Christianity is a religion of redemption, in which people are saved from the devastation of sin through what someone else − in this case, Jesus − has done for them.
Thus, the Christian religion may be distinguished from a religion of law, where one may rectify his or her doom by one’s own efforts at doing good works. We need this redemption because, according to the Bible, people without Christ are enslaved to sin (John 8:34) and under a death sentence (Rom. 6:23). They cannot free themselves from these two conditions. The sinner’s plight requires outside intervention, and this intervention comes at a price. As the New Testament so clearly teaches, that price was the death of Jesus on the cross.
From the New Testament’s point of view, Christ’s redemptive death is sacrificial and substitutionary. He took our place, sacrificing Himself in our behalf, suffering our fate for us so that we don’t have to suffer it ourselves. Though some reject this idea because they don’t like the notion of someone suffering in place of another (especially in the place of someone who is guilty), that’s the heart and soul of the gospel message. When the New Testament speaks of redemption, then, unless our linguistics are at fault, it means that Christ has paid the price of our redemption. To the extent that the price paid must be adequate for the purchase in question this indicates an equivalence, a substitution. − Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Co., 1965), p. 61.
Think of some things in your own life that you find are impossible to change, things that you are absolutely helpless to do anything about. In the same way, we are absolutely helpless to save ourselves. How does this realization help us to better understand what Christ did for us on the cross? More important, how should this amazing truth of redemption impact our lives?