Redemption: Free At Last!
Sermon 4 of 5 from the Key Words of the Christian Life series
March 1995 – Of all the names that the Bible gives and of all the names that believers give to Jesus Christ, none is more precious than the name Redeemer. There are other names we use more often, such as Lord and Savior, and rightly so because those too are Bible terms, but no word touches the heart like the word redeemer. When we say Lord, we are recalling that Jesus Christ is the master over sin and death. When we say Savior, we are recalling that he saved us from our sin. But when we say Redeemer, we remember what it cost him to save us. Redeemer is the name of Christ on the cross. When we say that word, the cross is placarded before our eyes. We remember not only that he gave us salvation, but that he paid a mighty price for it.
It is no wonder, then, that we often use this word in music. “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace.” “All glory, laud and honor to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.” “Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer, seems now I see him on Calvary’s tree, wounded and bleeding for sinners pleading.” “Nor silver nor gold has obtained my redemption, nor riches of earth could have saved my poor soul. The blood of the cross is my only foundation, the death of my Savior now maketh me whole.” William Calper wrote the famous hymn “There is a Fountain.” The fourth verse goes like this: “E’re since by faith I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply, redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die: and shall be till I die, and shall be till I die; redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.” Fanny Crosby wrote much about redemption. This is one we often sing, “Perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, to every believer the promise of God; the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” Another one goes like this: “Redeemed and so happy in Jesus, no language my rapture can tell; I know that the light of his presence with me doth continually dwell. Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the lamb; redeemed, through his infinite mercy, his child and forever, I am.” All those songs have this is common—they speak of the cross. For when you say Redeemer, you speak of what Jesus did when he paid for our sins with his own blood. Herbert Locker said it this way, “Redemption is chief among the doctrines of grace for from it all the rivers of grace flow.”
This sermon will deal with redemption. I begin with the definition. To redeem means to set free by the payment of a price. It is a word that comes first from the marketplace. Second, it comes from the slave market. Third, it comes from the prison house. Justification sets the scene in the courtroom. Propitiation takes us back to the mercy seat in the tabernacle. Reconciliation brings us to the living room, where enemies become friends. Redemption takes us to the slave market where men and women who were slaves to sin are set free by the power of Jesus Christ.
In the ancient world men, women and children were routinely bought and sold. They were owned, traded, purchased, put to work. They could be handed down from one generation to another. You might be born into slavery or you might go into debt and legally fall into slavery. You might be captured by an army and taken as a slave as part of the booty, the victorious spoils of war. But if you became a slave in the days of the Bible, there were only two ways you could ever be freed from your slavery. In just a few rare cases, a condemned man might have enough money to pay a price and purchase his own freedom. That purchase price was called redemption. Far more often, it would be this—you were in slavery and somebody took pity upon you. They purchased you out of slavery. Then they, having purchased you, having paid the price, if they chose to, they could make you work for them as a slave or, in rare occasions, they could set you free. The purchase price for a slave was called the redemption money. To redeem means to see a slave, to pay the price, to take them off the market and then set them free. In redemption there is a divine exchange. One man pays the price so another man can go free.
There are three primary Greek words that are used in the New Testament for redemption. The first is agorazo. It comes from the Greek agora which means the market place. In its secular sense, it means to go into the marketplace and buy something. You see something you like and purchase it. Applied to redemption, it means to go in and purchase a slave who is on the auction block.
The second word is exagorazo. Ex means out of. When you add it to agorazo it means to go into the slave market, to pay the price and to take somebody off the slave market and out of that area altogether.
The third word is the word lutron, which means to set free or deliver somebody from captivity. Now then, agorazo means to purchase; exagorazo means to purchase and remove from the slave market; lutron means having purchased and removed, you are now set free.
All three words are used in the New Testament to describe what Jesus did on the cross. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Titus 2:14 says, “Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness.” Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.” And our central text for this sermon is I Peter 1:18-19, which says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Instead of our death, there is his. Instead of our blood, there is his.
