Q&A: Redemption

Redemption

Question

I've got three questions: 1) What does it mean to be "redeemed"? 2) Why is it, exactly, that we need to be redeemed? 3) How is it that we are redeemed?

Answer

1) To be "redeemed" basically means to be "rescued" or "bought back." The idea comes largely from two different practices in the Old Testament. On the one hand, every first offspring belonged to the Lord, which meant that it was to be sacrificed to him. In order that the Israelites would not have to sacrifice unclean animals, and in order that they would not have to offer human sacrifices to God, God told them to "redeem" things like donkeys and men by killing other animals in their places (Exod. 13:12-13; 34:19-20; Num. 18:15-17).

On the other hand, sometimes people and/or land would be sold to pay debts, or would otherwise end up in slavery. To free the people/land, someone (usually a family member of the people or the prior owner) could pay the current owner an appropriate amount (the "ransom"). Paying this price and freeing the people/land was known as "redeeming" them. A good example of this can be found in Ruth 4.

Often in the Psalms and elsewhere "redeem" is also used to mean "rescue" without any identifiable price being paid, but probably this meaning is derived from the idea of rescuing by paying a price.

In the New Testament, redemption is mentioned fairly infrequently (e.g. Matt. 20:28; Luke 1:68; 24:21; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18). Generally, however, it retains the idea of being redeemed by paying a ransom. The specifically Christian idea of redemption is that Christ offered his life as a ransom for those who would have died otherwise.

2) In the New Testament, redemption is necessary because of sin. More specifically, all men are guilty of sin (Rom. 5:12-14), and because of this sin all men are doomed to eternal condemnation (Rom. 6:23; 8:13). In redemptive terms, the Law requires the death of sinners. In order to pay this debt to the Law, sinners must die. If, however, the proper ransom is paid for them, then they are free of their debt and no longer have to die.

3) Christian redemption takes place as Christ offers himself as a ransom for sinners. Prior to being redeemed, sinners are in slavery awaiting death to pay for their sin. As seen in the references above, the Law allows one to die in place of another. So, Christ paid the legal ransom to free sinners by dying in their place, and the Law no longer requires the deaths of those for whom the ransom has been paid.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.