Slave trading was once a thriving business all over the world. People grew extremely wealthy by buying and selling human beings. Slaves were merely property owned by masters and were denied all control over their own lives. Slave markets sprang up everywhere as slaves were sold like livestock or other commodities. Many slaves lived wretched lives under cruel slave owners.
The Bible speaks of just such times. A father could sell his son or daughter into slavery to pay off a debtor just to make money (Ex. 21:7; Deut. 15:12). When a man died in debt, his family could be taken into bondage by his creditors (2 Kings 4:1). Slavery was the punishment for breaking into a house (Ex. 22:3). Slaves were the spoils of war (Deut. 20:10-18). The children of slaves were born into slavery and most would never know what it was to be free.
The reason God allowed slavery to exist is to reveal to us that we are all born into a slave market prison. It is a prison that has no high walls, no bars, no chains to bind us, but a prison nonetheless. We are all born into this world as prisoners of the spiritual bondage of death.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5)
We are born into this spiritual bondage because of our inescapable connection with the first man that God created, Adam. In Adam, God placed the genetic blueprint of every human being that would ever live. When Adam sinned against God and died spiritually, his spiritual death sentence was written in on the account of every member of Adam’s race.
- “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)
- “In Adam all die.” (1 Cor. 15:22)
But God did not leave mankind without an escape from this spiritual bondage. The key which unlocks the door of our spiritual prison is found in the Bible word “redemption.”
Bible Words for Redemption
The Bible uses three basic Greek words to describe God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ. These words are agaradzo, exagaradzo and lutrao.
Agaradzo comes from the word “agora” or “marketplace.” It simply means to buy or to purchase something from a marketplace. By His death Jesus Christ paid the necessary price to purchase believers from the marketplace of sin and death.
- “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body which belongs to God.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
- “You were bought at a price; do not become bond-servants of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23)
- “Who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying the Lord who bought them.” (2 Pet. 2:1)
The next word for redemption is the Greek word exagaradzo. It is exactly the same word just mentioned with a little preposition “ex” added to it. The prefix “ex,” meaning “from,” when added to agora, means “to buy back” or “to buy from” the marketplace. This word is used twice in the New Testament.
- “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13)
- “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:5)
Exagaradzo gives the added dimension of being purchased from the slave market of death imposed by the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law is used by God to reveal the curse of spiritual death within man (Rom. 5:20; 7:7-14; Gal. 3:19; Rom. 3:29-30). It is clear that agaradzo and exagaradzo picture the believer being purchased by God from the marketplace of sin and spiritual death by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The third word, lutrao, reveals a final aspect of redemption. It literally means to set free by paying a ransom.
“Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14)
Christ’s death becomes the ransom necessary to set the believer free from his spiritual prison.
“You were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver and gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish or without spot, even the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:18)
If we put these Greek words together, a beautiful picture begins to emerge. Redemption is the work of God in Jesus Christ purchasing believers out of the marketplace of spiritual death and creating a new people for Him, zealous of good works. We were not purchased from the marketplace of death with any earthly price but with the precious blood of Christ.
Jesus Christ: Our Near-Kinsman Redeemer
God’s gracious plan for spiritual freedom involved a most incredible transformation. God Himself, who is described in the Bible as being a spirit and invisible (1 Tim. 3:16) determined that He was going to take on human flesh. As a human being, He would be able to die in order to redeem mankind from the spiritual slave market. God explains this wonderful transformation idea to Israel by using this object lesson:
“And if a sojourner or a stranger become rich by thee, and thy brother who dwelleth by him become poor and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee or to the stock of the foreigner’s family; after he is sold, he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him. Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son may redeem him, or any that is near of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he is able, he may redeem himself.” (Lev. 25:47-49)
Several such near-kinsman redemptions took place throughout the history of Israel. One of the more famous is found in the book of Ruth. A young widow named Ruth was the daughter-in-law of a Jewess named Naomi. Naomi and Ruth were very poor, but they had a rich near kinsman named Boaz. Boaz came to the rescue of Naomi and Ruth and redeemed them by taking them into his own family. God is using Boaz and Ruth to foretell the truth concerning His own work as Kinsman-Redeemer that goes far beyond this human ritual of redemption.
The God described in the Bible is not “kin” to man. He is not like us.
“For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together.” (Job 9:32)
He is infinitely above us in every way. But that first Christmas morning in the small village town of Bethlehem, God became a very close kin to us. God became a human being. He became our near-kinsman that He might redeem us from the slave market of death by dying Himself in our place. By the death of our near-kinsman redeemer, we can be set free forever from our spiritual bondage.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8)
God has truly come into the world and paid for sin. He predicted hundreds of years earlier the exact way that He would come, and where and how He would redeem members of Adam’s race.
