Christ, Our Redeemer
Knowing Jesus as the one who paid the price for our freedom.
Back in the late 1990s, The Atlantic reported on the problem of slave redemption in Sudan. Roving militias and Baggara raiders historically stole goats and cattle along with the villagers they sold as slaves.
How much was a slave worth? At one time, one slave would bring in $15 in the northern slave market--a lot of money still for a person who might do well to make $500 in year. However, sometimes the slaver might receive as much as $300 for a slave. Why such a dramatic increase in price? Slave redeemers.
Over the course of time, the objective of the village raids focused mainly on slaves. It became profitable since the slave redeemers were paying a high price to free the victims. The redeemers’ intent was noble: returning a family member who had been forced into slavery back to their home. Yet, redemption was not without a significant cost.
This fundamental concept of redemption is found in both the Old and New Testaments but with significant differences from what took place in Sudan. Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia includes a section that informs the church of their redemption not by the payment of dollars but by blood,
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
In the Old Testament (Exodus 21:30), we see the practice of redemption applied to a specific circumstance--in this case, a bull who injured or killed a person. If the bull is a known threat and kills a person, then both the animal and its owner are to be stoned. However, if the victim instead demands monetary compensation, then a ransom is paid, and the owner keeps his life.
This form of the Old Testament law is a bit of foreshadowing--a redemptive picture which will be fulfilled in Christ. It is this truth that Paul desires the Galatian church to understand and apply. Consider the four parts of his teaching on redemption.
The book of Exodus is important to understand for several reasons. The people of God were given the law to know God’s will and as instructions for living a blessed life. But the people did not often keep God’s commandments like they were supposed to. So, we also find in Exodus God's instructions for the Tabernacle. This place of worship and sacrifices performed there were the means of forgiveness for their disobedience. People knew what was expected of them and what was needed when the law was offended.
Thousands of years later, and the people of God continue to find disobedience to God’s law to be a stubborn reality. Paul is correct when he says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We struggle with disobedience and need forgiveness.
The act of redemption--the sending of the Son--was not an afterthought or accomplished haphazardly. Paul says that our freedom took place in “the fullness of time.” The coming of Christ, who provided the means of freedom from sin, was a consequence of the Father’s redemptive plan. We see the definition of that plan in the four Gospels of the New Testament.
There is only one way to be free from the burden and consequence of our disobedience. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The Son placed himself under the law and kept it perfectly, paying the price for those who are under the law and could not keep the law. We were in bondage under the law and deserving of just penalty. Jesus secured our ransom as our redeemer.
Paul informs us that we are not only free from the penalty of disobedience but that we have a well-defined position of honor before our Lord. He declares that we have been adopted. The freedom given to each person who places their faith and trust in Christ includes the privilege of being a son or daughter of the living God. Such a position is ours and cannot be tarnished or altered. All the privileges of being called a son or daughter are ours in Christ, our redeemer.
It is important that we own the privilege of having such intimacy with God through our Redeemer. Our worship of God, and the stewardship of all that He has given us, are transformed when we are reminded that we call our God, Father. Such truth not only transforms our understanding of God’s deep love for us as his children, but also for those who have not been freed from the slavery of sin. Our prayers, actions, and words will reflect hope for their redemption too.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.