“In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
The Apostle Paul continues his exposition of “every spiritual blessing” (v. 3) which we have received from God by grace through Jesus Christ. He has already mentioned holiness and blamelessness, as well as adoption in God’s family. In this particular verse, he mentions two further blessings which, as he once more emphasizes, we have in the person of Jesus: redemption through Christ’s blood and the forgiveness of trespasses.
Are these two things connected? Certainly. Personally, I think that “the forgiveness of our trespasses” serves a kind of further specification of what “redemption through His [i.e., Christ’s] blood” really means.
Redemption, of course, is a concept which originally referred to repurchasing or ransoming. That which was lost and then bought back is redeemed or ransomed, depending on the manner in which it was lost. To say that we have been redeemed by God, then, means that we were previously lost to God in some sense, after which He purchased us back. And Paul then notes that this redemption occurs through the blood of Jesus Christ. I think that the mention of Christ’s blood here is meant to serve as a shorthand way of referring to the entire process of His death. It is not as if Christ could have redeemed us simply by bleeding a whole lot but without dying. Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul makes clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Christ redeems us through His blood in the sense that He died for us, in order to purchase us back for God.
Exactly how this purchase takes place is not immediately obvious. Why should Christ have to die in order to win us back for God? Why can’t He simply buy us back without dying? Or why does He have to buy us back at all? The logic of redemption perhaps requires us to see that this “purchase” in some way demanded the price of death. And what Paul says in the next verse helps to make this even clearer. If redemption means the forgiveness of sins, and forgiveness is the opposite of punishment, then Christ redeems us from the punishment of death to which we were doomed for our sins by dying for us. Our sins deserved death, that was the appropriate punishment for us because of our sins, but by dying in our place, Christ makes redemption for us, He “pays off the debt” of our sins, winning forgiveness for us. He dies in our place, in some sense, so that we are redeemed and no longer subject to punishment.
Therefore when the Apostle mentions “the riches of His grace,” we can see the truth of what he is saying. That is how much God loves us, that is how profound His grace is for us — His only-begotten Son dies in order to redeem us and win for us the forgiveness of our sins. On this matter, I think I can do no better than to quote Thomas F. Torrance:
The absolute togetherness and oneness in being and doing between the crucified Jesus Christ and the Lord God is of supreme importance for our belief in the Love of God. That was the truth made clear by St Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, when he had in mind the Old Testament account of the “sacrifice” of Isaac by Abraham, when Abraham showed that he loved God more than he loved himself. And so St Paul also write: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32). Jesus is God’s very own Son, his only begotten Son — one who came to us out of the Father’s Life who belonged to his very Heart and innermost Self. And when the Father did not spare his own Son but freely delivered him up for us all in atoning sacrifice, the Cross became a window into the innermost heart of God and the nature of his Love. It tells us that God loves us more than he loves himself.Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry, p. 14
Of course, more about this topic should be said. I will revisit the question of redemption and forgiveness in a later post. For the time being, however, it would be well for us to meditate on this profound and wondrous truth: God is so rich in mercy and love and grace for us, that in His Son He redeems us from death and wins for us the forgiveness of our sins. He loves us even more than He loves Himself. Hallelujah!