© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2014

Two thoughts are involved in the meaning of redemption: freedom and cost. This cost is sometimes referred to by the word ransom. In secular use ‘redemption’ refers to pawn shop transactions, where goods held by pawnbrokers are redeemed, or bought back by the owner, for a price greater than the amount originally advanced by the pawnbroker. Also in secular use, a ‘ransom’ is the price demanded by a kidnapper for his victim’s release. As Morris comments ‘It is important to realize that it is this idea of payment as the basis of release which is the reason for the existence of the whole word group. … redemption terminology is concerned with the price-paying method of release.’ [p12,13 The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross]



A.1 In Old Testament ritual and regulation

In Old Testament law and ritual ‘redemption’ referred to such instances as:

[1] the act of buying back people or property sold because of debt, and the purchase and liberation of slaves [Leviticus 25:25,48];

[2] the act of rescuing a person out of poverty/widowhood [Ruth 2:20; 4:1-12]; and

[3] the release of first-born males from mandatory dedication to God [Numbers 18:14-16];

[4] in any sacrifice or ritual in which atonement was made for sin or sins, that ‘atonement’ is understood to be a ‘ransom’ – a price paid to obtain release from the punishment due because of the sin.


A.2 In the history of Israel

In Biblical history the words ‘redeem’ and ‘Redeemer’ relate to the exodus from Egypt, in which God set the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. To this historical redemptive act of God the psalm writers and the prophets repeatedly refer, reminding the Israelites that the God they have forsaken, and who calls them back to himself, is their mighty Redeemer.

We might be tempted to think that this information has no relevance for us as we enter the third millennium. We must remind ourselves, however, that biblical ritual and biblical history are the vehicles of God’s self-revelation. We must also remind ourselves that biblical history and biblical ritual are massive, physically visible prophecies of the person and work of Jesus Christ. What we see in Israel’s history, ritual and ceremony, finds its ultimate expression, finds its true meaning, its very purpose of existence, in Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. This ultimate redemption is unveiled in the New Testament.


A.3 Old Testament words

Task #1: Research task
Various words related to redemption are listed below. Study the Scriptures and note significant points about their use and meaning.

You may also like to check out Vines Expository Dictionary and/or a Bible Dictionary to gather more information about these Old Testament redeem/redeemer/redemption/ransom words.


ga’al [verb], g’ullah [noun]

[In these references look for references to God’s action; God himself; and the people whom he has liberated]

Exodus 6:6; 15:13;


Psalm 77:15;78:35;


Isaiah 35:9;43:1,14; 41:14; 44:6,22-24; 49:7, 26; 51:10; 63:9





[Note that in Leviticus 25 verses 8-17 provision is made for the automatic release from indebtedness without payment of a price; the concept of ‘redemption’ is not mentioned in these verses.]

Leviticus 25:25,26, 29-32,48,49, 54



Ruth 4:5


Exodus 13:11-15;
Numbers 3:40-51;
Numbers 18:15-17

2Samuel 7:23
Psalm 44:26
Hosea 7:13

Psalm 25:22
Psalm 31:4-5
Psalm 49:7-8,15
Psalm 71:23
Psalm 130:7-8
Psalm 136:24


Kapar (kaphar) [ransom = ‘atonement’] [see C.3[4] in study on substitutionary atonement]

Exodus 32:30


Exodus 29:36,37
Leviticus 4:20,31
Leviticus 5:11-13
Leviticus 5:16, 18;
Leviticus 6:7; 7:7
Leviticus 16
Numbers 28:22
Numbers 29:5
Nehemiah 10:33
Psalm 49:7
Hosea 13:14




At Calvary we see exposed the absolute nature of our human bondage. At Calvary we see the ultimate redemption. At Calvary we see the ultimate ransom paid. At Calvary we see God as Redeemer in the ultimate and absolute sense. In this cross every individual is confronted with the ultimate choice:

Redemption, or bondage.
Freedom, or slavery.
Life, or death.

B.1 The New Testament words

Here are the New Testament words translated as ransom, redeem, redemption.