In the Old Testament there is an illustration that may help us understand. It comes from the Old Testament book of Ruth. It is the illustration of the kinsman redeemer. You see, in the Old Testament a member of the nation of Israel fell into slavery either because they went into debt or somehow they lost all of their possessions, or as in the case of Naomi because her husband Elimelech and then her two sons died, because all the male members of the family died, she lost all the houses and lands and all the possessions that she had. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, was forced to go around into the fields. Naomi told Ruth to go find that man Boaz because he was their kinfolk. He was part of their family. He had the legal right to redeem them. He could purchase the right to take them out of poverty. He could bring them back into prosperity.
In the Old Testament there were four conditions that had to be met before a kinsman redeemer could pay the price.
1. He had to be a kinsman. He had to be part of the family. There had to be a blood relationship.
2. He had to be acceptable to all the parties involved.
3. He had to be able to pay the price, i.e. he couldn’t himself be in debt, because if he were in debt he couldn’t pay the price of redemption.
4. He had to be willing.
The story in the book of Ruth tells us that Boaz took a liking to Ruth. Then he realized that he was kinsman to Ruth and to her family and he had the right of redemption. But chapter four tells us that he wasn’t the number one kinsman because whoever was the closest kinsman had the first chance, then the second, third, fourth, etc. And Boaz was number two in line. So they have a meeting and Boaz talks to the number one man. He tells him that he is closer to the family than Boaz is and has the right to redeem the family and pay the price to bring them out of poverty. The number one man agreed he would do it. Then Boaz tells him that there is a little catch, because along with paying the price he would have to take Naomi and Ruth, and assume the whole family responsibility. The number one guy says, “I just changed my mind. I think I’ll pass. It’s all yours.” So Boaz says he would pay the price. They exchange their sandals, which was the public way of saying he would assume the debt and pay the price himself. So Boaz and Ruth were married and Ruth came into the line that eventually came down to David and down to the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is a perfect example of Boaz who was kin, who was acceptable, who was able and who was willing to serve as a redeemer.
Even so our Lord Jesus Christ is our kinsman. “Though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He became one with us. The Lord of glory became our kinsman. Was he acceptable? Yes, because he is the God-man, acceptable to God and also to man. Was he able? Yes, because he was totally without sin. Was he willing? Just look at the cross and you have your answer. So the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament illustration and became our kinsman redeemer. He paid the price.
There are three biblical facts you must understand to know what redemption is all about.
1. We are all by nature slaves to sin.The Bible says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” By nature, by adamic nature passed down to us, we are all slaves to sin. That may be an ugly thought, but it is utterly biblical. Somebody may say, “Pastor Ray, I don’t think I’m a slave to sin.” All I will say is that you don’t know yourself very well. If you knew yourself, you would know that is how you came into this world. Let me ask a question to the parents who have children at home. When did you start teaching your child to do wrong? How long did you wait until you started teaching them to sin and disobey and break your rules? You didn’t! They do wrong by nature. Little children are born knowing how to do wrong.
It is exactly the same in the spiritual realm. As we come into this world, by nature we come in sinful and wicked. We are all by nature slaves to sin. Sin, then, is a chain around your neck. It weighs you down; it holds you back. Sin enslaves you and me, leaving all of us helpless and hopeless unless somebody reaches down to help us.
2. Jesus paid the price to free us with his own blood.Redemption must be by blood. God never meant that the natural man would be pleased by that. There are people who come into evangelical churches and hear us singing about the blood of the lamb and are repulsed by that. I can understand that in one way, because blood itself is not that pretty. It is not wonderful. Blood makes a lot of people squeamish. That thought of the blood of Jesus Christ is quite appalling, but if you take away the blood of Jesus Christ, you destroy the Christian faith. As the song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”
I want to ask you a question. How much money would it take for you to pay for even one sin? I am thinking about the sins of your life, the sins you have committed since you got up this morning. Suppose you paid $5.00, do you think you could pay for one sin with that amount? What about $10.00? Would that cover it? Would God accept $100.00 and take away one sin? How about $1000.00? What if you had all of Ross Perot’s money? What if you had all the billions of Bill Gates, that man who owns the computer company? What if you had all the Rockefellers’ and Kennedys’ money? What if you had all the oil money of all the sheiks in the Middle East? How many sins could you forgive with all of that money? The answer is a great big goose egg. The Bible says it is not by silver or gold, there is not enough money in all the world even to forgive one sin, let alone all the thousands of sins that we commit. You don’t have enough money. There is not enough gold in Fort Knox to forgive even one sin. Down here on earth money talks. Down here on earth if you want to be accepted, you need money. Up in heaven, blood talks. If you want to be accepted in heaven, you need the blood of Jesus Christ.
