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Commentary on Eph. 1:7,8 [redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ]

"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." (KJV)

Synopsis: this commentary on Eph. 1:7,8 analyses the idea of redemption: its meaning, how it was provided through the blood of Jesus Christ and how it is "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence". In addition, the commentary discusses the essence of the transactional doctrine of redemption and the reasons for which it finds no application, not only in the case of Eph. 1:7-8, but also in the context of the whole teaching of the Scripture on this subject.

In the Apostle Paul starts his letter with a praise of God, who chose some and predestined them for membership in the Body of Christ so that through baptism in the spirit they could become the sons of God and brothers with Jesus Christ. Eph. 1:7,8 continues this thread of praise, though from a different perspective. Earlier, Paul focused on issues related to predestination and election; now he emphasizes another crucial activity of God on behalf of the elect, i.e. redemption provided through the blood of Jesus Christ.


When we read about redemption through blood, we have a clear picture of the situation: Jesus died on the cross, giving us in this way the remission of sins. Implied in such a statement is the idea that the equivalent price (anti-lytron) by which redemption takes place (apolytrosis) is the price of life. Many believers actually see redemption as just this one moment in which our Lord commended his spirit into his Father's hands. And not only many believers individually, but a number of churches base their beliefs on such a 'transactional' interpretation of redemption in which a kind of commercial transaction takes place between God and Jesus Christ: Adam incurs debt by losing his life - Jesus pays it off by offering his life on the cross. Since Adam gets even with God this way, our sins are remitted and we can enjoy a 'clean slate'.

To illustrate this situation, some authors use in their textbooks the image of scales, with Adam on one scale and Jesus on the other. Since both 'weigh' the same, the scales are in perfect balance, and therefore Jesus can give to God what Adam has lost. His perfect life is worth the same as the life of our forefather. We are therefore in the poetics of a transaction - we might as well put on both scales equal sacks of potatoes and the meaning would remain the same. But the meaning is not the same, and it cannot be, for several reasons.

First of all, the use of scales suggests that human life can have a measurable value, which in itself is quite a controversial idea. But even if life could be measured, would Adam's life and the life of Jesus have the same value? The experience and the position of Jesus, who in his prehuman being was the firstborn son of God and the chief executor of the divine plan of creation, were quite different from the experience and position of Adam (Jn. 1:10; Heb. 1:2). Moreover, Adam proved to be unreliable in terms of keepign the Divine law, our Lord - quite to the contrary. The equation of Jesus with Adam, even in this respect, seems to be far off the mark. But even should one object that life is not synonymous with experience, but it is the life force operating in man, there is another problem. For if Jesus had to give to God a certain value which was lost by Adam, that transaction would make sense only if our Lord gave to the Father something that previously was not His property. Jesus' life, however, also came from God (Jn. 1:1,2; Col. 1:15-17). The transactional model of redemption assumes, therefore, that Jesus gives God the life that comes from God and belongs to God. The question about the sense of such a 'deal' is not easy to answer, if it can be answered at all.

Finally, Eph. 1:7,8 also indirectly indicates that the redemption it speaks about is different from the conclusions behind the transactional model. The Apostle Paul declares here that the grace of redemption is given to us "in all wisdom and prudence." If redemption consists in a transaction in which our Lord Jesus gives God the value of life lost by Adam, it is hard to understand how this value is used by us "in all wisdom and prudence." Perhaps therefore one should consult the Bible to look for a slightly different perspective on "redemption through his blood" than the model of a commercial transaction.


Obviously, God's Word shows clearly how we are to understand this most important doctrine. It is true that the Bible teaches about the equivalent price, e.g. in Mt. 20:28 and 1 Tim. 2:6, but it is not the price which stems from the transactional model. What this equivalence is about is clearly shown by the Apostle Paul in Rom. 5:19 - "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (KJV). It should be noted here what the purpose of redemption is: 'so shall mamy be made righteous.' Adam did not understand what God's justice is and sinned. We understand this subject even far less than our forefather. Therefore, to restore righteousness to man it was necessary that somebody should appear who would give its perfect example, from whom we could learn. This role has been entrusted to our Lord, which is clearly stated, among others, in Mt. 11:28-30; Rom. 8:29 and Heb. 12:2. Therefore, the price paid by our Lord is the price of obedience.

