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Abide in  Key Word Studies on Bible Doctrines

Biblical teachings for personal Bible study, daily devotions and sermon preparation with abiding principles and practical applications. Here is a dictionary of the rich terms used in the Christian vocabulary.


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Ransom, Redeem, Redeemer, Redemption

The most profound statement in the Scriptures is, "The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many."

How much did it cost to bring fallen man back to a personal relationship with God? It cost the life and death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, "who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14).

"Redeem" (luteroo) means ”to set free by payment of a price." The apostle Peter wrote, "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).  

The Old Testament teaches through pictures, types and prophecies the mighty deeds of God’s redeeming grace through Jesus Christ. It predicts the coming of the Kinsman Redeemer who gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin and paid the price to set men free.

Jesus said He came "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The word translated “ransom” in Matthew 20:28 "is the one commonly employed in the papyri as the price paid for a slave who is then set free by the one who bought him, the purchase money for release of slaves. Jesus gave his own life as the price of freedom for the slaves of sin" (A. T. Robertson). His death would provide a “ransom” (lytron, “payment”) “for” (anti, “in place of”) “many.” The death of the sinless Jesus would take the place of many deaths, for only His death could truly atone for sin (John 1:29; Rom. 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). The death of no other human being could ever atone for sin because everyone else who has been born are sinners, and they would be dying only to pay the penalty for their own sins (Rom. 6:23). However, Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice, whose substitutionary death paid the price for sin (Isa. 53:5-6; 2 Cor. 5:21). He did this voluntarily, sacrificially, vicariously, and obediently.

“Ransom” (lytron) occurs only in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 in the New Testament. As “the price of release” it refers to a payment to effect the release of slaves or captives from bondage. It also includes the concept of substitution. It is the picture of someone choosing of his own free will to die in the place of another. People are captives under the power of sin and death from which they cannot free themselves (cf. Rom. 5:12; 6:20). Jesus’ substitutionary death paid the price that sets people free (cf. Rom. 6:22; Heb. 2:14-15). Every believer can shout "Free at last!" Free at last!" because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The word redeemed in Galatians 3:13 means to purchase a slave for the purpose of setting him free. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’—" (Galatians 3:13).  

 It is possible to purchase a slave and keep him as a slave, but that is not what Christ did. Instead Jesus shed His blood on the cross, and purchased us that He might set us free. Christ died to set His redeemed people free. He did not save us to put us under another form of spiritual or religious bondage. Salvation means being set free from the bondage of sin and the Law and given the liberty of God’s grace through Christ (Gal. 5:1). Figuratively, Christ is spoken of as having bought His redeemed, making them His property at the price of His blood. He purchased sinful man through the shedding of His blood in expiation for their sins (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4). 

In 1 Peter 1:18-19 redemption is a purchasing from the marketplace of sin, a ransom not paid by silver or gold, which perishes (1 Pet. 1:7, 18), but with the priceless blood of the perfect Lamb of God (1 Pet. 1:19). In like manner to the Jewish sacrificial lambs which were to be perfect, Christ was sinless, “without blemish,” and therefore uniquely qualified as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. Heb. 9:14).

Before we put our faith in Jesus Christ we were rebels against God and slaves to sin. Jesus Christ "gave Himself for us" as our substitute. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). It is only on that basis could He set us free. We were slaves of sin (Titus 3:3), and it was impossible for us to set ourselves free, but Jesus Christ gave Himself as our ransom. As our substitute Jesus gave Himself for our sins and met the just demands of God's law. Therefore He could in His grace forgive our sins and set us free.

All unsaved individuals are slaves of sin and Satan. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin by dying in our place on the cross (1 Cor. 6:20; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 5:9). He redeemed us as in buying a slave from the slave market and we now belong to our new Master. We are now His bondslaves because He purchased us. The same grace that redeems us also transforms us and makes us righteous.

Moreover, those who have been purchased will never be put up for sale in any slave market again (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). We now belong to Jesus Christ forever. Christ died "so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:5). We are His forever children.

Not only do we belong to Jesus Christ as His bondslaves forever, but He has gone a step further and set us free. Lutroo means "to be set free by the payment of a ransom" (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18). We have been set free from sin and our old master Satan. We have been set free to serve (1 Pet. 2:9). Christ "gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14).  

This is the message we see repeated throughout the Old Testament. After Adam and Eve sinned God graciously provided a lamb according to Genesis 3:21 and Abel learned the same lesson (4:4). Abraham and Isaac appropriated the substitutionary Lamb God provided in Gen. 22:8, 13-14. The firstborn son of each Jewish home was redeemed at the Passover “when I see the blood I will pass over you” (Exod. 12:13). The innocent suffering Servant of the LORD died as a substitute for a sinful nation. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:4-6). The Lamb spoken of in these and many other passages was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). When we get to heaven we will all sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). We will bow and worship the Lamb who sits on the throne (Rev. 5:8, 13). We will attend the “marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9), but all whose name is not written “the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27) will face the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16-17).

The Bible is very clear that Christ’s death was not an accident; it was ordained by God before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23). From the human perspective, our Lord was cruelly murdered; but when we get heaven into the picture we realize He laid down His life for sinners (John 10:17–18), and God raised Him from the dead! The risen Savior promises anyone who trusts Him will be saved for eternity (Jn. 10:27-30).

The God of our redemption is worthy of all of our praise and worship.

Key Scriptures

Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 20:28; Galatians 3:13; 4:4-5; Job 19:25; Leviticus 25:25; Hebrews 9:11-12, 15; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 7:23; Titus 2:14; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 3:23 

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. When we were in bondage to sin and Satan, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself in our place to purchase us and then set us free to let Him live a life of righteousness in and through us. Jesus shed His precious blood to purchase us out of the slavery of sin and set us free forever. To redeem means “to set free by paying a price.” A slave could be freed with the payment of money, but no amount of money can set a lost sinner free. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can redeem us. Nothing but the blood!

2.  Since we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin and liberated from our old master Satan, we are now free to serve God in righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit. He set us free to live the Christian life. 

3. Jesus Christ came to do for sinners what they could not do for themselves. No lost sinner can ever redeem himself. And neither can a carnal mind assist the Spirit of God in creating a new man. It is altogether regeneration by the work of God the Holy Spirit, and the work of renewal is from His unassisted power. Have you experienced the liberating power of God's redeeming grace?

For Further Study

Leviticus 25:25 Our Kinsman Redeemer
Christ Our Redeemer
Lamb of God
The Redeeming Blood of Jesus
God's Eternal Purpose: Redeemed by the Lamb
Leviticus 16  Day of Atonement
Leviticus 17:11 Blood of Atonement
John 19:30  Finished! 

Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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