3. Redemption means that we are set free from sin.Agorazo means to buy. Exagorazo means to buy out of. Lutron means to be loosed and set free. What does it mean to be set free from sin? No more guilt. No more dwelling in the past. No more shame or memories to haunt you. No more fear of hell. No more anger and despair. The debt of sin is cancelled, the chains are broken forever. The bonds that bind us and hold us back, and all of those dirty habits that we can’t seem to break, all of them gone forever. No more price on our heads, no more debt to be paid. This is the message our world desperately needs.
There are people in this village who are trying so desperately to get right with God, to have their sins forgiven, by coming to church, by giving money or doing good deeds. There are others who are trapped in the chains of terrible sexual sin and since they cannot be set free, they have decided to redefine it as genetic or in-born or constitutional. And since they say they can’t change, they say God made them this way. Let me tell you, there is no sin, no matter how bad, no trespass, no iniquity so deep within the human soul that it cannot be forgiven and wiped away, changed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is the gospel truth. That is the hope of the Christian faith. For all these dear people who have deluded themselves into thinking God made them that way, no God didn’t make you that way. You were born with a spiritual tendency toward evil. The only way that will ever be broken is by coming to the cross of Jesus Christ and having your sins forgiven and being set free by Jesus Christ. That is what redemption is. It means you are now set free from sin.
So let me give you redemption applied in four quick points.
1. Because redemption is true, the price for sin has been fully paid. If you are born again, you are forgiven. You don’t have to pay anymore. When Jesus Christ cried out, “Tetalestai!”, which we translate, “It is finished,” what it really means is paid in full.
2. Because redemption is true, you are no longer in bondage to the old way of life.
3. Because redemption is true, all human systems for finding approval, self worth and forgiveness are empty, useless and ultimately self defeating. In this world there are a lot of ways to gain approval. You can look good, act good, have money, go to the right schools and hang around with the right people. You can dress in a certain way and talk in a certain way, and you can think by doing that you are going to be accepted. But let me tell you, all of those means of approval and self worth and forgiveness are useless because they do not deal with the basic problem which is the problem of the heart, which is the problem of sin, which can only be dealt with through the blood of Jesus Christ.
4. Since redemption is a work of God, it results in freedom which is three things—absolute, complete and eternal. What it means is you are absolutely free, you are completely free and you are eternally free.
I close by giving you three implications of this great truth for all of us.
1. We are exceedingly valuable to God.This is not because of what we are but because of what it cost Jesus to purchase us. In us, in our hearts and flesh, dwelleth no good thing. It is not as if God looked down and said, “Well, these people are worth so much, I have to go down and save them.” No, we all deserve punishment and hell.
Sometimes you will go to an auction and see some little trinket. You will think it is the biggest piece of junk you have ever seen in your life. You would say to yourself, “If they paid me, I wouldn’t take that.” Then the bidding starts and you think they will never sell it. The first guy offers $50. The next guy says $100. The next says $200. You just want to stand up and shout, “What’s the matter with you? Have you lost your minds? That is a worthless piece of junk!” And it ends up selling for $500 or $1000 because it is some heirloom that some great sculptor made two or three hundred years ago. What was junk to you turns out to be precious to somebody else. Listen to this. In an auction, a thing is worth what a person will pay for it. Think what we must be worth, then, to God. Think what it cost him to purchase our salvation. It cost him the blood of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Our position could not be improved.We are set free from sin. We have redemption right now. We stand before God as his sons and daughters. We are forgiven, seated with Jesus Christ in heaven. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. We are OK! We are in a good position, it couldn’t possibly be better. That is the result of redemption and the grace of God.
