ReThink everything you thought you Knew

A Brief Theology of Salvation

In the NT, one of the most frequent and fundamental images used to depict our salvation is “redemption.” The root of this term lytron means a “ransom” or “price of release,” and the term itself (apolytrosis) was used as a kind of technical term for the purchase of a slave. If we apply this to believers, then our salvation consists in being freed from a form of slavery.

We are set free from slavery to sin and guilt (Rom 6:7) as well as from the law as a way of trying to acquire righteousness before God (Gal 2:16). But the most fundamental reality we are set free from is the devil. We were slaves to sin and condemnation primarily because we were slaves to Satan. In “redeeming us” out of this slavery, in rescuing us out of this kingdom (Col 1:13; Gal 1:4), Christ in principle bought us out of every other form of slavery as well. The price of this redemption, was “not … perishable things like silver or gold, but … the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18). For this reason, Jesus describes his life as a “ransom” (lytros, Mk 10:45; Matt 20:28).

Christ was willing to do whatever it took—to pay whatever “price” was necessary—in order to defeat the tyrant who had enslaved us and thereby to set us free. What it took was nothing less than the Son of God becoming a man and dying a hellish death on the cross.

In some mysterious way, this event “disarmed,” drove out,” “tied up,” “condemned” and “destroyed” the “god of this age” who had held us in slavery (Col 2:15; Jn 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 2:14). It thereby enthroned the Son of God as rightful king of his Father’s universe. And it therefore spelled freedom, liberation, redemption and complete salvation for all those previously enslaved subjects who were willing to receive it.

The cross and resurrection were not first and foremost about us. They were about overcoming evil. From a NT perspective, evil is something much greater, much more powerful and much more pervasive than what transpires in our relatively small lives, on our relatively small segment of the cosmos, by means of our relatively small will. This is not to suggest that we are ourselves are not evil, for the NT concludes that, apart from Christ, we are (Eph 2:1). We needed a high priest to enter into the sanctuary and offer up a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 10:10-14). Christ made this offering, effecting our salvation.

But Christ did this only because he did something even more fundamental: he dealt a death blow to Satan and recaptured his rightful rule over the whole creation. Evil can be overcome in our life only because the “evil one” who previously ruled the cosmos has himself in principle been overcome. We are set free only because the entire cosmos has in principle been set free from the one who had previously enslaved it. And we are reconciled to God only because the entire cosmos, and the whole of the spiritual realm, has in principles been reconciled to God.

—Adapted from God at War, pages 265-267

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A Brief Theology of Salvation