...Powerful Hope for All of us Ready to Come out of Our Bondages
WE CONTINUE CONSIDERING THE SEVEN POWERFUL WORDS we find in Romans regarding what is ours in Christ Jesus. They're words for sinners who're opening up to their Savior. They're sweet words, powerful words, life-giving words. And, they're words with which too many of us are unfamiliar. We continue holding ourselves before them. We want the mercy and grace behind them to find their way more deeply into our spirits.
These are awesome days and we need everything to which these words point. Since some of the newer Bible translations have stripped some of them of their true and deep meaning, we're taking them as we found them a couple of generations ago. We hold on to them because they are significant and powerful. They are.. salvation, redemption, propitiation, remission, atonement, and justification. They point us perfectly to the overcoming of those six principles of lostness we find in Eph 2:1-3. But alas for Satan--what becomes ours in Christ exceeds what he wants to use to hold us in our lostness. There is another term, though not found in the Scriptures, still its truth and concept is there. It is substitution, The Divine Idea behind what is ours in Him Who took on sin, death, and Satan when He died for us.
This is wonderful. Six ruling forces of lostness have laid hold on our humanity, but there are seven ruling forces of salvation ready to set us free. Say these words over and over: salvation, redemption, propitiation, remission, atonement, justification and substitution. Oh, to know the power of them all!
The word with which we're taken in this article is redemption. It's from the Greek apolutrósis. Used in the New Testament almost exclusively by Paul, it means "a recall of captives from captivity by payment of a ransom." What a powerful word! Ancient Greek literature outside the New Testament used it to speak of the liberation of prisoners of war, the release of criminals condemned to death, and the granting of freedom to slaves. In the New Testament its primary meaning is release from the bondage of sin, but it also reaches into all other kinds of bondage into which mankind has fallen--or might yet fall. It offers freedom from every kind of slavery.
Even prisoners locked behind bars for all kinds of reasons, on receiving redemption in Christ Jesus, receive with it a wonderful freedom--even though they may remain behind the bars. Paul was a prisoner when he wrote Ephesians and Colossians, two books telling about the redemption, yet he was so free in Christ he never mentioned he was in prison. His life in Christ was more important. In Him, he maintained a glorious freedom.
BEFORE WE LOOK at the passages in the New Testament telling of redemption, there is a passage in Daniel giving insight into what it can mean. Although the word itself does not occur in most English versions, the translators of the Septuagint version used the word apolutrósis to tell of the release of Nebuchadnezzar from seven years of madness. This came before the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and took place in the life of a heathen king, yet it shows clearly the result of deliverance through the miracle power of God. It was a deliverance the early writers called a "redemption."
Briefly, here's the story. Nebuchadnezzar, who was king in Babylon, became insane to the point of wandering in the fields as a mad man who lived like a wild animal. Dan 4:33 describes his horrifying estate--…he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. Were he alive today, he would have been drugged and placed in the security ward of a mental hospital.
After seven years of insanity, something happened to him. Quite instantly, through a marvelous touch of God's grace, he received release from his madness. The Septuagint includes this with his testimony: "My time of redemption came..." The text goes on to describe the change that came to him. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever...Dan 4:34a. (Read Dan 4:4-37 for the whole story.)
The redemption to which the New Testament points is far greater than what came to Nebuchadnezzar. It is a redemption through Christ Jesus. It comes from so high a point in the heart of God that no questing soul can grasp its full meaning. Yet, like justification, it carries a simplicity that reaches into the cesspool of sin to receive any who will come. It will take us into eternity as the mystery of redemption unfolds and we discover the depth of sin to which it has reached to free us.
THE WORD APOLUTRóSIS used by Paul in Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, has another word kin to it with similar meaning. It is lutrósis. Apolutrósis is a stronger word. It is lutrósis plus apo-, a prefix which means "away from." This strengthens the meaning of redemption. It we were to translate it exactly, we could call it a "from-redemption." It expresses the completeness of our redemption in Christ FROM all that has held us in bondage.
There is more to learn about redemption. It is not merely a recall from captivity, but it is a recall of captives through the payment of a ransom. The New Testament Greek word for ransom is lútron. Looking closely at lutrósis, apolutrósis, and lútron, we see the three words are related. Jesus used lútron when He said, Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and to give his life a ransom for many--Matt 20:28. Herein lies part of the mystery of the redemption. No one can fully answer the question, "To whom was the ransom paid?" Certainly it was to no man, for no man can hold the power of bondage and release like the redemption in Christ Jesus demands. Certainly the payment was not to the devil. This would make him equal with God and demanding of a settlement. To whom, then, was the ransom paid?
