The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: R

Previous Index Next


"[Christ] gave himself for us..." (Tit 2:14): Jesus laid down his life, deliberately, willingly (Joh 10:11,15,18; 1Pe 2:23), on our behalf. The preposition "for" is "huper", as also in 1Ti 2:6 ("a ransom on behalf of all men"), which can bear this meaning; Jesus may be seen as a representative -- dying ON BEHALF OF men -- and not as a substitute -- dying INSTEAD OF men.

In a most poignant personal expression Paul testifies to the moral force of the life and sacrifice of Christ when he writes that the Son of God "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Nothing else can have the spiritual impact of this truth totally believed. Christ did not just die for 'us' as an anonymous group. The real, awe-inspiring wonder is that he died for us as a group of individuals, each of whom he loved personally. He died for each one of us. Had there been only one sinner, Christ would still have been willing to die. When each of us stands before the judgment seat he will be looking into the eyes of a man who surrendered his life, personally and individually, on behalf of him or her.


" redeem us from all wickedness" (Tit 2:14). The original word for "redeem" here is "lutron", which means to release for a price, or -- put plainly -- to buy. It is one of the several words (or word groups) translated "redeem", "redemption", and "ransom" set out in the following table:

(1) LUTRON: the price paid for letting loose, or setting free:
  1.         Mat 20:28: "The Son of Man [came] to give his life as a ransom for many."
  2.         Mar 10:45: Same as above.
(2) LUTROO: The verb form: to pay the price:
  1.         Luk 24:21: "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
  2.         Tit 2:14: "[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness."
  3.         1Pe 1:18,19: "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." This plain allusion to the Passover Lamb reminds us that the "redemption" concept has its roots in the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery.
(3) LUTROSIS: The act of setting or being set free:
  1.         Luk 1:68: "The Lord, the God of Israel... has come and has redeemed his people."
  2.         Luk 2:38: "All who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."
  3.         Heb 9:12: "[Christ] obtained eternal redemption" (the words "for us" are italicized in the KJV, and omitted altogether in various versions, including RV, RSV, and NIV; Jesus obtained redemption for himself AND for others).
(4) ANTILUTRON: The same as #1, with the added preposition "anti" (instead of):
  1.         1Ti 2:6: "[Christ] gave himself as a ransom for all men." ("All", of course, meaning not every person ultimately and absolutely -- but "all" prospectively, by invitation and possibility. Or perhaps, some individuals out of "all" peoples and "all" nations, but not every single individual.)
(5) APOLUTROSIS: The same as #3, with the added preposition "apo" (away from):
  1.         Luk 21:28: "Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
  2.         Rom 3:24: "The redemption that came by Jesus Christ."
  3.         Rom 8:23: "Our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."
  4.         1Co 1:30: "Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
  5.         Eph 1:7: "In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."
  6.         Eph 1:14: "The redemption of those who are God's possession."
  7.         Eph 4:30: "The day of redemption."
  8.         Col 1:14: Similar to Eph 1:7 above.
  9.         Heb 9:15: "Christ... has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
(6) AGORAZO: To be in the "agora", the marketplace or forum; hence, to buy or sell there:
  1.         1Co 6:20: "You were bought at a price."
  2.         1Co 7:23: Same as above.
  3.         Rev 5:9: "You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
  4.         Rev 14:3,4: "The 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."
(7) EXAGORAZO: The same as #6, with the added preposition "ek" (out of):
  1.         Gal 3:13: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us."
  2.         Gal 4:5: Christ has redeemed "those under the law."
  3.         Eph 5:16: "Making the most of every opportunity" (NIV) is literally "redeeming the time."
  4.         Col 4:5: Same as above.

