by James Large
The word "redeemer" means "kinsman"; and it was the kinsman's duty, in eastern usage, to vindicate and befriend his relatives, and to be the avenger of blood of such of them as were slain.
For this office our Lord qualified Himself by taking our nature. Thus he became our kinsman, our near relative.
No sooner had Satan brought about man's ruin than His gracious intention was manifested, and our poor dejected parents were comforted by a promise that, in due time, there should be born One who should avenge the whole race on their adversary, and punish that "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44), who "brought death into the world and all our woe." In two respects, man wants a redeemer. First, he is under the curse of a broken law and exposed to the penalty which that law enforces. Second, he is in captivity to his lusts and passions, and in these chains is led by Satan at his will.
In a dark prison cell there can be seen, by a ray of light which struggles through the grating, a despairing convict sitting on the cold ground and chained to a stone pillar. He is condemned to death for breaking the laws.
But what if some kinsman, having interest with the authorities, could get the sentence reversed? There is one who will make the effort. There is a fine to be paid; he must also be surety for the offender, and render certain other services to the state in order to atone for the injury. The ransom demanded is very great; but so was the crime of the malefactor, and so is the love of the ransomer. Costly and difficult as the conditions are, he is ready, on the day appointed, to meet all the conditions required and to say, "Deliver him from the prison, I have found a ransom."
And so the condemned one receives his discharge, and comes forth again to life, light, and liberty. Now the benefactor who accomplished all this for him deserves, in a very high sense, to be called his Redeemer.
But look at another picture. Two travelers along a lonely road are set upon by a band of robbers. They are made captives and are thenceforth doomed to a hard life. Robbed of all and burdened with a chain, they are obliged to do service to their hated masters who keep sharp watch over them.
But they have one friend who cannot rest. He does not tire until he has discovered the dreadful secret, and traces them to their whereabouts. He ascertains the strength and number of the lawless band, hires soldiers, plans a surprise, comes upon them suddenly, and, overpowering them with superior numbers, scatters the enemy and rides off triumphantly with his rescued friends. That happy deliverance is a redemption, and that friend is their Redeemer. The first instance represents redemption by price, the second redemption by power. And such is our condition, that we need both combined. Let us look at the second first.
1) Jesus Christ is a Redeemer by Power
We are captives. Satan, the tyrant, is our cruel jailer and hard taskmaster, but he does not make our fetters. Strange but true, the heavy chains wherewith he loads us are formed by ourselves. Each separate sin is a link. And as we go on sinning still, day by day, these countless links twine themselves into chains of imperious habits which we can in no wise break asunder. I say again, this dreadful chain we forge for ourselves, and Satan stands ever at our side, blowing the bellows for us, and helping us in the fearful work.
Behold the intemperate man. His ruinous habit grows by degrees. He never meant to become a drunkard, but the dreadful habit crushed everything in its progress. Away went money, business, health, until the mind itself failed, and the soul sank forever. But can nothing save him before it comes to that? Can he not throw off the dreadful thing? Not he. Only Christ the Redeemer can rescue him. And He will, too, if only the victim be honest and take hold of the Savior's proffered help in the way He prescribes.
That is not the only sin wherewith Satan fetters human souls. Alas, no. Their name is legion. Covetousness grows in the same way; uncleanness, pride, selfishness, envy. All these are alike fatal. And all are little rills at first, but swell into rushing rivers in time; or, to return to the first figure, each indulgence is a separate link, which multiplied, forms by degrees chains of darkness, in which the miserable soul is held fast until the judgment of the great day. We enter into no abstract questions about what is or what is not sin; but we say, these things have an aspect in the wrong direction. There is a snake in the grass. Beware! Flee from the beginnings of sin and sinful entanglements. Search and see if any wrong habit is gaining on you, and abstain from the very appearance of evil.
