Monday, July 25, 2011

Ephesians 1:7: We have Redemption

Up to this point Paul has listed those blessings that pertain to God's actions in eternity passed. It is certain in Paul's mind that all the elements of our salvation find their source in the sovereign and kind will of God Himself. As Jonah was to find out the hard way "salvation is of the Lord."

In verse 7 Paul shifts into the present possessions those chosen in Christ are privileged to own. First up is redemption, and he is definite: we have it! We have been redeemed, the action has been completed, and the consequences are ongoing. Paul uses a Greek word (apolutrosis) that describes the release of a captive on the payment of a ransom. In a passage that appears quite parallel, Paul puts it this way: He rescued 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). While the word regularly pertained to buying the release of a slave, it also was used of soldiers who were captured and became prisoners of war. They often were forced into slavery as well, until they could be redeemed by their original king or general. This is precisely how Paul uses the word in regard to individual Christ-followers. In Adam we were made in the image of God, part of His creation, intended to display His glory. But, also in Adam, we became sinners, slaves to sin, held captive by Satan to do his will (see: 2 Timothy 2:24-26). We were prisoners of war, sold into slavery as a result of our sin. But, in Christ, we have been redeemed! 

Paul goes on to say that the "ransom" that was paid was the very blood of Christ. It is here that we see the metaphor usually associated with "redemption" has broken down.  It is clear that the ransom price - blood - was never intended to be paid to the one who held us fast. God did not pay Satan for the privilege of making us His own. Rather, the blood element reminds us of the Old Testament sacrificial system where the blood of the sacrificial lamb "covered" the sin, releasing the sinner from God's judgment. And so it is here. The ransom price of blood was paid, not to Satan, but to the Judge of All, as a covering for sin, a payment on the account of those owing justice a sentence they could neither pay nor escape. 

We understand this even better when we add the next phrase: the forgiveness of sins. The redemption of those held captive by Satan was effected, not by paying Satan's asking price, but by eliminating the sinful record by which Satan was empowered. By covering our sin with His blood, Jesus Christ has effected forgiveness, and where forgiveness is granted, Satan is disarmed. This whole concept lies behind Paul's lengthy argument in Romans 6 that those who have died to sin must no longer walk in it. How can those who have been released from bondage to sin and Satan now choose to walk in sinful ways? To do so is radically incongruent with their redeemed position in Christ. 

Lastly, Paul once again returns to the "why" behind all of God's redeeming activity. Was it because He saw something in us that He needed? Was it pity? Was it merited on our part? To all these, and any other possible motives, Paul gives an unwavering answer. It was all sourced in the graciousness of God. It was freely bestowed on us (vs. 6). Here, it was "lavished"upon us (vs. 8). All that we enjoy from the hand of God is ours because God is so good, and so gracious, and so intent on displaying His glory through the rescue of those who, if left to themselves, would have gone willingly - and justly! - into eternal torment for their life-long rejection of God's free gift. 

Hope this helps,



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