Bible

Jesus’ Last Words

Jesus’ Last Words

On Good Friday each year we take some time to meditate on the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us in suffering a humiliating, bloody death by crucifixion. It’s a time to dwell on what Jesus suffered for us, in all its pain and intensity, without rushing straight ahead to the good news of Easter, resurrection, and new life.

One of the ways Christians have traditionally meditated on Good Friday is by reading and reflecting on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross.

Luke 23:44–46: It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

This passage is a moving account of Jesus’ dying words. When everything was said and done, Jesus’ work on the cross was all but complete, and his proclamation “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” finished the work. The significance of Jesus’ statement lies in a conversation he had with religious leaders about his role in God’s great plan.

John 10:14–18 records this conversation: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I make take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

No one truly took Jesus’ life from him. God had given him a specific task. That task was to lay down his life on behalf of the world (v. 18).

Just as it was Jesus’ God-given task, it was also Jesus’ choice to lay down his life.

THE GRAVITY OF THE TASK

When we read of Jesus before his crucifixion, the gravity of this choice becomes even more apparent. In Luke 22:39–44 Jesus spends an intense evening in prayer, wrestling with the reality of the task ahead of him. Going so far as to ask God to remove the task, to make another way, Jesus ultimately concludes that God’s will would be done.

Thus, when Jesus finally declares in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is voluntarily laying down his life. No one took it from him—in fact, when the soldiers came by to make sure the men on the crosses would die quickly, it was obvious to them that Jesus was dead already.

Jesus faced the incredible task to lay down his life as a ransom for the world.

This task was traumatic and overwhelming, yet Jesus went to it willingly. After hanging on the cross for three hours, Jesus finally gave up his own life. He was not helpless at the hands of those who crucified him—he alone had the authority to die. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many.” The crucifixion was Jesus’ plan and it was the plan from before creation—he’s the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE SACRIFICE

But Jesus’ death is still death. It is still an abomination. Jesus submitted, but this doesn’t mean everything was OK. The author of life was murdered by evil men. But Jesus yielded to the evil and injustice because he knew who was really in charge.

The story doesn’t end here; there is the hope we celebrate at Easter. But for now, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the suffering sacrifice of our Savior. You can give thanks to Jesus for his steadfast love and faithfulness that led him to lay down his life for you as a ransom.

God’s Work, Our Response

God’s Work, Our Response

I know firsthand the excitement of having good news.

When my two girls were born, I called and texted everyone I could think of to tell them our great news. I’m “that guy”—I was telling people in the checkout line at the grocery store, the woman at the gas station, and the customer service representative for my cable service. The good news of their birth caused people to respond in love and graciousness.

Notice the order: good news caused the gracious response. People’s thoughtfulness didn’t cause my girls to be born. The telling of the good news of their arrival triggered people’s responses.

GOOD NEWS LEADS TO GOOD RESPONSES

Mark 1:14–20 follows the same logic: good news elicits good responses. Jesus comes into Galilee proclaiming the good news and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15).

The passage contains two statements and two responses. Both statements concentrate on God’s initiative. It is what God has done that calls for the two responses. “The time has come” and “the kingdom of God is near” lead to “repent” and “believe.” Let’s look at Jesus’ message briefly:

The phrase “the time is fulfilled” implies God’s sovereign control over history and time.

Jesus says that the beginning of his ministry is the fulfillment of God’s history.

When he says, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus claims not only that his ministry is of immense importance, but that in him and his ministry the kingdom of God, which is God’s rule and reign over creation, has begun.

By using these two phrases, Jesus is claiming that he is the fulfillment and culmination of what God was doing in the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that God’s time has struck—the time to which the Old Testament pointed has arrived in him. Jesus claims that in him, God’s critical moment has come because God begins to act in a decisive way—fulfilling his promise of ultimate redemption. Because of this, we are called to have a change of heart (repentance) and to believe in this good news.

REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL

“Repent”—it means to “have a change of heart,” to “turn around,” or “change your mind.” Most scholars think “change of heart” is the best phrase to use that describes the breadth and depth of God’s work in our lives. God’s work goes all the way down to our core and extends to every dimension of our lives.

“Believe”—the good news was that the kingdom of God—God’s rule in the hearts and minds of people—has come. All we do is believe it: trust that God is sovereign to save and restore as far as the curse of sin and destruction is found. Belief simply means “to put one’s trust in God.” That means putting our trust in the One God sent: Jesus.

