© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002


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.

In Old Testament law and ritual 'redemption' referred to

  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 (Ruth 2:20; 4:1-12); and
  3. the release of first-born males from mandatory dedication to God (Numbers 18:14-16).

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 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 history is one of the formats 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.

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.

Calvary exposes the absolute nature of our bondage

Redemption presupposes a condition of poverty, debt and/or slavery from which one can only find deliverance by the payment of a price. Speaking of our spiritual condition the Bible teaches:

  1. we stand before God utterly destitute (Matthew 18:21-35).
  2. we are powerless (Romans 5:6).
  3. we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:16-22).
  4. we are in bondage to law (Romans 7:7-6).
  5. we are under the power of the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
  6. we are under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10-14).
  7. we are under the power/dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
  8. we are spiritually dead, cut off by our sin from God, the Source of life, and under the rule of death (Romans 5:17,21; Ephesians 2:1,5).
  9. we are entrapped in a blind, dark ignorance in which we do not even know what the truth is and who the true God is (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

In this condition 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, spiritual blindness - 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 these things and freedom to stand and live in the presence of God.

The fact that God sent his Son to redeem us indicates the depth and power of the bondage in which we stand. We do not need just a little help so that we can then free ourselves. We need someone to come and do the lot. We need a total and permanent redemption.

Calvary exposes the horrific price of our redemption

Our bondage is thus no small matter. It is all-embracing. It is absolute. It is ultimate. So also is the price necessary to redeem or deliver us. Consider what the Bible teaches:

  1. 'For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45).
  2. 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us , for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree"' (Galatians 3:13).
  3. 'In whom we have redemption through his blood ... ' (Ephesians 1:7).
  4. ' ... he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood , having obtained eternal redemption' (Hebrews 9:12b).
  5. ' ... we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness ... ' (Titus 2:13,14).
  6. 'For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ , a lamb without blemish or defect' (1 Peter 1:18,19).
  7. ' ... you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation' (Revelation 5:9b). (All italics added).

To some of us these verses 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 a death has taken place, and that 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 first two 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 third point that now follows.

Calvary reveals the certainty of our redemption

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).

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.

How should we respond to this powerful truth?

  1. with confidence (Isaiah 43:1),
  2. with joy (Isaiah 51:11; 52:9),
  3. with reverence (1 Peter 1:17,18), and
  4. with praise (Revelation 5:9,10).
For study: identify [1] why redemption is necessary; [2] what the price of our redemption is, and [3] ways in which these truths about redemption have the power to transform your relationship with God.