Why Did God Pay the Ransom? (Ephesians 1:7)

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

If you’re like me you’ve probably seen movies or TV shows where kidnappers demand a ransom for the release of their prisoner, and the whole plot centers around how to rescue the victim without paying the required price. As I watch the story unfold I usually find myself staunchly against giving into the demands of the criminals.

In these verses Paul talks about how God went ahead and paid the ransom! The word “redemption” in the original Greek means “liberation or deliverance procured by the payment of a ransom.” Paul goes on to say that the required price for this transaction was Jesus’ blood, in other words, his death. God willingly paid the ultimate price to gain our freedom. Imagine watching a film where the kidnappers require the life of a family member as ransom, and that person willingly sacrifices himself or herself to win the liberation of the prisoner. That is the picture that Paul paints in this verse.

I’m sure this leads to many questions, such as why this was even necessary. Couldn’t there be another way? The rest of Paul’s sentence gives us a clue as to the answer. The ransom Jesus paid secured the forgiveness of sins. To help us understand let’s first look at the word “sin” more closely. The literal Greek meaning is “to fall beside or near something.” The idea is of missing the intended target. For example, if I tried to shoot at a paper bulls-eye I’m sure I would miss it by quite a lot! Anything that deviates from truth and uprightness is sin.

I know it’s not a pleasant concept for any of us, but we can’t simply pooh-pooh sin or sweep it under the rug, thinking that it’s only an issue for others. The high price of the ransom points to the seriousness of the problem. The evil that can flow out of the human heart terrifies me at times. Just yesterday I was horrified to hear about how in the Syrian war people are burned alive in cages. There have been times that when confronted with the atrocities humans commit against people, animals, or nature I have felt embarrassed to be a member of the human race. Fortunately the vast majority of us never stoop to those levels, but we’re all contaminated by the stain of sin. Just look at a young child – does he or she need to be taught to be selfish?

All this makes the next word even more amazing. The root verb of “forgiveness” literally means “to send away, to let go.” The noun itself means “release from bondage or imprisonment.” The idea portrayed is the setting free of a prisoner or the elimination of a debt. In short, Paul is showing us how God paid the price so that we can be released from the bondage and penalty of sin. He “sends it far away” from us.

I know some people who are burdened with incredible debt. As a result they can barely make ends meet, and have no hope of ever paying it back. Their debt acts like invisible chains that choke and overwhelm them, and there is no relief in sight. Imagine how they would feel if someone suddenly appeared out of nowhere and paid their debt completely, setting them free. This is the picture that the words “redemption” and “forgiveness” taken together portray.

Going back to my movie illustration, the rescue of a kidnap victim is usually followed by scenes of great rejoicing. How can we feel any less joy at the thought that God has paid the price to secure our freedom from sin!

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