The whole point is that we do not initiate—we respond to God’s initiative in Jesus. God initiates, and we respond. Romans 2:4 says it best:

God’s kindness and patience lead to repentance.

GOD INITIATES, WE RESPOND

When Jesus started in Galilee (Mark 1:14), his ministry wasn’t beginning in a gentle, quiet place. Galilee was surrounded by Gentiles—always the first target for any invaders from the north. Galilee appropriately symbolizes God’s people in bondage. Jesus’s ministry began at a place full of conflict and threat. It was a place of religious diversity and business.

This is a place of trouble, conflict, threat, confusion, business, and bondage—and that is where Jesus intentionally goes.

The whole point of God’s initiative is illustrated in Mark 1:16–20when Jesus begins gathering his disciples. It’s very important that Jesus was seeking his own disciples, because the custom was for disciples to seek out their own teachers. But of course it makes sense that the one who came to seek and save the lost would begin by seeking out his disciples himself.

You might be hoping for him to arrive, you might be distracted doing something else, you might even be going the other way, but he’s pursuing us to give us his good news.

God initiates, and we respond. He gives us the good news of the gospel, and we respond in repentance and faith.

What Is The Gospel?

What Is The Gospel?

Christian theology is about the gospel, which is focused on who Jesus is and what he said and did. Jesus is the hero of history and the centerpiece of the entire Bible.

God made us to worship him. He was our Father, living and walking among us, giving us everything we needed to live, and yet we chose to sin against him—a cosmic act of treason punishable by death (Gen 2:17Rm 6:23). As a result, we were separated from God, and we try to be our own gods, declaring what is right and wrong, and living life by our own standards.

JESUS LIVED

Despite our pride and ignorance, Jesus, who created the world and is God, lovingly came into human history as a man (John 1:14Rm 1:38:3Gal 4:4Philemon 2:78Col 1:221 Tim 3:16Heb 2:141 Jn 4:22 Jn 7). He was born of a virgin, (Mt 1:23Is 7:14) and he lived a life without sin, (Heb 4:151 Pt 2:221 Jn 3:5) though he was tempted in every way as we are.

Because of his great love for us, he went to the cross and took on the punishment of death that we justly deserved (Rm 3:251 Jn 2:2). Before his death and after his resurrection, he preached that the good news of God’s kingdom, love, promise, forgiveness, and acceptance was fulfilled in him, in both his life and death.

JESUS DIED

Our first parents in the garden substituted themselves for God, and, at the cross, Jesus reversed that substitution, substituting himself for sinners (1 Cor 15:45–48). When Jesus went to the cross, he willingly took upon himself the sin of those who would come to trust in him. That means that if you trust him as your Lord and Savior, Jesus went to the cross and took upon himself all your sin—past, present, and future—and that he died in your place, paying your debt to God and purchasing your salvation (Rm 10:9;Mt 10:32Lk 12:8).

JESUS EXCHANGED

Jesus not only took the punishment for your sin, but he also lived a perfectly righteous life. When you trust in Christ, your sins are forgiven and you are declared righteous by God, the ultimate judge. The righteousness of Christ is attributed to you as if you lived a perfect life. 2 Cor 5:21 tells us this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We are the villains, turned into the adopted, children of God.

Martin Luther called this the Great Exchange: “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” The famous Christian hymn, “Rock of Ages,” says the same thing: “Be of sin the double cure. Save from wrath and make me pure.”

JESUS ROSE

Jesus’ dead body was then laid in a tomb, where he lay buried for three days. On the third day, Jesus rose in victory over Satan, sin, death, demons, and hell (Lk 42:1Mt 28:1–8Mk 16:1–8Jn 20:1). After spending some more time eating, drinking, laughing, and teaching with his closest friends (Jn 20-21), he ascended into heaven, and today is alive and well (Acts 1:6–11).

He is seated on a throne, and he is ruling and reigning over all nations, cultures, philosophies, races, and periods of time. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and those who trust in him will enjoy eternity in his kingdom of heaven forever. Those who do not will suffer apart from him in the conscious, eternal torments of hell (Rev 21).

He is King of kings and he is Lord of lords (Rev 17:14), and he is ruling and reigning over all people, commanding everyone everywhere to repent. And now he commissions us with the Holy Spirit to be missionaries, telling this amazingly good news that there is a God who passionately, lovingly, continually, and relentlessly pursues us.

GOSPEL-CENTERED

To be gospel-centered means to focus on Jesus, who he is and what he has done, not on who we are and what we have done or will do for God. The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ (Mk 1:1) who came “to seek and save the lost” (Lk 19:10).

