Hi. I’m Will Costello and I am a slave. I am an American, a college graduate, and a slave! I was once an abused slave under a horrible master. The good news is that a new master has bought me. He is gracious and kind. He purchased me with His own blood and granted me an inheritance with Him that is out of this world (Romans 8:17). If you’ve made it this far, please allow me to inform you that you too are a slave!
But before you charge me with name-calling, let’s discover upon what facts I make my claim.
Fact #1—No One Is Born Free, All Are Born into Bondage
Have you ever felt owned or controlled by an influence inside of you that is not you? If the answer is “yes,” it’s because your feelings have led you well—it’s because you are a slave! This accounts for why you often do what you wish you had not done and fail to do what you wish you had done (like Romans 7:14ff). Have you faced the reality that the human experience is one of bondage, not of freedom? That’s because it is. Remember, you are a slave.
Prison-break stories always seem to make the headlines! There is something deep within the human experience that connects with the plight of the prisoner longing to be free—whether or not he is actually innocent. Ever wonder why that is? Could it be that somewhere in our consciousness, we know that we too are prisoners and we are not innocent (Ecclesiastes 7:20)?
We can all agree that life on planet earth is no paradise; worse, it’s a prison yard. The earth is a prison for human hostages! If you believe in the Bible as the “true words of God” (Revelation 19:9), then you will easily see that it was because of the major enslaving influence of sin into the human gene-pool that the entire human population was thrust underneath a dreadful curse (Romans 5:12), the enslaving power of sin (John 8:34), the rule of Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3), and certain bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yes, in your natural condition, you are, like everyone else, a slave!
Biblically and historically, Adam and Eve were born free in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27), but their freedom died by one bite of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16–17; 3:1–5). On that fateful day, sin entered and commandeered our planet and its people. Sin turned image-bearers into prisoners and roses into thorn bushes! Like a band of pirates hijacking a foreign ship, sin’s takeover of humanity was total. Sin in the heart of humankind is the undoing of everything good (Jeremiah 17:9–10). People now exist in a wasteland of misery filled with sickness, suffering, and death. Oh, the tyranny of sin’s piracy over our race! Rebels with a cause against The Creator enslaved the race. So “thanks” to Adam, you are a slave.
So where does this history leave you? Let me be blunt: you were born a slave to sin and under the rule of Satan, and apart from divine grace, you will die a slave and spend eternity with him. I know this offends your pride. You’ve been told that you were born free and that you are a good person, but you’ve been lied to (Romans 3:10–12).
God will never lie to you (Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2). God says you were conceived in sin and born a slave (Psalm 51:5). It is natural to balk at this, insisting, “I am no slave!” If that is your response, you are not the first. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did the same when Jesus told them the truth about themselves (John 8:30–36). “We have never been enslaved to anyone,” they insisted with offended pride (John 8:33). But Jesus told them they were slaves twice—sin’s slaves (John 8:34) and Satan’s slaves (John 8:44). Sin, by the way, is any breaking of the holy law of God (1 John 3:4).
Fact #2 – Freedom’s Price is Too Costly For You To Pay
In the ancient world, everyone was familiar with slavery. The Roman Empire commanded millions of slaves. Slaves were as common as bread and were referred to by some as “human tools.” A man could become a human tool a few different ways: he was the offspring of a slave, he was captured as a prisoner of war, or he voluntarily sold himself into slavery in order to pay off debt—either personal or familial.
Because money spoke louder than anything to slave owners, slaves could purchase their own freedom at a price. This meant that a hard-working slave, given enough time, could legally pay for his own freedom. Freedom could be bought; all it took was meeting the ransom price. Can spiritual ransom be bought and paid for as well? Can a man write a big enough check to the church or give away enough possessions in order to liberate his soul from sin and death?
Psalm 49:7–8 says,
7 No man can by any means redeem his brother
Or give to God a ransom for him—
8 For the redemption of his soul is costly,
And he should cease trying forever.
