The Effects of the Christ-Event: Redemption and Forgiveness

After reading Don Clifton’s short post on forgiveness over at Nine Moons, I spent the rest of the day feeling somewhat sad. It sounds like the gentleman in question was well-taught on the subject of sin, but less conversant with respect to forgiveness. That sort of imbalance strikes me as unhealthy.

Forgiveness of sin through Christ is not found explicitly in the uncontested letters of Paul unless perhaps paresis in Rom 3:25 is translated as “remission” rather than “passing over.” Instead, forgiveness appears in Colossians and Ephesians as an extension of Paul’s thoughts on redemption.

Redemption in the authentic letters of Paul may come from either the Greek world, in which case it reflects the manumission of slaves, or from Paul’s OT heritage ,where God is Israel’s go’el, that is, redeemer. Paul never calls Christ “Redeemer,” nor does he ever speak of a ransom (lytron).

Paul does call Christ “our redemption” in 1 Cor 1:30. Paul also says that “through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” men are freed and justified (Rom 3:24). In addition to these now-present effects, there is also an eschatological redemption in the resurrection of the body (Rom 8:23) and in the redemption of the cosmos (Rom 8:19-22).

The author of Ephesians, probably following the author of Colossians, carries Paul’s thoughts on redemption forward, explicitly linking them with forgiveness. For example, in Eph 1:7-8a

In him, we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

In this verse, as in every occurrence of “redemption,” there is inevitably the question of a ransom. Two ideas suggest that a ransom is not envisioned. First, there is no explicit reference to a ransom. Since the author of Ephesians is following Colossians, in which there is likewise no ransom, it seems unnecessary to read it into the present verse.

Second, the expression “by his blood” is dia tou haimatos autou. The preposition dia with the genitive case has an instrumental force. The import of this construction is that the means by which we are redeemed is the death of Jesus. His death was a costly event by any reckoning, but this is not equivalent to saying Christ’s blood was a ransom.

The key phrase, “the forgiveness of transgressions” is in apposition to “redemption through his blood.” This means that the primary way in which we experience redemption is via forgiveness. The experience of redemption is available now, and immediately restores the sinner to a proper relationship with God.

Finally, we have the expression “in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.” It is important to note among the welter of pronouns that the grammatical subject has shifted back to God. The key concept, however, comes from savoring the words “riches” and “lavished.” Words fail in describing God’s goodness, but the combination of these two does begin to convey the sense of privilege that should inform the response of every believer.

Sometimes I get the impression we teach transgression and punishment vividly, while forgiveness is explained with far less gusto , perhaps in order to stifle the impulse to sin. But when we elaborate on the horror of sin without likewise expounding on the wonders of grace, redemption, and forgiveness we do not make a hedge against sin, we cripple a Christian.

So yes, there is something called the “steps to repentance.” These steps lead upward because it is God, not the bishop, who stands on the top stair. And stairs will always present a challenge to cripples.

23 Replies to “The Effects of the Christ-Event: Redemption and Forgiveness”

  1. Ah….

    Writing on all that other stuff is nice, but it’s great to be back to hardcore Bible Dorkdom — historical-critical Pauline theology is where it’s at, baby!

  2. I have always liked Paul. I wish I knew what you do.

    I have a brother who spent about 12 years in complete inactivity – he has since come back. He never had a doctrinal issue per se. But he did feel a guilt at not being all he should and thus stayed away. I have two sisters who are currently in the same boat to some level. Feeling a bit imperfect without hope of really changing and receiving forgivness. I guess that’s part of this also, not just the forgiveness but changing our natures.

    On another note, could you like, provide a exegis for mormon dummies post someday? (I’m not even sure I am using the right word there). But what additional sources could a simple member like me use to get at some of this stuff (other than reading FPR of course). It seems you are obviously often going well beyond the KJV or the JST. What next step might you recommend?

  3. Wow. I didn’t know you took requests. How about 1 John Chapter 1. It’s pretty short. Is this a good one to use for an example?

  4. Eric, it might be easier for Mogget (or any of us) to drill down a bit further than an entire chapter, unless you just want the quick-n-dirty. I usually like to work with about 4-5 verses (if OT) or 2-3 verses (if NT).

