Study Notes:

Ephesians 1:7

It’s December. Kids are drafting their wish lists while catalogues arrive daily in the mail, pop-up ads are appearing on our computers, and the stores are pummeling us with reminders of things we need or want for ourselves and need or want to give to others.

It’s the downside of an otherwise beautiful holiday season. There’s no other time of the year when the whole world seems to remind us: Hey Christian! Think about Jesus, the babe, born in a manger, in Bethlehem. It’s Christmas!

The problem is, Jesus may be ‘the reason for the season,’ but the season has also been hijacked by selfish desires and marketing magicians who make us think the best way to celebrate the coming of the Savior of the World is to stand in line at BestBuy or log into your Amazon prime account.

If you’re a little conflicted and confused by it all, you’re right. You should be.

There is nothing wrong with getting or giving stuff. There is nothing wrong with being generous. We worship an exceedingly generous God. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver and it speaks of some people actually having a gift of giving, a supernatural desire to give liberally (Rom 12:8). The entire flow of Biblical history weaves around feasts where people gathered for good food and drink and company all the while recognizing the goodness of the God who made it all possible.

So there’s nothing wrong with gifts, nothing wrong with parties, nothing wrong with fun. But all of those things are actually just accessories to the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas can be celebrated without them. And, in many places, Christmas is. Because the greatest gifts we can receive are not things that break or wear out or go out of fashion or get lost. They are things that thieves cannot break in and steal, things that cannot rust, or be eaten by moths. They are possessions we receive when Christ possesses our souls.

And as we’ve been studying the book of Ephesians lately, we’ve been seeing how much Christians already have in Christ.

In Him, you are accepted in the Beloved. You have been adopted, you have been predestined, you have been blessed with every blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

And this morning we add to all of that with what we discover in

Eph 1:7 In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

So add that to your list. If you are in Christ, you have redemption. It’s not something you’re waiting for or hoping for, it’s something you have right now. It’s an essential part of your salvation.

OK, But what is it?

You’ve had that awkward moment, right? When you receive a gift you don’t understand – it might turn out to be something amazing, something we’ll really appreciate and enjoy, but not until we understand what it is, or what it does, or how it works.

So, what is redemption?

Well, it’s a picture or concept that falls under the broader topic of salvation. We could go on for weeks discussing it, it’s been a struggle to fit it into one sermon, but we can boil it down to this: redemption involves movement from one condition or experience to another, better one, and that movement requires effort or expense. It involves the notions of freedom and liberation; redemption is also seen as a very good thing, a very positive thing.

And so, it’s one way for us to understand what happens when we are born-again and God transforms our lives. In fact, redemption is one of the most important things we can learn in all of Scripture.

So, how does it happen?

Well, today we may speak of some one or some group redeeming themselves – they had been doing poorly, but then through a good deed or a few good performances they ‘redeem themselves.’

– Your favorite sports team may be ‘looking for redemption’ in a new season or rematch.

– Your husband or boyfriend may have ‘redeemed himself’ by bringing you a gift or taking you out.

But the Bible never speaks in these terms. We never redeem ourselves with God. The message of Scripture is always the Good News that God has redeemed us, He has done the heavy lifting. We don’t work for it, we’re recipients. We’re told here in Ephesians we have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus and received forgiveness of our sins.

Paul repeats this message in another of his letters when he says to the church in Colossae:

Col 1:13 [God] delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Do you notice the process? God, moved us, from something bad (the power of darkness), into something good (the kingdom of Christ), for a price (Christ’s blood). This is called redemption and it involves the forgiveness of our sins.

In the Bible and other ancient literature, the idea of redemption was used in connection with buying freedom for slaves or paying money to ransom soldiers captured in battle. A person or group was under the control of another person or group until a third party redeems them.

We see this clearly in the Old Testament when God redeemed the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. Before it happened, God told them what He was going to do for them, and why. He sent Moses with the message:

Ex 6:6-7 ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.

It’s important to note this: the Jews did not redeem themselves. God is making bold, strong, statements. Five times, He says “I will.” And He did it, didn’t He? He brought them out of Egypt and took them to the Promised Land. He moved them from one condition, to another, better condition – they were redeemed – they were no longer under Egyptian control because God got involved on their behalf. He redeemed them “with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

The idea of redemption is one we see all throughout the Bible. People and nations are always getting into a mess until God comes along or sends someone along to redeem them.

Take the story of Ruth for example.

Ruth is a short book, only four chapters. Very easy to read, it’s a beautiful story, you should pick it up this week. Ruth is a young lady who is widowed and living with her also-widowed mother in law Naomi. But as widows, the two women are destined for a life of difficulty and poverty. That is, until their situation is made known to Boaz. Boaz is a relative who has the opportunity to serve as their kinsman redeemer. He marries Ruth, takes full responsibility for her and her mother-in-law, and ensures they don’t loose the family land.

