Redemption According to Orthodox Christianity

Venerable Isaac the Founder of the Dalmatian Monastery at Constantinople

Venerable Isaac the Founder of the Dalmatian Monastery at Constantinople

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


The Symbol (Creed) of Faith

Volume 1 - Doctrine and Scripture

"And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried."

[Source: Orthodox Church in America]

Although Jesus did not sin and did not have to suffer and die, He voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of the world and voluntarily gave Himself up to suffering and death for the sake of salvation. This was His task as the Messiah-Savior:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good tidings to the bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are comfort all who give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning" (Isaiah 61:1-3)

At the same time, Jesus had to do this as the suffering servant of Yahweh-God. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and by His stripes [i.e., wounds] we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away...And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord [Yahweh] to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many [or the multitude] and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53).

These words of the Prophet Isaiah written centuries before the birth of Jesus tell the story of His Messianic Mission. It began officially before the eyes of all in His baptism by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan. By allowing Himself to be baptized with the sinners though He had no sin, Jesus shows that He accepts His calling to be identified with the sinners: "the Beloved" of the Father and "the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world" (St. John 1:29; St. Matthew 3:17).

Jesus begins to teach, and on the very day and at that very moment when His Disciples first confess Him to be the Messiah, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," Jesus tells immediately of His Mission to "go to Jerusalem and suffer many things...and be killed and on the third day be raised" (St. Matthew 16:16-23; St. Mark 8:29-33). The holy Apostles are greatly upset by this. Jesus then immediately shows them His Divinity by being Transfigured before them in Divine Glory on the Mountain in the presence of Moses and Elijah. He then tells them once more: "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day" (St. Matthew 17:1-23; St. Mark 9:1-9).

The powers of evil multiplied against Christ at the end: "The kings of the earth counsel together against the Lord and His Christ" (Psalm 2:2). They were looking for causes to kill him. The formal reason was blasphemy, "because you, being a man, make yourself God" (St. John 10:31-38). Yet the deep reasons were more personal: Jesus told men the truth and revealed their stubbornness, foolishness, hypocrisy, and sin. For this reason every sinner, hardened in his sins and refusing to repent, wishes and causes the crucifixion of Christ.

The death of Jesus came at the hands of the religious and political leaders of His time, with the approval of the masses: when Caiaphas was high priest, "under Pontius Pilate." He was "crucified for us...and suffered and was buried" in order to be with us in our sufferings and death which we brought upon ourselves because of our sins: "for the wages of sin are death" (Romans 6:23). In this sense the holy Apostle Paul writes of Jesus that "having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13), "for our sake He (God the Father) made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The sufferings and death of Christ in obedience to the Father reveals the super-abundant Divine Love of God for His creation. For when all was sinful, cursed, and dead, Christ became sin, a curse, and dead for us--though He Himself never ceased to be the righteousness and blessedness and life of God Himself. It is to this depth, of which lower and more base cannot be discovered or imagined, that Christ has humiliated Himself "for us men and our salvation." For being God, He became man; and being man, He became a slave; and being a slave, He became dead and not only dead, but dead on a Cross. From this deepest degradation of God flows the eternal exaltation of man. This is the pivotal doctrine of the Orthodox Christian faith, expressed over and again in many ways throughout the history of the Orthodox Church. It is the doctrine of the atonement--for we are made to be "at one" with God. It is the doctrine of redemption--for we are redeemed, i.e., "bought with a price," the great price of the blood of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20).

"Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant [slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11).

In contemplating the saving and redeeming action of Christ, it has become traditional to emphasize three aspects which in reality are not divided, and cannot be; but which in theory (i.e., in the vision of Christ's being, and activity as the Savior of the world) may be distinguished. The first of these three aspects of the redeeming work of Christ is the fact that Jesus saves mankind by providing the perfect image and example of human life as filled with grace and the power of God.

(Next: Jesus, the Perfect Image of Human Life)





PSALM 69 (70)

O God, come to my assistance; Lord hasten to help me. Let those who seek my soul be shamed and reproached. Let those who wish me evil turn back and be disgraced. Let those who say to me: well done! turn away in shame. Let those who seek You, O God, rejoice and delight in You; and let those who love Your salvation always say: "The Lord be exalted. But I am poor and destitute, O God; help me. You are my helper and my deliverer, Lord; do not delay.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George