A disconnect in a Biblical metaphor?

c. 1632

The ransom price paid for our redemption

We continued our sermon series on Ephesians 1:3–14, this week looking at 1:7–12 (the second portion of this introductory section). NIV1984

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

That word “redemption” is easy to slip over. For many long time Bible students, we may have a sense of the word. For those of us old enough to remember “redemption centers” (with the stamps, etc.), the word conjures up at least one aspect of “redemption.” Most English translations still use “redemption” in this passage. But does it communicate appropriately to our contemporary society?

For a first century reader, redemption (ἀπολύτρωσιν) carried significant weight. It wasn’t like moving from one home to another, nor even a career change. Redemption carried with it the understanding for those intimately familiar with slaves, slaves who were under the complete control of a master. A ransom price was set to free the slave, and the process or act of setting free the person was called redemption. In this case, the ransom price was the blood of Jesus (referring to his entire death on the cross and consequences, often as “the cross of Jesus” signifies the same). The act of setting the slaves free, namely sinners who were “dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1), is the redemption to which Paul refers.

The New Living Translation does a decent job with this text:

NLTse Eph. 1:7 “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son…”

But even here is a problem. Until we realize the depth of slavery to sin, we cannot fathom the greatness of God’s redemption and the ransom price that Jesus paid to set us free. Do we understand and know in our hearts that we were indeed slaves to sin? Of course, we can cover the ten commandments and get to about 6 or 7 and decide, “Yeah, I guess I am a sinner, even if not that bad.” But our slavery to sin was, and is in many cases, much deeper. Take coveting, for example. It is so much part of our lives that we don’t even consider it sin. Yet Paul in Romans 7:7 “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’”

So the redemption takes us from the slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Or as Paul put it in Colossians 1:13 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son.” This affects every aspect of our lives, our actions, our words, our thoughts — what it means to be “in Christ.” Throughout the practical section of Ephesians, Paul expands on this very point.

When we come across a Biblical term that seems familiar, yet somewhat vague, let’s take time to consider it more fully, study other relevant texts. And then let us apply that better understanding to our own knowledge of Christian doctrine and our walk of faith.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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