He takes action that moves them from one condition – that of poverty and vulnerability, to another better condition – that of security and family at his own expense. They benefit from his actions and efforts. That’s redemption. Their entire outlook flipped 180 degrees.

We see another time when God used one person to redeem another in the book of Hosea, only this time it’s under much uglier circumstances. Hosea is a prophet of God, but his wife has left him and committed adultery. We don’t know all the reasons why or how, but she has sold herself into prostitution and God tells Hosea to go and buy her back using his own money.

And he writes:

Hos 3:2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.

He redeems her by paying a price. But now, think about that. Let it sink in: Hosea redeems his own cheating wife by paying a price. He moves her from one condition, to another, better one, and expense or effort is involved. It’s costly to him. But this is redemption right?

Now let me ask: if God asked you to do something like that, would you be willing? If you knew it was God, if you were sure it was His clear command, would you do it?

Friends the Bible is full of God asking, directing, or commanding people to do things that were radical and painful. And it’s easy to sit in your living room or in your car and read or hear or about something like this happening in someone else’s life, but when it comes to your house, when God knocks on your door and says “now is the time to take action on what you say you believe,” that’s when things get hard, don’t they? When we move from the classroom to the real world. That’s when life gets intense.

So why, why would God tell Hosea to do this?

Well, God knows what He is asking of Hosea. He knows it’s going to hurt. He knows it’s going to be awkward and difficult at times, He knows people are going to talk. But God is trying to use the whole situation to make a very important point and that is: no one ever goes too far to be redeemed by God.

God was trying to communicate a critical message to people in Israel at the time. He wanted them to know: when you see My prophet, this man Hosea, take back his wandering wife I know you’re going to talk about it. I know you’re going to gossip about it. I know it’s going to make the headlines and be all over your social media. It’s going to capture everyone’s attention. And that’s good, because it’s a sign to you Israel, that I want to take you back, even as you wander away from Me. And at my personal expense, I will find you, come to you, pay for you, and bring you home.

That’s redemption. That’s what God does. And by obeying God Hosea was able to get a taste of what God has promised to do for us.

In his costly obedience, and make no mistake friends, this was COSTLY obedience, but in his costly obedience Hosea gained a deeper, more robust understanding of what God was doing for all of us. He learned the high and painful cost of redemption and the absolutely detestable nature of sin.

And in the process he showed us something about Jesus, who would one day come as the greater-than-Hosea to redeem the Church, His bride, for Himself. He would come after us even as we were giving ourselves away to other lovers, pay a price for us, redeem us from our sin, and move us from captivity to freedom. He would move us from the category of sinner to the category of saint by doing something for us that we could not do for ourselves.

But the cost He paid was more than 15 shekels of silver and a bucket of barley, He poured out His holy blood on a rugged cross while people spit at Him and ridiculed Him and soldiers gambled for His clothes.

Eph 1:7 In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

So, let’s talk about the cost of our redemption. Let’s talk about the fact that “we have redemption through His blood” and where that comes from and what it means.

According to God, what we need to be redeemed from is sin. When we do what we want to do instead of what God says to do, it’s called sin. It’s the same thing when we don’t do what God says to do, that’s called sin too. And we can sin for a variety of reasons, it could be selfishness, it could be ignorance, it could be something big or something little, but God has a law, He says how things should be done and what should not be done, and when we break that law, it’s called sin.

And one of the things that is made clear from the beginning of the Bible to the end is that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood – redemption always involves effort or expense, right? But when it comes to redemption from sin, blood is always involved and that always means the death of a sacrifice.

Very early on in their history God had told the Jews

Lev 17:11 the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’

Blood was required for Jewish sacrifices, and the covenants were instituted with blood as well. Blood was involved when God provided a covering of animal skins to Adam and Eve as they left the Garden of Eden. When God made a covenant with Abraham it involved walking between animals that had been sacrificed. When God made a covenant with the people of Israel He gave them circumcision as a sign of the covenant and the process involved the shedding of blood as skin is cut away. Moses was told to sprinkle blood on the priests, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the tabernacle, as they were dedicated.

And of course, all of this pointed to the time when Jesus would shed His blood on the cross. Peter tells us

1 Pe 1:18 … you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Ok, but why? Do you ever ask that question?

God spoke the creation into being. He created galaxies and giraffes, electrons and elephants, stars and starfish, He made the sun and the moon and all the elements on the periodic chart. And the Bible says He just spoke it all into being. He said, “let there be light” and there was light. So, why not say, “let there be forgiveness” and there would be forgiveness?

Why all the trouble over this inconvenient and unsightly issue of blood? Why does anything or anyone have to die for my sins?

The answer is: because it helps us see the severity of sin.

Christians make a big deal about blood because God made a big deal about blood because blood helps us understand the magnitude of sin in graphic, visceral way.

Requiring blood to forgive us of sin helps us to see that sin is really that big of a deal.

