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Knox Chamblin on Ransom as Deliverance: Not Payment

April 16, 2009

Chamblin:

REDEMPTION

Both before and during Paul’s time, both within and beyond the Bible, to redeem typically meant to secure a release from some bondage or penalty by the payment of a ransom-price.45 In accord with what was just said about righteousness, Paul declares that redemption occurs in Christ (Col. 1:14) and that Christ is the very embodiment of redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

As with other aspects of salvation considered thus far, it is preeminently in the cross that Christ does his redeeming work.46 His death is the ransom-price that secures the liberation of others. Here “the man Christ Jesus . . . gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6; cf. Titus 2:14).47 Christians “were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23)–Christ’s sacrificial death (1:18-31; 5:7; 11:23-26; 15:3). Sinners are “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement . . . in his blood (Rom. 3:24-25 NIV). The shedding of blood signals not just the gift of life but the loss of life.48 By the language of redemption, Paul does not imply that the ransom-price was paid to someone, whether to God or to the devil; his focus is on redemption’s costliness, both to God and to Christ. A principal reason for its costliness to Christ is that he “became sin” so that sinners might be justified (Rom. 3:24-26; 2 Cor. 5:21). “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . .” (Eph. 1:7; cf. Col. 1:14).49 As in any instance of genuine forgiveness, the offended part absorbs the wrong and thus prevents it from spreading and multiplying.50

In his death Christ the Redeemer liberates his people from bondage to Sin and its agencies, together with all the consequences of such bondage. God, “by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sin offering, condemned Sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3)–in the very “body of [Jesus’l flesh through death” (Col. 1:22). “God did not redeem flesh by an act of incarnation; he destroyed flesh by an act of condemnation.”51 Moreover, by nailing sinners’ certificate of indebtedness to the cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities [and] made a public spectacle” of them (Col. 2:13-15).52

Knox Chamblin, Paul and the Self (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1993), 76-77. Chamblin is professor emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS). [Underlining mine, footnote values original.]

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45E.g., slaves, prisoners of war, and condemned criminals might be so released. For the evidence, see Morris, Apostolic Preaching, 11-64; Stott, Cross, 175-82. Speaking of the cross, Paul employs the nouns redemption (apolytrosis), ransom (antilytron), and price (time); and the verbs ransom/redeem (lytroomai) and buy (agorazdo and exagorazo).

46The final “day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30; cf. 1:14), including “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23), depends upon the release accomplished in the cross (Eph. 1:7).

47The verb used in these two verses is didomi, “give,” whose compound paradidomi appears in other statements about Christ’s voluntary sacrifice (Gal. 220; Eph. 52,25).

48Morris, Apostolic Preaching, 112-28; Stott, Cross, 179-81.

49In both verses, “forgiveness” stands in apposition to and is virtually equated with “redemption,” “for the deliverance in question is a rescue from the just judgment of God upon our sins, and the price paid was the shedding of Christ’s blood when he died for our sins on the cross” (Stott, God’s New Society, 40).

50In the cross, “the holy God met the sin, accepted its entail, entered into its costliness, suffered redemptively in his own Son. . . . Here was no overlooking of guilt or trifling with forgiveness; no external treatment of sin, but a radical, a drastic, a passionate and absolutely final acceptance of the terrible situation, and an absorption by the very God himself of the fatal disease so as to neutralize it effectively” (C. F. D. Moule, The Sacrifice of Christ [Greenwich, Conn.: Seabury, 19571,28).

51Dunn, Romans, 440. Jesus’ own death was the scene of the flesh’s execution; the NIV of Rom. 8:3 (“he condemned sin in sinful man”) is very misleading.

52I follow the NIV of 2:15b, “triumphing over them by the cross.” See the comments on “bondage to the spirits” on p. 54.

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