Ten or twelve years ago when I was a pastor in Texas, a man called me up and asked if I could go see him. I agreed. He gave me his name. I had never heard of him before. His last name was Pruitt. I told him I didn’t think I knew any Pruitts. He said his father was so-and-so Pruitt, a man from a church I had pastored out in California. Then I remembered the old man out there I used to go visit once or twice a week. We would just sit down and talk about things. He was a good fellow and I knew he had a son, but I had never met him. When I moved from the church in California to the church in Texas, I didn’t think anything more about Mr. Pruitt until the day his son called me. His son told me a story. He said that he had been in prison out in California. He had served his time and was out on parole. He had moved with his wife from California to Texas to get a new start on life. He had about a month and a half left on his parole. He was afraid to go back to California because there he had all of his friends who had gotten him into trouble the first time, the bad crowd he had been running with. He was afraid that if he went back to California he would get in trouble, break parole and go back to prison. He was asking me to give him some help.
I tried to give him whatever help I could, but as I thought about it later, I thought to myself that is the way many Christians feel about redemption. They don’t think they have really been set free. They think they are on parole with God. They are afraid that if they mess up, they will go back to prison. Brothers and sisters, we are not on parole. We’ve been redeemed. He came into the prison, opened the door, and it can never be closed on us again. He led us out by the hand and paid the price. We’re not on parole, and we’re never going back to jail again. We’ve been set free.
Therefore, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Not in yourself, not in your good deeds, not as if you opened the door yourself. My brother, my sister, you were cowering down in the lowest part of the dungeon, chained hand and foot, in the blackness of eternal darkness. You hadn’t seen the sunlight since the day you were born. But one day Jesus came in and light flooded in. He had the key, he unlocked the chains, opened the door and let you out.
Redemption is a gift of God with no strings attached. It is a free gift. You don’t have to be good to be redeemed. You know why? Because good people don’t need to be redeemed.Only bad people need to be redeemed. Only people in prison need to be set free. Only slaves need to be liberated. You don’t even have to try hard. You don’t have to do anything but accept the pardon that he offers, because that is what redemption is. It is not a parole, it is a pardon. He is not putting you out on conditional behavior, it is a complete pardon of all your sin. All you have to do is accept it. But you do have to accept it.
The year was 1829. A man by the name of George Wilson had been arrested, tried and convicted of murder and theft through the mail. Because his family was well known, when he was sent to prison, his family made appeal after appeal. Eventually the appeals reached the desk of the President Andrew Jackson. After he reviewed the files and because he knew the family and their background, and for their account he offered not just clemency, but a pardon to George Wilson. They took the news into the prison. George Wilson refused the pardon. He said he didn’t want it because he was guilty and deserved to die. They told him he couldn’t say no to it because it was a presidential pardon. But he said he could and was saying no to it. This is a true story. He refused the pardon. That set forth a tremendous legal battle because that question had never been raised in American history. Eventually it worked its way up to the Supreme Court and the decision came down from Chief Justice John Marshall, who said, “A pardon is of no effect until it is accepted by the one for whom it is intended.” He went on to say, “Though it is almost inconceivable that a condemned criminal would refuse a pardon, if he does refuse it, the pardon is of no effect. George Wilson must die.” And die he did because he would not accept the pardon that had been offered.
What I want to say to you is this. If you do go to hell, don’t blame God. Don’t tell him you never knew, because now you do. If you don’t accept the pardon God offers you, then you will have to live with the results of your own decision. Jesus Christ has paid it all, but he will not force his way into your heart. The Bible says he stands at the door and knocks, but our Lord Jesus is a perfect gentleman. He needs to be invited in. And now, in the name of Jesus Christ, I tell you the price has been paid in full. You don’t have to go to hell unless that is where you really want to go. But if you don’t do anything, that is where you are going to go.
The pardon has been offered. Now you have to reach out your hand and say you want it. How do you do that? I will lead you in a prayer right now. Pray this in your heart. “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I know I cannot save myself. Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. Thank you for paying the price for all my sin. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Savior. I open my heart and my life to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” It is as simple and as difficult as that. Did you pray that prayer? If you did, you need to tell somebody about it.
Now, brothers and sisters, go forth and walk as free men. Walk as free women. Walk in freedom. Jesus Christ has set you free. And if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.
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