We tend to minimize our sin, we excuse it, we dismiss it too lightly but God wants us to know it is a really, really big deal and there’s nothing that will make it go away or cover it up. Sin is worth dying over. Big sins, little sins, lots of sins or a few sins. A single sin cannot be covered without blood and that blood means life.

That is the reason why we can never redeem ourselves. We can’t afford it, we can’t do it. We don’t have what it takes to redeem ourselves fully in the eyes of God. We can reform ourselves, we can re-launch our identity, we can renew our appearance with Botox and other injections and cleansers and scrubs, we can rejuvenate ourselves with a little spa day or vacation, but no one can redeem himself in the eyes of God. We’ve fallen too far. How will you ever become holy on your own when

Heb 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Let’s say you have money, let’s say you have a lot of money – how much do you think you would have to pay to redeem someone for lying? For stealing? For adultery? What would it cost to redeem a sinful man? Does anyone have an exchange rate for sin vs. US dollars? Of course not. There is no such thing because according to the Scripture, it’s not a cost you could ever pay. We are not redeemed by silver or gold but by blood.

Think about this with me please, because the Bible says God has both – He has silver and gold, the Bible says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, that’s a way of communicating tremendous wealth in an agrarian society.

But God didn’t redeem us with wealth, He redeemed us with life, life was given so that life could be given.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

His death paid the ransom that set us free. His blood covered our sins. He redeemed us and gave us a new life. He moved us from one condition to another, better one, and He bore the expense, the effort and now we have been redeemed.

Eph 1:7 In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

So let’s take note of one last thing: our redemption, through His blood, includes the forgiveness of sins, according grace.

There’s another whole sermon bound up in this little word forgiveness. In fact, the whole gospel is wrapped up in this little word. It comes from a verb which means ‘to send away.’ But not to send you away, to send your guilt away, to send your addiction away, to send your doubt and worry and anger away. To send your sin away.

All of this is perfectly illustrated by a ceremony that God gave to the Jews, something they would do once a year on the Day of Atonement, the day when the High Priest would make a sacrifice for all the sins of the nation, on top of all the normal sacrifices people were making for themselves.

Aaron, the High Priest was told to take two goats and cast lots for them, that’s something like our idea of flipping a coin. One goat would become a sacrifice and the other would become the scapegoat – a term we still use today, and here’s why. The first goat would be sacrificed and it’s blood would be presented for the sins of the people. They would be reminded: sin brings death. Sin kills me and the only way for it to be covered is by it taking the life of someone else in my place.

Leviticus 16 says the High Priest was to kill the sacrificial goat as a sin offering for the people and sprinkle it’s blood on the mercy seat, part of the Ark of the Covenant, and the altar where the other sacrifices were made.

God was telling the Jews clearly: you are unclean. Your sin separates you from Me. And to remind you how big of deal that is, you need to kill something and use it’s blood as a covering. Yes it’s gruesome. Yes it’s gross. That’s the point. So is our sin.

But God is not a tyrant. He is merciful. After the sacrifice was made it was time to do something important with the second goat. We read in

Lev 16:21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

The ‘scapegoat’ was to be loaded up with all the sins of the people and carry those sins away into the wilderness where it, and they, would never be heard from again.

With these two goats, God was telling one story: I will redeem you and forgive you. When the blood is shed to cover your sins, you can confess your sins, list them, number them, bring them all out into the open, admit them, and I’ll take them all away. They’re dismissed. Forever.

But the forgiveness comes after redemption. The scape goat came after the sacrifice. And this is important lest we begin to think of grace and forgiveness as cheap. If blood were not involved, if a life was not required, we would think our sin isn’t such a big deal. And God wants us to know: it is a big deal. A really big deal. But, I am willing to pay the price, I am willing to extend the effort and bear the expense of your redemption. I am willing to forgive. But you can’t redeem yourself. You have to let Me redeem you.

So let’s make this personal as we close. Do you have this kind of redemption? Do you want this kind of redemption? Do you want God to move you from one condition in life, to another, better one? One characterized by forgiveness for your sins?

Then ask Him for redemption. Cry out to Him. Consider the words of the Psalms where David says:

Ps 69:16 ​​Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good;

Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.

17 ​​And do not hide Your face from Your servant,

For I am in trouble;

Hear me speedily.

18 ​​Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;

Deliver me because of my enemies.

Tell God you need Him. Ask Him to redeem you, ask Him to rescue you. Ask Him to pay for you and bring you home.

And then recognize what has happened. Confess your sins and lay them all on the head of Christ our scapegoat. He will carry them away never to be counted against us again. This is what God has done for us. It’s what He has made possible for us. At great personal expense, He has shed His own blood to redeem us from our sin and offer us forgiveness. That’s why the baby came to earth. That’s what we celebrate this Christmas season. Believe it, and receive it today.

Let’s pray.

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