Redeemed By the Blood of the Lamb

Ephesians 1:7-8a

A gathering of friends at an English estate nearly turned to tragedy when one of the children strayed into deep water. The gardener heard the cries for help, plunged in, and rescued the drowning child. That youngster’s name was Winston Churchill. His grateful parents asked the gardener what they could do to reward him. He hesitated, then said, “I wish my son could go to college someday and become a doctor.” “We’ll see to it,” Churchill’s parents promised. Years later, while Sir Winston was prime minister of England, he was stricken with pneumonia. The country’s best physician was summoned. His name was Dr. Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered and developed penicillin. He was also the son of that gardener who had saved young Winston from drowning. Later Churchill remarked, “Rarely has one man owed his life twice to the same person.”

There are many occasions when we come to a passage of Scripture, and as soon as we see it, we know that we are dealing with something that is central to the Gospel itself. This is one of those occasions. What can be more central to our faith than redemption and the forgiveness of our sins? This is the solution to all of mankind’s problems. Jesus Christ is the solution to our sin problem.

Our passage starts with that all-important phrase “in Him.” Of course, this means “in Jesus Christ.” The important thing here is that it is not in ourselves. We are so prone to think that we save ourselves. But we are not self-redeemed. Jesus Christ redeems us from sin and death. But what is redemption? Redemption means that a price is paid by someone for someone else’s freedom. In a nutshell, that is redemption. In the Roman world, if a master wanted to set free a slave of someone else, he could pay that other master the full market value price of the slave, and the slave would be free. The idea also enters in here, though, that the slave is more than just belonging to the “wrong” master. He is also being held prisoner, and being held for ransom. It is a kidnapping, as it were. There is a ransom that needs to be paid.

Now, many Christians think that the ransom needs to be paid to Satan. But that would be false. He would love it if we were to think that way. However, the Scriptures never explicitly tell us to whom the ransom is paid. The Scriptures focus much more closely on the cost of the ransom, how costly it was. Richard Phillips, however, has said that we should think of the ransom being paid to the law. The law holds us captive, because we are sinners, and break the law’s commands. The law then holds us captive until Someone can come along to ransom us out from under the power of the law. That Someone is Jesus Christ.

The price that Jesus paid is His own blood, His life. Why does Paul say “blood” and not merely “death?” The answer lies in the OT sacrificial system. The blood of the animal was extremely important. It had to be sprinkled on the altar. The life of the animal was required for atonement, and the writer of Hebrews says that the blood of bulls and goats does not really take away the guilt of sins. Hebrews then points us to a far greater sacrifice for sins: that of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ redeems us from our sins. It redeems us from the condemning power of the law. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way, “The mere killing of the animal was not enough; the blood of the animal had to be taken and sprinkled upon the mercy seat before God was propitiated.” Now, Lloyd-Jones used a long word there that needs some explanation. The word “propitiation” means that God’s wrath against sinners is appeased when, by faith, they come to Christ. God’s wrath is what is propitiated. This is an important biblical word of which we need to know the meaning. It is different than the word “expiation.” The word “expiation” refers to our sins. Our sins are done away with by Christ’s sacrifice for sins. So God’s wrath is propitiated, whereas our sin is expiated. But notice the importance of the blood. It has to be sprinkled on the altar after the animal is killed. There are those people today who are offended by all this talk about blood in the Bible. Isn’t that barbaric, they say? But without the blood of Christ, there is no redemption. That very blood, which is despised by many, that blood is our ransom price. It is very costly.

A good way to illustrate the cost of redemption is by this story: Tom carried his new boat to the edge of the river. He carefully placed it in the water and slowly let out the string. How smoothly the boat sailed! Tom sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat. Tom tried to pull it back to shore, but the string broke. The little boat raced downstream. Tom ran along the sandy shore as fast as he could. But his little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when it was too dark to look any longer, Tom sadly went home. A few days later, on the way home from school, Tom spotted a boat just like his in a store window. When he got closer, he could see — sure enough — it was his! Tom hurried to the store manager: “Sir, that’s my boat in your window! I made it!” “Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in this morning. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it.” Tom had no money at all. But he wanted his boat back. And so he started to work and work and work. Gradually, he acquired the money needed to buy his boat back. As he left the store with his boat, Tom hugged his boat and said, “Now you’re twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you.” When God redeems us, He says, “Now you are twice Mine; first I made you; then, after you sinned, I bought you with the precious blood of my own son.”

If you are here today and do not know the saving grace of God, then hear this: you will never find more love than you can find right here. You will never find more grace than right here. You will never find more costly, self-sacrificing love than you will find in the ransom that Jesus paid for your sins.

The redemption that we have in Christ Jesus means that our sins are forgiven. Our debt to the law is in the form of guilt that arises from our sins. So, to redeem us from the condemning power of the law, Jesus needed to pay the full price of ransom, in order that God could forgive our sins. As one author has it, “Redemption is the cause, and forgiveness is the effect.” Forgiveness comes from redemption. Another author says it this way: “Redemption would not be complete without procuring pardon. Even Israel in the old dispensation understood this. On the day of atonement the blood of one goat was sprinkled on the mercy-seat. The other goat, over whose head the people’s sins had been confessed, was sent away, never to return.” What this author is getting at is that both of these actions are things that Christ has done finally and completely.

It is evidence of the riches of God’s grace which God lavished on us. That is the last part of our passage. Notice that Paul says “according to the riches of God’s grace,” not “out of the riches of God’s grace.” The difference can be seen in this illustration, taken from R. Kent Hughes: Rockefeller was often pictured giving a dime to a boy on the street. That kind of generosity is by no means wrong. However, Rockefeller is hardly giving those gifts “according to” his riches. He is instead giving “out of” his riches. If he had been giving “according to” his riches, he would have given the boy a car, an estate, stock in his company, etc. What we have here is the riches of God’s grace. God the King does not give paltry, small, miserly gifts. God gives according to the riches of His grace. Have you experienced that lavish outpouring of God’s grace? Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this, “I press the question as to whether we really know these ‘riches’ of grace and glory. I am increasingly convinced that it is our failure at this point that accounts for many of our troubles and problems and failures.” One of our biggest problems is that we think God is cheap, because He allows us to go through trials and tribulations. But even that is evidence of God’s grace. God does not put us through hell, but through lesser trials, because we need the kind of discipline and reliance on God that can only come from tribulation. No, God’s grace is rich, God’s ransom of us through Jesus Christ is complete. It is there that we can have the forgiveness of our sins. If Winston Churchill was saved twice, once by the father, and once by the son, then we too are loved twice: once by the Father in creating us, and once by the Son in saving us. God’s Son became the best Doctor who ever lived, because He can doctor our souls. Let Him lavish his spiritual medicine on you today.

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