In Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 we read that Jesus came to “give his life as a ransom for many”. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 also speaks of “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. Ransom = anti (instead of, in place of, in exchange for) + lutron (ransom, price paid for release). No other word speaks more beautifully of our redemption from sin by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ than this one; indeed, no other word encapsulates the very essence of the gospel any better. For although we were at one time slaves to sin, sold into the bondage of iniquity and incapable of observing God our Creator’s most holy and righteous law, the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us. He has bought us back from our slavery; He has purchased us from among men to be a people for his own possession. He paid our ransom of death with His own blood so that we might be set free from sin–free from its condemnation through the forgiveness of sins, and free from its control through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. For with a view to the final redemption of our bodies He has put within our hearts His own Spirit of holiness in order that we should no longer serve our former taskmaster of sin, but that we should serve God in holiness and righteousness of the truth.
The Scripture is clear that in their natural state all men are no better than slaves, sold into the bondage of sin and incapable of observing the holy and righteous law of God, to the end that they are without hope:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of lusts and pleasures. We spent our lives in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not is us.
1 John 1:8
There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (literally, a woman’s menstrual cloth); we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold (as a slave) into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (consider that this is the nature of a slave). But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. (As slaves to sin we cannot help but obey it). But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the law that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
The wages of sin is death.
No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him–for the redemption of his soul is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on eternally, that he should not see the pit (of Hell).
O wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?
And yet, although man’s natural state is a slave to sin without any hope of ever being set free, God has given him hope through the redemption provided through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul just asked who would set him free from this body of death; listen as he answers his own question:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
He will set me free from this body of death! He will set me free indeed!
If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
For to be sure, the redemption of Christ delivers us from all the condemnation of our sin through the atonement of His blood. But far more than this and of equal importance, it also delivers us from our slavery to sin by empowering us with His own Spirit of holiness to walk in righteousness in a way we never could in the flesh. In this way His redemption also delivers us from all the bondage that is laid upon sinners by both the law of God and the commandments of men.
For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham (which is to receive an inheritance in the land of promise, the kingdom of God) might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Like the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that led the children of Israel out of their bondage to the taskmasters in Egypt, so does the Holy Spirit lead the redeemed of the Lord out of their bondage to sin).
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child (i.e., under the tutelage of the law, cf. the context of Gal 3:23-29), he does not differ at all from a slave (to sin, for the law can only show us our sin and our need for a Savior, it has no power to set us free from our sins) although he is owner of everything (cf. Rom 9:1-5), but he is under guardians and managers (i.e., the law) until the date set by the father. So also while we were children (not knowing the righteousness to be revealed through faith), we were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world (the “law of commandments contained in ordinances”, Eph 2:15. The real bondage of our sin comes because of the law, for without the law there would be no knowledge of sin and apart from the law sin would be dead, Rom 7:7-8; indeed, “the power of sin is the law”, 1 Cor 15:56. For this reason Paul talks of dying to sin and dying to the law almost synonymously, cf. Rom 6:2,11, 7:4,6). But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the law (i.e, under its condemnation), that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave (to sin and to the bondage the law puts upon sinners, nor to those who would have us obey the commandments of men “which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence”, Col 2:23), but a son; and if a son, then an heir (of the promised inheritance) through God.
However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are not gods. (Apart from Christ, our bondage to sin makes us slaves to the commandments of men which from the beginning have been the hallmark of all the religion of man that seeks to provide its own release from transgression). But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? (To return from a walk of faith led by the Spirit of God to put to death the deeds of the body and try to be perfected after the flesh by obeying the law of commandments contained in ordinances is to return to the slavery to sin from which Christ redeems us. For unless our flesh dies, the law will only arouse its sinful passions so that we bear fruit for death, Rom 7:5. When the sinful flesh does die we also die to the law because we are no longer breaking the law.) You observe days and months and seasons and years (i.e., they were submitting themselves to the Jewish ritual law which some false teachers, in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men, had told them they had to obey in order to be saved). I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
1 Corinthians 7:23
False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you (i.e., they will come proclaiming religion, but a false religion), who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
2 Peter 2:1
We are only beginning to see and understand the full significance that Christ has bought us back from all our slavery to sin. Before continuing, let us be careful to understand the price of this redemption.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
There is no difference (between any man, Jew or Gentile), for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
For the soul (or life) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the soul that makes atonement.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.
It is most important for us to understand that our redemption in Christ is inseparably related not only to Christ’s death but also His resurrection, of which our baptism into the new covenant is a symbol. For when we enter into the new covenant by taking up our cross so as to be crucified with Christ then His redemption sets us free from the condemnation of sin by forgiving our trespasses on account of the atoning blood of His death. But it also sets us free from the control of sin by raising us up to live a new life in holiness on account of His resurrection. Listen as Paul is careful to guard against a perverted understanding of the riches of God’s grace:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? May it never be! We died to sin (this is how we are set free from it); how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (free from the control of sin).
If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection (i.e., with the power to live a new life). We know that our old self (the old man of sin, cf. Rom 7:1-4) was crucified with Him (because we took up our cross to follow Him) so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin‑‑because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (cf. 1 Pet 2:24).
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God (i.e., serve Him), as those alive from the dead (for we have been united with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection), and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Notice here again the very close relationship between the law and sin. We have just seen that in Christ Jesus we are made to die to sin. Because we are dead to sin we are also dead to the law, for “the law has authority over a man (i.e., the old man of sin) only as long as he lives”, Rom 7:1. Thus when we die to sin we are also “made to die to the law through the body of Christ”, Rom 7:4. As we saw earlier, “the power of sin is the law”, 1 Cor 15:56, thus when we die to the law sin no longer has any power over us and we are free to serve God as our Master in holiness and righteousness. Paul now answers the obvious question, “If we are no longer under the law, what is to prevent us from continuing in our sin?”)
