Great Gospel Words: Redemption

Redemption Defined

One of the best-loved words of Christians is the word “redemption.” The word always has behind it the notions of a price being paid and of a release from a previously existing bondage. Additionally, in the word, there is the thought of ownership for the one redeemed. This is explicit in the words to Titus, expressing the purpose of “our great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (2:13-14). The sinner is looked upon in the Bible as being enslaved to sin and to Satan. The Lord Jesus entered the slave market to pay a price so that the captives could go free. The redeemed sinner is brought into the glorious liberty of willing and appreciative service to the new Master. Behind all the words for redemption in the New Testament there is the concept that would be so well known to the readers of the apostolic writings; it is the manumission of a slave who had been set free upon being purchased in the slave market.

Redemption Revealed in Two Families of Words

There are two main word families for redemption. One of the words, “agoradzo,” is a word of the marketplace. It and its cognates refer to the price that was paid. The other word, “lutroo,” and its cognates refer rather to the release that was effected because the price was paid.

The word “agoradzo,” translated “redeemed” in Revelation 5:9, really does not mean to redeem but rather to purchase. The emphasis is on the price that was paid. The word is used in Matthew 13:44, 13:46, and 14:15. The merchant man, “when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” The song in Revelation is in part, “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God.” The emphasis is on the great price that was paid at Calvary. It is interesting that this word is used of the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1 where we read, “Who secretly shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” The price was paid for them but they were not among the redeemed. A strengthened form of “agoradzo” is “exagoradzo.” It is found in Galatians 3:13, 4:5, Ephesians 5:16, and Colossians 4:5. This strengthened form of the word means that we have not only been purchased but that we have been purchased out of the marketplace and are never to be returned.

In the second family of words the emphasis is no longer on the price that was paid but is on the freedom that has resulted because the price has been paid. For example in 1 Peter 1:18-19 we read that “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.” The emphasis is on the fact that we have been delivered from the old manner of life. In Titus we read, “our great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (2:13-14). Again notice that we have been delivered because the price has been paid. The price was the giving of Himself!

It is interesting to see that this is the word used by the disciples in Luke 24:21: “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” They were anticipating a deliverance from their bondage to the Gentiles. The word is used of Moses in Acts 7:35: “The same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer(redeemer).” Another form of the word was used by the Lord Jesus when He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45). Deliverance can be brought about only by a price being paid.

Another liberating word is “apolutrosis,” and refers to this deliverance that has been wrought on the basis of the price that was paid. It is found three times in Ephesians (1:7, 1:14, 4:30). “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (1:7). We were delivered from the penalty of our sins. Redemption is future in Chapter 1:14. The future aspect of redemption is also seen in Ephesians 4:30 and in Romans 8:23. Believers are in a body that has not yet been touched by redemption. Redemption for us will be complete at that anticipated moment when the Lord returns to claim His Church. See how the word is used in Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:15, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and Romans 3:23. In this passage in the great treatise to the Romans we are introduced to a number of gospel words -justification (righteousness), redemption, and propitiation.

Redemption Revealed in the Kinsman-Redeemer of the Old Testament

There are two main words for redemption in the Old Testament. A derivative of one of these Hebrew words is the word “goel” meaning a kinsman-redeemer. Boaz was such a redeemer (Ruth 2:20). The kinsman redeemer had to first establish his relationship to the one he was about to redeem. Secondly, the kinsman-redeemer had to pay the redemption price in order to effect the deliverance of the slave. The Lord Jesus fulfilled all of this. The price was His own blood. Thirdly, the redeemer had to be willing. He needed not only capability but also compassion. How much greater was the love of Christ for the Church and how much greater the price! (Ephesians 5:25-27). Finally, the redeemer, if single, had to enter into a relationship with the redeemed. The kinsman nearer than Boaz could not enter into such a relationship lest, in his words, “I mar mine own inheritance” (Ruth 4:6).

The Response to Redemption

We have been set free from the vain manner of life of Jewish legalism and tradition. We have been liberated from all the perversity and iniquity that characterized the Gentile world, and purified that we might be a people for a possession for Him alone (Titus 2:11-14). Paul told the Corinthians that they had been bought (purchased in the marketplace) with a great price and therefore were no longer their own. They could no longer live the former sinful, sensual life that was theirs before they encountered the Christ. They had to respond to the sanctifying, consecrating claims of the Cross and of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). Are you freely serving the One who set you free?