When we live contrary to God’s character and the good purposes for which we were created, intentionally or not, we call that sin. These wayward actions and thoughts distance us from God, though not God from us.
Since God is life (John 5:26), separating ourselves from God brings death. Death is not a punishment imposed by God for our misdeeds, but rather the inevitable consequence of removing ourselves from the One in whom we have our being (Acts 17:28).
In addition, through sin we align ourselves with Satan’s rebellion against God. We, as the old saying goes, “sell our souls to the devil.” Of course, he is not a benevolent or kind master, but takes us captive so we do as he wills (2 Timothy 2:26). We become slaves to sin itself (John 11:34).
In response to our awful predicament that we have created, God came to us, as one of us, in Jesus the Christ. His coming undoes all the damage and consequences of sin through both reconciling and redeeming us.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus is how God reconciles humanity to himself. Through his life, God reclaims the human condition from sinfulness to righteousness, so much so that Jesus can be called a new Adam (Romans 5:14-15). In the fullness of his life, Jesus brought us back to a seamless fellowship with God. This recreating of the God-mankind relationship on our behalf is reconciliation, and it is God’s loving gift to the entire world.
Redemption is a different aspect of Jesus’ work for us. The word “redeem” refers to paying a price to ransom something or someone from the power of another. Our sinfulness has caused us to be in debt in several ways.
Some mistakenly think that Jesus’ death pays off our debt, because of sin, to the Father. As we have seen, Jesus is God reconciling us to himself, not redeeming us from God. Our God is the father of the prodigal son, who does not ask for the debt to be repaid when the son returns. Our God is the compassionate king (Matthew 18:27) who simply forgives debts.
As Paul stated, God is not counting our sins against us. We are told to forgive in exactly the same way (Ephesians 4:32). We do have debts that need to paid, just not to God.
Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23), we owe death its due. Paul is pointing to this when he says that Jesus redeems us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), that is, a death sentence. Jesus pays death what it demands though it was a debt he did not owe.
God is not demanding our death; death is demanding our life. Our enemy, death, was defeated by Jesus and we look forward to participating in that already accomplished victory (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He redeems (ransoms) us from the devil, the one had enslaved us through our sin. The devil makes his claim on us, using death as his power over us (Hebrews 2:14).
When Jesus gives himself as a ransom, he frees us forever (John 11:36) from the hands of our enemies – the devil and death. This is redemption. We are redeemed from the consequences of sin and reconciled to the fellowship of God.