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"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight" (1:7-8).
A Third Blessing
In 1:3-14, Paul praises all three persons of the Trinity (Father, vv. 4-6; Son, vv. 7-12; Holy Spirit, vv. 13-14) for blessing the believer with “every spiritual blessing” (v.3). In vv. 7-8, he thanks God for a third blessing: redemption.
The Greek word for “redemption” (apolytrosis) is used ten times in the NT (Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:15; 11:35). Redemption is deliverance from captivity or slavery. In the OT, God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. In Paul’s day, slaves were redeemed by the payment of a ransom (like hostages are freed by a ransom payment).
Believers have been redeemed from bondage to sin.
Why is redemption a praiseworthy blessing? Without it, eternal punishment would be the destiny of everyone.
Paul writes, “We have redemption” (v. 7). But redemption would be impossible without four things.
1. Without our Redeemer, there would be no redemption.
We have redemption “in [Christ].” Sometimes it’s said that a person has “found redemption” (i.e., they have atoned for past sins). But biblically there is nothing we can do to redeem ourselves. “Because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us…redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
2. Without the cross, there would be no redemption.
We have redemption “through [Christ’s] blood.” In the NT, redemption “refers to one set free on the basis of a ransom paid to God by Christ’s death” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 206). The ransom price for our redemption was the blood of Jesus. Jesus declared, “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; cf. Mark 10:45). “You were ransomed…, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ “has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5; cf. 5:9).
“The forgiveness of our trespasses” further defines redemption. “Forgiveness” (aphesis) “is the permanent cancellation of or release from the punishment for sin because it has been paid for by Christ’s sacrifice” (Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 207). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11).
3. Without God’s grace, there would be no redemption.
We have redemption “according to the riches of [God’s] grace, which he lavished on us.” Redemption can’t be earned. It’s a gift from God to all who put their faith in Christ. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:23-25).
4. Without God’s wisdom, there would be no redemption.
We have redemption because it was planned “in all wisdom and insight.” After Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter preached in Jerusalem, saying, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf. 4:27-28).
Redeemed to Serve
God has not freed us to do whatever we desire. “He who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:22-23; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20). “The released slave was officially designated a ‘freedman’ and frequently continued to work for is former master. Many extent inscriptions from freedman indicate the tendency to adopt the family name of their former master (now their ‘patron’) and to continue honoring them” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2201).
Christ gave his life for us. He asks us to live our lives for him.
There is a psychological phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome in which hostages develop positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of helping or defending them (a recent case was Jaycee Lee Dugard). Christians are often guilty of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome. We have been freed from sin’s bondage, but we still go back to it and sometimes even defend it. Paul mentions some of these sins in the latter part of Ephesians: lying (4:25), stealing (4:28), corrupting talk (4:29), bitterness (4:31), wrath (4:31), anger (4:31), slander (4:31), malice (4:31), sexual immorality (5:3), impurity (5:3), covetousness (5:3), filthiness (5:4), foolish talk (5:4), and crude joking (5:4). We have been freed from sin by Christ. But we have also been freed to serve Christ.