The gospel is for every one, every day, and every moment.

In 1 Cor 15:4-6, Paul declares and defines the gospel clearly: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day … he appeared.” Paul says these facts are “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3).

To hold this gospel message as “of first importance” is what it means for one’s theology to be “gospel-centered.” The gospel should have a central place in Christian theology and ministry. The gospel is clearly the center of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and the Bible. It should also to be the center of what every Christian and church believes because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).

GOD REMAINS FAITHFUL

The focus of the gospel is not on the inadequacy of humankind but rather on the character and glory of God: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim 2:13). However, we are transformed when we live “in line with the gospel” (Gal 2:14)—avoiding both legalism and licentiousness—and pursuing the joy found in complete and utter surrender of our unrighteous life in exchange for his righteous life (Gal 2:20). The gospel is what makes us right with God (justification) and it is also what frees us to delight in God (sanctification). The gospel changes everything.

Calling the gospel the “power of God for the salvation of all who believe” (Rm 1:16) means that it is the power to accomplish the whole matter of salvation from beginning to end without a scrap of human effort. We cannot and dare not ever move “beyond” the gospel. There is no such “beyond” for Christians, just a “different gospel,” (Gal 1:6–72 Cor 11:41 Tim 1:3) which is not good news at all. Apart from the gospel there is no forgiveness of sins, no hope, and no transformation into Christ’s likeness.

A gospel-centered reading of the Bible sees it not as a record of good people earning God’s blessing, but bad people receiving God’s blessing because Jesus earned it for them. At the center of the Bible is the good news that God treated Jesus the way we deserved and he daily treats us the way Jesus deserved. The center of the Bible is Jesus. He is the hero. We are the villains, turned into the adopted, children of God.

JESUS, NOT RELIGION

Because of the amazing and radical message of the gospel, it’s important that we don’t confuse the gospel with religion. Christians intentionally talk about Jesus (who he is and what he has done). We worship Jesus, not religion. As such we desire to talk more about what Jesus has done rather than what people should do (Gal 1:6–9).

There is a God who passionately, lovingly, continually, and relentlessly pursues us.

The beauty of the gospel is that once you truly understand what Jesus has done for you, you desire to do what he calls you to do. Trying to do it the other way around is futile.

The message of Jesus was, “Repent!” not, “Be better!” As Martin Luther said in his first of his 95 Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” So, echoing Luther, we affirm that all of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners isn’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but instead the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every one, every day, and every moment.

4 Quick Questions About Studying The Bible

4 Quick Questions About Studying The Bible

BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE: WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY METHOD?


Justin Holcomb: I prefer to go through the books consecutively, which helps me focus on the message of each book. Reading book by book helps me understand how the text fits together. This way, I’m able to follow the Bible’s themes and ideas from beginning to end. I also don’t want to overlook details. Reading one book at a time helps me get into the texture of each passage and helps me locate themes that repeat.

BSM: WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO READING THE BIBLE?


JH: I think the big idea is: What is the Bible? Is it a to-do manual? Is it just a classic text? Do we read it so that we can find a few commands that we should follow, or is it saying something else?

Since I think the big idea of the Bible is “God saves sinners,” that is the theme I’m generally looking for. When I teach the Bible, I want people to be looking for what God has said about Himself, while also being fully aware of who we are or can be: redeemed sinners.

BSM: HOW DID YOU TEACH CHAPLAINS IN SUDAN TO STUDY THE BIBLE?


JH: In Sudan, we taught army chaplains who served without weapons on the front lines. They ministered to the southern army, northern prisoners of war and Sudanese civilians. In this instance, biblical literacy was our main concern. After visiting Sudan for the first time, I realized that these chaplains loved Jesus and they loved the Bible—but they didn’t have Bible training or resources, so they didn’t know it that well.

We went through the entire Bible and taught them how it all hangs together—dates, biblical writers, basic structure. They had such an eagerness to learn.

BSM: CURRENTLY, YOU’RE TEACHING THE BIBLE IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT CONTEXTS. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CHURCH AND AT REFORMED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY?


JH: I enjoy helping pastors develop sermons. I want to make sure pastors are teaching with their eyes fixed on holiness and the grace of God. I have them ask themselves: Am I giving each person the good message of “repent and believe the gospel,” or am I giving them heaving burdens that they can’t carry?

With my seminary students, I focus on a “gospel-centered” hermeneutic. I want them to see the weight of the holiness of God and the response of repentance. I want them to understand their continual dependence on the grace of God and the message of the Bible, both for themselves and for the people they’re going to be leading and evangelizing.

