One Way to Redemption
(Westminster Shorter Catechsim Q: 21)
by Bob Burridge ©2011
There are often many different ways to solve a problem. We look over our options, then try to pick the solution that seems best.
Sometimes the problem is as simple as what you’re going to have for supper, or as complicated as deciding who will be your partner for the rest of your life. We make decisions about the best way to decorate a room, what gift is best to buy for a friend, or what movie or TV show would be the best to watch on a quiet evening. Most of the time with matters like these we chose between different options.
In contrast with these common issues, the biggest problem in life has only one solution, just one possible remedy.
In our last study we looked at questions 17-20 of our Shorter Catechism. It was about our fall into sin and the misery of being alienated from God by our guilt. That’s the problem: How can we get rid of that moral barrier between us and our Creator?
Since we are all corrupted by the fall of humanity through Adam, we cannot see things as they really are, we cannot overcome our selfish motives, and we tend to defend and excuse the things we want to do rather than to follow God’s ways. Because of our own imperfections, we cannot do anything to qualify ourselves for glory, or to get rid of our past guilt. One-by-one the Bible rules out every solution but one.
Question 20 of the Catechism explains the Bible’s solution to the problem of our guilt,
God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
So the 21st Question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?”
The answer pulls together what the Bible says about this one way of redemption:
The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.
In John 14, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them in heaven. Thomas asked how he could know the way to get where Jesus was going. In verse 6 Jesus answered saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
There is only one redemption and only one Redeemer. No other way is possible, and no other way is needed. There is only one way to deal with your personal struggles and feelings of guilt. It goes beyond just getting into heaven someday. Our Redeemer did not just come to give us birth. He came to make us alive, to make us able to live every day with confidence in his care.
Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah
Immediately after the fall in Eden, God made a promise. In the presence of our parents, Adam and Eve, he said to the Serpent in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
This Promised One, the child of a woman, would destroy Satan and put an end to his evil. He would be the one set aside for that special deliverance. The Bible calls him “Messiah”, which means the “Anointed One”. The Greek word that means that is Christos (Χριστος) from which we get the word, “Christ”.
We live in the history that flows from that promise. Today we know that Jesus was that Messiah. He came to deal with Satan and our guilt.
The promise was made in Eden. It was fulfilled on the Cross at Mount Calvary. It is applied by God’s grace to unworthy sinners loved eternally for God’s own reasons.
It is amazing to think about what God tells us in his word about his solution to our otherwise unsolvable problem. His children were chosen by his eternal love, redeemed by the work of Jesus the Promised One, and therefor cannot ever be lost, or separated from his care again. God holds his loved ones by the power of his own word. God kept his promise. He always does.
It is good to know your Savior, so you can understand how secure you are in him, and so you can worship him and live for his glory throughout every day. There is a lot of confusion about who Jesus is, and about what it means that he is your Redeemer. The Catechism summarizes what God has revealed in his word.
It tells us that Jesus is the eternal Son of God
That does not mean there was a time when he was born in heaven. God the Father was never without him. He didn’t become God the Son as if he was born into the Trinity. The main idea of sonship in the Bible is that a child carries on the work of the father and is like him in his qualities. God’s children are to live for him and are to be like him in our limited way. With Jesus, as God the Son, that relationship is perfect.
Jesus came to carry out the plan to Redeem those the Father gave him. Jesus said in John 5:30, ” I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
This does not mean there is a different desire in God the Father than in God the Son. The will of the entire Triune God is eternally the same. It means that the Son does not come to do something independent of the Trinity. He always carries out that work of Redemption as God the Father desires it.
In John 6:37 Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
All through eternity, God the Son is that person of the Trinity who carries out the Divine plans. As a true and perfect Son, Jesus is like the Father in all his attributes. He is the same kind of eternal being, infinite and unchangeable in all his qualities.
He was not created by the Father. He took part in the creation of all things, nothing excepted. John 1:3 says about Jesus, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
As God the Son, Jesus is and always has been truly and fully God. All members of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, share the same attributes, essence, intelligence, will, and power.
Jesus is eternally God the Son. Not only was he forever an inseparable person of the Trinity, he will never lose that element of what he is. He is your Redeemer forever and without fail.
How can God, the one offended by sin, remove the barrier that separates you from him? God always, from all eternity, had a perfect solution for that problem.
The eternal Son of God became man.
