Warning: the following is not for the fainthearted! The reader is approaching an actual word study which will involve the discussion of not only English, but Latin, Greek, and Hebrew terms as well! To avoid exposure to such academics (and the possibility of becoming enamored with such processes), read no further!!
You did anyway! Well, you can’t say that I didn’t warn you. Just in case you didn’t take me seriously, I’ll give you the punch line now: the blood of Jesus Christ has loosed us from sin and its consequences of death and division and has opened up to us the revelation of God’s ultimate destiny for us—which is to reign with Him as priests in the kingdom of God. That is what this chapter is all about. Feel free to move on to the next one, if you like. If the dangers of a word study don’t frighten you, continue reading this one to see how we got there.
But the Meaning of the Root Is…
In a word study, it is not the particular book of the Bible, or narrative, or parable, or even a global concept that is important. Instead, focus is brought to bear on a particular word in the text and what its meaning and uses are. Doing a word study is easy. One finds the word in the original language and simply follows it through the text with the help of a concordance. Since it may not always be translated the same way in the English, tracking all the different uses of the word in the text gives us a fuller picture of the concept represented by that particular word. Then, if one wants to go a little deeper, one can look at the components of the word if it happens to be a compound word. For the ultimate dive into word meanings, one can look at the root of the word in question.
Most have heard Bible teachers follow the pattern of a word study in the course of their exposition at one time or another. Generally speaking, teachers are seldom satisfied with surface meanings, so you will inevitably hear the teacher say something like this, “Well, that is what that word means, but the root of that word means this.” Then the exposition leaves the original word in question and its obvious meaning to follow the track of the root meaning of the word. There is a danger in this type of an approach. Let me demonstrate with a story.
You are an American on vacation in Moldavia. While sitting at a sidewalk café contemplating a menu, a man walks up to you and says, “I speak English. I help you order lunch, no?” You figure you’ve got nothing to lose. Besides, you took the trip to learn about the people of other nations. So you accept his invitation to join you.
He orders for you what sounds to be a delectable lunch (it winds up being tripe soup served with day old bread and weak tea, but that’s not important right now) and then asks, “Why is the American government so pagan?” You are taken aback by this. After all, the founding fathers actually searched the Scriptures for guidance on how to craft a godly system of government. Whatever did this fellow mean?
“I know my country has strayed quite a bit from its Christian roots, but I wouldn’t call it pagan,” you say, a bit defensively.
“Is that so?” he asks with narrowed eyes. “Then why are all your leaders chosen through sorcery and divination?” At this moment, your lunch arrives and you are convinced that however much you wanted to learn about people from different countries, letting this man join you at the table was a bad decision.
“What are you talking about? Our leaders are voted in by the people. My country has a government of the people, by the people, and for the people!”
“So you say. But your leaders are inaugurated, are they not?”
“Of course they are,” you say, exasperated.
“You admit it, then. Your leaders are chosen by divination and sorcery,” your Moldavian friend says, pointing an accusing finger.
“What does inauguration have to do with divination and sorcery?” you ask, incredulous.
“You don’t know your own language any better than you know your own government,” your friend says, wiping his mouth with your napkin after dispatching a piece of your bread. “To inaugurate means to take omens from the flight of birds or by examining their viscera. So you Americans hire a sorcerer who watches how your bald eagle flies. Then they cut him open and count the bumps on his liver to find out if your president gets four more years or not. You are a pagan nation!”
Now, this conversation sounds incredulous. But if you look at the origin and root meaning of our everyday word “inaugurate,” you find out that it comes from the Latin inaugurare, which was a formal ceremony held by a soothsayer in which he took omens from the flight of birds or by examining their viscera. In ancient times, leaders were chosen by such means, which is how we wound up with the term being applied to someone being installed into office. But if we take the root meaning of inaugurate and try to apply it to what is going on today, we will get a fully disassociated concept of what is going on in an inauguration. If we are not cautious with our application of root meanings, we are in danger of making similar mistakes with the word of God that our Moldavian friend made with regard to American government.
Whenever we get into word studies, we need to make sure that as we look at what the root meaning is, we don’t allow it to supersede the word we are studying. In Scripture, the root word is often deeply connected with the subject of the primary word we are studying. But we need to be careful to retain the meaning of the word distinct from the meaning of the root while allowing the root to grant us insight into the word we are studying.
The word we are going to take down to its root is “redeem.” We were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. And what we were redeemed from was sin. The reason we needed redemption was because of transgression. We inherited this sin, these iniquitous tendencies, from Adam. We were all born in sin. But it wasn’t just Adam who condemned us. Because of the iniquity we inherited from him, we involved ourselves in the same sin. We couldn’t avoid sin to save our lives. That is what the law teaches us. It’s very simple. God says, “It’s okay. You don’t have to die. You can live forever. All you have to do is fulfill all these commandments. Do these things perfectly, and you’ll live forever. Here, I’ll boil it down to ten. Better yet, I’ll give you two—love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Do those two and you’ll never die.” None of us can do it. He spelled out righteousness in the law to prove our unrighteousness to us.
And so we could not not sin to save our lives. Instead, we get involved with the sin. And God has left a witness within us to inform us of our sin called the conscience. Unless we have seared our conscience through repetitive sin, we know when we have sinned. And knowing that we have sinned puts the sin technically into another class. When I do that which I know I should not do, the general term “sin” fails to describe that act accurately. If I have done that which I know is wrong, I haven’t simply sinned. I have transgressed. If I wander into a farmer’s field while hunting, I may have sinned against him. But if I read “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs on the way into his property and I go in anyway, I am now a transgressor.
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
It was for the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament that He is the mediator of the New Testament, the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant there were no sacrifices provided for intentional sins. In essence, a transgressor of the law, one who intentionally breached the commandments, had no means to atone for his sin. Death was the only answer to the transgressor. But in Jesus, we have forgiveness of not only iniquities and sins, but transgressions as well.
It says that He is a mediator. We are going to look at mediation, intercession, and being loosed by the blood. All these concepts will come together at the end. To do so, we are going to have to track down the root word of redeem. But before we do so, let’s look at the purpose of our redemption.