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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Redemption

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In Bible days a slave could be set free from bondage by the payment of a price, often called the ransom. The whole affair was known as the redemption of the slave (Leviticus 25:47-48). (The words ‘redeem’ and ‘ransom’ are related to the same root in the original languages.) The Bible speaks of redemption both literally (concerning everyday affairs) and pictorially (concerning what God has done for his people) (Psalms 77:15; Titus 2:14).

In the Old Testament

Under Israelite law, both people and things could be redeemed. In family matters, all Israelites had to redeem their firstborn. Since God had preserved Israel’s firstborn during the Passover judgment, they rightly belonged to him. Therefore, the parents had to redeem their firstborn by a payment of money to the sanctuary (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:13; Numbers 18:15-16; see FIRSTBORN). In matters of property, if people became poor and sold land they had inherited from ancestors, either they or close relatives had to buy the land back (redeem it) as soon as possible (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4:3-6; see SABBATICAL YEAR).

If Israelites vowed to give God their children, animals, houses or land, they could redeem those things, again by a payment of money to the sanctuary (Leviticus 27:1-25; see VOWS). If a farmer was under the death sentence because his ox had killed someone, his relatives could redeem him (since the death was accidental) by a payment of money to the dead person’s relatives (Exodus 21:28-30). In all these cases there was the idea of release by the payment of a price.

Often God is said to have redeemed Israel; that is, to have delivered Israel from the power of its enemies (Jeremiah 31:11; Micah 4:10). The greatest of these acts of redemption was at the time of the exodus, when God delivered Israel from captivity in Egypt (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; Psalms 106:9-10; see EXODUS). Centuries later, after Israel (Judah) had been taken captive to Babylon, there was a ‘second exodus’, when God again redeemed his people from bondage (Isaiah 44:22-23; Isaiah 48:20).

In these acts of redemption of Israel there is no suggestion that God paid anything to the enemy nations, as if he was under some obligation to them. Nevertheless, there is the suggestion that redemption cost God something; for he had to use his mighty power in acts of judgment to save his people (Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 4:37-38; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 9:29; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 52:3; Isaiah 63:9).

In the New Testament

Besides being an everyday practice, redemption was a fitting picture of God’s activity in saving sinners. Those who sin are slaves of sin and under the sentence of death, and have no way of releasing themselves from bondage (John 8:34; Romans 6:17; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:19; cf. Psalms 130:8). Jesus Christ came to give his life as a ransom for those under this sentence of death. His death brought forgiveness of sins and so released them from sin’s bondage (Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24-25; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; Revelation 1:5).

Sinners are therefore redeemed by the blood of Christ. The ransom price he paid for them was his life laid down in sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9). They are freed from the power of sin in their lives now (Hebrews 2:14-15), and will experience the fulness of their redemption when their bodies also are freed from the power of sin at Christ’s return. That event will bring about not only the final redemption for humankind but also the release of the world of nature from sin’s corrupting power (Luke 21:28; Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 4:30).

Paul at times makes a slightly different use of the illustration of slavery and redemption to remind Christians of their present responsibilities. When people are redeemed from the bondage of sin and the curse of the law, they come into a new life of liberty as the sons of God. Sin no longer has power over them, and they must show this to be true by the way they live (Romans 8:2; Galatians 3:13-14; Galatians 4:4-7; cf. Titus 2:14).

Yet, though free from sin, Christians are not free to do as they like. Because they have been bought with a price, they are now, in a sense, slaves of God. They must therefore be obedient to him, their new master (Romans 6:16-18; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 7:22-23; see SERVANT; SLAVE).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Redemption'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/r/redemption.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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