BOUGHT WITH A PRICE
September 12, 2004
There is a phrase at the end of I Corinthians 6 which really is at the root of what we have been singing about this morning. Paul says in verses 19 and 20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Sprit within you, whom you have from God?” And then here is the phrase, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.”
When Paul used that phrase he was using a picture which would have been so familiar to these readers. He was using a commercial term, or a business term, that the Corinthians would have known so well. In every ancient city, including Corinth, there was a marketplace. It was called the Agora. In Corinth parts of the monuments and temples in that marketplace still exist. There was a synagogue near the marketplace, for example, and an inscription from it is in a museum now. There was theatre in the corner of the marketplace which had an inscription on it which referred to Erastus, the friend of the apostle Paul whom he mentions in Romans 16:23. The marketplace consisted of the meat market, which Paul refers to in I Cor. 8, 9, and 10. There were other kinds of shops or places where different farmers or merchants sold their goods to anyone who came by. But in the marketplace, there were also several temples to various idols that people superstitiously worshipped. And there were statues or images or altars to those idols. Very often when things were bought in the marketplace, it was with the view toward doing some sort of service to one of the “gods.”
YOU WERE BOUGHT
If you took that word “Agora” and turned it into its verb form, then it meant to go to the market or to buy something at the market. So Paul turns to these Corinthian Christians and he says to them, “You were bought with a price.” Bought – that word which meant “go to the market” - is used here for something that God has done. God has gone to the market and bought someone to be his very own.
There is a great Old Testament picture to this idea that is involved in words that are usually translated “to redeem” or “to ransom” something. In the Old Testament, you may remember, there was a role played by something called a “kinsman redeemer.” If a family owned a parcel of ground, and, if through hard times or through some sort of unexpected trouble, they lost possession of that precious inheritance of land that was theirs, A kinsman redeemer could buy it back for the family. If someone had a firstborn animal which was devoted to the Lord, and if it were a donkey or an unclean animal, then he could go redeem that animal so that it would still belong to the family. There were other ways in which that happened.
Here is a situation where the one who does the buying is God. God bought something. Now, what did he buy? Well, Paul says “you” were bought with a price. He is writing, according to chapter 1, verses 1 and 2, to “the church of God at Corinth.” The church has been bought with a price. Now this is not the only passage, of course, which refers to that fact. In Acts 20:28, we find referred to “the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” Some versions will translate it there “the church of God which he purchased (or obtained) with the blood of his very own (that is his very own Son).”
The idea that the church is bought, that it belongs to the Lord, is central to the message of the New Testament. In Revelation 5:9-10 John refers to those people who have been purchased with the blood. These people, according to Revelation 1:5-6, have been set free from their sins. People who have been set free from their sins are the ones who have been bought. People who have been bought have been set free from their sins. The Lord bought his church. His church is people who have been redeemed or set free or turned loose from their awful burden of sin.
Third, we might notice here “you were bought with a price.” You know the price, don’t you? In Galatians 4:4 this same term that means “to buy” is used here. It says that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem (to buy) those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” God sent his Son into the flesh in order to buy something for him. In Galatians 3:13 the apostle Paul explains further, again using this same term: “Christ redeemed (that is, paid the price to buy us) from the curse of the law.” The curse of the law was if you break the law, you pay the penalty of death. “To redeem us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. (How did he do that?) For it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” How did Jesus pay the price to buy us back from the curse of the law? By dying for us on the cross.
In I Peter 1:18-19, it is explained a little more fully even than it is here. Again the idea of buying with a price is used. The passage says that those who have come to the Lord as obedient children are to live their lives now in holiness and it explains, “knowing that you were ransomed (that is, you were bought with a price) from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold (that is, not with just money), but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
God’s action is that he has bought something to be his own – his own precious possession. What he bought was a people – the church of the Lord. How he bought it is at the high cost of the blood of his own Son.
Now what does that line of thought mean for how you and I should go about living our lives? What should we do about the fact that we have been bought with a price? What I would like to do is take us to the five passages where this particular term helps us to focus on the thought and make some applications from them.
