Son,
born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law,
that we might receive the full rights of sons.
How would you define the word 'redeemer'? Humor me for a moment and look it up on dictionary.com. The first annotation is what you might call a 'duh' definition: 'one who redeems.' Illuminating, isn’t it? But the second definition is stunning: 'Jesus Christ.' 'Redeemer' is synonymous with Jesus Christ!
But what does it mean that Jesus Christ is 'one who redeems'? 'Redeem' means to buy back, to set free. So why is Jesus 'The Redeemer'? Who did He come to redeem, why did they need redeeming, and how did He redeem them?
The Bible tells us that Jesus came "to redeem those under law." The Law, God’s standard for all mankind, is this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:30,31) God has given us our existence, our life and everything in it; we are all subject to God and under God’s Law, obligated to obey it, obligated to obey Him in everything. How’s your performance under God’s Law? Have you lived up to God’s standard of love? This isn’t about being a good person or trying to do what’s right. This is about an obedience that is as complete as the word "all." None of us can claim that "all." You and I have broken God’s Law of complete love for Him and for our fellowman.
Just as it is in life under the law of the land, failure to live in obedience under the Law puts us under the penalty of the Law. For some offenses, we can pay our way back into good standing under the law; paying a fine for a traffic ticket settles our debt. But can any payment clear us of our offenses against God, who says, "Be holy, because I the LORD your God, am holy"? (Leviticus 19:2) We like to think our offenses are relatively small ('at least I haven’t killed anyone'), but the reality is that they are as big in magnitude as the One we sin against, the Holy One. The penalty we face is death, ultimately eternal separation from God. Do you see why we needed to be redeemed? We cannot set ourselves free from the penalty we have earned.
For this very reason, "When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law." This all took place "when the time had fully come." Jesus Christ was born when He was and where He was according to the perfect plan and preparation of the God of human history. "God sent His Son." Since all of mankind is tainted with sin and under the death penalty of the Law, there’s not a person alive or has ever lived or will ever live who could be the Redeemer. This is something only God’s Son could do. And so He came, "born of a woman, born under law." Now we get the answer to the question, 'How did He redeem us?' God’s Son was born as a human being to live under God’s Law. Though we fall short of God’s holy standard, Jesus lived a life that fulfilled the "all" of the Law for us. He did this "to redeem those under law," to set you and me free from the penalty of the Law. He took His obedience to the death for us, taking the penalty of the Law for us, suffering damnation for us, to set us free from eternal punishment. His resurrection from death assures us that God accepted the 'fine' He paid for us, that we are indeed redeemed!
But there’s even more to this. Jesus came to redeem us "that we might receive the full rights of sons." This is inheritance language. The inheritance we receive through faith in Jesus our Redeemer is eternal life in heaven. Do you see how Christmas is so much more than warm feelings about a precious baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger? Christ Our Redeemer came to set us free from our deserved punishment as lawbreakers and changed our status to children of God with the inheritance of everlasting life!
I began by asking how you would define the word 'redeemer.' We see that the best answer is to say, 'Jesus Christ, the One who was born to set us free from the death penalty of sin.' Now I ask this: How would you define 'redeemed'? Take hold of this answer in faith: 'Me…I am redeemed. I am set free from sin and death to live forever with my Redeemer in heaven.'
See how the blessings of Christmas extend throughout the year to fill your everyday life!
Follow "The ABC's of Christmas" series:
INTRO, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W
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Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.