I suppose that few of my readers will ever have had the privilege of having a casket full of precious jewels set before them, and then been able to hold one gem after the other up to the light to marvel at the distinctive beauties of each. What must it be like to gaze at the crystal clarity of the diamond, the marvellous depth of green of the emerald, the richness of the ruby’s red and the exquisite blue of the sapphire? The handful of rich owners of such treasure are able to spend hours each day simply holding each jewel in turn, never tiring of admiring the unique beauties of each. Yet, while such precious earthly gems may never be ours to hold, let alone own, you and I have a treasure of far greater beauty and worth: a treasure of heavenly gems. Earthly gemstones may endure for centuries, but heavenly jewels will last forever.
Now tell me, what would you think of a person who had a treasure of earthly gems and yet never opened the casket but kept it locked away in some dark vault? Furthermore, what would you think if I were to tell you that this treasure was given to him by one who loved him more than any other, indeed loved him so much that he had to die in order to secure this earthly wealth for him? Would you not be amazed at the recipient’s lack of interest in what he had been given? Yet this is precisely how many treat the heavenly treasures for which their Saviour had to die!
Let me mention a few of these heavenly gemstones that are in your possession at this very moment if the Lord Jesus is your Saviour. You have salvation and sanctification; eternal life and justification; and reconciliation and redemption. These are but some of the jewels that are yours, eternal gemstones that no one can ever take from you––for they are secure in Christ your Saviour. Yet how often do you dip into the divinely given casket of the Scriptures to examine these precious jewels? What can you say about the grandeur of eternal life; what can you relate about the glories of reconciliation; what can you recount about the preciousness of redemption? What would you think of a jeweller who couldn’t tell the difference between a ruby and an emerald? Not a lot, I imagine! How sad then when believers, for whom their Saviour has died to secure these precious gems, cannot even distinguish between redemption and salvation simply because the casket of their Bible is never opened and just sits there gathering dust from one day to the next!
I want you to open the Book with me and to look together at some of the peculiar glories of one of these gemstones, the gemstone of redemption, and to compare and contrast it with the thought of purchase. Let us note its distinctive colour and marvel at its own attractive shades and hues. Above all, may our consideration of this wonderful gift lead to a greater appreciation of the Giver!
Firstly, let me stress that while your many blessings are distinctive, they have all been secured for you by one blessed Person––the Lord Jesus Christ. In this they are all identical, each being founded upon His death. However, redemption is not reconciliation, nor is it propitiation or justification. It shines with its own distinctive lustre. When earthly gemstones are to be displayed, the master craftsman arranges the background with great care so that the peculiar beauties and distinctive features of a particular gemstone are enhanced to maximum effect. Now the Holy Spirit is the Master Craftsman of these precious stones of Christian blessings. Thus if I want to view a particular gem in all its glory, I must take note of the background against which He has set it. For example, the background to reconciliation is active opposition to God. I needed reconciliation because I once was the enemy of God: “For if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of his Son…” (Rom. 5: 10). The result of reconciliation is that I get peace (see Col. 1: 20). However, active opposition to God is not the background of redemption, nor is peace its result. Redemption’s background is that I am a slave to sin and have debts that I cannot pay––as I will show you shortly. The blessed result of redemption is that I get liberty and sonship and have my sins forgiven––“in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences” (Eph. 1: 7). However, I go too far too fast.
What is redemption? It is not purchase, although related to it, for both purchase and redemption involve payment and cost. There is a distinction between purchase and redemption that even men make and it is this: When an article is bought it only becomes the possession of the buyer after the price is paid; when an article is redeemed it has to be the redeemer’s before the price is paid. This fundamental concept is not absent from the pages of Scripture either, for in the OT we read on many occasions of the “right of redemption” (e.g. Lev. 25: 26, Jer. 32: 7). The simple point is that with both purchase and redemption there is a price to be paid, but while purchase is open to all, redemption is restricted to those who have the right. A stranger may purchase but cannot redeem; only one who has the right can redeem. So why, in redemption, does a person have to pay for what is already his? It is because a liability lies on the property. That liability can only be removed by paying a price, and in turn that price can only be paid by one who has a right to do so.
