************ Sermon on Romans 3:24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 12, 2003
On this Lord's Supper Sunday we all realize that Christ's sacrifice upon the cross accomplished salvation. We say and use this word often enough, we sing that "Jesus saves," but what exactly is salvation? In our Scripture readings the Apostle Paul presents four different images of salvation: propitiation (Rom 3:25), redemption (Rom 3:24), justification (Rom 3:26), and reconciliation (Rom 5:10). Today I want to look at the second image, that of redemption.
A The image of redemption introduces us to the language of the market-place, of business and commerce. For, at its most basic "to redeem" something is "to buy or buy back." The root of the Greek word translated as redeem or redemption is a technical term in the ancient world for the purchase of a slave in order to liberate him or her. Redeem, then, refers to the release of someone or something by the payment of a costly ransom price.
B In the Old Testament, property, animals, persons, and the nation were all "redeemed" by the payment of a price. In regards to property, think of Boaz. He redeemed the property that belonged to Elimelech in order to keep it in the family (Ruth 3 & 4). Jeremiah did the same thing with property that belonged to his uncle (Jer 32:6-8).
As for animals, the firstborn males of all livestock belonged to the Lord. Donkeys and unclean animals, however, could be redeemed or bought back by the owner (Ex 13:13; 34:20; Nu 18:14-17).
In the case of individual Israelites, each had to pay "a ransom for his life" at the time of the national census. Firstborn sons (who since the first Passover belonged to God) had to be redeemed. When a bull known to be dangerous gored a man to death its owner was himself to be put to death unless he redeemed his own life by the payment of a fine. And, an impoverished Israelite forced to sell himself into slavery could later either redeem himself or be redeemed by a relative (Ex 30:12-16; 13:13; 34:20 & Nu 3:40-51; Ex 21:28-32; Lev 25:47-55).
As for Israel, the Bible describes her as being redeemed from her slavery in Egypt and from her captivity in Babylon (Ex 6:6; Deut 9:26; Neh 1:10; Ps 77:15).
In all these cases of redemption somebody paid a price.
In the New Testament the concept of redemption is very much alive. In a very familiar text Jesus says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45; cf 1 Tim 2:5-6). Jesus is talking about redemption here; He is talking about the payment of a price in order to set His people free.
II Redeemed from What
A The Bible, then, speaks of redemption. It talks of a payment, a ransom, so we can be set free. This raises a question: from what do we need to be redeemed? In the Old Testament people were redeemed from debt, captivity, slavery, exile, and death. In the New Testament people are redeemed from sin (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14), the curse of the law (Gal 3:13;4:5), and their empty way of life (1 Pt 1:18).
The fact of redemption says something about our sorry state or condition. Because of sin we are in captivity. We desperately need redemption, the payment of a ransom, before we can be set free.
Now, I realize this kind of talk is not popular today. Very few people want to hear about man's fall into sin. They want to be told that everyone is basically good, that all go to heaven, that no one misses the grade, that no one is a captive or prisoner of something so simple as sin.
We have reached the point where some teachers no longer give grades to students. Or, the grades they give have become increasingly meaningless – some teachers give every student an "A" and that no longer means little Johnny can add, subtract, count by 5's, or legibly print his name. They don't want to damage the psyche of their students by telling them their work is unsatisfactory; and, they don't want to inform parents that their child is not cut out to be a Rhodes Scholar.
This past week the Visalia Times Delta directed me to a web-site of words and phrases banished from the English language for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. On the list were such words and phrases as:
-MUST-SEE TV – entertainment is supposed to be an option, not a must
-UNTIMELY DEATH – all deaths are untimely
-WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION – any weapon, used effectively, can cause a lot of destruction, even a machete or a knife
-MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT – who is the one making the mistake, anyway
-THERE IS NO SCORE – there always is a score even if it is 0-0
-MENTAL MISTAKE – what mistake is not mental
-UNDISCLOSED, SECRET LOCATION – if a location is undisclosed, isn't it secret
This web-site wants all of these words and phrases banished from the English language.
You won't find this on a list anywhere, but I think there are a whole lot of other words that have been banished by our secular, sinful world: words like SIN, EVIL, WRONG, BAD, FAIL, and so on.
