Threefold Redemption

By Joe Holland    |    August 21, 2023


Good teachers teach in three parts: they tell you what they’re going to teach you, teach it to you, and then remind you what they just taught you (and why it’s important). These three views of a topic—forward looking, in the present, and backward—are critical for mastering any subject. The Bible, with God as master-teacher, does the same thing. The Old Testament tells what redemption will look like when it comes. The Gospels tell what God did through Jesus Christ to accomplish redemption. And in the rest of the New Testament, God details the intricacies of the redemption already accomplished and how He applies it to the church. In this way, the Bible tells of redemption alluded to, redemption accomplished, and redemption applied.

Consider how this schema plays out in Psalm 22:18, wherein David writes, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Here we have a redemption allusion. How do we know? First, we don’t have any biblical evidence of lot-casting enemies taking David’s clothing. This could be just an example of poetic metaphor employed by David to describe a particularly difficult situation he experienced. But by the time we get to the New Testament, we realize while it may have originally been a metaphor, it is also more than that. 

God is the master-teacher, and the gospel of Jesus is the greatest subject—redemption alluded to, redemption accomplished, and redemption applied.”

—Joe Holland

In Matthew 27:35, Matthew quotes Psalm 22:18 as historical narrative. Jesus, before His crucifixion, was deprived of His clothing as the Roman soldiers cast lots to see who would be the new owner of Jesus’ garments. In those hours on the cross, Jesus would perform the greatest act in human history, accomplishing salvation through the atonement that only He as the God-man could offer (1 Peter 2:24). Part of God’s redemptive plan was for Jesus to be humiliated, a humiliation that involved the nakedness that David predicted in Psalm 22:18. The redemption alluded to was fulfilled in the redemption accomplished.

But the Bible does not stop at redemption accomplished. The New Testament canon provides a multifaceted view of redemption applied, the details of how Jesus’ atonement would be worked out in the lives of His followers. So we read in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” The context of this portion of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians shows how the gospel motivated Christians to generous giving. The fact that Jesus, possessor of all wealth as God Almighty, became so poor that He didn’t even own clothing, a poverty necessary to redeem the people He loved, is a fact that changes us and how we handle our possessions.

God is the master-teacher, and the gospel of Jesus is the greatest subject—redemption alluded to, redemption accomplished, and redemption applied.

Editor’s Note: This post was first published by Tabletalk Magazine in December 2016.

Joe Holland

Joe Holland is professor of Christian ministry and academic dean for Grimké College. He also serves as managing editor for Grimké Seminary and College.

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