Redemption and Forgiveness

Pastor Michael Bowman

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

There is a sense in which spiritual slavery is inevitable. You have two options: You can be a slave to sin or you can be a slave to Christ. There is no middle ground, and there is no neutrality. In our father Adam and in following after his ways, we have sold ourselves down river to the cruel taskmaster called sin. He is harsh and malevolent. Even more than that, being enslaved to sin allows for mistreatment in the spiritual realm. It puts us in the domain of darkness, the kingdom of the prince of the power of the air, where rulers and authorities (think demonic spirits) can ravage our souls, discourage faith, and deceive us in all manner of ways. 

When Christ came to establish his kingdom, the domain of darkness lost its grip. He set us free from slavery to sin, making us instead slaves of righteousness, and in doing so he was transferring us into his kingdom. We are still subjects but to a different King, and this one is worthy of our allegiance. He also, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). Literally he led them around in a victory parade. By rising from the dead, Christ put to shame all the spiritual powers that stood against him and his people. As a foretaste of this work in his earthly ministry, Jesus would cast out demons wherever he went freeing people from spiritual bondage (Mk. 1:39). 

All of this was part of his redemption of his people. To redeem means to buy back something, and it was a term regularly used of slaves. If someone had to sell themselves into slaverly due to their debts, someone else could buy them back or redeem them. Christ redeemed us in order that we might be his slaves, and this is true freedom. 

How did he accomplish this? The text printed above answers the question. It was through the forgiveness of our sins that redemption took place. In other words it was through Christ’s payment on the cross, the satisfaction of our debt, that we can be forgiven. So God’s forgiveness actually brings us into a new kingdom where we are given a new master, and in doing so, gives us true and lasting freedom. I said there is a sense in which we are still slaves, and that is true. But the reality of our position in the kingdom of God’s beloved Son is much more than that. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn. 8:34-35). Later to his disciples he added, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:14-15). You may have once been slaves to sin under the domain of darkness but through forgiveness you are now slaves of Christ which means you have been set free and are made friends of the Son.