Now before we examine this grand jewel of redemption, let us look at the background against which the Holy Spirit has set it in the Scriptures. The background is bondage––slavery. The great figure of our redemption in the OT is the exodus of Israel from Egypt. All the typical elements of “the redemption which [is] in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3: 24) are found there, but I want us to notice just one or two. In Egypt, Israel were slaves to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and because they were such God said “I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their service, and I will redeem you with a stretched–out arm, and with great judgments” (Ex. 6: 6). Yet, despite this, Israel in Egypt were already God’s people––they belonged to Him. Time and time again God speaks of them as “my people” (e.g. Ex. 3: 7). However, while they belonged to Him, they were slaves to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and thus in need of redemption. Why then in Ex. 6: 7 did God say “And I will take you to me for a people, and will be your God” if they already belonged to God? The reason is that while they were under the power of Pharaoh, they were lost practically to God––they could not serve Him while they served the king of Egypt. Hence again and again the word from God to Pharaoh was “Let my people go” (e.g. Ex. 9: 1). They were slaves under Pharaoh’s dominion (see Ex. 1: 11–14). It was no different with us. The Lord Jesus said “Verily, verily, I say to you, Every one that practises sin is the bondman of sin … If therefore the Son shall set you free, ye shall be really free” (John 8: 34–36). Like Israel we were slaves and like Israel we needed some one to set us free––we needed redemption.
Now let us leave the OT for the moment and turn to the NT where we have three Greek words translated on occasion in the AV as redeem. I refer to these three words because seeing their exact meaning will both emphasise the background to redemption and highlight the important difference between purchase and redemption. The first word used is agorazw (agorazo), which means to buy in the market place. The second word is exagorazw (exagorazo) and is identical to the first except for a preposition attached to it. This word means to buy out of the market place. It was used to describe the purchase of a slave with a view to setting him free. Both words mean buy, but neither word goes on to the full thought of redemption which involves liberty. For this a third word is used: lutrow (lutroo). This means to set free on payment of a ransom. Both agorazw and exagorazw would be better translated as buy, rather than redeem, leaving only lutrowl to be rendered as redeem.
Let us look at agorazw first. It is used in the parables of Matthew 13 where we are told that the field is bought (Matt. 13: 44), the field being the world (Matt. 13: 38). Yet agorazw is also used in 1 Cor. 6: 19, 20 of believers where the apostle says “Do ye not know that ye are not your own? for ye have been bought with a price”. Similarly in 1 Cor. 7: 23: “Ye have been bought with a price; do not be the bondmen of men”. Now this is not redemption––it is purchase, purchase of slaves in the market place and as such the believer, like the world, belongs to Christ on account of that purchase. Peter uses the same word when he says “But there were false prophets also among the people, as there shall be also among you false teachers, who shall bring in by the bye destructive heresies, and deny the master that bought them” (2 Pet. 2: 1). The word used here for master carries the sense of absolute authority, the authority that belonged to a man who owned slaves with no will of their own. When Christ died, He paid the purchase price for all. He bought the whole world, both believer and unbeliever––all are His. Yet, while the believer owns His authority, the unbeliever denies it (2 Pet. 2: 1) and remains the bondman of sin (Rom. 6: 17). Again, agorazw is used in Rev. 5: 9 and 14: 3, 4 where the AV gives the English word redeem. However, agorazw does not actually take us that far, for while Christ has purchased all, all are never said to be redeemed. Purchase, not redemption, is the meaning of agorazw and with purchase there is no thought of liberty, only a change of ownership.
In the NT believers are described in a number of ways: as saints, as children, as sons and as bondmen (slaves) of God. The thought of liberty (the fruit of redemption) is in view when we are described as children and sons, but quite the reverse when we are described as bondmen (Paul, for example, frequently calls himself a bondman of Jesus Christ). We are bondmen of Jesus Christ as a result of purchase––not of redemption. Hence Paul says in Rom. 6: 17, 18 “But thanks [be] to God, that ye were bondmen of sin, … Now, having got your freedom from sin, ye have become bondmen to righteousness”––set free from one master but only to come into bondage to another. Again in Rom 6: 22 “But now, having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondmen to God …”. Thus with purchase, there has been a change of master and a change of ownership but nothing more.