The first five words above are derived from the same Greek root -- "luo" (to loose, or set free), while the last two are included to round out this brief study. In a commercial transaction, as these words all presuppose, there are four parts or parties: the buyer, the seller, the price paid, and the item purchased. Having all the relevant Scriptures before us at one time, it is easy to identify the four parties or parts of the "transaction" of salvation:

  1. The buyer: Christ (Mat 20:28; Mar 10:45; Tit 2:14; Heb 9:12; 1Ti 2:6; Gal 3:13; 4:5) AND God Himself (Luk 1:68; 1Co 1:30; Rev 5:9).
  2. The seller: "All wickedness" or "all iniquity" (Tit 2:14). "The sins" or "transgressions" under the first covenant (Heb 9:15). "The earth" and men (Rev 14:3,4). "The curse of the law" (Gal 3:13). And the Law itself (Gal 4:5).
  3. The price paid: Christ (1Co 1:30) himself (1Ti 2:6; Tit 2:14); his life (Mat 20:28; Mar 10:45); his blood (1Pe 1:18,19; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Rev 5:9); his death (Heb 9:15). [And from 1Pe 1:18,19 we learn that gold and silver -- ie, even the most precious commodities, and in whatever abundance -- would not be a sufficient "price": cp Psa 49:7-9.]
  4. The item purchased: "All men" (1Ti 2:6), but at the same time only "many" (Mat 20:28; Mar 10:45). Israel (Luk 24:21), "His people" (Luk 1:68), "us, the ecclesia, our body" (Tit 2:14; 1Pe 1:18; Rom 8:23; 1Co 6:20; 7:23; Rev 5:9; 14:3,4; Gal 3:13; 4:5); "God's possession" (Eph 1:14; cp Tit 2:14: "a peculiar people" or "a people that are His very own"); and even... Christ himself (Heb 9:12; cp Heb 9:7; 13:20)! Finally, and significantly, the purchase itself is equated with forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14).
From the above list and summary, several conclusions emerge:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul [or life, the same word]? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul [or life]?" (Mat 16:24-26).
He redeemed, or bought, himself from the power of sin and the world because he gave himself up, utterly and wholeheartedly, to do the will of his Father. He lost his life to save his life, and -- not incidentally -- to save the lives of all who in faith follow his example.

This last conclusion leads to other interesting ideas. When a ransom, or price, is paid for the purchase or release of something, no one expects the return of the purchase price as well as the transfer of the item purchased. If I go to the store for a loaf of bread, I pay my dollar to the cashier and take my bread home -- I don't expect to return home with the dollar AND the bread! But this is precisely what happened in the "transaction" of redemption: Christ gave himself as the purchase price, and was at the same time freed by that ransom!

The figure of ransom, or redemption, is beautiful and beautifully appropriate in its proper place. But what we might call Western (and, in this case, illogical) logic can make -- in fact, HAS MADE -- too much of this figure of speech:

The "redemption" parable is just that, a parable -- useful to convey certain important lessons and principles... but a "sandy soil" on which to build a logical or legal basis for defining our salvation.

Despite all the above analysis of "redemption" in the New Testament, the simple truth of the transaction is contained in the key passages that equate redemption with the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). What has been forgiven cannot also be paid for. The sacrifice of Christ, the culmination of a life of perfect obedience and dedication, was the price paid for our salvation. That is to say, it was necessary that Christ give himself as a suitable basis for the declaring of God's righteousness in offering mercy to sinners. But God's offer requires a corresponding "payment" on the part of those who would accept it. Since they are to be redeemed out of death they must repudiate that which brought death, which is the world and sin (Rom 6:1-7, for example). They must live sober and godly lives, repudiating all iniquity, as a special people belonging exclusively to God (Tit 2:14).

All this is comprehended in the "marketplace" or "agora" metaphor of Paul: "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Rom 6:17,18). Here "sin" is personified: "Sin" becomes the great ruler to whom all the world gives allegiance -- a slave-owner who owns all men. "I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" (Rom 7:14). In this metaphor Paul is recalling the words of Jesus: "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Joh 8:34).

