Why do we need a Redeemer?

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The Fall, that we've already been talking about, brought man into a condition, not only of condemnation, so that we need forgiveness of sins, but this condemnation is something that comes to us as a result of a single act of disobedience, as Paul said in Romans 5. Therefore, no matter what we do, say, if we were to obey the law from this time forward in our lives, we could never achieve a righteousness because we already are sinners. We've already broken God's law. There is no way that we can come back to the standard of righteousness. "The one that does the laws shall live by them." But we already are lawbreakers. And so, from the fact that the law has been broken and we are under condemnation, we need a Redeemer. There is an absolute righteousness that is needed, and so, one must come who can fulfill God's requirement of an absolute righteousness.

But also, even if we could, say, achieve some degree of righteousness by our present obedience, there's still the necessity of someone paying for the sins of our past. There's someone that must pay for the law-breaking that we have already done. God will not violate his law, and he said that if we break the law, that we will die, that we are under a curse. Everyone that continues not in all things written in the book of the Law to do them are under a curse. So we are cursed, even if we obeyed all of God's law right now. So, someone must pay for the curse, but we cannot pay it ourselves in such a way to gain forgiveness. It would simply be a just punishment that must continue forever. So, for someone to pay, in order for forgiveness actually to come, there must be a uniquely qualified redeemer to do this.

And a third thing that is involved in this is that there must be such an authority, and such a glory in the redeemer, that God is fully satisfied with the honor that is shown him by the obedience of this person. And Anselm, who was a theologian in the Middle Ages, talks about this particular aspect of the atonement, that Christ, who was God himself, could not gain anything by himself by his obedience because he already had equal honor with God and therefore, his obedience must be given to others. And God is infinitely satisfied with this obedience because the person obeying also has the kind of honor that God requires. So, this honor that is given to God is another part of the redemption. And the granting of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who can grant the Holy Spirit, so that indwelling corruption we have also is gradually removed in the process of sanctification. So, for all of these reasons and perhaps more, we stand in need of someone outside of us to be our redeemer. We're helpless and hopeless without that kind of help.

Answer by Dr. Thomas J. Nettles

Dr. Thomas Nettles, who is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America, is the Professor of Historical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.