Colossians 1:14: A note on ἀπολύτρωσις

Students in my class were assigned to propose a short biblical theology defining redemption based solely on the content found in the book of Colossians. In other words, what is redemption based just on the epistle. It is a short assignment meant to demonstrate the task of addressing biblical theology as opposed to systematic theology (a post for another time).

The task centers around 1:13-14 where Paul declares,

13   For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to
the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14   in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Immediately it becomes apparent that Paul describes what he means by the use of the term “redemption” when he adds the explanatory equivalent, “the forgiveness of our sins.”

The noun “redemption” is the term ἀπολύτρωσις which has an interesting background. BDAG notes that the term originally denoted the buying back of a slave or captive, and by extension, the making free by payment of a ransom. So the idea is of one being redeemed out of some form of bondage or slavery. This idea, coupled with the two verbs from verse 13, “rescued” and “transferred,” begins to help us see the beautiful concept of biblical redemption. Additional New Testament uses of ἀπολύτρωσις in key passages such as Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7 and Hebrews 9:15 help round out the doctrine in the New Testament.

What we often gloss over is that this wonderful doctrine is a present reality! Paul says, “in whom we have redemption.” We are redeemed!

Redeemed–how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child, and forever, I am.

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Categories: ἀπολύτρωσις, Colossians, Redemption, Salvation, Theology

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