Redemption and depravity

by Mike Ratliff

15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 (NASB) 

The Gospel is explained very well in the New Testament. The role of the Church in the World from the time of Christ’s Ascension until His return is very well defined for us there as well (to go and make disciples from all the earth, teaching them to observe all that He taught…) This Great Commission is not to ‘be the Gospel’ nor is it to ‘redeem the earth’ nor is it to ‘make the world a better place.’ No, it is to go and tell the Good News that we have a mediator of a new covenant and those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance that is made possible through the death of their Saviour who has redeemed through the shedding of His blood (see the passage above). You see, this is the Good News. We are to preach the Gospel, that is, we are to preach what Christ has done, not what people have done, not what churches have done, not what religion has done or what being religious can do for anyone. It is simply to proclaim this message relying on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to draw those called to saving faith. Let’s take a closer look at this “redemption.” 

The word “redemption” in Hebrews 9:15 (above) translates απολυτρωσιν the Accusative, Singular form of ἀπολύτρωσις or apolutrōsis, which means “redemption, ransom.” Jesus died as a ransom to set free from sin those called. This redemption is provided by Christ through His death on the cross (Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30). In Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:14, it describes something that believers have right now. But in the remaining uses of this word (Luke 21:28; Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30), there is a future aspect to redemption, which the called will not experience fully until Jesus returns again. It is made clear in these passages that this delay does not in any way put their redemption into jeopardy. The reason is that they have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing their final redemption.

This redemption reflects the act of freeing, releasing, or buying back by paying a ransom price. The ransom price for the called’s sin is death. However, Christ paid this ransom price through His own sacrifice (1 Peter 1:18-19) and thus freed us from the bondage of sin, to be brought back into the family of God (Galatians 3:13, 4:5).

In our day we don’t readily understand the full force of the word redemption, as did Paul’s readers. Why? We don’t have slave markets in our major cities any more. However, in the New Testament era the Greeks and Romans knew exactly what Paul was talking about. At the time of the writing of the New Testament there was approximately six million slaves. Slave-trading was a major business and was an accepted part of society. It was very common for a person to have a relative or friend who had been sold into slavery. A slave could be free only if someone paid the purchase price and then declared him or her free. There was no way for the slave to redeem himself or herself.

I have had direct, hateful, and even forceful opposition as I have stood before classes to teach from the Bible when I taught about the doctrine of election. However, those who have this issue and are resisting this wonderful doctrine really don’t realize that their real problem is with the doctrine of depravity that makes election necessary. Our fallen nature simply does not want to accept the totality of our depravity, but the analogy is clear. We are slaves to our fallen nature and are dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to be justified before our Holy and Righteous God. That is why we have to have a Redeemer who died for the those whom are called.

In our day, sin has been redefined to mean virtually anything we want it to mean, such as “not perfect but still basically good” or simply a “low self-esteem.” However, the picture from Sacred Scripture is one of a spiritual corpse that God must redeem and regenerate, and that is the work of God’s grace alone. And it is from that that we have been redeemed.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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