"[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
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.
"...to 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
(1) LUTRON: the price paid for letting loose, or setting free:
(2) LUTROO: The verb form: to pay the price:
-         Mat 20:28: "The Son of Man [came] to give his
life as a ransom for many."
-         Mar 10:45: Same as
(3) LUTROSIS: The act of setting or being set free:
-         Luk 24:21: "We had hoped that he was the one
who was going to redeem Israel."
-         Tit 2:14:
"[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all
-         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
(4) ANTILUTRON: The same as #1, with the added preposition
"anti" (instead of):
-         Luk 1:68: "The Lord, the God of Israel... has
come and has redeemed his people."
-         Luk 2:38:
"All who were looking forward to the redemption of
-         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).
(5) APOLUTROSIS: The same as #3, with the added preposition
"apo" (away from):
-         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
(6) AGORAZO: To be in the "agora", the marketplace or forum;
hence, to buy or sell there:
-         Luk 21:28: "Stand up and lift up your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near."
3:24: "The redemption that came by Jesus
-         Rom 8:23: "Our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our bodies."
-         1Co 1:30: "Christ
Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness,
holiness and redemption."
-         Eph 1:7: "In [Christ]
we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of
-         Eph 1:14: "The redemption of those who
are God's possession."
-         Eph 4:30: "The day of
-         Col 1:14: Similar to Eph 1:7
-         Heb 9:15: "Christ... has died as a
ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first
(7) EXAGORAZO: The same as #6, with the added preposition "ek"
-         1Co 6:20: "You were bought at a
-         1Co 7:23: Same as
-         Rev 5:9: "You were slain, and with your
blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and
-         Rev 14:3,4: "The 144,000 who had been
redeemed from the earth."
-         Gal 3:13: "Christ redeemed us from the curse
of the law by becoming a curse for us."
4:5: Christ has redeemed "those under the
-         Eph 5:16: "Making the most of every
opportunity" (NIV) is literally "redeeming the
-         Col 4:5: Same as
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"
From the above list and summary, several conclusions
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
- 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
- God and Christ were acting in concert in the great "transaction" of human
redemption -- for the "buyer" may be either God or His Son! In the New Testament
both are referred to as "Saviour". "God was reconciling the world to himself in
Christ" (2Co 5:19). There was no difference between the motives of the One and
the motives of the other; they were together. The old man Abraham and his son
Isaac, who "went together" to the altar on Moriah (Gen 22:6,8), are the express
pattern of the Heavenly Father and His Son who, together, go to the cross!
(Notice how Paul in Rom 8:31,32 quotes Gen 22:12; and how, incidentally, Abraham
-- a man -- actually typifies the Almighty!)
- The "all" who are redeemed are
in fact not "all" in the absolute sense. The element of freewill, or choice, or
faith, must be taken into account: a man must want to be redeemed before God and
Christ will redeem him!
- Whereas popular or "orthodox" theology would say,
unequivocally, that men are redeemed by Christ from the "devil", the passages
above tell us that -- Biblically speaking -- man is redeemed from... iniquity,
wickedness, transgressions, the earth, and all men and nations. The interesting
point here is that these things are -- in point of fact -- the perfect Biblical
definition, broadly and generally, of the "devil"!
- Man was also redeemed
from the Law of Moses, and from the "curse" of that Law -- not because the Law
itself was evil (it was certainly not: Rom 7:12-14), but because the Law brought
into focus and highlighted man's sin.
- In this context, the "blood", the
"life", and the "death" of Christ are in some sense synonymous terms; each is
the "price" paid to "buy" us from sin and the world. The combination and
repetition of these terms in this study suggest that no single term should stand
alone -- but each ought to be modified, and defined, by the others: ie, (1)
Christ's blood was not meaningful as blood alone: there was nothing magical or
potent in his blood above that of any other man's; however, his blood was
required -- and not that of any animal, or any other man for that matter --
because of the sinless life that he lived; (2) Even Christ's perfect life, the
absolute giving of himself to the Father's will day by day, would not have been
a sufficient "redemption" price: the wisdom and purpose of God required that His
Son die -- willingly and obediently -- in the prescribed manner; and (3)
Similarly, had Christ died a different kind of death, it would not have been
acceptable as a sacrifice for sins.
- Thus the death required was a
sacrificial death, requiring bloodshed, on the pattern of the Passover Lamb (1Pe
- And finally, and most remarkably, an overview of the four "parts"
of the "transaction" demonstrates that... Christ gave himself for himself: he
was at the same time three of the four "parties": he was the buyer, the price
paid, and that which was purchased! In this he was the first and preeminent
example of his own words:
"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.
- The doctrine that Christ died as a substitute
for all men, regardless of the actions and/or beliefs of those men; and that his
merit is an adequate substitute for their wickedness; or that absolutely nothing
else may be required of men but somehow touching the magical blood of the
"Saviour"... these erroneous ideas are derived from a too literal, and too
absolute, reliance upon the "redemption" parable of the atonement. In short, a
good thing is carried to an unwarranted extreme, and it becomes illogical.
- The degree to which this "substitution" theory
is inadequate in and of itself may be shown by the doctrine -- of Jehovah's
Witnesses, for example -- that the literal body of Christ must needs be
preserved and retained by God in heaven (think of the Kremlin's grotesque
preservation and display of the corpse of Lenin!) -- separate and apart from
Jesus himself -- as the ongoing purchase price of
- Carried to the extreme, the
"substitution" theory of redemption invalidates the obvious Scriptural teaching
about forgiveness of sins. If the full price of our redemption has already been
paid, absolutely, by Christ in his life and death and resurrection, then we
ought to be able to demand salvation as our right; after all, it was "paid for"
already! And there would be no place for forgiveness; why should one's debt be
forgiven when it has already been paid? And why should we ever pray, "Forgive us
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).
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.
"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
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
"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' "