Task #2: On-going exercise
As you progress through this study fill in the significance of these words for your understanding of your redemption in Christ. Look especially for what we are redeemed from, and what was the ransom price.

lutron – ransom: Mathew 20:28; Mark 10:45



antilutron – ransom [the ‘anti’ intensifies the concept of substitution]:1Timothy 2:6




lutroo – redeem [meaning – to release by paying a ransom price]: Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14; 1Peter 1:18




lutrosis – redemption [meaning – deliverance on payment of a price]: Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Hebrews 9:12




apolutrosis – redemption/ deliverance

Luke 21:28;
Romans 3:24;
Romans 8:23;
1Corinthians 1:30;
Ephesians 1:7,14;
Ephesians 4:30;
Colossians 1:14;
Hebrews 9:15




agorazo – buy, purchase, redeem

1Corinthians 6:20
1Corinthians 7:23
2Peter 2:1
Revelation 5:9
Revelation 14:3,4




exagorazo – a strengthened form of agorazo, purchase. Means ‘to buy out’, especially of slavery: Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5


peripoieo [verb], peripoiesis [noun] - purchase, obtain, possession: Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:14




B.2 The need for redemption exposes the absolute nature of our bondage

Redemption presupposes a condition of poverty, debt and/or slavery from which one can only obtain deliverance by the payment of a price. The Bible teaches that such is our condition that it is impossible for us to rescue, deliver or free ourselves. It is impossible for us, by our own efforts, to get ourselves out of this, the ultimate bondage. Sin, law, condemnation, Satan, guilt, powerlessness, death, spiritual blindness, ignorance of God - all hold us captive. All rule and dominate us. There is no way we can escape. No way for us by our own will and ability to find release from this condition and freedom to stand and live in the presence of God.


Task #3: Scripture research
How do the Scriptures below describe the pre-salvation human condition that necessitates redemption?

Matthew 18:25

John 8:34; Romans 7:14

Romans 5:6


Romans 6:16-22


Romans 7:7-9


Romans 8:2


Galatians 3:10-14


Colossians 1:13


Romans 5:17,21; Ephesians 2:1,5


2Corinthians 4:4


This is the terrible bondage from which only the death of the Jesus Christ can liberate us. Just as the death of Christ exposes the terrible and absolute nature of our human bondage in sin and inability and ignorance, so also that same death exposes the horrific nature of the judgment and condemnation from which we have no means of escape. But the death of Christ reveals a further fact: the horrific price of redemption.


B.3 The death of Christ exposes the horrific price of our redemption

As we have seen ‘redemption’ refers to the purchase of freedom. It is freedom gained by the payment of a ransom. It is not ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’ or ‘deliverance’ in isolation from the cost of procuring that freedom. The biblical words always include the payment element, even when that cost is not referred to.


B.3.1 Mark 10:45  
Jesus stated in Mark 10:45: ‘For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Leon Morris comments:

‘In the ancient world the ‘ransom’ was the price paid for release. It applied widely to the release of prisoners of war or of slaves. … There is always a plight into which man has fallen, be it captivity or slavery or condemnation. There is always the payment of the price which effects release, and it is this price that is called the ‘ransom’.
‘Like the prisoner of war, man is in the power of the enemy. Christ has paid the ransom, freeing him and bringing him back where he belongs. The sinner is a slave. He is in bondage to his sins. Christ has paid the price, His life, which brings release to the sinner. As a result he is a free man. The sinner is under sentence of death on account of his sin. His life is forfeit. But ‘the forfeited lives of many are liberated by the surrender of Christ’s life.’ … The whole saying is substitutionary, for it tells us that in His death Jesus paid the price that sets men free. He took our place. He gave His life that our lives be no longer forfeit. … The language … speaks of Christ as suffering in our stead that He might bring us deliverance, deliverance from the consequences of our sins, and deliverances also from our sins themselves.’ [p52-55 The Cross in the  New Testament]

B.3.2 Galatians 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a cruse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” ’

The significance of this statement refers back to what Paul has just been saying: that ‘All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” [Galatians 3:10]. This verse spells out the 100% keeping of the law that is necessary to avoid the curse and condemnation of God’s law. It is no use keeping just one of the laws, or half of the laws, or 90% of the law; it is no use keeping most of the law most of the time. What is necessary for acquittal is 100% keeping of 100% of the law, 100% of the time.