 

Justin Holcomb is featured in the current January/February 2012 issue of Bible Study Magazine. This Q&A is available on their site where he talks with the magazine about studying the Bible and equipping leaders.

Reconciled & On Mission

Reconciled & On Mission

Being “on mission” is not just about running out there and talking a lot about Jesus—God’s mission and ministry is one of reconciliation.

In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul sums up the big picture of God’s mission with one key word: reconcile.

THE RECONCILED BECOME RECONCILERS

God did two things for Paul. First, he reconciled Paul to himself through Christ, and second, he gave him “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

This is an amazing statement. The reconciled become reconcilers. Reconcile means “to bring back to friendship after estrangement, to harmonize.” The picture is to re-establish an original peace that once existed.

In Paul’s writings, God is always the reconciler. Those in need of reconciliation are hostile human beings—us (2 Cor. 5:18–19; Romans 5:10–11). The initiative is with God who changes a relationship of enmity to one of friendship, and this is accomplished through Christ, through his death on the cross.

GOD INITIATES RECONCILIATION

The essence of the message Paul proclaimed as a minister of reconciliation is spelled out in verses 19–20: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ . . . ” The text can mean, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” or “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ.” The first focuses on the incarnation (“God in Christ”) and the second stresses redemption (“God was reconciling”).

Either way, one thing is emphatic: “God was reconciling to himself.”

Divine Warrior & Compassionate God

Divine Warrior & Compassionate God

“We tend by a secret law of the soul to move towards our mental image of God.”  – A.W. Tozer

DISTANT GOD?

In his book Your God Is Too Small, J. B. Phillips explains various conceptions of God people have:

the resident policeman, the parental hangover, the grand old man, meek and mild, absolute perfection, the heavenly bosom, God in a box, the managing director, the second-hand God, the perennial grievance, and the pale Galilean.

The current religious favorite of American culture is the Faraway God (a vague religiosity also known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism). This religion views God as a cosmic buddy who wants us to be good and nice, but doesn’t really get involved in the world beyond giving good advice.

The Bible gives us a vastly different picture of God. Take Psalm 8, for example.

DIVINE WARRIOR

The first stanza (Ps. 8:1-2) ties God’s majestic name (“Yahweh”) with victory. The Lord is the Divine Warrior who fights on behalf of his people against the enemy of his people. This psalm is not just about what God is like, but also about what God does. This refers to the nature of God and the activity of God. As Christians we read this psalm after Jesus has come and revealed what God is like perfectly and revealed what God does—fight against our enemy (Col. 2:15).

TRANSCENDENT CREATOR

In the second stanza (Ps. 8:3-4), David looks with his naked eye into the expanse of the sky and writes a poem to remind us of the necessity of never limiting God to the size of our own understanding, or even a group of doctrines we have put together.

God the Creator is the same God who is mindful of us and cares for us.

IMAGES OF GOD

The third stanza (Ps. 8: 5-9) is directly linked to Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-7. Humans were given a dignity as the image of God and charged to serve and protect God’s creation. We were to be vice-regents over creation. But through sin we lost our understanding of this dignity. David here is demonstrating our restoration to dignity. God re-established David and us out of the mire of futility and is returning us to our original place of dignity.

“I WILL BE YOUR GOD…”

David is looking at the divine warrior who fights for us, is mindful of us, and cares for us. He is reminded of Adam’s failure and loss of dignity and sees God’s restoration and calling. That is why this psalm begins and ends with an amazing worship pronouncement: “O Lord, our Lord.” This little phrase speaks volumes. It is about the magnificent transcendence of God and about the God who relates to his creation in compassion and care.

We commend to people the creator God, the compassionate caring God, the redeeming God, the companion God. This God was awe-inspiring to David. The God who made the immense universe also cares for everyone in it. This is the God who sees us as his children, who sees beyond the failures, event, motives, and anguish of our life. He comes near to us and says “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:12).

Now & Not Yet

Now & Not Yet

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the Day of the Lord—a divine visitation to purge the world of sin and evil and to establish God’s perfect reign on the earth. With the ministry of Jesus, the Day of the Lord began, and something cosmically significant happened.

Jesus came as the God-man to bear his people’s judgment on the cross, to rescue sinners from their enemies of sin and death by his resurrection, and to inaugurate his kingdom. Mark tells us, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’” (Mark 1:14-15).

