Salvation: a marketplace view

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 7: The Salvation of Sinners

Imagine yourself in an olden days marketplace, busy with transactions. Everyone has something to sell, something to trade, something to buy. You can smell the sweat of the dozens of bodies clamoring about you, the spices sold by a caravan of traders, animal offal, and the odor of something being cooked. People press in, jostling you, hurrying to see what each vendor is offering. You hear a vendor calling out, drawing attention to her wares. Others are haggling. Still others stand aside, gossiping.

A man is being sold to the highest bidder. The borrower is slave to the lender, but the lender has no use for a slave. He must be sold to repay his debt. Eager bidders raise the price higher and higher.

A relative rushes up before the sale is complete–and enters the fray. He will pay his relative’s debt–will redeem him from his slavery.


The word has almost lost its meaning in the world in which we live. Generally, we speak of redeeming a coupon–not redeeming a person. The word has none of the connotations it would have had for a first century audience.

Perhaps a more apt word for today’s audience would be ransom. After all, to redeem is to release from captivity by the payment of a ransom. Ransom still holds that key element–the payment of a price to release one from captivity.

Of course, our use of ransom generally refers to a price paid to a kidnapper–to someone who has illegitimately held another captive. Redemption has somewhat different connotations. Redemption implies a payment to free one from a captivity, a debt, an obligation that he legitimately bears.

There are four critical components to every act of redemption. First, there is the object or person that is to be redeemed. Second, there is the fate the object or person is to be redeemed from. Third, there is the price that must be paid to redeem the object or person from such a fate. And finally, but most importantly, there is the subject–the person who is to pay the price and do the redeeming.

The Old Testament uses the language of redemption to anticipate the Messiah. The New Testament uses this marketplace vocabulary of redemption to describe the completed work of the Messiah.

It is worthwhile to explore how these elements of redemption correspond to salvation.

Who is redeemed?

Galatians 4:4-5 says that Christ was born under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law

In Revelation 5:9, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing that the Lamb has redeemed those “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.

Jesus came to redeem people, those who were under the law, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He came to redeem all those His Father had given Him (John 6:37-40).

What are they redeemed from?

Galatians 3:13 says that we are redeemed from the curse of the law. Titus 2:14 says that we were redeemed from lawless deeds. I Peter 1:18 says that we were redeemed from aimless traditions.

We who have been redeemed were redeemed from the curse of the law, from slavery to sin, and from the law’s requirements (by which we were unable to obtain salvation).

With what are they redeemed?

There is little doubt in Scripture as to the price with which we have been redeemed. Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12, I Peter 1:18-19, and Revelation 5:9 all affirm that we have been affirmed with the blood of Christ–His life poured out in death.

Who does the redeeming?

God Himself has redeemed us through Jesus Christ. In doing so, He established His lordship over us, His church, whom He has bought with His own blood.

“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 at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
I Corinthians 6:19-20

“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Romans 6:18

We, those who have been chosen by God, people from every race and ethnicity and persuasion, have been bought out of slavery to sin by the blood of Christ. Now, we are no longer slaves to sin, but are slaves to God, to serve Him who has bought us out of bondage.

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)

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