Redemption is another word that we use in a different way than it was used in biblical times. Redemption in biblical times denoted deliverance from a state of captivity, such as a prisoner of war or a slave, or deliverance from a death sentence. The deliverance was always accomplished by the payment of a price. This was fundamental to the idea of redemption.
People in biblical times longed for freedom, even more than we do today, because they literally understood slavery. Freedom was an important biblical concept. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) Leon Morris says it this way: “Processes which were familiar to them from their ordinary daily life gave a vivid picture of what had happened in the spiritual realm when the Saviour gave His life for them.” Slavery was a personal experience for many in the New Testament era, so the analogy of redemption rang true for those in the time of Jesus.
What did first century Christians learn from this analogy, and what can redemption teach us about Christ’s work of atoning for our sins?
We are by nature slaves to sin (John 8:33-34). We are God’s by right of creation. He made us, and we are his. But we have become the slave of evil, the slave of sin. We have come under the power of a strong enemy and we cannot set ourselves free (Rom. 6:7-10). That is our nature, and we cannot change it on our own. Sin defiles us from the inside (Mark 7:20-23), and it will lead to death (Rom. 6:23). We have no hope unless and until we first acknowledge our inherent sin nature.
Christ came to redeem us from sin. The purpose of his coming was to ransom many from their slavery to sin (Mark 10:45). Jews were anticipating this redemption (Luke 1:68; 2:38; 21:28), although they may not have necessarily understood it in the same way. But just as people were redeemed from literal slavery, so Christ can redeem people from spiritual slavery.
Christ paid the ransom price by His own blood to redeem us. There was a cost. His death, signified by his shed blood, redeems us from sin (Eph. 1:7). We should not stretch the metaphor too far and wonder if there was someone God had to pay, because there is no indication of this anywhere in the New Testament. As with any metaphor or analogy, we cannot press every detail. But God did express his power, and at great price, to redeem us from slavery to sin.
We are free from sin and slaves to Christ! According to John Murray, we are redeemed from the curse of the law, its penal sanction, i.e., death (Gal. 3:13). We are also redeemed and from the law of works. We do not need to keep the law as a condition of our justification and acceptance by God. Christ has completed that obedience for us (Rom. 5:19). We have been redeemed from both the guilt of sin and the power of sin. We are now slaves to Christ and called to glorify him in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:22-23). Our zeal is no longer for sin but instead for good works (Titus 2:14). Our redemption will be completed when he comes again (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30).
Meditate today on the analogy of redemption. Spend some time meditating on Rom. 3:21-26. You may still be a slave to sin. If you are, confess your sins and trust in Christ and the redemption that he paid for you! Live in this freedom today and especially this week as we consider what his redemption of us has accomplished!