Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
I like to watch the show on TV, “Alaska State Troopers.” At times it shows how dangerous the state can be for pets. One show was about a resident of Juneau, Alaska who let her dogs out and one of them, a dachshund named Fudge, started to yelp. When she looked, she saw Fudge in the mouth of a black bear. She took off after the two. And when she managed to catch up she did the only thing she could think of: she punched the bear in the nose. It must have been quite a punch as the bear dropped the dog and headed off for the mountains. She saved little Fudge, but, in speaking to the Alaska trooper, she readily admitted that it was incredibly stupid to punch a black bear in the snout to save a dog. The risk wasn’t really worth the reward.
Today, as we consider to what ends our God was willing to go to rescue us from the jaws of Satan, death, and hell, it’s even more mind-boggling that he should do that than that Alaska woman should go after her dachshund. Not with some adrenaline rush that temporarily blinded his senses, but with full knowledge, completely understanding the huge risk, Jesus not only risked his life, but gave it, enduring hell itself on the cross to rescue you and me.
This act of the Lord which has redeemed our souls and forgiven our sins doesn’t make sense, not by human standards. We can only begin to understand how God redeemed us. The basic elements are revealed in his Word. But why God redeemed us, well there is no good reason. That’s just who God is, the God of perfect grace giving his undeserved love, his only Son, to rescue you and me. We continue our summer sermon series looking at the Apostles’ Creed by looking at the second article of the Apostles’ Creed. And as we do so we each marvel again that God Has Redeemed Me. What Does This Mean?
Galatians 4:4-5: But 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.
Hebrews 2:14: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.
As we talk about Christ’s redemption, we should first define that term. Redeem, in the biblical sense isn’t talking about coupons. When you read or hear “redeem” in the Bible, think “ransom.” It means to buy someone back, to rescue them at a price. But of course to say that Christ redeemed us means that at one point we were in need of rescue. And we did. But what did we need rescue from?
I’ve never been a slave to another person. I’ve never been kidnapped. But I still needed rescue, just like you did. And we needed rescue, not just from sickness or financial problems, from backache or marital strife, not from bad grades or bad reviews, but from Satan himself.
I was once a slave to sin. That is, I could do nothing but sin. Born into sin, no one can on their own get themselves out of that. Oh, sure, some sins look small or even pretty as selfishness is masked in manipulation. So we give of our time, our energy or of ourselves in order to be served back later, to look good to others, or to feel good about ourselves. We might not have even been aware of how selfish that is because that’s how steeped in selfishness we can be. “Slave to sin.” That’s how God describes us in his Word. And as such we are slaves to the devil, who holds the power of death.
What could we possibly do to escape? We couldn’t improve. We couldn’t stop sinning. And even if we could, we couldn’t undo the sin we’d already done. Imagine if I were kidnapped tonight and a ransom note was delivered to our church president demanding one million dollars by tomorrow morning at 8:00 am or you would never see me again. Okay, there’s a pretty good chance that I’d just have to tough it out, right? I can hear him saying, “Oh, he’s not worth it.” The question of would you raise the money, aside, could you? Could you get that kind of cash together with such little notice?
The odds of your raising one million dollars overnight are better than the odds of you escaping from Satan’s clutches on your own. It can’t be done. We needed rescue. And thank God we’ve received it!
Martin Luther in his Small Catechism states, “I believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son, our Lord… He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil.”
But the ransom for our souls is much greater than a million bucks. In fact, no amount of money could ever pay. No sacrifice could be made. Not even another human soul. You see another human is a sinner. They’re already slaves themselves in need of ransom. That’s why the Psalmist wrote: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay.” (Psalm 49:7-9)
The ransom payment must be something far greater, something you or I could never afford, something only God could. As Luther put it, “He has redeemed me… from all sins… death and… the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”
And in order to do that, God had to become man. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy… the devil.” But why did he have to have flesh and blood to redeem us? He’s God. Couldn’t he just speak and call his victory into existence? Well, it doesn’t really work that way. You see, God wasn’t just conquering an enemy, but was winning us, the enemy, over. And to do that, he had to take our place.
Maybe this will help explain: People sometimes decorate their homes by writing unique, sometimes funny, sayings on the walls of certain rooms. Now the children know the big rule. Under no circumstances are they ever allowed to take pens or markers and color on the walls, the carpets, the books, or anything that wasn’t paper designated for that specific purpose of being colored on by children. But why don’t the parents have to keep the rule? Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it? It’s their house. They own it, so they can do what they want with it. They aren’t bound by that law or rule because it is their law. They wrote it. They enforced it. Thus they were above it.
In a similar way, God can end a human life whenever he chooses. And it’s not murder because it’s his life. He gave it. He can take it. But what does this all have to do with our redemption? Well, if Jesus was to rescue us and bring us into heaven, he’d have to make us perfect. And to make us perfect he’d have to be perfect in our place. And to be perfect in our place, he’d have to be under his own law in order to keep it for us. And to be under his own law, he’d have to become human, like you and me.
Our text states, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.” The Apostles’ Creed explains this: “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary… I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.”
But there’s more to it than that. Jesus’ perfect keeping of the law in our place gives us his “A+, 100%” in God’s record book. But our sin had to be removed too. And to do that, Jesus had to take the punishment we deserve. Jesus had to die. But in order to die, he had to be true human too. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) And, as Luther states, “He has redeemed me… with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”
Jesus became true man to be born under the law. Jesus remained true God to keep the law perfectly in our place. Jesus became true man to die in our place. Jesus remained true God to make that death count. How did God redeem us? By the God-man, Jesus Christ, who placed himself under the law to keep the law for us, who placed himself on the cross to take away our sins and to rescue us from the devil.
Why did God redeem us? That I don’t know. Why he went chasing after death and entered the jaws of hell to rescue me, who is worth less than a dachshund because I’ve rebelled against him, I don’t know. But I do know this: “I believe in Jesus Christ… who… was crucified, died, and was buried…” And that, “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”
How did God redeem us? We answered that one. Why did God redeem us? That we may never fully comprehend. Now the only question that remains is this: As redeemed, blood-bought children of God, how will you spend your life? For what are you willing to live and to die? I hope it’s for more than a dachshund, or any dog for that matter. I hope it’s for your Savior. I pray that for all that Jesus has done for you, you will eagerly and gladly, “be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.” May God give you the faith, the conviction, and the strength to always say, “This is most certainly true.” Amen.