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death (notice that if we continue to serve sin we are still a slave to sin and will reap the wages of that sin which always has been and always will be death, cf. Gen 2:17, Rom 6:23, Gal 6:7-8), or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (only when we obey the one true gospel of Jesus Christ and die to the sinful flesh with its passions and desires will we die to the law and so be set free from the power of sin to find the righteousness without which we cannot inherit the kingdom of God, cf. 1 Cor 6:9)? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (“We have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”, Rom 7:6. For in contrast to the letter of the law that was written on tablets of stone and that ministered death, the Spirit of the living God has written the royal law of Christ upon our hearts that ministers righteousness, 2 Cor 3:3-9).
He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (where we are now His servants, not the servants of sin), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:30
Let us then clearly understand that our redemption in Christ means He has purchased us from among men to be a people for his own possession:
Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
You are not your own (for the redeemed are now God’s own possession); you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
And here again we see the price at which we were bought:
Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 1:17-19
And they (the twenty-four elders) sang a new song (to the Lamb of God): “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
And they (the 144,000) sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women (with the harlot of false religion, cf. Rev 17-18), for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
Let us here consider that the children of Israel’s redemption from Egypt, to which we alluded earlier, is a type that helps us understand more fully our redemption from sin. Let us recall from the exodus narrative that Israel, prefiguring both the Savior and the multitudes from every nation, tribe and people and language that would be adopted into the family of God, is called the firstborn son of God (cf. Jer 31:9). Because Pharaoh (who represents the bondage of sin and the law) wouldn’t let God’s son go, God would kill all the first-born in the land of Egypt (Ex 4:22-23, 11:5). However, the firstborn of Israel were redeemed from death by the blood of the lamb that covered them (Ex 12:21-22). They, of course, represent those redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is for this reason when we are saved that we come to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (Heb 12:23; let us also note here that as the firstfruits of the womb these firstborn of Israel typified the whole nation itself which would be redeemed from its bondage in Egypt to become a people for God’s own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, Ex 19:5, cf. Dt 4:20, 7:6, 14:2, 26:18, Ps 74:2, Micah 6:4; likewise, the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel in Revelation 7 and 14 are called the firstfruits to God and the Lamb and typify the “whole nation” of multitudes that would be redeemed from their bondage to sin, cf. Rev 14:4 above and Rev 7:9,14-17 below.) However, this was only the beginning of God’s plan of salvation and purposes for Israel. The firstborn were not redeemed from death, nor the nation from its bondage, that they should continue to serve their taskmasters in Egypt. God’s word to Pharaoh throughout the Exodus narrative is, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me!” (Ex 4:23, 5:1, 7:16, 8:1,20, 9:1,13, 10:3). Having been redeemed by God and purchased from among men, the firstborn, again typifying the whole nation that was to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, rightfully belonged to Him as His bondservants (Ex 13:2,13-15). Later, the Levites took the place of the firstborn as servants and ministers in the household of God to continually serve before Him (cf. Num 3:12-13,39-51 and 1 Chron 16:37-42, 23:24-32, esp vss 30-31.) And once more we see that this is a picture of all those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ. Because they are purchased from among men and no longer slaves to sin, they are to continually serve before God in holiness and righteousness:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands….These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (“the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”, Rev 19:8,14 cf. Rev 3:4-5,18, 4:4, 6:11, and 22:14). For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple (i.e., continually); and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more (for they have the bread of life), neither thirst anymore (for they have their fill of living water); neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat (cf. Mt 13:5-6,20-21); for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to the springs of the waters of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.
Hear then the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah as He describes how these multitudes find their way to His throne:
A highway will be there (in the desert wilderness of men’s sin), a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way (in holiness), and fools (foolish virgins) will not wander on it. No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it (the powers of darkness); these will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there (on that Highway of Holiness), and the ransomed of the LORD will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Pass through, pass through the gates (of salvation)! Prepare the way for the people (by calling upon them to repent, as did John the Baptist). Build up, build up the highway (of Holiness)! Remove the stones (of stumbling). Raise a banner (the word of God) for the nations. The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.'” They will be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, The City No Longer Deserted.
Finally, let us also note that our redemption is much more than just a one-time happening; it is a life-long process that will find its ultimate completion only after our physical death and/or the return of the Lord Jesus. At that time our carnal flesh shall finally and completely be destroyed and replaced with a resurrection body untainted by sin (cf. 1 Cor 15:50-56, 1 Thess 4:13-18), if, like the men of old, we have obtained a testimony of righteousness in this present age by our faith (cf. Heb 11:2,4,5,39). For just like Abraham who in faith forsook his home in this world to follow God into the land of promised inheritance and yet died in faith without having received it, so do we, right now, see our promised inheritance in the kingdom of God (which is to be perfected in holiness and righteousness) and welcome it from a distance. And like Abraham so do we now, in this present age, by faith, make that land of promise our home and so live the rest of our lives on this earth as strangers and exiles in a foreign country, seeing that our inheritance is not of this world but looking for that city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Heb 11:8-10,13).
Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the (final) redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the (final) redemption of our bodies.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of (our final) redemption.
When these things begin to take place (the signs of the end of the age and Christ’s coming), stand up and lift up your heads, because your (final) redemption is drawing near.
We conclude with the following passage from Hebrews which so nicely summarizes our discussion of our Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself as a ransom for all men:
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are to come, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
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