Now before we look at the liberty which results from redemption and our being sons and children of God, we must consider our second Greek word, exagorazw which is only used four times in the NT and means to buy out from. It does not exactly mean to liberate, but is in view of liberation. Hence, unlike agorazw, it is only used in the NT of believers. So we read in Gal. 3: 13, 14 “Christ has redeemed us out of the curse of the law, … that the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”. The work here is in view of liberty, of receiving the promise of the Spirit for “where the Spirit of [the] Lord [is, there is] liberty” (2 Cor. 3: 17). Again in Gal. 4: 4–7, Paul says that when the fulness of time was come “God sent forth his Son, come of woman, come under law, that he might redeem those under law, that we might receive sonship. But because ye are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So thou art no longer bondman, but son; but if son, heir also through God”. This is divine purpose, the object for those in bondage being that they might receive sonship (which involves liberty). However, although exagorazw is translated redeem in these passages in Galatians it really stops short of the full thought of redemption, namely liberty itself. Properly speaking exagorazw is to buy out of bondage with a view to liberty (Compare the only other two occasions it is used––in Eph. 5: 16 and Col. 4: 5). Redemption in the full sense of the word means to set a slave at liberty. Thus we have “Christ has set us free in freedom” (Gal. 5: 1)––the word translated there as set free is used of the emancipation of a slave.
We now come to the word that is rightly translated redemption––lutrow. It is the idea of loosing or setting free on the payment of a ransom. It is only ever used in Scripture of believers individually or of Israel nationally. When the Lord entered this scene as a babe, there was an expectancy of national redemption in Israel (Luke 2: 38, 24: 21) and Zacharius prophesied saying “Blessed be [the] Lord the God of Israel, because he has visited and wrought redemption for his people” (Luke 1: 68)––prophecy putting the future into the past (wrought redemption). However that redemption, on account of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, must await the coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory (see Luke 21: 28).
Now unlike purchase, redemption is, whether nationally or individually, solely for the people of God––never the world. Thus we read “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works” (Tit. 2: 14). This “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9: 12) of ours, like purchase, demands that a price has to be paid––and what a price! As the psalmist testified “None can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him, (For the redemption of their soul is costly, and must be given up for ever)” (Ps 49: 7, 8). With regard to the redemption of the soul, we “have been redeemed, not by corruptible [things, as] silver or gold, … but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, [the blood] of Christ …” (1 Pet. 1: 18, 19). Redemption’s ransom was the precious blood of Christ!
At this point the question naturally arises that if redemption is only for believers, and involves the payment of a ransom, how is it that Christ is said to have given Himself a ransom for all? (1 Tim. 2: 6). Since the payment of a ransom is synonymous with redemption, it might appear on the face of it that all are to be redeemed. To answer this look at Mat. 20: 28. There the Lord says that He came to give His life a ransom for many, and not as in 1 Tim. 2: 6 “for all”. Now in Greek the word translated for in English is not the same in the two Scriptures. In 1 Tim. 2: 6 the sense of for is on behalf of, that is ‘He gave His life a ransom on behalf of all’. The same word is used in Heb. 2: 9 which speaks of the Lord’s death on behalf of everything. Redemption’s price is sufficient for all. In Mat. 20: 28 (and Mark 10: 45) the word for means instead of, that is, ‘He came to give His life instead of many’. The price is great enough for all, but only the many are redeemed.
