We Are Redeemed!
October 4, 1987 | First Presbyterian Church Orlando | Ephesians 1:3-8
When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he delivered to them a seventeen-word statement which has stood for all the years since as a magnificent affirmation of a great Christian belief. Paul writes: “In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace.” That promised redemption belongs to every single one of us through the blood of Jesus Christ. In Him we are redeemed! And I believe that if we were to begin to truly take to heart that great Christian belief, it would make a tremendous difference in the way we live and the way we love in this world.
Are you aware of the fact that in the New Testament there are three different Greek words, each with a different meaning in Greek, but all three of which are translated by our English word “redemption?”I would like for us to take just a few moments today to look at each one of those three different words, not only to understand their individual meaning in Greek but also to understand how they are all translated by our one English word “redemption.” I believe that will enable us to plant that belief deep in our souls and in our lives.
The first word which appears in the New Testament translated “redemption” is a word which in Greek literally means “to buy something—to make a purchase.” Now you understand that if you go into a store and you buy something, if you purchase that object, then it means that the object becomes yours. What the New Testament is trying to say to us is simply this: “Jesus Christ, by His blood, by exchanging His life for ours, has paid the price for us.” That means quite simply that we now belong to Him. We are not our own. We were bought with a price. Now, by His blood, we are His. Did you ever stop to think what a difference it would make in the way we live if we took to heart that great belief. We are living in a time which is marked so frequently by the word “entitlement.” Even our government has massive programs of entitlement. We seem to believe that we are entitled to certain things in life. We are entitled to certain rights and privileges and certain benefits along life’s way. Those things are our just desserts. And what has happened as a result of that kind of misguided thinking is that the pursuit of happiness in our society has become equated with the pursuit of selfishness and it has tragic results in what happens in our society. Just one example…The justification for the practice of abortion in our society is the idea that a woman’s body is her own. Therefore, she has the right, she is entitled to the right, to make decisions concerning her own body and her own life. I have to tell you something, my beloved, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I cannot square the killing of more than one million conceived but unwanted children each year in this country—far more than the numbers of children who are killed in wars all over the world each year—I cannot square that belief with what I perceive to be a Christian commitment to peacemaking in the world. If I believe in making peace, and I do, then I must stand against such killing. The rationale for it all is all wrong. We are not our own. That’s what the Bible tells us again and again. We are not our own. We do not, therefore, have the right to make decisions about our own bodies and our own lives. We are not our own—we have been bought with a price. We are not our own, we are His. You see what a difference it would make in the way we live if we were to take to heart this great Christian belief? In the blood of Jesus Christ we are redeemed—bought with a price!
There’s a second word in the New Testament which is translated “redemption.” It’s a word fairly similar to the first word, but it has a much deeper meaning. It means, quite literally, to be “bought out of the market.” That is to be bought in such a way that you can never be sold again. It means that ownership becomes permanent. That word in Greek was used in the ancient slave trade. What it meant was simply this: when a person bought a slave on the auction block, the person then took possession of that slave and that slave was then bought out of the market. He could never be put up for sale again. He could never be repossessed. He could never be resold. He was bought out of the market. And what that meant was that the person who bought the slave, also had the right, if he chose to exercise it, to hand that slave a legal document which declared that he never had to be a slave again and therefore, would never again be put up for sale as a slave. That’s what it means to be bought out of the market. You can never be repossessed. You can never be gripped by the wiles of Satan again. You can never be controlled by anything or anyone else in life, because Jesus Christ has bought you out of the market. He has taken full possession of your life. He is in control of your every moment and you are beholden to no one else than Jesus Christ. Did you ever stop to think what a difference it would make in the way we love if we were to take that belief to heart? We are living in a time marked by words like hatred and bigotry. What the Bible is saying to us is simply this: that the ground at the foot of the cross is absolutely level and that under Jesus Christ, all human beings stand equal. There is no superior and inferior. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. That means because we have all, whatever our circumstances may be, whoever we may be, have all been bought out of the market—that means that we can never again look down on those whom God has made. We can never hate those whom God loves. We can never disparage or despise those whom God has redeemed. No matter what a person’s outward appearance, no matter the color of a person’s skin, no matter the fact of background or environment, we are called to love because we can never hate those whom God loves. The Bible makes it quite plain that all—not some—all are made one in Christ Jesus. Do you see what a difference it would make in the way we love if we took this belief to heart—that in the blood of Jesus Christ we are all redeemed?
