redemption in christ jesus

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Roms 3:21-25

These are key verses in Romans. They explain central aspects of the atonement. Paul has demonstrated the universal unrighteousness of humanity which, he reveals, has provoked the wrath of God (Roms 1:18-3:20). Paul exults in the gospel because in it is revealed God’s righteousness; the answer to human unrighteousness and divine wrath is the saving righteousness of God. In 3:21-26 Paul reveals how God can be righteous yet declare righteous people who are wicked. The answer is to be found in Christ. He has made it possible through his achievement on the cross for the ungodly who place their faith in him and in what he has accomplished through his death to be be made ‘right’.

One aspect of what the cross achieved is redemption. Redemption was a common idea in the C1. It referred to the money paid to secure a slave’s freedom. Helpful though the contemporary meaning was it is the OT that is the source of the NT meaning of redemption. Most significant aspects of the atonement are sourced in the OT. God shaped OT revelation to foreshadow the atonement that Christ would accomplish. He taught the meaning beforehand in ‘shadows’ so that the reality in Christ may be understood when it was accomplished.

There are various examples of redemption in Israel, however, two striking examples deserve reflection.

1. The Exodus from Egypt

2. The Kinsman Redeemer.

1 The Exodus from Egypt

The Exodus from Egypt is the primary source in the Bible for understanding redemption. Exodus begins by a flashback to Genesis and the family of Jacob who had gone down to Egypt to live – 70 people went down to Egypt. There, as promised by God to Abraham, the 70 had greatly grown in size. When they eventually left Egypt by a mighty redemptive act of God they had grown to a nation of over a million. However they were a million slaves and had been so for a very long time. Their great suffering led them to cry to God.

Ex 2:23-25 says

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

Commitment to his covenant promises and pity for his people move God to act. From this point God becomes the clearly pivotal character in the plot. The deliverance of his people will be his triumph. He is the divine warrior, the Almighty, who recognises and redeems his people. In Ch 6 we read,

‘God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”

The Exodus is a highly significant event in the OT story of Israel. It leaves a decisive stamp in Israel’s memory. By any standards it is an astonishing story of deliverance. It is the story of over a 1,000,000 slaves (Ex 6:37) being delivered from the clutches of a world superpower. It is little wonder the story spread and the nations upon learning what happened recognised that Israel’s God was no ordinary God, he was a powerful God to be feared (Ex 15:14:13-18). God’s glory was revealed in Pharaoh‘s overthrow and he planned it this way (Ex 14:17,18, 15:4-18; Josh 2:9,10; Roms 9:16). The message of the Exodus was heard among the surrounding nations.

The echoes of the Exodus run throughout the OT and into the NT. OT Prophets and Psalmists celebrated the redemption of the Exodus. In Ps 78, Asaph writes of Israel as they travelled through the wilderness, ‘They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer” (Ps 78:35). It was a time when God’s great power as Redeemer was in full display. Indeed, from then on the Lord was ‘Israel’s Redeemer’ (Isa 43:14, 44:6). He was the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt (Numbs 15:41). God’s glorious power at the heart of redemption is never forgotten.

The Exodus serves too as a paradigm for future deliverances such as the return from Babylon which was a kind of second Exodus (Isa 43:14-21). More importantly it (with the Babylonian Exodus) pointed to a redemption to be accomplished in the last days, a time when God the Redeemer who delivered his people from slavery in Egypt would once again act to redeem his people (Isa 41:14-16, 50:2, 59:20, 63:3-6). It is anticipated in the gospels (Lk 1:67-75, 2:38, 24:21). On the transfiguration mountain Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah concerning his death, describing it as an Exodus that would lead his people to freedom (Lk 9:31). It would be a redemption of far greater proportions than the redemption from Egypt not complete until his people are are living in a new heavens and new earth (Isa 50:2, 62:11-63:19; Rev 5:9).  

The main features of redemption in the Exodus story inform future redemptions, especially the Exodus redemption achieved by Jesus. Redemption is for an enslaved people. Israel had long been slaves in Egypt.