The Psalmist said redemption is “costly.” Even one’s own freedom cannot be bought. But the Psalmist had confidence that there was another who could make the purchase and thereby save his soul from death. Psalm 49:15 concludes,
15 But God [the Mighty One] will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol (or death),
For He will receive me.
You see, we cannot work our way out of sin’s vice grip or pay our way out of death’s choke-hold. As much as we would want to, we cannot pay for the release of a brother or sister either. Sin has an overpowering hold on all of humanity. Because we are finite, we cannot appease the righteous expectations of an infinitely holy God. Anything less than perfection will not do (Matthew 5:48). Therefore, left on our own, we remain prisoners to “him who has the power of death, that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). We are left in bondage to the fear of death all of our lives (Hebrews 2:15). Our condition is dire. Sin’s damages are infinite and require a ransom price that is simply out of our price range. Our crime is against God Himself! Such a ransom would have to be of infinite value. We are out of lifelines. Can there be some other way?
Fact #3 – There is One Who Can Ransom Captives From Sin and Satan—Jesus
Good news, friend. Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, came to this earth from heaven specifically to be our ransom! He came to set prisoners free (Isaiah 61:1–3). The infinite price you could not pay—Jesus came to pay it for you! Mark 10:45 states, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to offer His life a ransom for many.” The infinite ransom was paid—Jesus (being both God and man) paid it for the believing sinner! That is why the believing people of God are called the “flock of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
1 Peter 1:18-19 says,
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
How can this be? Surely, it sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?
The truth is that it is too good to be true, and it is called grace! Grace is God’s undeserved favor and love shown to us in Christ. God, in Christ, graciously suffered on the sinner’s behalf and even in the sinner’s place! The little Greek word anti (translated “for” in Mk 10:45) is an important word. This word is used to describe the exchange of two equivalents. Jesus and the sinner are equivalent in their shared humanity—both are fully human. Think about it like this: Jesus is on the free side of the slave gallery and the guilty sinner is shackled among the slaves. Or, you could imagine the sinner as being in his prison cell of sin and Satan as the warden. Either way, Jesus is in a very good position, but the sinner is not.
Now, imagine…Jesus—the Beloved of Heaven, the Innocent One—willingly accepts His Father’s rescue operation (John 3:16-17) by willingly substituting Himself in the stead of the guiltily, dying in his place (1 Peter 3:18)! Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. In this unbelievable exchange, Jesus voluntarily substitutes Himself for the sinner! His shed blood paid it all: “through his own blood, He entered the holy place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). This is why He groaned, “it is finished,” just before He died. He was paying in full for the believing sinner’s freedom while loosening sin’s vice grip.
It’s the greatest story ever told. And it’s a true story. The Ransom brings the release! Think of it again. In this most astonishing purchase, the King becomes the benefactor, the King’s blood the ransoming price (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:5-6), and the believing sinner the beneficiary (1 Peter 2:24). Upon release, the former slave now belongs to the One who bought Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). He is free to enjoy His royal slavery with Jesus as His new master, One whose yoke is paradoxically easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:29).
Through the blood of His cross, the sinner is both expiated (or cleansed) from sin’s guilt and liberated from sin’s captivity. In the Just One’s death, the believing captive is released, justice is satisfied, and divine grace is glorified! The Just in the place of the unjust is just (Romans 3:26)—only through faith in Jesus.
This is the good news of Jesus Christ. Slaves of sin and Satan can become royal slaves of God! “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me,” wrote Charles Wesley. Chris Tomlin wrote of his personal release from sin’s bondage this way,
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.
Have you escaped your bondage to the fear of death? Has the choke-hold of death’s grip been released from you? Have you come to the Only One who can set the prisoner free and release your soul to God? If you have, praise His glorious grace! If you have not, come home today! Come home to Jesus. The front door of heaven is open, the porch light is on, the Father is waiting for you—come! Come to the Father through Jesus the Son. Flee from your sin and fall upon the mercy offered to you in Jesus Christ, the Ransom for many. Come to Jesus now. Come while there is still time. The Ransom waits for you.