It is also equivalent price (anti-lytron). Its equivalence will be seen when one recalls conditions in which obedience was tested. Although it seems that the tests of Jesus and Adam were very different, they share one common denominator, i.e. keeping obedience in the face of death. Seeing his wife eating the fruit, Adam is convinced that she brought this way the sentence of death also on himself, for it was said, "they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24 KJV). Jesus, in turn, while hanging on the cross, suffers the thought that his mission has failed, that he sinned at some point and eternal death awaits him (Mt. 27:46). Adam, however, in his decision to eat the fruit, breaks God's commandment voluntarily and consciously; Jesus, on the contrary, remains faithful till the end (Heb. 2:10, 5:8; 1 Pt. 2:22). And this is the equivalent price Jesus had to pay - he had to remain faithful to his very death, thus giving an example of perfect obedience.

Therefore, in Rom. 5:18 Paul writes in the singular. He does not talk about righteous deeds, but one righteous action: "So then, as the one sin condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act sets all people free and gives them life" (GNB). In the transactional model we would say that this verse speaks about the death of Jesus, but can one's death be properly called an act? No. The merit of our Lord was not that he died - he did not have any influence here - but that he kept perfect obedience until death (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:16,17). As the Apostle Paul says, Jesus "learned obedience by the things which he suffered" during his 3.5 years of service, "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him" because being subject at the very end of his earthly service to the heaviest temptation after the example of Adam, he was able to pass this test successfully (Heb. 5:8,9 WB).

That is why in Eph. 1:7.8 the Apostle Paul writes that "we have redemption through His blood." The success of the mission of Jesus Christ depended on this one righteous act of obedience, proven on the cross, because only then our Lord's test could be equivalent to the test of Adam, and the pattern of obedience left by him could be complete. In this way, we can also easily see what Paul meant by writing in Eph. 1:8 that the grace of redemption has been "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence" - if the essence of redemption is obedience, our appropriation of redemption means in fact following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. It is thus necessary for us to develop an understanding of the activities of our Lord and what the Bible calls the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Only by transforming our minds and hearts after the example of Jesus Christ will we be able to develop obedience to God and appropriate in this way this precious redemption provided by the blood of our Lord.


Obedience is the essence of redemption. We must realize that the Almighty God really does not need for the salvation of Adam that someone - in this case, Jesus Christ - give him the right to effect it. For this in fact is the meaning of the transactional model. Some of its proponents even explicitly speak of human life rights our Lord offered to God so that God could start the process of salvation. Even if teachers of different churches formulate it in slightly different terms, the crux of the matter remains unchanged: life for life - the life of Jesus for the life of Adam.

Meanwhile, God does not need a permission from the outside. The only thing that limits Him is His own righteousness, which says: "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Restoration of life rights to humanity can only take place on the principles of righteousness, i.e. man's obedience to God's Law. Jesus Christ redeems man with his obedience because in this way man receives the example of obedience which he previously lacked - an example that is complete due to thorough testing our Lord suffered in the face of death.

This is also confirmed by our Lord, who expounds clearly and transparently the purpose of his mission during the hearing at the Pilate's palace. Jesus never said, "I have come that you may crucify me because this is the only way to deliver to the Father the life rights necessary for the redemption of Adam and his descendants," but he says: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should testify to the truth" (Jn. 18:37 WB). This testimony we draw on, as the Apostle Paul assures in Eph. 1:8, "in all wisdom and prudence." Obedience to God's righteousness is in fact only possible when one understands it. Adam did not understand; we are taught about it through Jesus Christ and if we have been called by hearing the Gospel - also invited to complete the fruit of justice in our characters (Phil. 1:9-11).

Keywords: Eph. 1:7-8, redemption
Bible translations used in the commentary:
KJV - King James Version
GNB - Good News Bible
WB - Webster Bible