  5. We do requests, but maybe with some bargaining in this case. The chapter divisions in 1 John have some problems. How about 1 Jn 1:6-2:11, and I’ll throw in a brief synopsis of the intro (1:1-4)?

    Otherwise, it’s an excellent choice: theologically dense, dualistic language, good intertextuality with the Gospel of John, nice polemics, a pinch of textual criticism. Um um um…very tasty selection!

    This is the first of two tests for fellowship with God: the first is the ethical test for fellowship; the second is the Christological test. I think you’ll like it.

    Steve Evans has graciously offered to host this exercise over on By Common Consent, so we’ll probably head in that direction for at least part of it — til they throw us out for being nerds, I expect.

    Oh yeah. I guess I should also say that it’s gonna be a bit til I get to it. I’m working on some Job stuff and I have to go to Chicago for five or so days as well.

  6. David J. —

    As it turns out, I did precisely this pericope on the Ph.D. comps. So normally I’d cut it down as you pointed out, but in this case it’ll be okay to open the throttle…

  7. Mogget, that’s interesting because when I took Greek, 1 John was considered the mainstay of “normal” Koine Greek — it flows well, is easy to read, and the vocabulary and declensions/conjugations aren’t murder (St. Mark ’bout killed me — part of it was our final in Greek II!!!). I think the book of 1 John was the only book I could sight read in Greek, back in the day. So I commend your educational institution for utilizing it on comp. exams. Great choice for testing folks.

    Our Hebrew sight reading exam was Genesis 50, and we had to wind our way through Jonah 1 & 2 in the second semester. Aramaic was the toughest — any portion of the Aramaic sections of Daniel was fair game, and so about 5 of us spent about three weeks completely memorizing all the Aramaic in Daniel. Wasn’t pretty. Thank God for repetetive phrases (“And I looked, and I beheld…”). At least they didn’t pick Artaxerxes’ edict from the book of Ezra (Ezr. 4:8 – 6:18)– That’s true murder!

    J, we heart you too! The ‘nacle wouldn’t be the same without you. You’re (one of) the dark-horse(s) that run(s) the show, and we love you for it.

  8. Thank God for repetetive phrases

    Amen and amen. We had to sight read in our exegetical classes rather than our language classes. We always knew the assignment in language classes. The next two chapters. Every day. Those were the days. I dreamed in Hebrew.

    Yeah, the Johannines (Gospel and Epistles) are the easiest Greek. Limited vocab and simple syntax. We started reading GJohn about five weeks into Intro Greek. Then let’s see… Read Matthew and Mark the second semester, Luke-Acts during the summer semester, then Romans, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, 1 Thess, 2 Thess, and Galations, Philipians, and Philemon the next semester. Did History of Greek the final semester. Started at Linear B and worked forward to modern Greek, writing a grammar along the way. You could die from non-literary Byzantine Greek.

    I’ve heard that Hebrews is closest to classical Greek. I think Luke is also rather sophisticated. He also imitates the LXX, which makes for some really odd things at times…

    We had both language qualies (2nd summer) and comps after classwork. For language qualies, we did Hebrews in Greek and then Samuel in Hebrew and the LXX. I ended up with that [doggone] Abigail story, and that stupid pun on her husband’s name in the LXX. Parsed every [doggone]verb in the pericope.

    For comps, out of a possibility of Acts, 1 John, 1 Cor, Mark, and Matthew, I ended up with Mark and 1 John on the first day; ended up doing the exegesis of Mark 13:1-1? and 1 John 1:5-2:11. On day two, five questions from Johannine theology, Pauline theology, apocalyptic and something or other I can’t remember. Then day three, it was proto-Isaiah in the AM (I got Isa 6 — have you ever looked the last verse of Isa 6?)and OT apocalyptic in the PM.

    By the time I got to the third PM, I had no idea what I was doing or saying. My fingers were numb and curled to fit the keyboard. 63 pages, I think. Something like that.

  9. Nah. You’d be amazed at what you can learn when you take six or eight months and just read, make notes, read, make notes. You pick up pretty quick on the issues associated with each book, and build on what your learned in classes. These days, it’s far faster for me to learn a new language without a teacher, or to break open a text I’ve never studied without wasting time in class. I do, however, still need to talk to someone about what I’m seeing/reading/finding. That interaction has always been very important to my learning process.

    I really enjoyed studying for comps, but taking them was a pain.