This standard puts us all under the curse, under the curse of the death penalty for sin. If we chose to try to be right with God by keeping the law, this verse renders such a quest impossible. But between verse 10 and verse 13 Paul has explained that the way of ‘faith’ is God’s provision of a way in which man can live in his presence, and that this way of faith is possible because of the substitutionary death of Christ, by which he redeems us from this curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – in our place.

Morris explains:

‘It brings out the truth that sinners are not able to break free from their sin; they are slaves. It also emphasizes that a great price has been paid for their freedom. Christ has done all that is necessary and his death is the means of making sinners free. … Here Paul relates the slavery of sinners to their being under a curse, a truth he demonstrates by quoting Deuteronomy 21:23. … in the New Testament times the cross was often called a tree and there is no doubting that that is what Paul has in mind here. The curse meant a death sentence and sinners are ransomed from this by the death of Jesus. Paul does not let his readers escape from the truth that sin is serious, for it brings God’s curse on the sinner. But he insists just as firmly on the truth that those who put their trust in Christ have nothing to fear. They are redeemed, bought out of the effect of the curse that rested on them, and brought into the glorious liberty of the people of God.’ [p106f  Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom].

 Calvin comments:

‘Now, Christ hung upon the cross, therefore he fell under that curse. But it is certain that he did not suffer that punishment on his own account. It follows, therefore, either that he was crucified in vain, or that our curse was laid upon him, in order that we might be delivered from it. Now, he does not say that Christ was cursed, but, which is still more, that he was a curse, -- intimating, that the curse "of all men was laid upon him" [Isaiah 53:6.] If any man think this language harsh, let him be ashamed of the cross of Christ, in the confession of which we glory. It was not unknown to God what death his own Son would die, when he pronounced the law, "He that is hanged is accursed of God." [Deuteronomy 21:23.]

‘But how does it happen, it will be asked, that a beloved Son is cursed by his Father? We reply, there are two things which must be considered, not only in the person of Christ, but even in his human nature. The one is, that he was the unspotted Lamb of God, full of blessing and of grace; the other is, that he placed himself in our room, and thus became a sinner, and subject to the curse, not in himself indeed, but in us, yet in such a manner, that it became necessary for him to occupy our place. He could not cease to be the object of his Father's love, and yet he endured his wrath. For how could he reconcile the Father to us, if he had incurred his hatred and displeasure? We conclude, that he "did always those things that pleased" [John 8:29] his Father. Again, how would he have freed us from the wrath of God, if he had not transferred it from us to himself? Thus, "he was wounded for our transgressions," [Isaiah 53:5,] and had to deal with God as an angry judge. This is the foolishness of the cross, [1 Corinthians 1:18,] and the admiration of angels, [1 Peter 1:12,] which not only exceeds, but swallows up, all the wisdom of the world.’ []

Luther, in his forthright style, affirms:

‘Paul does not say that Christ was made a curse for Himself. The accent is on the two words "for us." Christ is personally innocent. Personally, He did not deserve to be hanged for any crime of His own doing. But because Christ took the place of others who were sinners, He was hanged like any other transgressor. ... Who are the other sinners? We are. The sentence of death and everlasting damnation had long been pronounced over us. But Christ took all our sins and died for them on the Cross. "He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12.)

‘ … When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner…

‘John the Baptist called Him "the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." …Isaiah declares of Christ: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." We have no right to minimize the force of this declaration. God does not amuse Himself with words. What a relief for a Christian to know that Christ is covered all over with my sins, your sins, and the sins of the whole world…

‘Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: "You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world's iniquity." The Law growls: "All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross." And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.

‘The argument of the Apostle against the righteousness of the Law is impregnable. If Christ bears our sins, we do not bear them. But if Christ is innocent of our sins and does not bear them, we must bear them, and we shall die in our sins. "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."’ []

Task #4: Discussion
Discuss the three above comments on Galatians 3:13. Underline sections that are most meaningful to you. Why are these sections meaningful? Which of these writers impacts you most? Why?







As Luther has pointed out, the death of Christ was ‘for us’ - in our place, on our behalf. Christ took our place under the curse of the law, to set us free from that curse. He paid the price. We are set free. This is the meaning of redemption.

B.3.3 The blood of Christ as the price paid
Redemption is said to be ‘by’ or ‘through’ the ‘blood’ of Christ. His blood = his life poured out = his death. This same concept is present in the images of redemption looked at in Mark 10:45 ‘give his life’ and Galatians 3:13 [hung on a tree].


