Thursday, March 29

Redemption: From What Are Sinners Delivered?

In the last post in this series, redemption was defined as release or deliverance by the payment of a price. New Testament redemption, of course, is the deliverance that comes through the work of Christ, with Christ acting the redeemer and his death being the price paid. Redemption is a way of looking at what Christ accomplished on the cross that brings into focus one aspect of the condition of sinners—they are in bondage. The bondage of sinners can be viewed in at least three ways: they are in bondage to the power of sin; they are in bondage to Satan; and they are in bondage to the legal ramifications of their sin.

Bondage to the Power of Sin
Jesus tells us in John 8 that "everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin." There is something about sin that keeps sinners in it's grip. Sin has it's source our constitution (or our make up) and we are powerless to change this. It's the redemption that comes in Christ Jesus that releases us from our captivity to our natural born sinfulness.
For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) (Romans 6:5-7 NET)
In the "old man"–our natural born state—we are dominated or enslaved by sin, but union with Christ in his death frees us from that domination. Christ's death is redemption from the power of sin.

Redemption, when seen as freedom from bondage to sin, has an "already, not yet" aspect to it. There is a sense in which believers have already been freed from the captivity of sin, and yet another sense in which this redemption from sin is not completed until our glorification, which Paul calls "the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23)." Full and final redemption from everything that came to us as a result of having been born in slavery to sin comes only at the final resurrection.

Bondage to Satan
This is very similar to the idea directly above—that sinners are enslaved by sin. Ephesians 2:2 tells us that a spirit ruled by Satan "is now energizing the sons of disobedience. . . . (NET)" In 2 Timothy 2, Paul says that people are held captive to do Satan's will.

God, on the basis of redemption in Christ, transfers people from Satan's dominion to Christ's own kingdom.
He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13,14 NET)
Then, in Hebrews 2, Christ's death is said to
destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.
The destruction of the devil by Christ releases those held in slavery, so it's through Satan's destruction that sinners are redeemed from their bondage to him.

It isn’t, then, because of a payment to Satan that we are redeemed from bondage, and that’s a point to keep in mind when thinking about redemption as release from bondage to Satan. There is already a precedent for this, for when God redeemed his people from their slavery in Egypt, he didn’t make a ransom payment to Pharoah. What Pharoah received was crushing judgment at the hand of God, and that judgment brought about the release of the Israelites. Christ’s redemption of sinners from the power of Satan is set against this backdrop, and we should think of it as something similar. Christ redeems sinners by his triumphant victory over Satan. If, after reading that we are redeemed from bondage to the devil, you have a picture in your mind of God and Satan side by side making a deal for the release of captive sinners, you should erase that picture immediately and replace it with one of Christ crushing Satan.

Bondage to the Legal Ramifications of Sin
Sinners are condemned to death because of their sin, and Christ's death redeems them from this death sentence. The background for the practice of redeeming someone condemned to death is found in the Old Testament law:
But if the ox had the habit of goring, and its owner was warned, and he did not take the necessary precautions, and then it killed a man or a woman, the ox must be stoned and the man must be put to death. If a ransom is set for him, then he must pay the redemption for his life according to whatever amount was set for him. (Exodus 21:30 NET)
In this case, the man who owned the habitually goring ox is under a sentence of death for his negligence, but a ransom could be paid instead and he could go free.

The thought of ransom from a legal condemnation is found most noticeably in Galatians 3:13, where it says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law”; and Colossians 2:14, where we read that “Christ canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us.” However, anywhere that redemption is set in the context of forgiveness of sin or justification, it is redemption from the legal results of sin that is the focus. In addition, when we look at redemption as deliverance from the legal condemnation of our sin, the ransoming work is directed toward God, since it’s his justice, after all, that has condemned us. So in a passage like 1 Timothy 2:6, which connects Christ’s work as ransom payment with his mediatorial work representing human beings to God, there, too, it is probably redemption of the life of someone sentenced to death that is presented.1

Summary
When we look at the condition of sinners in the light of Christ’s work as redemption, our attention should be directed to their slavery to sin and Satan, and their legal sentence of death.


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

Sources
Paul: An Outline of His Theology, Herman Ridderbos.
The Atonement: It's Meaning and Significance, Leon Morris.
The Atonement, John Murray.

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