Redemption is the “act of buying back.” It has also in it the thought of taking possession of that which has been thus bought. There is a redemption by purchase, and also a redemption by power, spoken of in the Scriptures. There is a redemption which the believer has now, and there is a redemption that he hopes for, by-and-bye. It is needful to distinguish between these.
Man’s Need of Redemption.
Man is the slave of sin and Satan. In his fail, he surrendered himself into Satan’s hand. His inheritance, was lost with him. The world is claimed by Satan, and he rules it. He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Man is a subject of his power (Acts 26:18) and must remain so until delivered by the power of God. He cannot redeem or deliver himself, nor can his fellow. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Psa. 49:7). If deliverance comes, it must be from above. This is what the Gospel reveals. “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom” (Job 33:24) is the Word of the God of redemption. “He sent redemption unto His people” (Psa. 111:9). This redemption comes through Christ, as we read—“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30). He obtained “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12) for His people.
Redemption by Blood, and by Power.
The language of the Word concerning the believer is, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Then, looking onward to the day of coming glory, when redemptive power shall be extended to his mortal body, and to creation, the word is— “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:13-14). Then again, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
Redemption by blood was effected at the Cross. There the Lord Jesus “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28) His people. Yea, more; He bought the field — the world, in which the treasure lay (see Matt. 13:44), and will yet take possession of it, set it in order, and rule it for God. But the time for this display of His redemptive power in the world has not yet come. He is now engaged in gathering His purchased treasure out of it. This He is doing by the Gospel. When a sinner believes the Gospel, his sins are forgiven, he is sealed by the Holy Spirit, and he waits for the day of full and final redemption.
Like a farmer who goes to the market to buy a flock of sheep, He purchases them, pays for them, and sets His mark upon them as His property. By-and-bye He returns, and takes the sheep that bear His mark out from the rest, and appropriates them to Himself.
These two aspects of redemption by blood and by power had their foreshadowing in the redemption of Israel. First, they were redeemed by the blood of the lamb from judgment, next by the arm of the Lord from Pharaoh. He “redeemed them from the hand of the enemy” (Psa. 106:10) to be unto Himself a peculiar treasure above all people: a people among whom He might dwell, and rule by His Word.
Kinsman, Redeemer, Avenger.
Under the law, a kinsman had a right to redeem (Lev. 25:25; Ruth 4:6-7). He might also avenge his brother’s blood (Joshua 20:5). The Hebrew word for Redeemer is also translated— “Kinsman” and “Avenger”; it has in it the threefold significance of Kinsman, Redeemer, Avenger. We have in the Lord Jesus all these three characters sustained. He is at once our Kinsman, Redeemer, and Avenger. He became our Kinsman by His incarnation. So we read, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). Being “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), His humanity was sinless, He had no share in man’s fallen nature, He was not at a distance from God as others were by nature. We must jealously guard against the thought that such things were associated with His manhood. But in all respects — sin excepted — He was a man. Thus He became our kinsman. But this of itself did not deliver. It is a fundamental error to say — as some have said — that in becoming man Christ linked Himself with our race, and thus elevated and dignified man as such. The Scriptures teach the reverse. Man’s nature has not been elevated since the day of his fall, nor will it ever be. He murdered Christ. He can only enter God’s Kingdom by being born again. The Lord became Kinsman in order that He might become Redeemer. He took flesh and blood in order that He might enter into man’s responsibilities, and discharge them by death. By death redemption was secured. The redemption of His people and the redemption of His inheritance were both secured by the Cross. By death He also became the Avenger. He destroyed the power of Satan, He bruised the serpent’s head, and, in virtue of His triumph over the enemy there, His people shall yet, in a day to come, see Satan bruised beneath their feet also (Rom. 16:20).
These three aspects of the work of Christ are all given in Heb. 2:14-15. Redemption by blood is past at the Cross: it never will be repeated; but redemption by power will go on until all that Christ has purchased shall be possessed and restored to God.
Redemption from the Curse.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal.3:13). The curse is the penalty of sin: it must have come upon us; but One was found who willingly died in our stead. Now all who believe are free. As we sing—
“Believing, we rejoice To see the curse removed; We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice, And sing redeeming love.”
Redeemed From All Iniquity.
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). This is redemption from sin’s power. The people of the Lord are a purchased and a purified people. They are redeemed from lawlessness and set apart to God, to be of service to Him and for Him among men.
Not long ago, a Christian farmer was showing me over his fields waving with yellow grain. Not many years before, that same ground was over-run with whin, and yielded nothing. It passed into other hands, and the new owner began at once to reclaim his possession. Skill and labour were brought to bear, on the wild, uncared-for soil; it was first “purified,” then sown, and now it yields a good return to its owner. The redeemed on earth “are God’s husbandry” (I Cor. 3:9).
On them He is bestowing His grace, His discipline, and His care, with the object of having them a people zealous of good works, such as He has ordained for them to walk in (Eph. 2:10).
Redemption of the Body.
There is a redemption yet to come. “Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). The body has not yet been delivered from that condition into which the fall has brought it. It has changed owners (see 1 Cor. 6:20), its members are no longer the weapons of sin, but now instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:13). It is still “our vile body” (Phil. 3:21), and must either be “dissolved” — as it is in those who have fallen asleep — or “changed” — as it will be in those who are “alive and remain” unto the coming of the Lord. In both, the body shall be fashioned anew, “like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21), in that day when redemptive power shall be put forth on the bodies of the saints. For this we wait.
There is also the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). Creation has long been subject to the bondage of corruption. The ground has been under the curse for man’s sake. It has long groaned and travailed in pain under its burden, but a day will come when it too shall be delivered and become a sharer of “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Then a new Heaven and a new earth, wherein righteousness dwells, shall shine forth, and all trace of sin and its fruit shall be done away. Everything in that new creation shall stand in the power of redemption, and not like the first creation, in the goodness of the creature. Thus God shall receive back unto Himself, through Christ and His redemption, the glory lost by sin, and fill His Heaven with a ransomed throng, who, looking on the Redeeming Lamb “in the midst of the throne,” shall ascribe to Him the honour and the praise. “Thou art worthy … for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” (Rev. 5:9).
Copied from Foundation Truths of the Gospel by John Ritchie. 2nd ed. Kilmarnock: Office of “The Believer’s Magazine,” .