What Does Redemption Really Mean?
The earliest New Testament writing to mention the idea of "redemption" was the Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians. Most scholars believe that Galatians was one of the first, if not the very first, of the New Testament documents to be written. In fact, it is very likely that most of Paul's letters were written before any of the other New Testament books. In Galatians 3:13-14 Paul says that Christ has "redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Paul then goes on to say that Christ redeemed people "in order that the blessing given to Abraham" might come.
The Greek word that Paul uses here in Galatians is exagorazo. This Greek verb that is translated as "redeemed," carries the meaning of "to buy out of the market-place." It also has the meaning of buying back something that once belonged to them. The idea that Paul seems to be conveying here is that Christ has purchased believers' freedom through his death. The Christians in Galatia were struggling with the idea of trying to follow Christ but also feeling that they had to obey the Law. Paul made it clear that Christ's redemption of them had set them free from having to obey the Law. Paul seems to be saying that Christ's death has purchased or redeemed His people from having to follow the Law. Since Christ was put to death under the Law as a once for all sacrifice, all the requirements of the Law have been fulfilled already.
A second Greek word that Paul uses that is translated as "redemption" is apolutrosis. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace..." Apolutrosis carries the meaning of being delivered or set free from from something. In this passage, Paul says that Christ has delivered people and set them free from their sins. Rather than being in bondage to the sin nature, Christ has redeemed his followers to walk in freedom from sin. Through His "redemption," Christ has purchased the freedom of his people.
One of the most famous passages in the entire New Testament relating to the idea of redemption came from Jesus' own lips. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many." The Greek word here is lutron and means to deliver someone through the payment of a ransom. When the price is paid, the prisoner is set free. This was what Jesus accomplished through his death. He purchased freedom for all of mankind.
The New Testament portrays Jesus as the One who redeemed mankind. Redemption is a completed work accomplished through Christ's death. In this act, Jesus has accomplished three things. First of all, his redemption has set his followers free from the Law. They are no longer subject to the demands of the Law. A second thing that Christ has accomplished is that he purchased humanity as someone would have purchased a slave at a marketplace. His redemption actually indicates his ownership for all of his followers. The last thing that Jesus' death accomplished was that of paying the ransom so that his followers might be set free. Someone had to be punished for mankind's sins. Jesus took that punishment on himself and offers the gift of redemption to all who will accept it.
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