Tree of Redemption
by: Steven Bouma-Prediger
Have you ever been in jail? To your great relief, a friend pays your bail, or gives you (in the board game Monopoly) a get-out-of-jail-free card. You are redeemed, because of someone else, and a feeling of gratitude washes over you.
In this short letter, sometimes called the magna carta of Christian freedom, the apostle Paul makes clear the centrality of grace in the work of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. Followers of Christ are not obligated to follow the Mosaic law. As Martin Luther put it: good works are necessary, but not for salvation.
Jesus died on a tree. Thus, according to the Torah he was cursed (Deut. 21:23). But his being cursed “redeems” us, argues Paul, from the curse of the law, from our inability to keep the law. Christ did for us something we cannot do for ourselves. Christ paid our debt, bought us back from slavery to sin, freed us from captivity to our own bondage—the metaphors are thick when Paul speaks of God’s way of reconciliation. All of this our Lord Jesus accomplished by taking our place—by hanging on a tree and thus becoming a curse for us. Yet another tree—the tree of redemption.