Redemption is a word that tends to get jumbled together with all our other religious jargon. Salvation, justification, forgiveness, freedom, cleansing… we use these church terms like synonyms. These words actually mean different things, and each is deep and wonderful.
Redeem means to buy back. In earlier times, it meant to free someone from slavery by paying his or her ransom. Imagine a slave who belongs to a cruel master. Day after day, the master beats the slave, laughing at his helplessness. The slave has lived his whole life in misery; he cannot escape. One day, a stranger discovers the slave, buys him from his master, and takes him to his home. The slave now belongs to a new master who is so loving and noble that the slave is happy to be his, happy to give him his allegiance. This is redemption.
It’s a nice story, but the Christian’s redemption is much deeper and much better. We are redeemed from a life of sin and guilt, from enmity with God, from never-ending torture in Hell. We are brought into fellowship with God, into the realm of grace, into eternal life.
The price for our redemption was more than the most intelligent theologian (or angel, for that matter. See 1 Peter 1:12.) can comprehend:
“... you were ransomed... not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” 1 Peter 1:18-19.
“For even the Son of Man came… to give His life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45.
Christ — the only begotten Son of God, the Father’s delight, the Head over all things — redeemed us with His life. The price for sin is death (Romans 6:23), and as He approached the cross, the Redeemer carried His people’s filthy thoughts, twisted desires, and shameless disobedience. He was stripped, forsaken by man and God, and murdered so that men and women could be redeemed.
The Scriptures remind us often that we were “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23) and explain the results of this purchase. We were bought, not with perishable things, but with the blood of Christ. We are not our own masters, able to spend our days selfishly satisfying our flesh (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are Christ’s servants, His property; our purpose is not to please the people around us but to be zealous to obey our Master (Titus 2:14). We are His people now, for “His own possession” (Titus 2:14).
I am in the middle of my summer, recently graduated, reveling in the fact that tomorrow is another school-free day. I have been catching up on sleep, enjoying the outdoors, and spending long hours with my family. It’s easy to think of this short free-time before I begin grad school as “me time.” After all, the last few years of my life have been really busy, and I should be able to spend this time however I want, whether that’s sleeping or watching Yankees baseball. I am, however, a Christian. I have been bought with the blood of God’s Son. My life — my time, my energy, my thoughts — belong to Him now. When I think of the price that was paid, I am amazed at the value that was put on my soul and am weighed down with the debt I owe.
Henry Law, in his book Christ is All, sums up our responsibility as redeemed people:
Your time is redeemed; use it as a consecrated talent in His cause. Your minds are redeemed; employ them to learn His truth and to meditate on His ways… Your eyes are redeemed; let them not look on vanity… Your tongues are redeemed; let them only sound His praise, and testify to His love, and call sinners to His cross. Your hearts are redeemed; let them love Him wholly and have no seat for rivals… The chain of sin is broken. The chain of love now holds them.
As we work, study, or rest, it is easy to let days slip away with little thought of Christ. Remember that we are not our own. We are redeemed, and how wonderful it is to belong to Him!