    Your stuff will all be in NW Semitics, anyway. No Greek.

  10. Mogget (or anyone else),

    Regarding Isaiah 6, I’ve been studying up on verses 9-10. I actually have two questions which I’d be most grateful if you could share your thoughts on:

    (1) Regarding the final lamedh-waw in verse 10, it seems the NJV/NJPS takes this as a dativus ethicus and translates it “lest the people . . . save [heal] itself.” The other view is that the lamedh-waw is referring to God as the agent of the healing (this latter approach is what Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar takes—is there another, more recent reference that you’d recommend looking this up in?). What are your thoughts on this final lamedh??

    (2) Also in verse 10, the dropped waw in shwb confuses me. It seems most people take shb as 3rd person singular (cf. Old Testament Parsing Guide by Beall, Banks, and Smith), but this contradicts a rule in the Hebrew Grammar reference I have (van der Merwe, Naude, and Kroeze, pp. 121-122 says “II waw verbs” do not drop the waw in the 3rd person masculine perfect form…). Do you have any thoughts on this? Can you recomend a good Hebrew reference Grammar?

    In general, is there a good place to look up issues like this? (I have access to university resources and often search the journals listed on, but don’t know where else to looks…). Thanks for any thoughts/help!

  11. Hello Robert,

    Very nice questions. The best thing to do with the closing verses of Isaiah 6 is to take a razor blade and cut them out of your scriptures. Failing that, I think you must resign yourself to some ambiguity.

    At the moment, I am at a Bible Dork conference, so I cannot tie up this terminal all day answering. If David J. or HP — or the Monk, Kevin, or Ronan since they drop in fairly frequently — don’t take it up by the time I get home, I will come back up and answer.

    As far as grammars go, I use Waltke-O’Connor as an intermediate grammar and Juon-Mareoke (sp?) as a reference grammar. But I never limit myself to just these two!

    Later, dude…

  12. OH yeah. that’s it. I spent the rest of the day irritated that I couldn’t remember how to spell it…and it sits on the shelf next to my desk!

  13. Waltke-O’Connor isn’t really a grammar per se, it’s more a book on syntax. However, if one purchases Waltke-O’Connor in addition to Jouon, you’ve got just about everything you need. A nice little abbreviated version of Waltke-O’Connor can be found here.

  14. Robert, II-W perfect verbs don’t retain the long u-vowel, and that’s paradigmatic. The long vowel is retained in the imperfect, but sometimes written defectively.

  15. Thanks guys. It seems my earlier post got lost in cyberspace (so my “propagating” comment didn’t make sense).

    Regarding lamed, I think I was thrown off by Ludlow’s book on Isaiah. He took the NJPS translation and emphasized the “lest . . . it save [heal] itself” and quoted scriptures about how we can’t save ourselves. But I think that since the context of Isa 1-5 is more about God wrath and judgments that await Isarel, I think Ludlow’s pulling this out of context. Israel can save itself from this wrath and judgment by turning away from sin toward God. That much Israel could do by itself. Regardless, all the other translations and commentataries I looked at take the healing/saving as passive, that is “lest . . . they be healed/saved” which is good enough for me.

    Regarding what I thought was a missing waw in shwb, I double-checked and found that bwsh (to be ashamed) does not drop its waw in the 3rd person singular perfect form, although mwt (to die) and qwm (to get up) do like the Monk said. But I don’t see why bwsh is an exception (and hence I don’t understand why shwb isn’t an exception). Is there a crucial difference in the vowels of these words (there’s a holem after the waw in bwsh? Is this a scriptio defectiva? Does the order and kind of the consonants make a difference? Whatever the reason, I noticed that BDB lists this “Pf. 3 ms.” form explictly as dropping the waw which makes me feel better. (I was wondering all this b/c I thought maybe the last line could be read as the Lord saying to Isaiah “return and be healed,” in a Mormon “return and report” sense—apparently not….)

  16. Robert, I should have said that it’s *mostly* paradigmatic. Hollow verbs do odd things, phonetically speaking.

    Only two hollow verbs retain the w: in the Qal perfect third-person, bosh and tov. This actually makes more sense than the normal paradigm, since the long vowel in them is a:, which becomes o: in biblical Hebrew, the famed “Canaanite shift.”

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