The Pardon

Having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ  Romans 5:1

Every once in a while a minor event in the Bible gets our attention. We are drawn in to learn more. One such event is the release of a condemned criminal from prison just before the crucifixion of Jesus. This seemingly minor event is a major event for you and me. In what way?

Hidden within the message of the cross are many stories, one of which is the story of Barabbas, a minor event with a profound message.

Chained in a dingy prison cell, Barabbas saw his life pass before him. Vaguely aware of the commotion outside, the crowd called for his pardon. Little did Barabbas know about this man called Jesus and little did he know about God’s love and grace that would free him that day.

With hands soiled but unchained, Barabbas was led out from his foreboding confinement into the light of day. Squinting from the brightness of the day, he looked to see a scourged and bloodied prisoner standing before Pilate. It was Jesus. Though the Roman governor had declared the man Jesus innocent (Luke 23:15), the mob wanted him crucified and the lawless rebel, Barabbas, freed (Luke 23:18–19).

No one knows where Barabbas was during the crucifixion. Did he mingle with a crowd of onlookers to watch the injustice? Did he stand afar off in silence to witness the ordeal? Did he hear the cry of agony from the most innocent and most beautiful person ever to walk the earth, the one who took his place? Though we may guess, the Bible does not say.

The story of Barabbas and his release from condemnation is a remarkable parallel to the story of every believer. We stood guilty before God and deserving of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). But then, due to no influence of our own, Jesus was chosen to die in our stead. He, the Innocent One, bore the punishment we rightly deserved.

We, like Barabbas, were allowed to go free with no condemnation (Romans 8:1). And Jesus “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV).[1] Jesus was the Lamb of God upon which the wrath of God was appeased (Romans 3:24–26), the power of sin broken (Romans 6:1–11; 8:3–4), and the guilt of sin removed (Romans 3:19–29). Now justified, we are set free, and our chains are gone.

Set Free

For Barabbas, the pardon meant Jesus set him free by taking his place, escaping the wrath of Rome. For believers, the pardon means Jesus set us free by taking our place to escape the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). Though Barabbas was now free to walk as before, we are now free to sing, amazing grace, my chains are gone!. Christians are set free to walk worthy of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1).

But how are we set free? Around AD 57 in Corinth, the apostle Paul seized the essence of “how” while writing an epistle to his beloved brethren in Rome. Chapters 5 through 7 in Romans expounds on the idea that having faith (in Christ) ensures the believer’s deliverance from sin and death and the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). This is good news! In fact, the opening verse in Chapter 5 summarizes these chapters within two verses:

Therefore, having been justified [2] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Romans 5:1).

The fundamental doctrine in the Roman epistle is simply this: When we genuinely believe the gospel we are pardoned (justified) by faith. The means of justification by faith rests firmly on the doctrine of grace, as Paul cites in verse 2.

…through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).

Evidence of being Set Free

The evidence of being set free is rejoicing in the hope set before us. It reminds us of Barabbas’ pardon and how his story helps us understand justification. It’s a story among stories, a lasting testimony of God’s grace, divine pardon, and incredible love and forgiveness.

How do you know you’ve been pardoned? Barabbas knew when the jailer unshackled his chains and led him out into the light to look upon Jesus. In a similar way, Jesus unshackled our chains with the key of truth, then leading us out from the darkness of corruption into the day of light (John 8:12; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

While the story of Barabbas’ pardon is for our understanding, it was a physical pardon made possible by Jesus. Our pardon and the pardon of multitudes is a spiritual pardon made possible by the same Jesus, the Lord of Glory (Hebrews 1:3).

So then, pardon by substitution [3] is the theme found throughout the Old Testament and carried into the New Testament with the coming of Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29). The prophets and apostles of old clearly knew the divine principle of substitution; and then those ideas set the stage for mankind to understand what Jesus came to do (John 1:19; 1 Peter 3:18).

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul is saying we become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus when we are justified by faith. But then afterward there is another work in the heart known as sanctification, a word associated with growing closer to God in progressive holiness (John 17:16–17).

What happened to Barabbas after the crucifixion is unknown. Though Divine providence Barabbas was freed from the chains that shackled his arms and legs; but we do not know if Jesus set him free from the chains if sin and guilt.


In closing, the pardon through faith in Christ is the removal of God’s wrath and the unshackling of the believer from the power of sin and guilt. It marks the moment we step from the darkness of unbelief into the light of saving faith in Christ. We become clean slates upon which the Spirit of God writes a new beginning with a story that begins in glory (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Part 6 – The Life __________________________________________________________________________

Follow Me – Overview

  • Part 1 – The Call
  • Part 2 – The Walk
  • Part 3 – The Trial
  • Part 4 – The Cross
  • Part 5 – The Pardon
  • Part 6 – The Life
  • Part 7 – The Change
  • Part 8 – The Glory
  • Image Credit: Barabbas – 2012 TV Movie Poster

    Additional Reading

    Romans 5:1–11 that explains the eight benefits of justification, the pardon.

    Psalm 22 is an unmistakable picture of the crucifixion of Christ.

    [1] Got Questions: Who was Barabbas in the Bible?

    [2] Got Questions: What does it mean to be pardoned or justified?

    [3] Got Questions: What is substitution and why is the appeasement of God (propitiation) a necessary part of salvation?

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