But wherever you are now, at the present moment-by whatever evils ensnared-do not despair. Be the sin that fetters your soul a thick cord or a thick chain, here is One who can deliver you from this dangerous state of things. Your frequent acts have become habits; your habits have gained strength until they constitute a second nature, impel you with a force you cannot resist, and set all your resolutions at defiance. You have grown desperate, and are tempted to say, "There is no hope; I have loved strangers, and after them I will go!" But must you thus hopelessly resign yourself to destruction? Will you do this? Is there no one who can "take the prey from the mighty and deliver the lawful captive" (Is. 49:24)? O yes! Christ is a Redeemer, mighty to save!
Go show your galling chain or fascinating snare to Him. Confess your folly. Give Him your confidence. Put the case entirely into His hands. Expect Him to break asunder the links that bind you. He has done it for multitudes. It is His business to preach deliverance to the captives, and His delight to throw open prison doors to them that are bound. He sees your despairing struggles, waits for your application, and is willing to afford you aid. Follow this course and you shall set your feet upon your lust and say, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! Though I fall, I shall arise, and though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a Light unto me" (Micah 7:8).
The first thing, however, is to get it forgiven, and, blessed be God, there is no difficulty whatever about that. There were infinite difficulties and obstacles insurmountable except by Divine wisdom and power. But Christ has taken them all out of the way, "having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12). How did he obtain it? Not by power only, as we have said.
2) Jesus Christ is a Redeemer by Purchase
You have this in many texts. "He gave Himself for us" (Titus 2:14). "Ye are bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20). The Church is "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).
The doctrine taught in these expressions is assailed, in the present day, on all sides; both by ridicule and by sophistry. And many, from whom better things might have been expected, have turned aside to "vain janglings" which invalidate or explain it away. But we will cling to it while we live, and glory in it when we die, and praise God for it eternally in heaven. For this assailed doctrine is part of the new song, and the celestial arches will never hear the last of it. Through eternity they will echo to the chorus, "Worthy is the Lamb, for Thou was slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us undo our God kings and priests" (Rev. 5:9-10).
His was not a price paid to Satan the jailer, as some scoffingly affirm that we mean, nor yet to God as a mere expedient to show His hatred of sin and to secure His honor in the releases of the condemned ones, as others somewhat more reverently urge. How then?
The death of Christ is a real atonement for sin; a true and proper infliction of the penalty of a broken but inflexible law; a true and proper satisfaction to the unbending justice of a righteous Lawgiver and Judge.
What is the law without the sanction of penalty? Can you imagine such a thing? If no punishment is attached to its infringement, the precept loses its character. It is no longer a law. It is just a piece of good advice, which, if we choose to follow, it is well. If not, we may expect the offense will be overlooked. What would become of the authority of God as the Sovereign of the world, if the law merely said, "Do this" and did not add, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:20)?
All have broken the precept, and incurred the penalty. And Christ died for all, that by His death He might discharge the claims of justice, render a sacrifice to righteousness, and make the salvation of the redeemed a just (and justifiable) salvation. We see not how it could be justified on any other ground. The inspired apostle lays down the law of the case thus: "without shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin" (Heb. 9:22). Without a proper ransom, it would not then have been right for God to grant a release. And who shall be the judge of what constitutes a true and proper ransom, if not God? Whether therefore men will receive or reject Him, God hath set forth Jesus Christ to be the only ransom and propitiation, through faith in His blood.
I have somewhere read the story of a man, brought up in a heathen community, becoming distressed in conscience about his sins. He hears some vague reports of certain statements made by a missionary who had traveled that way, of a God who pays the debts incurred by transgressors against the Divine law. He inquires further, but can get no satisfactory information. He undertakes a long journey, asking still for the God who pays the sinner's debts. On he goes, still urging the same restless inquiry, until one day he enters a place of worship, and hears the glad Gospel announced of Jesus Christ, the sinner's ransom. The wanderer is overjoyed He has found the great secret. The God that pays the sinner's debt is "made unto him Righteousness."
From Two Hundred and Eighty Titles and Symbols of Christ
James Large was a respected and accomplished minister in late nineteenth-century England. As evidenced by his precision and earnestness in Two Hundred and Eighty Titles and Symbols of Christ, Large was a dedicated scholar and devout preacher of the Word. His contemporaries included C.H. Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, and F.B. Meyer, and he spoke and wrote in their rich homiletic tradition.