Recently a friend of mine was challenged with a question from a foreign exchange student. The student asked, “What does the word redemption mean?” As she began struggling with the best way to explain such a spiritually meaningful concept, she thought to ask why the student wanted to know. The girl replied, “Someone told me that instead of throwing cans away I’m supposed to take them to the Redemption Center.” As with many words in our modern vernacular, the word “redemption” has lost much of its spiritual potency. The goal of the words I am writing is to hopefully remind you of the wonderfulness of this word and to help you to continually “Remember your Redemption.”
In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul has much to say about the human condition. In Romans 3:23, he reminds us that, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In chapter 7, but in the same verse, he exasperates about how the sin in our life enslaves us and holds us captive. Finally, in chapter 6 and again in the same verse, we read that there is a price to be paid to release us from the bondage of our sin: “For the wages of sin is death.” DEATH! Who would be willing to pay such a steep price for our redemption? Who could possibly love us enough to lay down their own life?
In Ephesians 1:7, we find our answer to these questions. “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.” The Greek word for redemption in this passage is “apolytrosis,” which means “to be purchased out of the marketplace, to be set free.” Slavery, of course, was a very prominent institution in the ancient Roman world. Slaves were sold, purchased, and traded daily in the town marketplaces. Although extremely rare, sometimes a “redemption price” would be paid in a slave market for the sole purpose of setting the individual free. This is the redemption (apolytrosis) that was offered on our behalf through the blood of Jesus Christ. We were enslaved in sin in this marketplace of a world, but a Savior came and paid the ultimate redemption price.
It’s important for us to continually reflect upon the substantial price that was paid to redeem us. In Matthew 18 and starting again with the 23rd verse, Jesus tells us a story about an unmerciful servant. I think it’s very possible that some of the disciples laughed as Jesus began this exaggerated parable. Imagine your reaction if you heard Him begin the story with, “A certain man owed the king 200,000 years worth of wages!” This is an impossible debt. How did this man ever get himself into this situation. And how arrogant of him to tell the Lord that he would be able to repay him given enough time. Yet this is OUR story! We were forever lost in our sin without any possible means to repay the enormous debt that we had accrued, and like the man, sometimes we think we can do things on our own, but our Savior was “moved with compassion and cancelled our debt.” And woe to us, if we are then unforgiving to our brethren. We should easily let the compassion and love that was so lavishly poured out upon us when our debt was cancelled to overflow onto those around us, even when we might perceive we are being treated unfairly. If God can forgive us for the death of his son, surely we can overlook the insignificant and petty differences we have with those whom we might come in contact with in our daily lives, especially those of the household of faith..
The evil institution of slavery is still present in parts of our world today. Recently it’s been reported that the continual paying of the “redemption price” has actually kept the slave markets flourishing. Slave traders can get four times as much per head from people redeeming their loved ones rather than from people buying them for servitude, and the price of redemption is paid over and over again. Thank the Lord that this is not the case with our redemption, for Hebrews 7:27 tells us “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”
The story has been told of a man who saw a young girl being sold in a slave market. He had compassion on her and paid the redemption price. When she was brought to him, he told her she was free. “What does free mean?” she inquired. “It means you can choose for yourself what to do and where to go. Where would you like to go?” he asked her. With tears of joy she replied, “I want to go with you!”
If we truly understand the magnitude of our debt which was cancelled and can continually remember our redemption, we will inevitably come to the same conclusion as this slave girl and have only one desire...to choose to follow our blessed Redeemer. In John 6 when Jesus asked Peter if he would leave him like so many had just done, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom would we go? For only you have the words of eternal life.”
We encourage you as you continue in your daily walk that you constantly remember your redemption,
“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).