Cans, Coupons and Christians
Text: Ephesians 1:7 – 10
By: Ken McKinley
When Presidents leave office one of the last acts they usually perform are Presidential pardons. Sometimes people agree with the Presidential pardons, but I would dare say that most of the time, us regular folks don’t. Every once in-awhile the President gets it right and the right people will be set free (like President Bush’s clemency of Ramos and Compean), but again I would say that more often than not the pardons given by our Presidents cause a bit of a stir; and when we hear about them or read about them in the paper, you might feel slighted or even angry. Most of the people that a President will pardon are guilty as can be, and that is why sometimes we do get upset.
Now let me just tell you before we get too deep into this sermon, if the idea of pardoning guilty criminals bothers you, even in the slightest way, then our passage this morning might make you feel a little bit uncomfortable.
Now we’ve been talking about God’s love and the various ways that His love is shown to us, and displayed. Our text begins by saying that in Him, we have redemption. That word “redemption” is a word that we don’t use too much today. The meaning of it has been lost by most people today. It’s been replaced by words like “recycle” or “refund.”
When I was a kid we used to save our aluminum cans so that we could redeem them. I think we would get something like 10 or 15 cents a can – I don’t really remember; but I do remember that we would save every can we came across throughout the year, and at one point during the year (around November) we would take all those cans in and redeem them. In other words we would take them in and the scrap yard would buy them back from us.
In the Bible the idea of redemption came from ancient warfare. Captives were made slaves and put to work. Some of those captives however were important people in their homeland, and so the homeland would bargain with the country or kingdom that held them captive, and eventually a ransom would be paid. There are 3 Greek words in the New Testament that help us understand redemption.
The first one is agoradzoo. This word literally means to buy from the market. And it had to do with buying a slaves freedom from their owner. We see it being used in Revelation chapter 5:9 (read). So we can see that Christians are like slaves being bought at an auction block. We have been bought with a great price.
The next word is almost the same: exagoradzoo: It not only means to be bought but to be taken out of the slavery. We see this in Galatians 4:4-5 (read). That word “redeem” means to be bought out of slavery, bought away from our previous owner, and then set free. We have been bought with a great price and set free from the curse of the law. But this word we see in our text; the word “redemption” actually goes one step further. It is the Greek word Apolutrosis, and it not only means to be bought from our former master, and it not only means to be set free, but it’s talking about paying a ransom, a high price.
Turn with me to John 8:34-36 (read). Hebrews 9:12 says, “Not with the blood of goats and claves, but with His own blood He entered the most holy place, once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
That is the same thing that Paul is saying here in our text.
“We have redemption through His blood…” then he goes on to say that we have been redeemed, that we have been bought back, away from our old master sin, but that we have forgiveness. You see redemption isn’t complete without pardon. Freedom without pardon is clemency. But a pardon is a declaration of “not guilty.” I mentioned the two border patrol agents Ramos and Compean. They were granted clemency, not pardon. In other words President Bush said in effect, “Time served.” But they still have a criminal record. A pardon wipes the record away. It gives the person who has been pardoned a clean slate.
I once heard someone say that if man’s greatest need in life was pleasure, then God would’ve sent an entertainer. If man’s greatest need was money, then God would’ve sent a financial consultant. If man’s greatest need would have been information, God would’ve sent a professor. But God in His infinite wisdom knew that man’s greatest need was forgiveness of sins, and so He sent a Savior. And in that Savior we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins – and look at the last part of vs. 7 “according to the riches of His grace.” What that means is that God gives in direct proportion to His wealth. He didn’t give just a little bit; no, He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus didn’t just prick His finger and spill a little drop or two of His blood. He endured savage beatings at the hands of Roman soldiers, He endured having a crown of thorns shoved down onto His brow, He endured being nailed to a cross.
We call this God’s grace. Undeserved favor. We deserved those things Jesus endured. But God redeems us through that blood that Jesus shed, and forgives us, and its in accordance with the riches of His grace. In other words, God has heaped His grace on us. It’s an overflowing gift. “Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound.” And so not only did God wipe the slate clean, He keeps wiping it. Every time we mark it up, grace is present to wipe it clean again.
Verse 8 tells us that this all part of God’s plan. God is infinitely wise. I’ve met some wise people in my life. You can learn a lot from them; but if you were to take all the wise men and women that are living on this earth, and all the wise men and women that have EVER lived on this earth, all of their wisdom would be less than a drop in the ocean when compared to God’s wisdom.
Paul says that in His wisdom, God has made known to us the mystery of His will. Paul’s not talking about Professor Plum in the kitchen with a candle-stick here. In-fact the Greek language Paul is using here goes way beyond a mystery. It’s actually something that with all of our earthly wisdom, both past and present, God’s will is something that we would have never, EVER been able to figure out. But God has made it known to us. It was His pleasure to reveal it to us.
So what is the mystery? Paul doesn’t tell us here. We actually have to jump ahead a few chapters to Ephesians 3:2-6 to find out. Lets turn there (Read Eph. 3:2-6). Now to us today, this may not sound like that big of a deal; that we gentiles, people who are not Jewish, fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of God’s promises. But to Paul and the people of his time this was breaking news, covered by all the major networks. Up until Christ’s death, burial and resurrection the promises of God were believed to belong only to the people of Israel. But now it was revealed that all types of people can be saved, all types of people can be forgiven, all types of people can be redeemed, all types of people can be made right with God. That’s why the Bible tells us in Romans that not all Israel is Israel, but those of the faith of Abraham are the Israel of God. That’s why the Bible tells us that “whosoever” believes will have eternal life. God has brought His salvation to all nations and to all men and to all types of people. This was unthinkable in Paul’s day. No one would’ve ever even dreamed God was planning on doing this.
Turn with me quickly to Romans 8:18 – 23 (read).
The purpose of God which He has chosen to reveal to us is His will to re-unite all things under Christ.
You see; sometimes our view is so limited we don’t see the bigger picture. We focus so much on ourselves and we sometimes forget that God’s plans are much bigger than ours. That’s why the scribes and Pharisees missed it when Jesus came the first time.
Now I started this sermon by saying that if you have a problem with Presidents pardoning criminals then you might have a problem with our text. I think that most people would agree that criminals should pay for their crimes. Freedom is a privilege that is forfeited by a persons criminal actions. I feel the same way. We all believe in some form of justice, we all want justice to be served. At least until it comes time for it to be served on us.
You see; when we look at this passage of Scripture we should come face to face with our own redemption. Some of the people in our prisons have done some serious things. They have committed a crime, or maybe even several crimes. But my imprisonment came initially because of Adam, but also because of my own disobedience to God’s law. And because of that I became imprisoned by the law, I was a slave to sin. And so were you. For those who have received a Presidential pardon, their freedom came through a signature on a piece of paper. My freedom came at a much greater cost. My pardon came written in the blood of the One whose laws I had broken. I was the one who offended Him, but He was the One who died for those offenses.
I think that all Presidential pardons would stop immediately if the President had to loose a child in order to sign those pardons.
We should never forget the love that God shows us through our redemption. It cost Him so much more than just a year of collecting cans or clipping coupons.
INVITATION AND PRAYER