Friday, February 22, 2013

Redemption: From What Are We Redeemed?

This is the second post of a series of three on biblical redemption. 

In him we have redemption through his blood....

If redemption means release from bondage by payment of a price (and it does), and Christ redeemed sinners by his death (and he did), then we know that unredeemed sinners are slaves. And believers, those of us who have been redeemed, are former slaves. What's more, we weren't just ordinary slaves, but triple slaves, if you will, because scripture tells us there are least three ways we were in bondage.

We Were in Bondage to the Power of Sin
Jesus said, "Everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). The root of our sin lay deep inside, in our nature — and we can't change our nature, can we? Unredeemed, we were stuck. We couldn't not sin, because we were in bondage to the power of sin.

 But Christ's death releases those who are united to him from captivity to their natural born sinfulness.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7 ESV)
In our natural state, our "old self," we were dominated by sin, but at the moment we were united with Christ in his death, we were freed from sin's dominion. Christ's death redeems us from the power of sin.

We Were in Bondage to Satan
Ephesians 2:2 tells us that Satan, "the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience," once dominated us all. In 2 Timothy 2:26, Paul says that those who don't know the truth are ensnared by the devil and are being held captive to do his will. Satan's specialty, it seems, is deception. Those he holds captive can't see the truth and believe his lies instead (2 Corinthians 4:4).

On the basis of Christ's redemption, God frees us from bondage to Satan and transfers us to Christ's kingdom.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)
If you read this and think of God and Satan getting together to make a deal for the release of Satan's captives, think again. Do you remember how God redeemed the Israelites from Egypt? He didn’t make a ransom payment to Pharaoh. Pharaoh received nothing but crushing judgment at the hand of God, and then he let his Israelite slaves go free. Christ’s redemption of sinners from the power of Satan is something like that. He redeems sinners by his triumphant defeat of Satan, a victory won through his death and resurrection.

We Were in Bondage to the Legal Ramifications of Our Sin
Sinners are condemned to death because of their sin, and Christ's death redeems believers from this legal judgment. The background for this practice is in the Old Testament law:
But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. [30] If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. (Exodus 21:29-30 ESV)
A man who owned an ox that had a tendency to gore would be sentenced to death if his ox killed someone, but he could pay a ransom price to free himself from this legal judgment.

Similarly, Christ's redemption sets sinners free from the legal sentence for their sin. Galatians 3:13 says that we have been redeemed "from the curse of the law," and Colossians 2:14 tells us that Christ "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us." And anywhere the New Testament sets redemption in the context of forgiveness of sin or justification (Romans 3:24-26, for instance), the focus is redemption from the death sentence that results from our sin. Even 1 Timothy 2:5-6, by connecting Christ's ransom for sinners to his mediatory work representing people before God, has release from legal judgment in view, since it is God's own condemnation of our sin that separates us from him.1

That Christ's death for us was redemption tells us that we were in bondage. We were slaves of sin, slaves of Satan, and under a sentence of death. By dying in our place, Christ redeemed us from all of this and more.

Two weeks from today I plan to post a something on what Christ's redemption means for us — how it changes our lives and what it demands of us.

1Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, page 194.

Paul: An Outline of His Theology, Herman Ridderbos.
The Atonement: It's Meaning and Significance, Leon Morris.
The Atonement (from Redemption — Accomplished and Applied), John Murray.

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