Task #5: How do these verses describe redemption?
Think in terms of ‘how’, ‘where’, and ‘why’.

Ephesians 1:7

Colossians 1:14

Hebrews 9:12b

Revelation 5:9b

1Peter 1:18,19


From these verses we learn that redemption is ‘in Christ’, ‘through his blood’, ‘by’ Christ’s blood, ‘obtained’ by Christ, ‘purchased’ with his blood, and is ‘with the precious blood of Christ’.

Morris comments on 1Peter 1;18,19:

‘… Peter goes on to speak of the death of Christ as a process of redemption… redemption denotes a process of release on payment of a ransom price. The thought of payment is implicit in the conception itself. But Peter does not leave us to infer this. He specifically lays it down that a price was paid for Christians, and this no corruptible thing, like silver or gold. It was ‘precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ. It may be that the reference to the blood of an unblemished lamb points us to the sacrifices once more. Indeed, this is probable. But with sacrifice there is conjoined the metaphor of purchase. Christ’s blood is at one and the same time the offering of a sacrifice which avails for men, and the payment of a price which avails for men. We are atoned and we are purchased. Peter is sure that something with far-reaching implications was effected by Christ’s death, and something completely objective. Whatever may take place within man, the objective effects are clear and they are important.’ [p321-322 The Cross in the New Testament].

To some of us these verses about redemption and  these concepts are so familiar that we stand in danger of losing touch with their deep and powerful meaning. We need to pause and ponder. This is no ordinary death. No ordinary victim. It is not that any death has taken place, and that any death is sufficient to redeem us. Only this death, only this ransom, is sufficient to set us free from the many faceted bondage in which sin holds us. There is no other way. There is no other redeemer.

If we are tempted to view life in terms of our rights, and see in our redemption something that God owed us, then we have failed to understand these points about redemption. We have understood neither the ultimate nature of our bondage, nor the ultimate ransom necessary to redeem us. Nor will we understand the point that now follows.


Redemption is totally the work of God through his Son, Jesus Christ. It is something he does to and for us. We contribute nothing to it.  Indeed we have nothing which we could contribute to it. The death of Christ stands alone, the one sufficient ransom: complete and absolute. With this ransom God redeems us, delivering us from all the bondage in which sin had bound us. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, God ‘rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’ [1:13,14]. Once we were helpless slaves: now we are God’s adopted children with the right to call him ‘Father’ [John 1:12; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:13-17].

Redemption is totally grounded in the death of Christ. This makes it certain and secure for all who believe in him. Like forgiveness and reconciliation, it is something that the Bible says the believer has in Christ [Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14]. It is indissolubly and intimately linked to Jesus Christ. If we have Christ we also have this redemption as a present and permanent possession.

This redemption is something that can never be reversed. It is not on again, off again depending on the level of our spirituality or obedience. It is too precious and costly a thing for God to make its endurance dependent on us. The deep depths of our bondage and inability, the heavy cost of our redemption, ensure that it is entirely in God’s hands.  He redeemed us. We belong to him.


C.1 How should we respond to this powerful truth?

In Titus 2:13-14 we read of ‘our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’

In this verse we see not only the objective fact of our redemption in Christ, but also its subjective purpose in our day to day lives. We are not redeemed and left hanging in no man’s land. We are redeemed by the death of Christ [he ‘gave himself’] ‘from all wickedness’ with the purpose that we will live as his very own people ‘eager to do what is good.’ He redeemed us, he purchased us with his own life: we are to live for him, eager to honour him, eager to do the things that please him, not grieving him, but rather giving him joy.

Task #6: Significance of redemption for our daily lives
From the following verses identify the subjective purpose/outcome of redemption. [The implications of redemption for our daily living and our daily choices.] Discuss the significance of this for your life.

Romans 6:11-22

1Corinthians 6:20

1Corinthians 7:23

Ephesians 4:30


1Peter 2:24-25

As well as motivating and empowering us for a lifestyle pleasing to God the Scripture indicates that redemption should promote confidence, joy, reverence and praise.

Task #7: Appropriate response to redemption
Identify the appropriate response to redemption in these verses.

Isaiah 43:1

Isaiah 51:11; 52:0

1Peter 1:17-18

Revelation 5:9,10