Sunday, July 5, 2009


(Ephesians 1:7)

In October 2000 ten oil workers, including seven foreign workers were held hostage in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle region. The kidnapers demanded initially $ 80 million ransom to release their hostages. After much, negotiations they dropped the ransom money to $13 million dollars. After the oil companies paid $13 million, in March 2001 seven foreign workers were released. Here the oil workers were in no position to pay the ransom, but the oil companies paid huge sum of money to secure their release. In the famous children’s movie The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan paid the ransom by dying on the stone table to redeem Edmund.

There are significant lessons in both these stories. One, the ransom is costly. The person abducted or guilty cannot pay it by himself or herself. Some one else has to pay on behalf of them. In biblical language this sort of paying of a ransom is called Redemption. The Ephesians knew the Greco-Roman custom of paying a ransom. Paul used this analogy to explain how much it cost, Jesus to secure freedom not only for the Ephesians but also to the whole world. “In him we have Redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”(Ephesians 1:7)

Background of Slavery: In order for us to understand the depth of redemption we must understand slavery, which goes back to the Old Testament. God told Abraham that his descendents will be enslaved in a country not their own for four hundred years, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Gen 15: 13-14). In ancient Rome slavery was commonly practiced. It was accepted as part of life. Slaves were bought and sold in the slave markets. These slaves end up doing all the dirty and hard work. If they tried to run away, they were whipped, burned with iron, and sometimes even killed.”[1]
How could slaves then ever find freedom? In the Old Testament God commanded the Israelites that at the end of every seven years the masters who owned slaves were to let them go free. They were not to let them go just empty handed but supply them with flocks, grain and wine abundantly. Because that was how God had delivered them from their slavery in Egypt. (Deut 15). In the ancient world a slave was made free by sheer mercy of his master or some one paying a heavy ransom on behalf of that slave. Once that slave was freed he could enjoy all the privileges just like the rest of the citizens.

Thankfully today by and large in the USA and other parts of the world slavery has been abolished. We are living in a free world where overt slavery does not exist, however other type of slavery still exists, many are still in bondage and crying out for freedom, they need a redeemer who could truly liberate and set them free from their bondage.
Are you surprised I said bondage? Are you in bondage? In other words are you a slave? You may be offended when I say slave but in reality that’s what we are. Speaking to a group of Jewish believers Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” To that statement the Jews took offence and said we are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”(John 8:31-34). When we sin we become slaves to sin. The bible says that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. There is no exception whoever sins becomes a slave to sin. In other words our sin leads us into bondage where we become victims in the hands of Satan. What is sin? How does sin enter? How can we be free from sin?

In our culture we do not call sin, sin, we trivialize sin by terming it merely a mistake. For example we label “fornication” as sleeping together and we make it sound just cozy. We call adultery cheating or unfaithfulness. For anger we say, “I lost my cool”, greed we call “making it big in life”, we mistakenly think that pride is a virtue forgetting that the Bible says that God opposes the proud. We call it “fudging on our income tax” when we are cheating the government or we say “a little white lie” when we are actually violating truth.

We seldom hear or read convicted government officials or celebrities confessing, “I have sinned” or expressing remorse and true brokenness. Listen to what Bernard L. Madoff said about what he did when he was sentenced to 150 years imprisonment, “First calling the fraud a “problem” and an “error of judgment.” Madoff said “he dug himself into a hole he couldn’t dig out of. “I could not accept the fact that, for once in my life, I had failed. And that was a tragic mistake.”
The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to calling sin, sin. How about you? Do you down play sin by simply calling it a mistake or a bad habit?

what is sin? Sin is “breaking God’s commandments.” (I John 3:14) Sin is also in its true meaning "missing the mark". Margaret Feinberg says, "Sin is choosing good over best. The real struggle we have is not that we desire bad things, but rather, that we 'over desire' good things like, sex, our jobs, our boy friends, our spouse, children etc. It is the good things in our lives become the best things that we end up worshiping instead of God and that is idolatry"[2] Hence we violate the first commandment because Idolatry is sin (Gal 5:19). God hates Idolatry.

How does sin enter? Sin enters slowly but surely. The little lies, little clicks of the porn sights on the Internet, little flirtatious ways, little cheating here and there, little pride, anger could ruin us. The wise King Solomon warned us against these little sins, Song of Songs 2:15 “Catch for us the foxes the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in ruin.” If we don’t take care of the sinful habit patterns in our lives they can destroy our families, our career, our testimony and in the end destroys our entire lives.

When we sin we become slaves to sin and Satan. So far we have seen how we get into bondage now let's shift gears from bondage to the bondage breaker. Paul highlights Christ as the redeemer or the bondage breaker. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”(Ephesians 1:7) We will look at what redemption is and it's cost.

What is redemption? Redemption is not a common English word that we use from day-to-day. But we are familiar with the concept and the process. Redemption is the act of redeeming, or the state of being redeemed. The payment, of a debt to regain possession. To recover, to set free; to rescue; In Biblical terms redemption means: Deliverance by payment of a price; salvation from sin; death and wrath of God. In simple terms, Redemption is setting a bond slave free by paying a high price of ransom.

A story told by Paul Lee Tan illustrates the meaning of redemption. He said that when A.J. Gordon was pastor of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, "Son, where did you get those birds?" The boy replied, "I trapped them out in the field." "What are you going to do with them?" "I'm going to play with them, and then I guess I'll just feed them to an old cat we have at home." When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, "Mister, you don't want them, they're just little old wild birds and can't sing very well." Gordon replied, "I'll give you $2 for the cage and the birds." "Okay, it's a deal, but you're making a bad bargain." The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ's coming to seek and to save the lost ~ paying for them with His own precious blood. "That boy told me the birds were not songsters," said Gordon, "but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, 'Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!"

When we sin it is like being caged like those birds. There will be no way to escape from his evil grip. John goes on to say to that extent, (1 John 3:8) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” Wow that is hard hitting, does that mean when I sin I am on the devil's side? But the good news is that Christ has purchased our pardon through his blood to set us free.

We do not appreciate our freedom until we understand the depth of the bondage we were in, and what it cost Jesus to liberate us. What did it cost Jesus? His whole life. We have no clue, of what exactly went on during crucifixion? Do we understand the gravity of the suffering of Jesus on the cross? The Roman soldiers whipped the body of Jesus with a lead-tipped whip. This whipping completely disfigured the body of Jesus. Prophet Isaiah said, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah53: 5) Jesus bore my pain and agony so I could be healed in every dimension of life.

Paul writing to Colossians explains this marvelous deed of redemption, "Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."(Col 2:14-15). What a powerful provision God has made available for us in the death and the resurrection of Jesus! His death on the cross liberates us from our bondage, his blood cleanses us from all our sins, his wounds heals all our physical and emotional sickness and finally his resurrection power gives us life, not just life but abundant life. "

When we receive God’s forgiveness and his redemption only then can we experience his blessings in life. I am grateful for the cross. I am free at the cross. How about you, are you free or still in bondage? Why don't you reach out to Him today and receive his forgiveness and be liberated from the bondage of sin and experience freedom and the abundant life.

[2] Enrichment Magazine Summer 2009 page 59