REDEEMER, REDEMPTION. Redemption is deliverance from the power of an alien dominion and enjoyment of the resulting freedom. In its original sense and in its Biblical usage redemption is intimately associated with the ideas of ransom and substitution. It often involves the idea of restoration to one who possesses a more fundamental right or interest. The heart of the Biblical message of redemption is the deliverance of the people of God from the bondage of sin by the perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and their consequent restoration to God and His heavenly kingdom. A redeemer is one who possesses the right or who exercises the right of redemption. The Bible presents Christ as the redeemer of God’s elect.
In the OT the idea of redemption is closely associated with the laws and customs of the Israelite people. If a life was taken, a kinsman had the right of avenging or redeeming the blood of the victim (
2. Doctrinal formulation. Redemption is deliverance from a bondage, a release of some one or some thing from an alien power that has a claim upon it. The outstanding example of redemption in the OT was the deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, from the dominion of the alien power of Egypt.
The Biblical idea of redemption also involves the deliverer and what he performs to effect the deliverance.
Release must be effected by someone who, for whatever reason, has a prior or more fundamental claim to what is to be delivered. According to Israelite custom, it was possible for someone to deliver himself or something for himself (
What the redeemer does in order to accomplish redemption is not always the same. Moses was called a redeemer (
The earliest usage of the words for redemption, as we have seen, associates them with the payment of a price, a ransom. This is also true of the Biblical teaching concerning redemption as it bears on salvation. The people of God are redeemed by the payment of the debt of their sin by the perfect satisfaction accomplished by Jesus Christ.
In the Early Church redemption was correctly associated with the idea of ransom. The notion arose, however, that Christ had redeemed His people by paying a ransom to the devil. This theory was attacked and refuted by Anselm in his Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man). The Scriptures are virtually silent about one to whom ransom is paid. If it is anyone, it is God Himself. The focus of attention, in any case, is not the one to whom ransom is paid but the sufficiency of the payment made by Christ. This was nothing less than the substitution of His own life for that of the redeemed (
Modern liberal theology altogether dissociated redemption from the ideas of ransom and satisfaction, and thought of redemption simply as deliverance from the alien dominion of the world. Deliverance from the world certainly expresses an important facet of redemption. However, liberal theology erred in rejecting the Scriptural teaching that the price of redemption was the satisfaction of the demands of the law and release from its guilt by Christ’s substitution of His own life for that of the sinner. Liberalism maintained that the idea of substitution was unworthy of high religion, according to which everyone must stand before God in his own freedom and responsibility as an ethical personality.
In understanding the meaning of redemption, one should not forget that it is a deliverance or a release from a claim. The claim is able to be lifted only by one who has the right to do so, and he performs something to effect this release. Although it is not always present, the idea is never remote that this claim is satisfied by the payment of a price. This meaning was present in the ancient usage of the vocabulary of redemption, and it is part and parcel of the Biblical message concerning redemption from sin. Those who are under the alien dominion of sin, who are unable to deliver themselves, are delivered by the Savior Jesus Christ, who perfectly satisfied the demands of the law, thereby establishing His right to release from its claims those who are enthralled by it; who effected their release by the substitution of His own life (
Since redemption is a release from the bondage of sin, its meaning is as broad as the scope of sin and the evil attending it. The release falls, broadly speaking, under two heads: (1) redemption from the curse of the law (
The inclusiveness of redemption from sin and from its attending evils is shown by the fact that the final consummation of the entire redemptive process is called “the redemption” (
Bibliography J. Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible (1902), IV, 210, 211; G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, arts. lutron (IV, 340-349) and apolutrōsis (IV, 351-356); T. J. Crawford, The Doctrine of the Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement (4th ed., 1954); L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1955); J. Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (1955); B. B. Warfield: “The New Testament Terminology of ‘Redemption’,” Biblical Doctrines (1929), 327-372; B. B. Warfield: “‘Redeemer’ and ‘Redemption’,” ibid., 375-398.