“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:24, 25).
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
The Price Jesus Paid
One of the great dangers that face those within the Christian community is an assumption that the great doctrines of the faith are clearly understood by all. Rather than assume something that may or may not be true, attention should be turned to discovering what the Bible teaches about the death of Christ. There are several questions that might be raised concerning the death of Jesus at Calvary 2000 years ago such as, “What kind of act was the death of Christ?”
The simple answer, in part, is that Christ died in order to bring men to God. Men must be brought to God because they have been gripped by powers that keep them away from God. Three powers have united to control the soul of the natural man: Sin, Satan, and God’s judicial system.
Because of the pollution of sin, because of the power of Satan to keep souls in bondage, because of the wrath of God against those who sin in the kingdom of Satan, man is in desperate need of redemption.
The basic idea of the word redemption is not hard to grasp. It means “deliverance.” Something is redeemed when it is set free. The word release, or ransom, would also convey this thought. There are several Old Testament illustrations of the act of redemption taking place.
For example, an Israelite could sell himself as a slave to a foreigner who lived in Israel in order to pay off a debt. However, it was not the Lord’s desire that he remain a slave forever. In fact, at any time a blood relative could redeem him by paying a purchase price. Once the price was paid, the foreign master had to give up the slave—even if he did not want to.
The purchasing price for freedom was to be based upon the number of years left until the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee was a special period celebrated every 50th year. All male Hebrew slaves were set free from their foreign masters in the land (Lev. 25:8-55).
To use a simple analogy, if the work of a slave was worth $500 per year, and there were 3 years left before the year of Jubilee, then the purchase price to be paid was $1500. Once the price was paid, the slave was redeemed and because he was redeemed, he was free to go and live a life of his choice.
Another example of a price being paid for a people is found in Numbers 3:11-13. The background for this passage is the Exodus. Prior to the day of divine deliverance, God killed the firstborn of the Egyptian household in the tenth plague. At the same time that God killed the firstborn of Egypt, He claimed all of Israel’s firstborn for Himself.
When the Lord claimed something for Himself that was alive, it was usually sacrificed to Him. It was put to death. But God did not want to destroy the firstborn of Israel. Therefore, He planned for the redemption of the children. Singling out the Levites from the twelve tribes of Israel, God decreed that they would take the place of the firstborn male offspring of every Israelite woman.
So far so good. One Levite would be set apart for religious service in place of one firstborn son born to an Israelite woman from the other tribes of the land. The Levite was the ‘money’, or medium of exchange by which another child of Israel was redeemed. While the Levite served the Lord in sacrificial service, the firstborn son of another was free to do his own work, and live his own life (Num. 3:38-46). Why? Because a “price” had been paid for them in the form of another person.
But a problem arose. The medium of exchange, the Levite, a type of ‘money’ was in short supply. During the wilderness journeys there were 273 more first-born male Israelites than there were Levites born. The practical question was what to do with the excessive firstborn Israelites. They could no longer be “redeemed” by a Levite for there was a shortage of Levites. What could be done?
In grace and mercy, a solution was settled upon. The tribal families of the extra firstborn sons were to collect five shekels for each child. Two hundred and seventy-three families were to take up five shekels apiece for each son. This large sum of money was to be given to Aaron and his sons for the work of the ministry (Num. 3:46-48). In this way, a price was paid, and the firstborn sons were free once more to live and work.
The theological truth that under-girded these Old Testament practices is that a price had to be paid for a people. A redemption price had to be paid in order for there to be life and freedom. The price of redemption could another person, a Levite, for a first born, or 5 shekels of silver.
In these two illustrations of a price being paid to free a slave, or to free a first-born son, there was no sin involved in the process.
But what would happen if sin were involved in a situation? Was there a redemption price that could be paid? The careful answer is, “Yes” and “No.”
There were certain situations in which a ransom could not be paid for a transgression. Pre-meditated murder was one such instance. “Moreover, ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death” (Num. 35:31). On this point the Law was clear. There was no price of redemption that could be paid for a murderer.
However, there were other situations where a price could pay for a person, even though sin, or transgression was involved. A biblical example is set forth in Exodus 21:28.
“If an ox gores a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. 29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.”
According to the Law of Moses, any man who let his bull run loose after he had been warned that it was a dangerous animal was guilty of negligent homicide. He was a murderer of sorts and was subject to punishment by death. However, such a person could be set free from the penalty of the Law by paying a ransom or a fine to the relatives of the dead man or woman his bull had killed.
From this illustration it can be said—and seen—that there was a sense in which a murderer would be set free under the Law. The owner of the animal was not innocent for he had been warned, but the warning was neglected. Now a ransom had to be paid or the man would die.
The great principle is once more established: sin and redemption can meet in the Law of God and justice be satisfied. The solution to the sin problem was freedom by the payment of a price.
There is another facet of redemption: it was often a family matter. Under the Old Testament economy, most of the time the “redeemer” was a family member. The family member often felt an obligation to do something in a given situation to deliver his kinsman from bondage. The book of Ruth teaches this truth in a touching narrative.
The historical narrative lies in the period of the Judges, in the twelfth century BC, at the close of a great famine in the land of Israel (Judges 1:1; 6:3-6). Elimelech, a native of Bethlehem, had, with his wife Naomi and two sons, taken refuge in Moab (a nearby country) from a famine. There, after an interval of time, Elimelech died, and his two sons, having married women of Moab, also died, within a ten-year period. Their wives, Orpah and Ruth, were left widows (Ruth 1:3, 5).
When Naomi decided to return to Palestine, her two daughters-in-law accompanied her on her way (Ruth 1:7). Orpah, however, turned back and only Ruth remained with Naomi, journeying with her to Bethlehem, where they arrived “in the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22).
