The Pardon

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

Set Free

Every once in a while a story in the Bible comes alive in a powerful way. It gets your attention. You are drawn in. You learn its value and share it with every open heart. What is Barabbas’ story and how does it apply to us?

Even more remarkable is that while the story is well known, hidden between the lines of the story is another story with a profound message.

Barabbas’ pardon is such a story, a criminal called out from among many and released from execution for his crimes against Rome. Confined in a dingy Roman prison, Barabbas saw his life pass before him, vaguely aware of the commotion outside calling for his pardon. Little did the criminal know about this man called Jesus. Little did he know about God’s love and grace that would call him from darkness into the light.

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).

Going forward a few hours, where then was Barabbas during the crucifixion? Did he mingle with a crowd of onlookers to watch? Did he stand afar off in silence to witness the ordeal and 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.

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 set free to walk as before, believers are not set free to walk as before; they 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 or set free? 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 night 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).


In closing, the pardon through faith in Christ is the removal of God’s wrath and the unshackling of the believer from 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 never–ending– story in glory (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Part 6 – The Life ______________________________________________________________________________________________ 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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