Before you get ticked off, let me quickly add that I am a slave, too. I know this because of what the Bible teaches. I’m going to show you where it does that in a minute, but first we need to understand what the Bible says about redemption.
Redemption isn’t a word we are likely to hear in casual conversation any more. Years ago, though, that word was used a lot in connected with pawn shops. Here is how it worked. If you needed some cash fast, you could take something valuable to a pawn shop (let’s say jewelry, for example). The shop owner would take the jewelry and give you an amount of cash that you both felt was fair. The shop owner would hold your jewelry for an agreed amount of time—maybe a month or more. If you came up with the cash (plus a fee) before the merchant sold the jewelry, you could redeem the jewelry and get it back.
The word “redeem” was used to describe that transaction because it literally means “to buy back.”
If we go way back into Bible times, we find that the word redeem was also used in connection with slavery. In the Roman world, slavery was very common. Experts estimate that anywhere from 30% to 40% of the Italian population consisted of slaves. A rich man could have as many as 500 slaves. An emperor usually had well over 20,000 slaves.
People became slaves in the Roman Empire for different reasons. Some became slaves because Rome conquered their country; others sold themselves (and possibly even their family members) into slavery because they owed money they couldn’t pay. Maybe they borrowed money to start a business that failed, or maybe they had gambling debts they couldn’t pay. Slavery was about the only alternative because there was no such thing as bankruptcy back then.
If you were a slave in the Roman world, you could be set free if someone redeemed you. For example, let’s say you have a rich relative who hears about your slavery and decides to pay your owner the money you owed. When your relative has paid the full price of your debt, you would be redeemed and set free. You would be free from slavery, but now you would owe a great debt to the relative who paid off your indebtedness for you.
The Bible talks a lot about being redeemed, too. We all need to be redeemed because we are all born as slaves to sin. We know this is true because we have all failed to “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We all put our own thoughts and desires first, ignoring God’s thoughts and desires. That offends the One who made us, as these Scripture verses plainly teach: “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor …” (Habakkuk 1:13). “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:4–5).
This means that every one of us has a huge pile of actions and attitudes that have offended the Holy nature of our One and only Creator. In other words, we all have an enormous sin debt that we cannot pay.
That is why Jesus died on the Cross. Jesus came to pay the full price of our sin so we can be forgiven forever. That is not all! When we embrace the Lord’s gift of forgiveness, instead of being a slave to sin, we become a slave to God. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). “… so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).
Because Jesus paid the price our sin demanded, “do you not know … that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
Being a slave of Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing because He changes our lives now and assures us of life with Him in eternity. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, [or becoming holy in God’s sight, see 2 Corinthians 5:21] and the outcome, eternal life” (Romans 6:22).
If Christ has redeemed you, then you would enjoy singing this song, written by Stuart Townend in 1995 that we often sing together here at Bethel Chapel Church:
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.