Ransomed Out of Slavery

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:18–21

Writing to Christians, the Apostle Peter highlights both our desperate situation on our own (“futile ways”) and the high cost to God of rescuing us (“the precious blood of Christ”). These two are brought together when it says we were “ransomed,” which means “delivered from slavery upon payment.” In the ancient world, a slave would only experience freedom if their master set them free or if someone paid the price for their freedom.

In this context, Peter says we were ransomed when Jesus paid for our freedom. In the word “ransom” we see that:

  1. We needed to be redeemed, because we were slaves.
  2. Jesus Christ redeemed us with his death.

SLAVERY TO SIN

Peter’s use of “ransom” easily would have caused the Gentiles to think of slavery. And for the Jews, he referred to the Passover Lamb in verse 19, which would have triggered images of their ancestors’ slavery in Egypt.

Peter is underlining the point of our helpless situation under sin, using intense imagery to highlight the desperation of our situation.

Peter is not alone in using this language of slavery either. Jesus says, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), and Paul explains that when you sin, you’re offering yourself as a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16).

REDEEMED AT A HIGH PRICE

God responds to our desperate need by sending Jesus Christ to redeem us with his death. God’s action matches the desperation of our slavery. Our salvation cost God the precious blood of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that true grace “is costly because it cost God the life of his Son . . . God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life.”

This is why Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Paul also uses the language of ransom: “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:23).

Peter has the Passover lamb in mind when he says we were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). That’s straight fromExodus 12 and Leviticus 22. Jesus is the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for us.

Being ransomed by the blood of Christ is all about substitution. But the point about “without defect or blemish” highlights his perfect life, his purity—the fact that he was not deserving of death. The spotless Lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred—you and me.