The Kingdom Is Here

Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, eternal life has already begun in one sense. In the midst of sin, death, and decay, there is real life right now. For those who trust in Christ, our future is now. Those who trust in Christ already have so much:

  • We have new hearts (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • We have been made alive with Christ (Eph. 2:5)
  • We have received a spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15-16)

The knowledge that softens the blow of grief is not an abstract platitude but the real resurrection of Jesus.

 

More To Come

But there is more to come that has not yet been fully realized:

  • We will have transformed bodies, not just hearts (2 Cor. 15:50-55)
  • We will be resurrected like Christ (Rom. 6:5)
  • We will experience the fullness of being adopted by God (Rom. 8:23)

Already But Not Yet

We live now in the overlap between the “already” and the “not yet.” This means that the sufferings of now do not compare to the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). This means creation groans now but will be liberated (Rom. 8:20-22). This means we now dwell in a temporary earthly tent but will have eternal heavenly bodies (2 Cor. 5:1). This means we are saved in hope (Rom. 8:24) but will be saved from wrath (Rom. 5:9).

Future Hope

The kingdom of God and salvation is real now, but not yet fully realized. Why does this matter?

The loss that causes grief is very real, but is temporary. The knowledge that softens the blow of grief is not an abstract platitude but the real resurrection of Jesus. Our grief now is in the context of a future hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The hope of the new creation frames (though it does not erase) our present mourning: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).

 

Faith, Hope, Love

Faith, Hope, Love

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 Paul writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Religious Hijacking

There are two bundles of words that stand out: first, work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness (or endurance) of hope. These words have been hijacked by religious people to heap burdens on others. The second group of words you hear all the time, both in and outside the church: faith, hope, and love. These are very “Christian” words, but they’ve been gutted—look, for example, at “faith” in pop culture.

Knowing Jesus Changes Us

At the end of verse 3 the faith and love and hope are “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is not describing general principles; he is describing particular spiritual effects of being in relationship to Jesus Christ. Faith and love and hope that are “in our Lord Jesus Christ” give rise to work, labor, and endurance.

1 Thessalonians 1:3–6 refer to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity is involved in faith, love, and hope. They come from trusting in Jesus Christ. They are the result and evidence of being chosen (v. 4) by God the Father. And they are the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.

God Gives Us Faith

Faith is a gift from God. Hebrews 11 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The chapter describes a list of people who had faith in God and God’s actions on their behalf. That’s what faith is: trust in God and what he has done for you in Jesus. Through faith we trust in Christ. When we trust in Christ we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

And faith produces works; that’s why the passage says “works of faith.” When we put our faith in Christ, God changes our hearts and desires so good works are actually possible (Philippians 2:13).

God’s love for us produces love in us.

God Gives Us Love

Like faith, love is a gift from God. Love was our problem. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jesus summarizes the law of God under two commands: 1) Love God, and 2) Love your neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40). But this is bad news for us because we stubbornly rebel against God and love ourselves way more than we love others.

1 John 4: 10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and just as faith causes works, love produces our labor.

 

God Gives Us Hope

Like faith and love, hope is a gift from God. We can have hope because of what Jesus did. We can have hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Hope produces endurance. We can carry through the difficulties of this life because we know God is good and he is not playing games with our life. He has a plan for us.  

God Works On Us and In Us

Because all the works God does in Christ are done for you, your sins are forgiven, you are declared righteous, and you will arise and live with him. Faith, hope, and love are possible for you because of Jesus. They are the works of God on us. Work, labor, and endurance are the fruit of God’s work in us.

 

Ransomed

Ransomed

The Apostle Peter writes to Christians:

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)

He highlights both our desperate situation (“futile ways”) and the high cost to God (“the precious blood of Christ”). These two are brought together when it says we were “ransomed,” which means “delivered from slavery upon payment.” A slave would only experience freedom if their master set them free or if somebody paid the price for their freedom.

The spotless lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred—you and me.

This is the context when Peter says we were ransomed when Jesus paid for our freedom. In the one word—ransom—we see that:

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

 

We Were Slaves

We needed to be ransomed because we were slaves. 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. He is using very intense imagery to describe how desperate we are.

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 in Romans 6, Paul explains that when you sin, you’re offering yourself as a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16).

 

Jesus Bought Us

Because of our need, God’s response is for Jesus Christ to redeem us with his blood & death.

Peter writes strongly regarding our situation in slavery, and he is equally strong about God’s response to our desperate need when he writes about the price of our ransom. 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).

 

The Ransom Was Priceless

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 from Exodus 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.