In his love for his people, he took on a fully human nature: body and soul. That was the only way God’s justice could be satisfied and the problem of sin solved.
In Philippians 2:7-8 God tells about this work of Jesus to redeem you. There it says, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
He was really human. He didn’t just take on the illusion of humanity. As a real human he died in place of each of his spiritual children. If you are one of those who trust in him, you can rest in the fact that he took on what you deserve, and gives you what only he deserves. This is what makes the Gospel unique from all other forms of religion. Nobody can do or believe anything to solve the problem of sin and its guilt on his own. There is just one possible way. Jesus is that one way.
This is what encourages us. It is our confidence and certain hope. It is what motivates us to want to live his way every day. It is what stirs us to worship him. As truly God and truly man, Jesus is able to remove your guilt and comfort you daily.
Jesus was not God for just a brief period of time. He was not man for awhile, then became God again.
Jesus is forever one person: God and man in two distinct natures.
He draws from all the abilities of his God nature, while he possesses all the qualities of being human. The only exception is that as a man he did not inherit sin from Adam like the rest of us.
As a believer in is work of grace, Jesus is your Redeemer. He loved you eternally. He knows your heart, died in your place, and promises to keep you close to him forever.
But what does it mean to redeem something or someone?
It means to transfer ownership to the one paying the price demanded.
I remember how we used to redeem glass soda bottles as kids. This was a regular thing we did on Pomona Place in South Buffalo. Back in the 50’s glass bottles were recycled. Recycling is nothing new. To make sure your returned the empty bottles you paid a deposit when you bought your drink. It was 2¢ for a small soda bottle, and I think 5¢ for the larger quart bottles. We would go door-to-door with our wagons offering to get rid of the bottles for people. Then we would go to the store to redeem them for the cash we used to get gum or a Popsicle.
Sometimes, we redeem things from garage sales too. People want to get rid of things they don’t use anymore. Others are glad to get them. At most garage sales a used book can be redeemed for a few pennies. Furniture for a few dollars. We pay that little price and it becomes ours.
Sometimes our soda bottles would get broken and we would lose a few pennies worth. Things at garage sales might turn out to be a disappointment, so we lose the quarter or dollar we spent to make them ours. When things are redeemed for such a low price we adjust and don’t worry about it.
However, what is your soul worth to God? How much did it cost him to redeem you? Our minds cannot quite take in such a high price. Our hearts are broken to think of the cost. Jesus, our eternal God and humble Savior, who deserved only glory and eternal peace, took up what we fallen sinner deserve. He paid for our redemption by enduring unimaginable agony, not just physical suffering, but the horrors of eternal condemnation.
The Redeemer who paid such a high price for you will never surrender his possession. He will keep you, and treasure you as his own forever.
But, oh — how some still carry around their load of guilt.
As believer we need to rest in his promise that we have a Redeemer who cares and cannot fail. There is only this one way. Nothing else will do. Nothing else is needed.
When you sense the guilt of your own sins, God tells you what to do. First you need to admit it to yourself and to God. The word used for “confess” in the Bible basically means to admit something as true, to agree with God about it. Then you need to repent of it. Repentance more than just a change of mind about being a sinner. It means understanding how deeply your thoughts and behaviors offend God. Next you come to Jesus Christ trusting that his redemption of you is all you need. That is the essence of what we call “saving faith”. It is trusting that he paid for your guilt in full.
Those redeemed by grace are changed. They continue to come to Christ when they sin. They continue to rest in his assurance of deliverance from condemnation when they sin. They also want very sincerely to overcome their sins to honor their Redeemer.
When you sin, and after you have confessed it, repented of it, and come to Christ for forgiveness, you must stand up against it. Do not make a way for it to happen again if possible. Remove the temptations and opportunities to do it again. To find the power for that, we rely on the living Redeemer who is eternally God, and is all we need.
Through it all, in our confession, repentance, faith, and sanctification, we know it is all undeserved and a gift of grace alone. So we give all the glory to God alone
We have a Redeemer who cannot fail to redeem us. He loves us with his own eternal perfect love. He paid the price of the debt we could never settle. As those redeemed, we become his, and realize that we are no longer our own.
As the Heidelberg Catechism says in it’s first question,
” … I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”
The weight of guilt is lifted, and replaced with a yearning to be holy to honor your Savior. Instead of getting down over our sins, we get up and get going for the glory of our King.
(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)