Redemption is probably my favorite word. It’s rich with life and light and hope.
Forgiveness means that my sin is gone; Jesus paid my penalty when He died on the cross, and now I am free from the guilt. Justification goes further; Jesus didn’t only take my sin, He transferred His perfection to my account, so now God sees me as His holy child. But redemption goes further still.
A simple definition of redeem is to buy back or ransom. Examples are given in Leviticus 25. If an Israelite family was poor, they couldn’t sell their land or themselves, but they could mortgage their land for others to use for a few years, or even hire themselves out as bondservants. A relative could redeem the land or the person by paying the remainder of the mortgage or hire price; the land or family would then be free again.
So a fuller meaning of redeem is to pay a price so that what was rightfully one’s own can be used again for one’s own purpose: ransom for restoration. Putting that in the spiritual realm, it means that God–Who owns everything fair and square, Who will be ruling supreme at the end of time–paid a price so that what was rightfully His can be restored for His purpose, now and in eternity.
In salvation, God paid a price for me. He created me in His own image so I could know Him, but I rejected Him. I sold myself to sin, which promised me pleasure but paid me with death (Proverbs 14:12, Romans 6:23). Jesus came, was born as a human to be my “relative,” then paid my hire price (Galatians 4:3-5). He paid the death that I owed, and God the Father brought me into His family. Now, our relationship has been restored and I can live for Him and fulfill the purpose for which He created me (2 Corinthians 5:15).
But God’s redemptive work extends beyond me. God redeems our circumstances. One of the best examples of this is in Genesis 37-45. Joseph was hated and mistreated by his brothers; they sold him into slavery, where he was later falsely accused, imprisoned unjustly for years, forgotten by the one who promised to remember him, but then, at just the right time, was called to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. He was exalted to second in command and, through his God-given wisdom, help provide his country and the surrounding nations with food during a horrible famine. When his brothers met him again and realized who he was, they were afraid he would get even, but Joseph didn’t seek revenge. He said simply, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
That’s redemption: God’s world is locked under sin’s curse, but any time He wants, He can take the plans and schemes of demons and men and turn them again to His own good purpose (Proverbs 16:1-9).
In Romans 8:19-21, we see that God’s promise of redemption reaches to all of creation:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
One day, when Jesus comes back and we are finally like Him (1 John 3:2), His glory will be fully revealed in us, and the whole world will be made new (Revelation 20:1-5). But even though that final redemption of this physical world is still in the future, we see glimpses of it around us even now, as God is working all things–happy and sad, big and small–together for good. He is already in the midst of His restorative work of changing us into His image (Romans 8:28-30, see Genesis 1:27).
And, to show us that He can redeem our biggest mistakes, failures, and even sins, God gave us one marvelous testimony. Satan’s greatest attack against God was probably in entering the heart of Jesus’ friend to betray Him; both Satan and mankind were so full of hatred for our Creator that we nailed Jesus onto that cross and tried to kill God. But in John 10:17-18 we’re told that the cross wasn’t a defeat: God specifically allowed it. Not only that, but He turned that rebellious affront to His character and authority into the redemption of mankind (Acts 2:22-24, 32-33)!
If God can redeem an attempt to kill Him, we needn’t fear that somehow the gross injustices around us, personal slurs and stings we endure, or even our own failures, could somehow thwart the plans of God (Job 42:1-2, Isaiah 46:9-11). No matter what the situation, we can have hope, because our God is a God of redemption.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope…
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
–Psalm 130:5, 7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
–1 Peter 1:3-9