Most Christians are familiar with the powerful Pauline phrase, “you were bought with a price.” It renders a hammer-blow to our constant notions of personal rights and privileges and reminds us quite forcefully that we belong to Christ and not to ourselves.
You were bought with a price, and this purchase has implications. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, Paul makes this the capstone of his exhortation to sexual purity: “For you were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” And in his very next paragraph, he again appeals to this redemptive reality as one basis for his exhortation to be content with your earthly status and position: “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:23-24).
The fact that we have been bought has invasive implications. When God purchased you from the slave market of sin, His goal for you was not minor tweaking and slight service. He aims for (and demands) your absolute transformation and His absolute ownership. He bought you and He owns you. No conditions, no qualifications, no fine print. You are His.
This is staggering enough as it stands. The implications of my life being owned by another are far-reaching and pervasive. Yet Paul is getting at something much deeper, much more intense, much more devastating. You were not just bought. You were bought with a price.
Why did Paul add this phrase? Why didn’t he just say, “You were bought; therefore glorify God in your body”? Doesn’t the concept of purchase include the concept of price? Doesn’t the idea of buying logically include a cost? Were the Corinthians so economically-challenged that they needed to be reminded that the ideas of purchase and price are logically linked? There seems to be some significant conceptual redundancy here.
But the Corinthians were not naïve about the marketplace, and Paul was not being redundant. He is not simply saying, “You have been bought, and as with every purchase, there was a price.” He is not reminding them about a general conceptual connection between purchase and price. He is talking about blood. He is talking about the cross. He is talking about the Son.
“You were bought – and look at what it cost.” “You were bought – do not forget the price that was paid.” Or, from God’s perspective: “I bought you – and I paid dearly.”
Oh, how much He paid! See Christ on the cross, forsaken by his Father so that we might be forgiven; not just forgiven, but reconciled; not just reconciled, but sanctified; not just sanctified, but glorified; and not just glorified, but adopted. See the Father turning His back on His heaving, suffocating, agonized, mystified Son, for the first and last time in the history of time and eternity. Hear the Son cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Hear the Father say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” then hear the prophet say, “The Lord was pleased to crush Him.” God’s pleasure in His Son and God’s pleasure in crushing His Son are incompatible and incomprehensible. Which is why Paul does not just say, “You were bought.” He says, “You were bought with a price.”
How many things have been bought and sold and bartered in the history of the world? The number is almost infinite. But there has never been a purchase like this purchase. Because there has never been a price like this price. If you are looking for a motivating reason to devote yourself to God afresh today, this is it. If you are searching for a reason to get up in the morning and fulfill your Christian responsibilities, let this be your reason. If you desperately need strength to love, serve, pray, fight, forgive, study, stand, preach, parent, witness, endure, and rejoice, here is gospel strength. Because perhaps the only redemptive reality more powerful than the fact that you were bought is the height of the price that was paid.
Why, today, should you do what is right? Because you were bought. With a price.