The first one, of course, is here in I Corinthians 6. It is in a passage which is dealing with the need for moral purity in the lives of the Lord’s people, and especially with regard to our use of our bodies. The Bible says, “You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” And if you will remember the thought of the marketplace, I think it helps to shed light on what Paul is saying in this passage. Remember that I mentioned that at the marketplace there were these various temples to pagan idols and that people would go there and buy things and somehow attach themselves to those various idols. Paul makes the point in this passage that if someone who has been bought with the price of the blood of God’s son goes out and joins his body to some other person in an act of sexual immortality, that person is taking what belongs to Christ and joining it to a harlot. And Paul is reasoning here that moral purity is necessary, we are to glorify God in our behavior and in our conduct because we have been bought with a price. If God owns us, then we should use our bodies to honor him and respect him and glorify him, and not to dishonor him or to disregard his will for our lives. Paul says in I Thess. 4 that his will for our lives is sanctification. That means holiness or purity. And that is something all of us should pursue.
A second application of this principle occurs in the next chapter in I Cor. at verse 23. In this place you notice that Paul says, “You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.” The principle that Paul is laying down here had to do with whether someone who was married to somebody who was a servant of some pagan God and this person becomes a Christian. Does the pagan partner then have the right to force the Christian partner to give up Christ? And Paul is saying, “No, this unbeliever does not have that right because when a person is bought by God, he leaves the possession of that idol and he becomes the property of the God of heaven, and he is a new creature. And no one then has the right to enslave or to hold in bondage someone who is a servant of Christ.” In Romans 6:17-18, the apostle Paul makes the great statement, “But thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to that standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Since no man can serve two masters, if the Lord is my master, then I am not to let anybody else, or any habit, or anything else, enslave me. I belong to him and I am to be loyal and true to him.
A third way in which this idea appears in scripture has to do with our obligation to teach what is true. In II Peter 2:1 the apostle Paul uses our word which meant “to buy with a price” again. He said, “But false prophets also arose from among the people.” Notice that this chapter begins with the word “but.” It is interesting that at the end of chapter 2 Peter has just described the absolute certainty of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus. Peter has said we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (1:16). “We heard with our own ears when God said ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’ (v. 17, 18). We have something even more sure, and that is the word of prophecy, because no prophecy of scripture was ever just someone’s own interpretation but instead holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Sprit. It is true! But, “some go out as false prophets,” he says, “just as there will be false teachers among you who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” he says. We have been bought with a price. Therefore, we want to be loyal to the way of truth. We want to hold to what we know is sure and right. That is what we have to do since we have been bought with a price.
Fourth, since we have been bought with a price, we are under obligation to fulfill our ministry. In Acts 20:28, Paul was speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus. These men were apparently very precious to him. He urged them, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained (or purchased or bought with a price) with his own blood.” If the church is the Lord’s, bought with a price, then we are to be motivated, if we serve as elders, to fulfill our ministry. The same principle would apply to all of us who respect the fact that the Lord has purchased the church for himself. If we are members of the body, then we are to fulfill our ministry, doing what we can to love people, to teach them the Lord’s word, and to help people get to heaven.
And then if we have been bought with a price, we anticipate worship in spirit and in truth. In Rev. 5:9-10, John sees a picture of the lamb standing and the lamb stands by the one who is seated on the throne, and everybody present – the 24 elders, the 4 living creatures – “burst forth in a great song, a new song, and they say ‘worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed (you bought) people from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” There is the mainspring of faithful, devoted worship. It comes from the fact that we have been bought with a price.
Here’s what we have said. God has gone to the market, and at the price of his own Son, bought a people for his own possession. Because of that we are to live morally pure lives, we are to be loyal to Jesus only, we are to hold to the way of the truth, we are to fulfill our ministry, and we are to anticipate that day when around the throne we join in this new song. We are to do that by worshiping faithfully in the here and now.
When Paul went to that great city of Ephesus in Acts 18, he very likely went to that same marketplace that I have been referring to. The Bible says that at Corinth, as Paul taught the gospel, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8) Those people were bought. If I, hearing, believe and am baptized into Christ today, then I am purchased with a price. If I am willing, today I can be God’s possession. If I have made that beginning, then like these people who received this letter, I want to live as I have been bought with a price.
If we can help you in some way to take steps in that direction today, would you not let it be known right now while we stand and sing together?