The figure of speech may be heightened as we imagine an eastern "agora" or bazaar -- this marketplace was the meeting place of the ancient world; it was the center of commerce, entertainment, and social intercourse; it was the source of news and opinions. And always there was the slave-market, with its auction block. Approach that site in our minds, and the brutality, the callousness, and the fear wash over us. We imagine the smells and the sounds with revulsion -- and our memories are stirred in like manner as when we see the old newsreels of Auschwitz... for our modern times have also seen their own particularly ugly forms of slavery.

Here, at the auction block, we see women destined to be slaves to the basest passions of men. And men, doomed to lifelong drudgery to satisfy the greed of their fellow men. Here are wasted, broken lives, dashed hopes, families soon to be torn apart forever.

The slave-market: parable of our world; fleshly, carnal, unspiritual -- and sold as slaves to sin. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. I sin; therefore I am a slave!

Into this scene comes a man who is obviously apart from others. Striding up to me, he speaks forcefully: "I have bought you; come, follow me." There are no chains, no threats, no blows -- just a simple command. And I follow him.

Right behind him, I walk through the milling and clamorous crowds, and then through the winding streets of the city, until we come to a beautiful house. "Here is where I live," my new master tells me. "And here is your room." It is lovely and wonderfully furnished. Never have I seen such a luxurious dwelling, and this will be my home!

The master excuses himself, but soon he is back. He has brought water, and he kneels to wash MY feet! I should be washing his feet! And he has brought me a new expensive garment. I can throw away my slave's rags; I won't need them any more. With healing oil he soothes the cruel wounds inflicted by my previous owner; and I know that they will never hurt again.

"Now you are as I am," he says; "you are no longer a slave. This is my Father's house, and you are one of His sons!"

A lifetime of fear and hate is washed away, miraculously, and in its place is the cry of a heart set free: "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir" (Gal 4:6,7).

Redemption from the slave-market was a concept that would particularly appeal to Paul's converts, so many of whom were themselves slaves (Tit 2:9,10). They might not be able to hope for redemption from their mortal bondage, but they could rejoice in being redeemed from sin: "He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman" (1Co 7:22). And they could live accordingly. In their hearts and minds they were already free from the worst slave-master. And soon their bodies would follow, and they would be truly and absolutely free!

So, whereas it is the "price" concept of redemption that we tend to think of and analyze, perhaps we would do well to concentrate on this, the "property" concept of redemption. This, it would appear, is what God would have us ponder: not so much the "How does it work?" question as the "What does it do?" question. Not so much the mechanical process by which we were "redeemed" (which, as we have seen, may lead to confusion if pressed to the extreme) -- but instead what "redemption" means, morally and spiritually; what it means to us, every day, to belong to God:

"You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1Co 6:20).

"You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men" (1Co 7:23).

"[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Tit 2:14).
The word translated "his very own" ("peculiar people": KJV) is the Greek "periousios", which literally means "something beyond". Paul is quoting from the Old Testament -- referring to the first great story of "redemption" -- God's buying of the Israelite slaves out of Egypt: "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be MY TREASURED POSSESSION (Heb 'segullah') . Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exo 19:5,6). "Segullah", we are told, referred to the private treasure of kings; in societies where kings were more or less absolute dictators, everything in their realm was considered to be legally their property -- but even a king could not control and spend and enjoy all properties in his kingdom, and so he would possess certain properties, properties which were set apart as his own "special treasure", his "peculiar" or unique property, and no one else's.

In the figure here, God Almighty is the great king, and all the universe belongs to Him, and all men, and all they have -- it is all His. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to Him! But... the Heavenly Father has condescended to choose a special few of all His subjects to be His own family, His own special possession, His own cherished riches. They stay close to His person; they recline in His bosom; they hear His whispers of endearment; they feel the tender touch of His special love. They are dearer to Him than the stars in the heavens, or the glorious snow-topped mountains. They are dearer to Him than the treasures of the richest mines, or the harvests of the richest fields. They are the ones He has bought for Himself with the precious blood of His Son.

"Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 'They will be mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him' " (Mal 3:16,17).
Previous Index Next