How did Jesus Christ Come into the World?
A small glimpse of how He was going to make His supernatural entrance into the human race was recorded in Genesis 3:15.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
“Her seed” obviously refers to the human offspring of the woman. But how is that possible? Obviously, women do not produce a physical seed. But there is no mistake!
God is telling us through words written thousands of years ago that He was not going to come into this slave market through natural procreation. He would come in such a way as to clearly reveal His identity and purpose. He would bypass the universal Adamic sting of death, which plunges everyone into this spiritual slave market.
This same prophecy is found in the book of Isaiah:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14)
“The virgin shall conceive” is just another way of saying “the seed of the woman.”
Who is “God with Us”?
The name “Immanuel” means “God with us.” The seed that is born of the woman, the virgin’s offspring, is none other than Immanuel, God with us, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah the prophet states:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
The seed that is born of the woman, the son that is born of the virgin, God with us is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. God said early and often and in many different ways, “I am coming to visit you.”
Where Was Jesus Christ to Come?
God foretold in exact detail where He was going to touch down on the earth.
“But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth unto me the One that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Of all the thousands of places that God could have chosen to come into the world, He chose Bethlehem. He declared in writing hundreds of years before He came the exact spot where the virgin would bear this Son.
Bethlehem, by the way, means “house of bread.” Jesus Christ is referred to in the Bible as God’s bread that is to give life to us (Jn. 6:35). It is not mere chance that this tiny, seemingly insignificant Judean town became the focal point of all history by becoming the birthplace of God in human flesh.
When Was Jesus Christ to Visit the Earth?
“But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law.” (Gal. 4:4)
God was to come “when the fullness of time was come.” When was this fullness of time?
At the time of the birth of Christ, Rome was the most powerful nation in the world. The Roman judicial system had given the world laws to protect the people and a political system to govern them. The powerful Roman army was more than capable of enforcing these laws and this system of government. As a result, the world was experiencing peace and safety.
The Romans had also developed a superior road system, making travel in the ancient world easier. Earlier the Greeks had given the world a common language, allowing people to communicate more easily with one another. This particular time in history brought peace, organization, communication and transportation out of a world of turmoil, language barriers, constant war, and little communication. These changes were all important if the good news of God’s visit to the earth was to be spread throughout the earth. This was the exact moment in history that God determined to be “the fullness of time.”
Why did Jesus Christ Come to Earth?
That Jesus Christ is God in the flesh cannot be denied. While upon planet earth, He did not attempt to hide His identity. He claimed that He and His Father were the same.
“I and my Father are one.” (Jn. 10:30)
On another occasion, in response to a question from one of His followers concerning the true identity of His Father, He said, “He that has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:8). There can be no doubt that Jesus Christ claimed to be God.
As God, He came into the world to free the slaves. God is eternal life and cannot die, so He temporarily set aside the characteristics of His deity, humiliated Himself, and came into the world to live among His creatures. In human flesh He freely and deliberately submitted Himself to death upon a Roman cross in order to become a substitute for man’s sin.
“To redeem those that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:5)
The benefits of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross are extended to us by faith alone. We are also given the privilege of becoming children of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
A young Polynesian slave girl was placed on the slave blocks of New Orleans during the Civil War. A wealthy plantation owner riding by in his carriage caught her eyes. He immediately sized up the situation, had compassion on her, and began bidding. The bidding began in the hundreds of dollars but soon reached into the thousands. The leaders of the prostitution syndicate were furious but could do little about it.
Finally, the bidding ended and the stranger had purchased the girl. He finished his paperwork and received the keys to her chains. He approached her and she immediately spat in his face. He wiped the spittle away and continued to unlock her chains. She cursed him violently. The chains dropped away, and to her utter amazement, he said to her very gently, “Woman, you are free.” She was astounded, not knowing what to say or do. She had been purchased from the slave market and set free.
The plantation owner who had redeemed her climbed into his carriage and began to drive away. Overwhelmed, the girl chased after him shouting, “Sir, let me serve you. I want to be your slave.”
The man stopped his carriage and turned to her. “You cannot be my servant.”
The girl’s face dropped, and she turned to walk away. The gentle hand of her new owner turned her around, and he said, “But you can come share my home as my adopted daughter.”
Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus have also been adopted into the family of God.