The Exodus , as noted above, was a stupendous act of divine deliverance. God brings what was effectively a rabble of slaves out of a sophisticated developed nation. He takes them through a sea on dry land while the Egyptian army is drowned behind them; Egypt could no longer pursue for it now had no army. Little wonder the nations heard and wondered; God was glorified in the deliverance (Ex 14:17,18). God’s glory is key to the Exodus and is key to the redemption accomplished by Christ (Eph 1:7,12, 13,14; Jn 13:31,32). Redemption shows the universe what God is really like.

Deliverance is a key component of redemption. It is people enslaved that God in Jesus delivers, those who cry to him for deliverance (Ex 2:23). He delivers: those under the condemning curse of a broken law (Gals 3:13); those bound by lawlessness (Tit 2:14); from futility (1 Pet 1:18); from decay and death (Roms 8:18-23). In the first century Roman world freedom from slavery was described as redemption. However, in Romans 3 redemption is not from Egypt or Rome, but from sin. The most fundamental tyrant of humanity is sin; we are enslaved to sin. Romans 1-3 reveals not only that all have all sinned but we are all ‘under sin’ – we are slaves of sin (Roms 3:9; Jn 8:34).

Redemption involves slavery and deliverance but it also involves ‘ransom’ (Ex 13:13, 34:20; Isa 43:12). A ransom price is normally intrinsic to redemption (Ex 34:20; Isa 43:12; Jb 36:18; Ps 49:7; Prov 6:34,35) Right at the heart of the Exodus, the key event that precipitates the exodus is the passover. God had told his people to prepare to leave Egypt that night because he would go through Egypt that night killing the firstborn in every household. It would be the judgement that would finally break the Egyptians. In the houses of Israel a lamb had to be slain and its blood splattered on doorposts and lintels of the house. The blood would redeem the firstborn in Israel’s houses; it would ransom their lives (Ex 13:16; Numbs 18:15,16). God had deliberately arranged that at the heart of the deliverance there was a sacrifice. In this it pointed to the sacrifice at the heart of the cosmic redemption story. In the NT we read, ‘Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:1). The ransom price of the cross is clear, ‘the church of God, which he obtained (or purchased or acquired) with his own blood.’ (Acts 20:28) and, ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1Cor. 6:19–20). The price was paid by the Son of Man who ‘gave his life as a ransom for the many’ (Matt 20;28). Jesus’ death is the price paid that liberates his people; indeed Jesus’ blood (1 Pet 1:18,19; Eph 1:6,7; Col 1:13,14; Rev 5:9). Only blood-ransom can rescue sinners (Isa 53).

The Exodus, however, was not an end in itself; it was but the beginning. It revealed to the nation the greatness of the God who had delivered them, who would enter into covenant with them, give them his law, live among them and bring them into the promised land. He would be their God and they would be his people. The rest of Exodus (and beyond) develops this (Ex 6:6-10).

In Deut 4, Moses says to the nation about to enter the promised land,

32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

Redemption has a long reach. It begins at conversion and progresses until we have have the redemption of our bodies (Roms 8 Cf. Hos 13:14). We have been sealed by the Sprit as a down payment of our inheritance until the day of our final redemption to the praise of God’s glory (Eph 1:14). Like Israel we are redeemed that we might travel to our heavenly inheritance, the ultimate promised land.

When Paul says, ‘we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ the Exodus is a big part of his conceptual background.

2. Kinsman Redeemer

The concept of a kinsman-redeemer comes from the book of Leviticus.

“If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold” (Leviticus 25:25).

The Kinsman Redeemer is a near male relative who takes up the cause of a relative who is in financial distress with no means of paying. The kinsman takes on the debts and liabilities of his relative. The kinsman redeemer is illustrated perfectly in the book of Ruth where Boaz becomes a kinsman redeemer to Ruth. It is above all Boaz’s love for Ruth that motivates him to be her undertake her care. Her care was really the responsibility of a nearer relative but in love Boaz undertakes the responsibility. It is this love that led Jesus to become our near relative.

Although not explicitly mentioned in the NT nevertheless Jesus became human and laid hold of the seed of Abraham.

Hebrews 2:11 states that “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer. He has paid our debts and like Boaz he has gone further and made his redeemed people his bride. Such is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.


Blog at