At Bethlehem Ruth found work gleaning in the fields during the harvest season. Because of her willingness to work, and because of her great personal integrity Ruth was soon noticed by Boaz, the owner of the field, who happened to be a near kinsman of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
Boaz gave the lovely lady from Moab permission to glean as long as the harvest continued. Boaz also told Ruth that he had heard of her faithfulness and devotion toward her mother-in-law.
Going on his way, Boaz directed the reapers to make intentional provision for Ruth by dropping in her way grain from their bundles (Ruth 2:15 f). In this manner Ruth was able to return to Naomi in the evening with a whole ephah of barley (Ruth 2:17). In answer to many questions by Naomi, Ruth explained that her success in gleaning was due to the good will of Boaz, and the orders that he had given.
The next day Ruth returned to the fields where she remained to glean with other young women throughout the barley and wheat harvest, making her home with her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:23). Throughout this period of time, Naomi was anxious for the remarriage of Ruth for several reasons not the least of which was the fact that the barley harvest was coming to an end. It would be good if Ruth had a husband to provide for her.
Then there was the matter of the land. In the providence of the Lord, Naomi still owned a piece of land, which she could sell in order to raise money to live. And that is what Naomi decided to do. But whom should the land be sold to? Naomi was free to sell the land to any man in Israel. However, it made sense to offer it to a relative, and Boaz was a relative.
One day, Naomi sent Ruth to Boaz to remind him of his legal duty as near kinsman of her late husband Elimelech (Ruth 3:1). According to the Law of Moses, he should purchase the plot of land, which Naomi owned if he could.
Boaz acknowledged his legal duty, and promised to buy the land. He also offered to take Ruth in marriage. But first, a closer kinsman had to be given the same opportunity to fulfill the legal duties, for he was of nearer relationship than Boaz (Ruth 3:8-13). Though the situation suddenly became stressful, because Ruth preferred Boaz to all others, Naomi was confident that Boaz would fulfill his promise, and advised Ruth to wait in patience.
Boaz wasted no time. He adopted the customary and legal measures to obtain a decision. He summoned the near kinsman before ten elders at the gate of the city, related to him the circumstances of Naomi’s return—with her desire that Ruth should be married and settled with her father-in-law’s land as her marriage-portion, and called upon him to declare his intentions.
The nearer kinsman, whose name and degree of relationship are not stated, declared his inability to undertake the new dependency of a wife and more land. In legal language he resigned his rights to Boaz according to an ancient custom in Israel (Ruth 4:6 ff). Boaz accepted the responsibilities transferred to him. The elders and bystanders bore witness of the great transaction, and pronounced a formal blessing upon the union of Boaz and Ruth who soon married (Ruth 4:9-12; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
The romance of Ruth and Boaz is the romance of Redemption. In this beautiful narrative the story of salvation is recapitulated. Every Christian can identify with the details of the narrative.
Like Ruth, we once found ourselves in a far country. We could only look at the Land of Promise, and long to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then one day, the Holy Spirit started to draw us to the Holy Land, and to the Lord of that Land. Hope was put into our hearts, and words of grace were put into our mouths and we said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Led by the Spirit we came to a new country and we began to work as a labor of love. We went into fields that were white unto harvest. Suddenly, our Kinsman-Redeemer was by our side looking with favor upon us. He spoke words of love and comfort. He saw in us a loveliness that we could not see in ourselves. He praised us and moved on.
We watched Him go and knew that we could love Him forever. Even as He left, our Kinsman-Redeemer had our best interest upon His heart, for He commanded other servants that provisions be dropped in abundance, and on purpose.
We soon found His gracious provisions and gathered them up in our arms with joy unspeakable but full of hope. Surprised at the blessings bestowed, we shared with others what our Kinsman-Redeemer had done. And our hearts loved Him all the more. So great was the love that we longed to be married to Him forever. We wanted to say, “I am His and He is mine.”
But there was a problem. The Law was against us. The Law was demanding that a redemption price be paid. Though we were drawn to Him, and enjoyed the gracious provisions of His hand in His land, the Law was still against us. The Law had a claim to our lives that had to be satisfied. Could the One who was so kind do something more on our behalf? Would our Kinsman-Redeemer do whatever it took to make us a permanent purchased possession? Would He pay the ultimate price the Law demanded?
One night we knelt at His feet and waited for His response. The choice was His. The power to pay was His. The willingness to pay was His.
Morning came and our near Kinsman had mercy upon us. I will pay the price for you this very day, He said. I will be your Redeemer. And He honored His word.
He went outside the gate of the city. He called all those who had claims against us to come forth. And when no one else was found willing, worthy, or able to pay the redemption price, He paid the debt He did not owe. Jesus Christ paid the price of our redemption, which the Law demanded. And it cost Him His own precious blood.
See, from His head, His hand, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Our Kinsman-Redeemer paid the price to secure our freedom from the curse of the Law, from the kingdom of Satan, and from the power and pollution of sin. Because of the redemptive price that was paid, we acknowledge,
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Do not ask why Christ loved us; it is enough that He does. And do not look for anything in the soul worthy of such love; there is nothing there. All that can be said is that we love Him because He first loved us. Christ saw us afar, and came to us on purpose. And He still leaves handfuls of blessings on purpose.
One such blessing is the joy of taking communion. We look today once more on the elements, which are the tokens of His great love. We drink of the fruit of the vine from the cup, which speaks of His blood shed for us. We eat the bread, which speaks of His body broken for us. And we remember the price Jesus paid— for us. In all of this we remember Him in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Eph. 1:7).