A number of you watched "American Idol" – it is going to be coming on again soon. Do you know who my favorite person on the whole show is? Not Kelly Clarkson, who won. Not Justin, who took second place. My favorite character is Simon Cowell, the British record producer who tells it exactly like it is. The other judges always tried to be tactful and supportive, but Simon, in a brutally honest way, actually rendered judgments about the merits of the performances. "Jenny," he told one young woman. "That was extraordinary. Unfortunately, extraordinarily bad." A young man was told this: "I can honestly say you are the worst singer in America." Afterwards, the losers dismiss Simon's comments with: "That's just his opinion." "He doesn't have the right to impose his beliefs on me." "Everybody is different." And, these are people whom even I could tell were off-key and just plain bad. Simon went so far as to say to one contestant who tried to argue that good and bad are relative, "What angers me is that people like yourself who have the most attitude have the least talent." Simon runs counter to the spirit of our age. He dares to have standards. He dares to call someone bad or mediocre. He dares to say there is black and white.
Paul is the same way. He dares to make judgments of right and wrong, of good and bad. He says, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ..." (Rom 3:22-23). And, earlier he said,
(Rom 3:10-12) "There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
As you eat and drink, then, think on your bondage, your slavery, to sin and evil.
B I want to tell you that in this life and on this earth we can have redemption. In this life and on this earth we can be set free from our bondage to sin. Yet – and I have to sound this note of caution or warning here – in this life and on this earth we cannot experience complete redemption or freedom. As we all know, everyday we struggle with sin and decay, pain and futility, evil and wickedness. Even the greatest of saints makes but the smallest beginning in living a life free from sin. If a great saint like Paul could cry about the battle between his heart and mind, between the old man of sin and the new man of righteousness; if a great saint like David could struggle with adultery and lust and murder; if a great saint like Peter could deny the Lord three times – then we have to admit that we too have our own struggles with bondage to sin.
Perfect redemption, full redemption, has to wait for the "day of redemption" (Eph 4:30) when all will be made perfect. Only on that day will Christ have redeemed us and all of Creation from all sin, pain, futility, and decay.
As we eat and drink we can also look forward – we can look forward to the "day of redemption" when we will finally and totally and completely be set free from our bondage to sin.
III Redeemed by What
A The Bible speaks of redemption. It talks of a payment, a ransom, so we can be set free. This raises another question: with what or by what are we redeemed?, what is the price that is paid? The Bible leaves us no doubt about the price: it was Christ Himself.
The price of redemption is Christ. To begin with, there was the cost of the second person of the triune Godhead taking on sinful humanity; Paul says He was "born under law, to redeem those under law" (Gal 4:4-5). Furthermore, He gave Himself, He gave His life, He gave His blood; in our Scripture reading Paul talks of "redemption that came by Christ Jesus," "sacrifice of atonement," and "faith in his blood" – Paul is telling us that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ upon the cross.
As we eat and drink, then, let us remember and believe that redemption comes only by means of the body and blood of Christ.
B There is no doubt that redemption implies substitution – that Christ took our place, suffered in our place, died in our place.
In the history of Israel the principle of substitution took place when the Roman general Crassus came to the Jerusalem Temple in 54-53 B.C. intent on plundering the sanctuary. A priest named Eleazar, who was guardian of the sacred treasures, gave him a large gold bar worth 10,000 shekels as a ransom for all. That is, the gold bar was offered as a substitute for the Temple treasures.In the same way, the blood of Christ was offered as a substitute for us.
IV We Belong to our Redeemer
A Christ has paid the price for us. With His blood Christ has redeemed us. With His blood Christ has purchased us. This means we belong to Him. You know what the first question and answer of the Catechism says:
I am not my own
body and soul,
in life and in death--
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ has redeemed me. This means He is my owner. He owns me lock, stock, and barrel. He owns all of me. He is my Master and I am His slave.
B Christ has redeemed me. I belong to Him. Therefore, I must be wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him (Q & A 1). Therefore, I must glorify God with my body and my life (1 Cor 6:18-20). Therefore, I must do what Christ wants me to do. Therefore I must never deny the sovereign Lord Who has bought me (2 Pet 2:1).
As we eat and drink let us remember and believe that we belong to Jesus and that we owe Him – as willing slaves – our service, our life, our obedience.
The result of redemption is freedom. Property is returned to its rightful owner. Animals are freed from slaughter. People in bondage to sin are set free – lives twisted by sin, controlled by evil, and in bondage to death are redeemed and gain the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Today, as we eat and drink, we want to celebrate redemption. We want to celebrate that those in bondage to sin have been set free by the blood of Christ. We want to celebrate that we now belong to Jesus, body and soul, in life and in death.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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