We can answer this only in a measure. Its mystery is great. We do know it reaches the law of sin and death to nullify its hold on any repenting sinner. The search of a lifetime will continue revealing more about the redemption and the ransom that was paid. We know it reduces the power of Satan to nothing. It prevails over the power of all kinds of sickness. And, it strikes at the power of lost self-hood that holds so many in a vicious bondage. But now, instead of searching the mystery of it, we are searching the mercy of it. As we discover its mercy, its mystery unfolds. This is clear. The ransom the Lord Jesus laid down demands the release of our souls as though it were dealing with the keeper of a prison or the owner of slaves. These are two apt descriptions of sin. Isaiah prepares us to receive the understanding that Christ redeemed us from sin by taking the penalty of its judgment upon Himself. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities…Isa 53:5a
Peter points us further by showing the redemption was not through the payment of ransom money laid down in a temple before some priest. It was a far greater price that was paid. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot--I Pet 1:18,19.
The Lord Jesus became our ransom when He laid down His life in the presence of sin and demanded the release of every sinner who wills to be free. After He paid the ransom, not only did sin, and Satan, and sickness lose all their power to hold us in bondage, so did sorrow and even insanity lose their power. Isn't this amazing grace?
THERE ARE TWO SENSES in which Paul used the word redemption. He spoke of the immediate redemption coming to a sinner at the moment of belief. But he also spoke of a redemption that will come at the end of the age. Eph 1:3-14, that first long and wonderful sentence of the Epistle--about which we've written much--tells of both.
In a sinner's immediate redemption, the Lord Jesus plays the prominent role. In carrying the work of redemption forward to the end, the Holy Spirit plays the prominent role. We can see this in the following:
• Eph 1:7 (Jesus Christ) in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
• Eph 1:14 (The Holy Spirit) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.
These verses are so full, we can only begin to receive the grace revealed in them. We can speak but little of them here, but the Holy Spirit is ready to carry us all forward in the understanding of them. The truth of these verses will take us into eternity where, beyond doubt, it will continue to unfold its wealth to us.
Eph 1:7 introduces us to four factors involved in our immediate redemption.
• It is in Christ.
• It is through His blood.
• It results in the forgiveness of our sins.
• It is according to the riches of His grace.
We only have room to consider the first of these in this article; we have much more to say about His blood, and forgiveness, and the riches of His grace later.
Our redemption is in Christ This means it is bound up strictly with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and is known only in the circle of those placing faith in Him. (How great this circle is! It reaches around the world.)
There is nothing a sinner can add to the ransom He paid for our redemption except to come unto God in repentance and receive His righteousness by faith.
We talk with many persons about their relationship with the Lord. Frequently, when asking whether one knows Him personally, the reply comes, "I am a member of such-and-such a church." Or, if they have no relationship with Him, they say they are not a member of any church, or that they do not attend regularly. Now, the church is Christ's body but it is not the instrument of salvation.
A soul may learn about the redemption in a church meeting, may repent and make a public confession there, and receive baptism, but the church is never the source of redemption. It is only in Christ.
The question may come, "If our redemption is IN Christ, how do I get there?" How do we get INTO Him?
The first Scripture I learned as a small boy was John 3:16. It helps give us the answer. Like many, you may already know it, but read it again. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. When I saw this in the original Greek, something opened to me. It was behind the little word in. It's from the Greek word eis which means "into," a word of movement, or forward motion. This helped me see that when we believe in Christ, something we can do without moving, a movement comes from God that brings us into Him.
Learning this simple thing helped me have no trouble knowing I am in Him. The faith I placed in Him has carried me into Him. Now, all He is and all He has are mine. How simple is the requirement of God's grace that we believe in Christ, yet what wonder it produces!
The confession of a believing soul may come simply from the lips--"Lord, I believe." It may come silently from the heart of a sinner convicted of his need for a savior. Believing is simply a sinner leaning his weight on what the Lord Jesus offers.
OUR REDEMPTION IN CHRIST also reaches the strength of God's Law and breaks its stronghold of condemnation. Paul tells this. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree--Gal 3:13.
Paul points even further into the power of the redemption by telling us what is to be its result. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons--Gal 4:4,5. Into what a powerful place redemption brings us! Not as slaves redeemed from the auction block of sin does God receive us, but as sons into His Own house. The redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus is not one slave master buying a slave from another slave holder. It is a father receiving back a lost child. Now here is the wonder of it: redemption brings us into God's household to receive the legal rights of a mature son qualified for the inheritance of the family.