Why are unbelievers purchased but not redeemed while believers are both purchased and redeemed? Surely if one must own something before one can redeem it, then as the Son has created all (Col. 1: 16; Heb. 1: 2) then all must belong to Him? Certainly in this sense all belong to Him, but Scripture even here makes a distinction. Let us look at Israel first. On a national basis, only Israel are ever said to be redeemed. Now while God has created all men, Israel are distinctly described as created by Him and belonging to Him prior to redemption. Thus in Is. 43: 1 we read “But now thus saith Jehovah, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called [thee] by thy name; thou art mine”. God never speaks of any other nation in this distinctive way. Again in Is. 54: 5 we have “For thy Maker is thy husband: Jehovah of hosts is his name, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: the God of the whole earth shall he be called”. There is similar language in Is. 44: 21–24. Hence, while “The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 24: 1), Israel’s land is presented in that notable chapter on redemption (Lev. 25) as peculiarly Jehovah’s. It was never to be sold to any outside of Israel for Jehovah said “the land is mine” (Lev. 25: 23). In that land the grand idea of redemption was seen in the year of jubilee when all under any liability in Israel had to be set free (Lev. 25: 9, 10). Meantime if an Israelite became poor and sold himself to another, a great distinction was made between him and those “of the nations that are round about you” (Lev. 25: 44). An Israelite could be redeemed from a stranger (Lev. 25: 47–49) and in any case had to be set free in the year of jubilee. By contrast, although one of the nations could be bought as a possession, for such there was no redemption. They were owned for ever (Lev. 25: 44–46). But what of our day? Three times in John 17 the Lord speaks of His disciples as the Father’s gift to Himself (vs 6, 9, and 12). Then in v20 He says “And I do not demand for these only, but also for those who believe on me through their word”. This embraces us. In v24 He further says “Father [as to] those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before [the] foundation of [the] world.” We are the Father’s gift to the Son. This is never said of the world and is unique to the believer. We belong to Him not only on the ground of creation but as the result of the Father’s love in giving us to His Son. Like Israel, we belong to Him in a distinctive and peculiar way and it is on this ground that redemption is based. All could be bought, but not all could be redeemed. Redemption has a right; purchase has not. (Lev. 25: 29)
There is only One who has the right of redemption and that is the Son of God. No angel could ever redeem, for not only could such never pay the price, but they do not have the right. Only Christ has the right. Boaz may have been “a mighty man of wealth” but unless he was “of the family of Elimelech” (Ruth 2: 1) and so possessed “the right of redemption” (see Ruth 2: 20), there would have been no redemption. In Israel it was clearly laid down that only he who was of “his family” and “his nearest relation” had the “right of redemption” (Lev. 25: 10, 25, 26). The Lord Jesus took up that right for all saints individually by becoming man, and for Israel nationally by becoming a Jew. In John 1: 11, 12 we are told that the Lord came to His own (that is, His own things as Israel’s Messiah) but His own (that is, His own people) did not receive Him. Then we further read that “as many as received him, to them gave he [the] right to be children of God”.
There is a final distinction that highlights redemption when compared to purchase and it is this. Purchase is always in the past; redemption may be either in the past or in the future (unlike salvation there is no present aspect to redemption). Purchase is entirely a historical matter and hence we read that we have been bought with a price (see 1 Cor. 7: 23). However, redemption also has a future aspect. I cannot lose my redemption for it is located “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3: 24), and being there is absolutely secure, but despite this, as yet I do not have redemption in all its fullness. This awaits a coming day––what answers to the year of jubilee in the OT. Thus while purchase is complete, redemption is not. In Eph 1: 14 the Holy Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance (an earnest being a guarantee of something fuller yet to come), an inheritance that has been acquired by purchase but still awaits redemption (lutrow). Similarly, we have “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for [the] day of redemption” (Eph. 4: 30). There is thus a day of redemption when liberty will be complete. What we have now as the fruit of redemption is the forgiveness of sins: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences” (Eph. 1: 7). The liabilities of being slaves to sin have been fully met and removed––in that regard we are in liberty. However, we are still in bodies which experience the results of sin, and so Paul says “For indeed we who are in the tabernacle groan, being burdened” (2 Cor. 5: 4). We have the Spirit but we are waiting the quickening of our “mortal bodies also on account of his Spirit which dwells” in us (Rom. 8: 11) and the Spirit we have received is not “a spirit of bondage again for fear” but “a spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8: 15). This word adoption (uioqesia) is a compound of two words (uios), son and (qesis), a setting or placing. We are sons but we are not as yet in the place where sons belong––the Father’s house. We have the spirit of adoption (Rom. 8: 15) but we are awaiting the adoption itself, “[that is] the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8: 23). Nor are we alone in awaiting that moment. The lower creation looks for it because then “the creature itself also shall be set free from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans together and travails in pain together until now. And not only [that], but even we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also ourselves groan in ourselves, awaiting adoption, [that is] the redemption of our body”. (Rom. 8: 21–24).
So what about you? Are you waiting for that glorious moment when redemption will be complete, when you will enter into the liberty of sonship in all its fulness, when you will not only be a son, but be where sons belong––in the Father’s house? I have sought to bring before you from the divine casket something of the distinctive glories of this precious jewel of redemption. Go now, open the casket for yourself and search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. Then praise and adore the One who has redeemed you with His own precious blood.