God’s Work of Redemption
Definition of redemption
Because of his love for sinful humans, God works to redeem, or to free sinners, from their “slavery to sin” so that he can enable them to become righteous “sons of God” (Romans 8:14) with whom he can relate. Because human beings are by their inherited natures rebels against God’s will and authority and by their personal attitudes and behavior selfish and independent creatures who are constantly seeking to increase their own possessions and enhance their own glory, their created personal relationship with the Holy God is broken. (See my statement on “Sin” on this website for the details of this condition.) It is this relationship that God works to restore as he redeems sinners from their sins.
Redemption begins with God’s call
The process of God’s work of redemption in the lives of sinners is initiated by God’s call to sinners. There is no way that rebellious sinners can initiate their own redemption. Paul emphasizes the importance of God’s call in his teaching regarding God’s blessings in his letter to the Romans (see Romans 8:28–30). The specific content of God’s current call is to believe in Jesus, his Son. The importance of such belief is clearly stated by Jesus in his dialogue with Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:16–18, and 36: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son....Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” God only enables those sinners to become his righteous “sons” who believe “in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22).
God’s call may come in a sermon by a preacher who is declaring the “good news” (the gospel) of God’s redemptive work through Jesus. It may come from the testimony regarding God’s blessings that a friend or relative shares as a “witness” to God’s grace in Jesus. It may come through a person’s intense struggle with sinful addictions or hopeless depressions. It may come when one’s pursuit of abundance ends in the loss of every secure treasure and comforting possession. It may come in a personal experience of God’s judgment. It may come as a definite nudge from God in a moment of personal reflection or meditation in a time of quiet private thought or in an experience of awe at the power or beauty of God in creation. It will come when a sinner realizes that Jesus came into this world and died to redeem him or her from a life of sin because God and Jesus love him or her.
Redemption is implemented through the activity of God’s grace and his gift of faith
God accomplishes his work of redemption in the ongoing activity of his grace, which is “the expressive function of himself in His fullness”, and “the self-giving of God takes place through His Son.”1 Paul, an initial teacher of Christian doctrine and author of many New Testament letters, put it this way: “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–7).
And the redeemed sinner receives God’s grace through faith, which is “the continuous response of man to God’s grace”.2 But, as Paul indicates, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). This “continuous response” is basically trusting God and Jesus to do their work of redemption in the sinner’s life by making him or her into a new person. It is much more than just a momentary insight of intellectual recognition that Jesus is the Son of God in human flesh.
Redemption calls for confession and repentance
God’s primary call to sinners is to invite them to recognize and to believe that Jesus is his Son, the expression of himself in human flesh. Paul put it this way: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9–10). The heart belief is more than intellectual. It is a conviction at the center of one’s being that cannot be shaken or removed by any lies of the devil or arguments of heretics. The verbal confession that “Jesus is Lord” is more than a one-time public statement that is usually made prior to a sinner’s baptism. It is an ongoing expression of the sinner’s personal priorities that Jesus is his or her “master”.
And another basic aspect of God’s call is his requirement that rebellious sinners repent of their sins. This was the initial point of Peter’s invitation to the crowds of Jewish and gentile sinners to whom he preached (see Acts 2:38, 3:19), and it was an essential part of Paul’s preaching wherever he went (see Acts 20:21). This means that rebellious sinners must turn from their willful and persistent efforts to live with attitudes and behaviors that deny God’s authority over them and to live for their own self-serving pleasures and glory. Repentance from sin is more than a momentary emotion of sorrow for having offended God for something that a sinner did, or even thought. It is an ongoing change in direction and focus for the life of a redeemed sinner who is no longer being attracted by selfish pleasures and setting the course of his or her life in accord with humanistic pride and ambitions.
Redemption includes God’s work of justification, sanctification, and glorification
As a sinner receives God’s grace, a new heart in the indwelling presence of Jesus in his or her life (see my revised statement regarding the Christian faith on this website), through the faith that God has given to him or her, God declares that the sinner is justified as being righteous because of his or her union with Jesus, his sinless Son who submitted to being crucified in order to pay the price of the sinner’s redemption. This declaration of justification for the sinner is not a static one-time announcement at the time of the sinner’s conversion to becoming a “son of God”, but it is a dynamic ongoing affirmation from God that the sinner is righteous because of what Jesus has done in his crucifixion and because of Jesus’ ongoing presence in the sinner. This declaration of righteousness can never be claimed as a right by any redeemed sinner because of his or her keeping of God’s laws or rules for morality. It is completely given in accord with God’s independent authority as an active expression of his grace.
