Exagora is one form of a
We can trace it back to the original Greek translation of Galatians 3:13 which says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’”
That’s a hard teaching. Christ had to take the curse on Himself to save us 2,000 years ago—a sacrifice of eternal significance.
What Does Exagora Mean?
The Greek word exhgorasen means “to buy back from” or “to ransom.” It’s the word used for “redeemed” in the verse above. Christians have been bought back from someone; purchased out of a situation. Our redemption cost something and rescued us from somewhere.
Where did we come from, who bought us, and what did our redemption cost? What were we redeemed for?
1. Origins: At the time of Creation, we lived in perfect unity with God. At the Fall, we wrecked God’s perfect plan. Each person now inherits a sinful nature.
2. Bought by: Christ paid the price for all repentant sinners to be reconciled to God for all time.
3. Cost: The very blood of God’s only Son was the only sufficient payment for the full pardon of all believers.
4. Redeemed for: We were ransomed to restore our original relationship with the Father for eternity; “unbroken fellowship with God, unparalleled intimacy with each other.” Not only are we redeemed, but Jesus will “completely restore a fallen world.”
Roman Slaves; Slaves to Sin
Paul wrote using language his readers and listeners would understand. They knew the legal realities of slavery. Paul used familiar imagery as a way to demonstrate redemption from spiritual slavery.
1. Legal Slavery: The 1st Century AD was “a time when many a private citizen in Rome owned several hundreds of slaves.” People were purchased by their owners and were employed in every conceivable capacity as household servants, cooks, bathmen, gardeners, grooms, kennel-keepers, porters, doorkeepers, messengers, secretaries, amanuenses, teachers, librarians, architects, carpenters, shoemakers” and more. They came to be slaves by birth, as prisoners of war, voluntarily to pay a debt, and in other ways.
2. Spiritual: Before believing in Christ for salvation, we were all “slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6) Each of us is obedient to either our flesh or to Christ without exception, and either sin or Christ owns us. We come to be slaves because of the Fall in Genesis 3. Everyone is born a sinner.8
Freed from Slavery; Freed from Sin
It was also possible for one to be bought out of slavery, freed to obey and follow the former master, or to seek a new life.
1. Freed from Slavery: The Lord’s law gives numerous instructions to slaves and slave owners. Slaves might become free when they paid a debt, in the Year of Jubilee, at the discretion of their masters, when their masters had treated them barbarically, and so on. Slaves were to serve their masters obediently. Once freed, a person could also pledge himself to his master for life.
2. Spiritually Freed: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Although Christ redeems us, it’s by choosing Him as our Lord that we experience true freedom. The exagora is this exchange: Christ’s blood for our freedom, leading to freedom to choose Christ.
Christ bought us out of slavery to sin because we cannot pay our own debt. But, we were not purchased unconditionally. God’s gift does not supply universal freedom; only freedom for those who recognize they are sinners in need of a Savior. To rebel against God is to choose Satan who will always hold us in bondage. We cannot appeal to his better nature—he doesn’t have one.
Freedom or Bondage?
Often, slavery to sin resembles freedom. We think we are at liberty to go our own way, we won’t be owned by anyone. What about civil liberties; human rights? It’s just so offensive to imagine that anyone can own us.
But we are always going Satan’s way when we are not going God’s way.
Exchanging bondage to sin for bondage to Christ is not like becoming someone’s property in the earthly sense. God is not like earthly masters who cheat, humiliate, abuse, and break their slaves. Choosing bondage to the Lord and receiving the Holy Spirit seals us for eternity with Christ. We are ransomed into the protection and warmth of family—His family—for life. We receive the same inheritance as Jesus, becoming co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17).
Christians join the family they always wanted; the one no earthly example can fully represent, no matter how loving.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/RomoloTavani
Are We Still in Bondage?
If the exagora set us free, then why does Paul call us “slaves of Christ, doing the will of God?” (Ephesians 6:6) You have to serve someone and it’s either going to be God or sin. Even believers are lured back into sin every day.
The world tells us that we shouldn’t be slaves to anyone, that we should look within ourselves for identity, purpose, and direction. Yet, every person is a slave to some kind of Master: to an addictive substance, a bad habit, a toxic relationship, or an emotional cycle. Anger, self-pity, self-righteousness, arrogance, wanting to have control, wanting to be needed: these will drive us and hurt us if we’re not careful. They are sinful in their own right and can lead us into temptation to commit other sins. Out of self-pity, anger, or arrogance we abuse other people. We reject God’s Sovereignty and forget His goodness.
When we turn to Christ to be Master over us, we reject sin. We remember God’s Lordship and His goodness.
Only Christ leads us to the Father—to His glory. Good works won’t take me there. Being nice won’t lead me to Christ. I can’t exalt myself and receive the peace of Christ.
Exchanging my glory for His is an invitation for the Holy Spirit to equip me to withstand temptation. If slavery to God makes me a better worshiper, one who resembles Christ more and more, who can rest in Him and is able to love others in spite of my sinful tendency towards self-love, I’ll take it.
Our Freedom Matters to Christ
Paul wrote to Philemon from prison on behalf of a runaway slave Onesimus: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” (Philemon 1:15-16)
We cannot be reconciled to Christ as slaves, compelled to do God’s will and obey Him. Our relationship with Him must be based on a choice so that we can give ourselves to the Lord entirely. Paul’s exhortation above, from Ephesians 6, ends with “doing the will of God from your heart.” (Ephesians 6:6)
Obey, not because you have to—because you want to.
If we had not been purchased out of slavery, we could not have freely come to God in our brokenness. God could have left us in our state of futility and depravity. He was complete in the Trinity. But He loves us and wants to be reconciled to us. As a holy God, however, He will only be satisfied by our willing devotion.
Why Do Freed Men and Women Still Sin?
- The exagora reminds us we were bought out of slavery, purchased for God by Christ. One day we will experience the joy of living in the kingdom of God where we will worship and serve perfectly. In the meantime, we “continue to struggle with our own temptations.” God is still sanctifying us, making us more like Jesus as a testimony to His glory. The amount of refinement we undergo relates to our submission to the process.
- Living out this process publicly is part of God’s plan for making disciples.
- I think we continue to sin partly because of our broken nature, but partly because we forget what the exagora cost. This forgetfulness is yet another part of our brokenness and also part of our humanness. Sometimes we have to forget in order to remember, and then our spiritual reality hits us with appropriate force.