posted on Aug, 31 2018 @ 05:03 PM
“You were ransomed... not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter ch1 vv18-19).
The teaching of the New Testament centres upon what Jesus achieved when he died upon the Cross.
Since this was a unique event, it can’t be explained without metaphor. So we find it described, for example, in terms of “ransom” or
In the Old Testament, redemption is an act, and especially a payment, which removes an obligation or a burden.
Thus all first-born sons are redeemed, for a price, from the general obligation that the first-born males should be offered to the Lord in sacrifice.
The same rule applies to animals which are not appropriate sacrifices (Numbers ch18 v15).
The possibility of redemption is an important feature of the debt laws.
If a man has lost his family lands because of his debts, he has the right to buy them back when he has raised the money, without waiting for the lands
to returned in the Jubilee year.
If he has been sold into slavery because of his debts, he has the right to buy back his freedom when he has raised the money, without waiting for his
mandatory release in the seventh year.
But if he cannot raise the money himself, it may be provided by a “next of kin”, a sufficiently wealthy member of his extended family.
This kinsman [GOEL] will then be able to redeem the land and bring it back to the family, or to redeem the slave and give him back his freedom
“Redemption” is also what the Lord God of Israel does for his people.
“I will redeem you [from the Egyptians] with an outstretched arm” (Exodus ch6 v6).
“The Lord redeemed you from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy ch7 v8).
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you [from Babylon]” (Isaiah ch43 v1).
This resembles redemption from slavery, because it has released them from the power of a third party, but the only “price” paid is the exercise of
The concept is extended in the Psalms, where we read that God will “redeem my soul from the grave” (Psalm 49 v15), and he will “redeem Israel
from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130 v8).
Therefore the name “Redeemer” is added to the titles of God, especially in the later chapters of Isaiah;
“Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our redeemer from of old is thy name” (Isaiah ch63 v16).
One of the best-known examples of this usage is the statement in Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives”.
But this doesn’t quite follow the pattern, because Job is looking for a GOEL to protect him from the wrath of God himself, so that peace between
them can be restored (Job ch19 vv25-27).
This would entail dealing with sin, as the real obstacle in the relation between God and man.
So the concept of “Redeemer” as “someone who tackles the problem of sin” lies dormant, at least, within the hope which Job is expressing.
“Redemption”, as a description of what God is doing in Christ, draws upon the concept found in the Old Testament.
That is, a price is paid and a burden or an obligation is removed.
In the first place, the condition of sin can be called a kind of slavery, which allows analogy with the legal rights of redemption found in
So we find in John’s Gospel; “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John ch8 v34).
And in Romans; “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which
leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans ch6 v16).
Paul goes on to identify it, more explicitly, as a form of debt slavery.
Taking on the character of a man living under the law, he complains “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans ch7 v14).
The law declared by Moses holds us in that condition, because it has the effect of imposing judgement on those who fail to obey its commands. This
judgement is what Paul calls “the curse of the law”.
So the Son was sent also “to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians ch4 v5).
Another version of the same thought is found in Colossians. We are told that God has “cancelled the bond which stood against us, with its legal
demands” (Colossians ch2 v14).
This image appears to combine two different kinds of obligation, namely the bond of debt and the bond of contract.
Either way, God set aside the bond by “nailing it to the Cross”. That is, the bond was notionally carried in the person of Christ and then
“killed off” when he was crucified.
So the death of Christ can be seen as an act of “payment”.
As when Jesus says in the Gospels that the Son of Man came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark ch10 v45).
Thus the New Testament, as in the opening quotation, associates redemption with “the blood of Christ”, which is shorthand for “the fact that
This event takes the place of the redemption fee paid by the “nearest kinsman”.
When the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures are praising the Lamb, “for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God”
(Revelation ch5 v9), the literal meaning of the word translated “ransom” is “bought”.
Paul makes the point more explicitly; “You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians ch6 vvv19-20).
Other references continue the Old Testament theme that God “redeems his people from their enemies”.
Thus the song of Zechariah begins “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke ch1 v68).
And at the end of the same Gospel, the two disciples walking to Emmaus were still saying about him “We had hoped that that he was the one to redeem
Israel” (ch24 v21).
Of course he is now redeeming them from a different kind of power.
This is no longer about experiencing oppression at the hands of human adversaries.
Christ has come to deal with the ultimate enemy, the whole complex of sin-and-death.
So Christ is “Redeemer”, finally, in the sense of Job.
He is dealing with the sin which obstructs the relation between God and man.
We are “justified”- that is, we are placed in a right relationship with God- “through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans ch3
We may look forward also to a more complete redemption, “the redemption of our bodies” from the present state of the world (Romans ch8 v23).
The New Testament theme of redemption is expressing two chief points.
Firstly, that God’s people have escaped a condition of hardship which was the equivalent of slavery or the burden of debt.
Secondly, that the death of Christ on the Cross was the means that made this possible.
It was the metaphorical “price”.