Adoption of sons in the above Galatian passage is a powerful term. It's from one Greek word, huiothésia, and means the placement into a family of one qualified by maturity to receive the inheritance of that family. The first part of the word is from huíos meaning "a full grown son," mature and ready for responsibility. The second part, -thésia, is from a root word meaning "to place." The words together mean "son-placement." This is where the redemption brings us. Oh, what grace it brings with it!
We just heard the testimony of a woman saved in the great Pensacola revival who was an alcoholic for twenty-seven years. In one instant she was set free from any desire to drink. We watched her as a soul-winner and worshipper before the Lord, having been saved but a few months. On and on testimonies could go of those instantly set free from bondage. Two days ago, a man bound till in his forties by homosexuality, called me to say he was instantly set free by the Lord--another trophy of redemption through Christ Jesus. On and on he went to tell how he had despised the Word of God and found fault with all believers, only to be instantly changed into a believer himself. This is part of the power of the redemption.
We once heard Steve Hill, preacher in the Pensacola revival, tell how in one instant he was changed from a drug addict into a child of God. Caught in so horrible a bondage that he became a criminal to support his habit, he was on the verge of losing his mind. A Lutheran Vicar told him just to call on Jesus. In one instant the redemption transformed his wasted and deformed soul.
There are so many testimonies of those who have been delivered from the bondage of sin's corruption that probably all the books ever written could not equal the extent of those testimonies if they were written.
This is the marvel of the redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus: it reaches any sinner in any bondage. There is no prison house where its sweet sound of liberation cannot be heard. There is no dunghill of depravity where its powerful hand of recovery will not reach. There is no heart so hard and spiteful but that its touch can soften and make new.
THERE IS A STORY in the book of Hosea illustrating our redemption in Christ. The Prophet Hosea married Gomer. After the birth of their first child, she became an adultress. She bore two children in her sin and brought each to the Prophet for him to name. One he called "Lo-ami" meaning "not my people." The second he called, "Lo-ruhamah," meaning "no mercy."
The relationship of Hosea and Gomer had been broken; the children were not his. Theirs was a picture of the relationship between God and His people, Israel, at that time. Israel had departed, like Gomer, into idolatry and whoredom. One day the Lord told Hosea that his wife was to be auctioned as a slave in the market place. He was to go and redeem her. In obedience the Prophet went. He paid the full legal price for the redemption of his own wife.
After her redemption, as the two of them were going together to their home, he spoke to her words like the Lord Jesus might speak to us after our redemption. And I said unto her, You shall abide for me many days; you shall not play the harlot, and you shall not be for another man: so will I also be for you--Hos 3:3.
Hosea meant, "You are mine and not another's. I am yours. You, and all you have--your troubles, your pain, your weaknesses--are mine. I am yours with all I am and all I have. All my grace, all my sufficiency, all my strength is yours." That's what the redemption releases in a soul submitted to the grace of God offered in Christ Jesus. Originating in the heart of God, it is a work so deep that even angels stand in awe of it and watch its results with wonder.
A SIMPLE STORY LONG AGO helped show me what happens to a lost sinner in the redemption. It has remained with me since I was a boy, touching something deep, reminding me of the great love that ransomed me. A little boy made himself a boat, a small boat he could hold in his hands and sail in the streams near his home. It brought hours of enjoyment to him.
One day, unaware of the gathering storm clouds, he was caught in a downpour of rain and lost his boat. It sailed away in the swelling waters.
He missed it. It had brought much pleasure to him. One day on a trip into the market place, he saw his boat on a vendors table. Rushing up to the proprietor, he said, "That's my boat, mister. Let me have it!"
The man replied, "That boat is for sale. You can have it only if you buy it."
Sadly the boy turned away, but with the thought he could make enough money to redeem his boat. He worked till he had the full price required for its purchase. Running back to the market, he came to the table where his boat was displayed. He placed before the owner the full amount for its redemption. Taking the boat with him, he held it close and said, "Little boat you're mine now. You're twice mine! I made you and then I bought you."
Redemption is as simple as this story, yet as complex as the sin of any person in the world. If you aren't sure of its work in you, you can receive it now. (Yes, Lord Jesus!)
FOLLOWING IS A HYMN written for sinners who were coming to the Lord during a great 18th century revival in England. Charles, brother of John Wesley, leader in the revival, wrote it for the common people to help them understand what was theirs in Christ. Its words reach us.
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my Lord, shouldst die for me?
He left His Father's throne above, so free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bledfor Adam's helpless race!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me.
'Tis mystery all! th' Immortal dies! Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine.
Tis mercy all! let earth adore; let angel minds inquire no more.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke--my dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
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