God’s Word for You
Colossians 1:14a Redemption
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 2, 2018
14 in whom we have redemption,
In Greek, the word “in” (ἐν) is a very important little word. It’s a preposition that shows us a sphere, shows us what’s inside that sphere, and then places the subject (“we”) inside the sphere as well.
In this case, the thing in the sphere is redemption. I wish “redemption” was not such a sterile word in English, but that can’t be helped today. Redemption is being set free—like a prisoner set outside the prison, blinking at the sun, with no fear of being pulled back inside (Isaiah 61:1). It’s like a captive on his way into exile being unshackled and told to go home (Jeremiah 40:4). It’s being restored—like a man who went mad and then recovered his sanity; like Nebuchadnezzar being given back his mind in Daniel 4:31. It’s being released from slavery, like God bringing his people out of Egypt (Exodus 6:6). It’s like canceling a huge debt—a picture the Lord used by commanding Israel to cancel debts every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1, 31:10), and again in the parables of the Moneylender (Luke 7:41-42) and the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). In the historian Plutarch, it is also used for paying the ransom for a whole city held captive by a pirate (Life of Pompey 24:4).
Think for a moment of your own life. What was the greatest earthly redemption that ever happened to you? Did you recognize it at the time? How would your life be different if it had never taken place? Twenty-three years ago, when I was in my early thirties, I suspected that I would be a bachelor my whole life. I was a lonely man. I knew that I had not been given the gift of preferring the single life, the kind Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8. I longed for a wife, but I did not find one in my home town, and going away to an all-male college did not make finding one any easier. I was a lonely man. But then, all at once, the Lord set a woman in my life. One New Year’s Day I was alone, and by the next, I was married. I was released from my loneliness, healed of my longing. My many, many prayers were answered and continue to be answered. My emptiness was filled up, right to the top and overflowing, and I knew that by letting me wait the Lord had already answered the kind of “What if…?” questions that plague other people. What if I had married someone else? Well, I didn’t. Left to myself, I looked, but I found no one suitable. So God gave what I could not find; could never find. For me, this is a picture of redemption—but it’s only a picture, a reflection, of the redemption we have in Christ from our sins. Any example we have in life—a canceled debt, recovery from an illness, an end to loneliness, being lost or stuck or hopeless and then being found—all these are mere shadows compared to the true redemption we have in our Savior.
Let’s get back to our Greek “in” and its sphere. You see, redemption is the thing in the sphere, and it’s our possession, but redemption isn’t the sphere itself in this verse. The sphere, the big three-dimensional circle containing our redemption, is “him,” that is, Christ. What’s inside that sphere is everything Christ offers to us; everything he accomplished. What’s outside of it, is everything else—including our guilt, our failure, our bondage and slavery of sin. We have been brought inside the sphere by God’s grace, through faith, and by means of the gospel. Everyone in the sphere has everything Christ has to offer: in this case, it’s redemption that’s pictured, but there are many other examples of this sphere of Christ throughout the Bible. Redemption isn’t the possession of anyone outside, but it is the possession of everyone who’s inside.
But you can’t be partly in and partly out. If you keep one foot outside of being a Christian by trying to mix your Christianity with something else to hedge your bet, or because you just can’t let go of it (the Lodge, the horoscope, or even your own good works), then you’re not in. Pull the other foot inside; let go of whatever doesn’t trust in Jesus completely. Paul says it this way: “Do not be yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). We live among unbelievers, and we work among them. But they are our mission field; not our fellowship.
Notice the pictures God gives of redemption in your life, and meditate on how amazing redemption from sin really is. It was impossible without Jesus; it’s not only possible but accomplished and right here in our hearts now that Jesus has come. Your sins are forgiven. You are at peace with God.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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