As a redeemed sinner who is justified as being righteous because of his or her union with Jesus, part of God’s work of redemption through the activity of his grace is to set the sinner apart through the dynamic process of sanctification for a life that will implement God’s holy purposes through Jesus. As James Fowler indicates, “You cannot possess Him (Christ) without being made a partaker of his sanctification.”3 Although no redeemed sinner can be consistently good or strong enough to resist every temptation of selfish ambitious sin, God in his process of sanctification expresses his forgiveness to his growing “son”, the imperfect redeemed male or female who is still on the battlefield between good and evil that is the world. John states this promise for God’s sanctifying blessing in these words: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Part of this dynamic process of sanctification in the life of the redeemed sinner makes him or her uncomfortable with the presence of sin in his or her life. Sanctification involves a change in the sinner’s ongoing attitude toward sin. His or her obedience to God’s will and rules is no longer seen as a limiting restriction on his or her choices, but it is seen as a joyous expression of his or her union as a disciple with the indwelling presence of Jesus. This process of sanctification is important to God, because, as Paul says, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,...(Ephesians 2:10). But we must remember, as James Fowler indicates, that “All ‘good works’ in the Christian life are the outworking of His life and character.”4 Santification enables the redeemed sinner to cooperate and to participate with Jesus as his disciple in these “works”, and he or she experiences this joyous participation in the dynamic activity of his or her obedient faith, as the redeemed sinner says “Yes” to God regarding each thing that God requests.
God’s work of redemption extends beyond a sinner’s death to provide for his or her resurrection from death, which is the redeemed sinner’s glorification. Paul makes this very clear in his teachings to the Christians at Corinth: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23).
And Paul describes the nature of the sinner’s resurrected body in this way: “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another....So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown (like a seed) is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor (one’s original sin), it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:39–40, 42–3). This is the redeemed sinner’s reception of God’s activity of God’s grace for the glorification of the sinner for an eternal living relationship with God with a new “spiritual body” that is no longer subject to death.
And this activity of God’s glorification of a sinner is not limited to the time of his or her death. Paul teaches that the transformation of the redeemed sinner’s body from that which is “perishable” to that which is “imperishable” and that which is “mortal” to that which is “immortal” is the sinner’s victory over death, citing references to Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 (see 1 Corinthians 15:53–55). Then he goes on to teach this: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:56–58). This “victory” is the redeemed sinner’s experience of God’s dynamic activity of grace even while he or she is engaged in personal struggles with sin and fears and pains on this battlefield of the world while he or she seeks to participate with God in his work of redemption. This glorifying “victory” is really GOOD, because its benefits are clearly for eternity!
The goal of God’s work of redemption is to bring him glory
The objective of God’s work of redemption in and through Jesus is to enable sinners to show “fruit”, particular benefits, in their lives as his disciples that will bring glory to God. Jesus makes this clear to his disciples and to us in part of his final instructions to them: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing....If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit....You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:5, 7–8, 16).
Summary regarding God’s work of redemption
The process of God’s work of redemption in the lives of sinners is initiated by God’s call to believe in Jesus, his Son, and to repent of one’s sins. When an individual responds to this active call of God’s grace by his or her active faith and confesses that Jesus is Lord and repents of his or her sins, Jesus takes up residence in the redeemed sinner in the person of the Holy Spirit. Through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, the redeemed sinner is “born again” (John 3:5–7) and transformed into a “new person” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a disciple, who is “dead” to sin (Romans 6:2–11) and “resurrected” to a life of cooperative obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10, 14) and fruitful service (as noted above) that will bring glory to Jesus and to God, the Father.
If you have any questions about this “work”, contact me at . You may also find help in other statements that I have written related to this matter on this website, including one on “What is Christian faith? (Revised again)” and another one on the “The Plan of Salvation (Revised)” and one on “Discipleship”.
The above Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
1. James Fowler,“The Dynamic of Christ, p. 3”
2. Fowler, op cit, p.5.
3. ibid, p.6.
4. James Fowler, “Union with Christ, p. 9”