Word of the Week
July 4, 2022
Redeemed: Proclaiming Freedom
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our wrongdoings, according to the riches of His grace.
July 4 is the day when Americans celebrate their independence as a nation. It was actually July 2 when Congress voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams, one of the signers wrote,
The 2nd day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. . . . It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.
Adams believed that freedom for a nation was worth celebrating. He was right, but there is an even greater freedom that Christians can celebrate. Just as American independence was bought at the cost of a bloody conflict, our freedom from sin came at an unimaginably high price.
To appreciate more fully what Christ did for us, let’s review the Greek words for “redemption.”
The New Testament uses two clusters of words to describe the idea of redemption, both drawn from the commercial life of the Roman empire.
- The agorazō group
Enter any Greek or Roman city and look for the place where the action is, and you will end up at the agora, the marketplace. An agora was like an open air mall on steroids, filled with booths, peddlers and crowds of shoppers. You could find almost any product there, and it was also the place to go if you wanted to give a speech or find a lawyer to plead your case. Friends would meet there, and merchants would rendezvous with customers.
The agora was primarily the place for buying and selling, and the Greek word agorazō meant “doing what you do at an agora” – buying and selling. You might buy bread (John 6:5) or oil (Matthew 25:9), spices (Mark 16:1) or linen (Mark 15:46). Or you might encounter someone offering slaves for sale.
That picture lies behind the New Testament passages which teach that Christ bought us, paying a price for us (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). In the book of Revelation, the heavenly throng sing in tribute to the one of “purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). We used to belong to sin, but now we belong to God.
The apostle Paul uses a stronger form of the word, exagorazō, which means “to buy out.” This word applies to the purchase of a slave, delivering him from his old master. Jesus entered the world to redeem those who were enslaved by sin and the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; 4:5). Because He paid the price of death on the cross, we are no longer slaves of sin.
- The lutroō group
The word luō means “to release, to loose,” and it forms the basis for the second group of words for redemption. Each of these words is a reminder that redemption leads to freedom.
- Lutroō means “to release by paying a price, a ransom,” resulting in deliverance. The two on the road to Emmaus hoped that Jesus was going to redeem Israel from bondage to Rome (Luke 24:21), but He actually intended to provide spiritual redemption from sin and all its effects (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
- Lutrōsis can mean deliverance in general (Luke 1:68; 2:38), but the deeper meaning is redemption from the power of sin (Hebrews 9:12)
- Apolutrōsis is an intensified form of the word, a release usually based on payment of a ransom. It could mean escape from torture and death (Hebrews 11:35), but most references mean the redemption provided by Christ through His death on the cross (Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Both of these word groups are beautiful descriptions of Christ’s action in providing eternal salvation for us. The agorazō group underlines the price that He paid for us, and the lutroō group speaks of the actual deliverance that resulted. Because He died for us, we are set free!
One reminder: If you were a slave in a first-century marketplace, it would be wonderful to know that someone was willing to pay the price for you and to release you from bondage. But the question is, “Now what?” Would he simply walk away and leave you standing there, wondering what to do next?
When Jesus bought us, we became members of His household. As Paul said, “you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). He will not abandon us. In fact, He plans to adopt us as His own children!
That is a freedom worth celebrating!
Exagorazō appears with a different meaning in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 – “redeeming the time,” as the King James version says. These verses exhort us to make the most of every opportunity. Just as the Lord intends to use His children to accomplish His kingdom purposes, we should use our time to seek His kingdom.
All the words we used today have literal meanings based in the marketplace, but the New Testament applies those terms in a much higher sense to describe the Great Transaction where Christ paid the debt for our sin.
Q – Sometimes I read words that are not translated in English, like “Ephphatha” in Mark 7:34. Why don’t our Bibles translate these?
A – Most of the New Testament was originally written in Greek, and our English translations consistently turn all the Greek words into English. However, there are some passages like the one you mentioned where the New Testament writers used a word from Hebrew or Aramaic. These would have been foreign words to many of the original readers, so the Bible usually adds a translation in Greek. Our translators are being precise in letting us feel the impact of a word in another language, just as the original readers would have experienced it.
God often seems slow . . . very, very slow. But we know that He always has perfect timing, even when it doesn’t coincide with our plans. Next week we will review a Greek word that describes His timing.
©Ezra Project 2022