Slaves Set Free

We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 HCSB)

Slavery was a part of the world in the first century and had been for a long time. So much so that Caesar Augustus imposed a 2% tax on the sale of slaves. According to records this brought in about 5 million sesterces annually on the sale of about 250,000 slaves. Outside of Rome, Ephesus was a major center of slave trade.  With its great temple of Artemis and a natural harbor Ephesus was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor.

People became slaves in several ways.  They could be sold into slavery, taken captive in a war, kidnapped by pirates etc. If you were taken as a slave and your family could locate you they could redeem you from the slave market by paying a lutron (ransom).

“If a foreigner or temporary resident living among you prospers, but your brother living near him becomes destitute and sells himself to the foreigner living among you, or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, he has the right of redemption after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him. (Leviticus 25:47-48 HCSB)

This part of the law is a good example of this practice. The slave, unable to help himself can be redeemed by his brother.

Slaves to Sin

Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34 HCSB) 


Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey–either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 HCSB)

The simple fact is that all of mankind in our rebellion against God have been sold as slaves to sin. When Jesus told the Jews that the “truth would set them free” they boldly replied that they had never been enslaved to anyone. Jesus tells them that their sin reveals their true master.

I find this troubling because as much as I would like to say that I do not sin the fact of the matter is that I do sin and quite regularly. How I wish that it were not so. I wish that I could honestly write to you Theophilus and say that I have found the strength to never sin but I must say with Paul “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–and I am the worst of them.”

And here I am as helpless as the Jew who sold himself to a foreigner as a slave. Unable to accomplish my own redemption but Jesus has purchased it for me.

Through His Blood

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. (Leviticus 17:11 HCSB)

The blood of Christ was shed for me. This ought to astound us. Take our breath away. It has become so familiar that we say it without hardly a second thought. Every spotless lamb whose throat was cut. Every Passover celebration across hundreds of years pointed to this once for all sacrifice. From the time that Abraham said to Isaac “God Himself will provide the lamb” (Gen 22:8) to the day Jesus came every believer knew by faith that one day God would provide this redemption.

The Forgiveness of Trespasses

There are three terms in the New Testament for sin the first hamartia means to miss the mark. The second, often translated trespass, is paraptoma which literally means a false step, a blunder. It carries the idea of a slip and fall. The third translated as transgression is parabasis a stronger word meaning to transgress a known law.

Forgiveness here is the word aphesis freedom. Now that should take your breath away. This is the same word Jesus used in Luke 4:18 as Jesus, quoting Isaiah 61 said “He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives.” 

We tend to view sin as a behavior problem, something we need to improve on but something that doesn’t fundamentally change our state of being. From God’s point of view however we are captives to sin, held under it’s power… slaves and only the blood of the spotless lamb can set us free.

Grace Lavished On Us

Sometimes we think of an angry God gritting his teeth and reluctantly saying “I forgive you” as if he didn’t really want to but had to because of a legal technicality.  The word that is translated here as lavished is perisseuō which means to superabound. Not just enough grace so that we barely get free but way, way more than could possibly be needed.

This is good news indeed because it means that God’s grace is more than enough to cover our sin. As free people we are still tempted and still fail and yet God is working in us to grow us beyond our slavish ways. We have to learn to live in this freedom.

Thank you Lord for this greatest of all gifts.

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