There’s a third word in the New Testament which is translated “redemption.” It’s the word which appears here in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “In Him, we have redemption through His blood.” That word in Greek literally means “to be set at liberty.” It was originally a military term used to refer to prisoners of war who were suddenly set free by some liberating army. There is no joy like the joy of those who have been freed from their shackles. That’s what Paul is saying: “In Him, through His blood, we have redemption”—we have been set free from those things in life which shackle us. Did you ever stop to think what a difference it would make in the way we live if we took that belief to heart. We are living in a time when we frequently hear the call for justice.
Yet I have to remind you that the call for justice must always be preceded by the call for freedom. You see, without freedom there can be no justice. There must be freedom before there can ever be true justice. That is why wherever the leaven of the Gospel has been planted in the experience of an individual life or in the experience of a nation, the result is always the same—one word “freedom.” It is the ferment of the Gospel that has provoked the Christian students in Korea to seek a purer, freer form of democracy. It is the ferment of the Gospel which has encouraged both black and committed whites to set about the task of cutting forever the shackles of Apartheid. And by the way, that’s the correct pronunciation of the word: Apart“hate.” The word says it all. It stands in contrast to everything we hold dear in the Christian faith. I believe that we as Christians must be called to obliterate both the word and the practice from the face of this earth. And it is the ferment of the Gospel which will do just that. It is the ferment of the Gospel growing and developing in the hearts of women and men and young people in this great church, calling them to surrender themselves completely to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and encouraging them then to give themselves in everyday service to the cause of His kingdom. It is the ferment of the Gospel that sets us free from those things in life which seek to shackle us. Did you ever stop to think what a difference it would make in the way we love and the way we live if we were to take to heart today the great words from the Apostle Paul, “In Him we have redemption through His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace?”
Joseph Parker was one of the great preachers in the city of London a number of years ago. In the early stages of his ministry, he gave himself to the pursuit of all of the theories which were prevalent in his own day. He preached those theories and consequently, the ministry of the church suffered and his own life suffered. He said himself that he began to devalue the power of the Word of God, and that as a result, slowly but surely, he began to lose his grip on this great belief of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. Then tragedy struck. His wife was stricken ill and within a matter of hours, she was gone. Joseph Parker was inconsolable. He couldn’t share his grief with anyone so he simply retreated into his own home, pulled the shades, locked the door and there he stayed day after day, week after week doing nothing more than walking through the empty rooms of that home alone, his heart breaking to pieces with every passing day. He wrote later: “I almost became an atheist then, for my heart was sorrowful even unto death.” Then one day, after all these weeks of total seclusion, he stood in the living room of his home, he looked down on the table and there was the Bible. He opened it to a book which had been his favorite when he was young. It was Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Standing in the dark shadows of his living room he began to read the words, the very same words which I read for you just a moment ago: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His grace which he lavished upon us.” The words leaped off the page and embedded themselves in his heart. It was those words which suddenly sent a jolt of faith and hope back into his being. It was those words that helped him to see for the first time that he and his wife belonged to God—both of them—and would belong to Him forever. The words helped him to see that though they were separated, it was only temporary, for God’s power is stronger than the power of death. The words helped him to see that there was some purpose of his living and God would choose to use him to speak that Gospel to the world. So what did he do? He closed the book, lifted the shades, opened the door, and the next Sunday morning, he walked into the great City Temple in London for the first time in weeks. He looked out at his congregation and with a great thundering voice he cried: “We are redeemed!” And with those words, there began a change in him and a change in that church so that Joseph Parker and the City Temple went on to become a life-changing force in London and in the world. Did you ever stop to think what a difference it would make in the way we live and the way we love if we ever took this belief to heart?
Christ’s body has been broken. Christ’s blood has been shed. He has paid the price. He has bought us out of the market. He has set us free from sin and guilt and evil and even death. I plead with you, my beloved, write the words on your heart so that you will never forget them: “In Him we have redemption through His blood for the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us.”
In Christ, yes, we are redeemed!