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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

In Him We Have Redemption

What is the original meaning of the biblical word “redemption,” and how does Paul connect this concept to the work of Christ on our behalf? How is redemption related to our adoption as God’s very own children, and why do we need to be adopted in the first place? On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts will discuss these questions as they continue to unpack the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.


“There’s that great worship scene in the heavenly kingdom in Revelation 5:9, ‘Worthy are you,’ they say to the lamb, ‘to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ What a wonderful thing and it leads ultimately, he says in verse 10, ‘to a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.’

“From this passage, the great second century church father, Irenaeus, and many after him including the reformers, you get the notion of recapitulation, literally re-headshipping, where everything in Adam that was lost is recovered and redeemed and ransomed in Christ, not only by his death but by his incarnation, his life, and his active obedience.

“That’s why we have that great line in the Heidelberg catechism that ‘Christ redeemed us by his whole life but especially at the end when he died on the cross.’ I love that way of putting it, especially at the cross, but throughout his life. He undid everything Adam did and then he did everything Adam failed to do so that he could unite to himself all that was lost and present it to the Father.”

Michael Horton



Atonement is objective. This means that the atonement makes its primary impression on the person to whom it is made. If a man does wrong and renders satisfaction, this satisfaction is intended to influence the person wronged and not the offending party. In the case under consideration it means that the atonement was intended to propitiate God and to reconcile Him to the sinner. This is undoubtedly the primary idea, but does not imply that we cannot also speak of the sinner’s being reconciled to God. Scripture does this in more than one place, Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:19, 20. But it should be borne in mind that this is not equivalent to saying that the sinner is atoned, which would mean that God made amends or reparation, that He rendered satisfaction to the sinner. And even when we speak of the sinner as being reconciled, this must be understood as something that is secondary. The reconciled God justifies the sinner who accepts the reconciliation, and so operates in his heart by the Holy Spirit, that the sinner also lays aside his wicked alienation from God, and thus enters into the fruits of the perfect atonement of Christ. In other words, the fact that Christ reconciles God to the sinner results in a reflex action on the sinner, in virtue of which the sinner may be said to be reconciled to God. Since the objective atonement by Christ is an accomplished fact, and it is now the duty of the ambassadors of Christ to induce sinners to accept the atonement and to terminate their hostility to God, it is no wonder that the secondary and subjective side of the reconciliation is somewhat prominent in Scripture.

(Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 373)

More from this Series: Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

  1. An Introduction to Ephesians Listen Now ›
  2. In Him We Have Redemption Listen Now ›
  3. Dead in Sin, Alive in Christ Listen Now ›
  4. Saved by Grace Through Faith Listen Now ›
  5. Reconciled Through the Cross Listen Now ›
  6. The Mystery Revealed Listen Now ›
  7. Knowing the Love of Christ Listen Now ›
  8. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism Listen Now ›
  9. Futility of Mind & Hardness of Heart Listen Now ›
  10. Walking in Love & Thankfulness Listen Now ›
  11. An Interview with Steve Baugh Listen Now ›
  12. Applying the Gospel to Our Relationships Listen Now ›
  13. A New Way to Think About Work & Family Listen Now ›
  14. What Is Spiritual Warfare? Listen Now ›