Redemption is in three tenses—past, present, future. Whatever its tense, it has been procured by God's grace through the precious blood of His Son.
The Word of God has much to say about redemption as it relates to salvation. In every case, it is God who does the redeeming, for it is written of men that, though "they…trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches: none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Psa. 49:6, 7).
In the New Testament, the words "redeem," "redemption," etc., are translated from several different words meaning to go to market, to purchase, to ransom, to buy up, to rescue, to loosen. Thus, in summarizing the doctrine of redemption, we may say that it means to buy back.
Once the whole human race belonged to God, in Adam its federal head. But by his sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam took the whole race away from God. "Wherefore, by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned...Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Rom. 5:12, 18). So it was that all mankind was "sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14), away from God and righteousness. In order to redeem us, to buy us back to Himself, it was necessary for God to deal with the sin question.
This is exactly what God did when He gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins, "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18). There at Calvary the sin problem, which separated God and man, was settled effectually and eternally. "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21).
The Lord Jesus Christ, then, is the Redeemer. He has redeemed us, ransomed us, bought us back for God and unto God. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Cor. 1:30).
The purchase price of our redemption, the ransom price by which we have been bought back to God, is the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, His life laid down in substitution for us. We have indeed been "bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:20). "By His own blood He entered in once unto the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12). In Him "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). Peter reminds believers "that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Pet. 1:18, 19).
The redemption of Old Testament days was only a typical redemption. The animal sacrifices offered then could not in themselves buy back to God; they could only point to that which was coming in the plan of God, the cross, when "the precious blood of Christ" would redeem in reality. "But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building [creation]; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once unto the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us… And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:11, 12, 15).
The law was given to Israel (and only to Israel) as a schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ (Gal. 3:24). The law cursed and, by its revelation of sin, put man at a guilty distance from God. But Paul, a believing Jew, writes: "Christ hath redeemed us [believing Jews] from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham [salvation by faith] might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we [all believers, Jew and Gentile alike] might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13, 14).
And the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer, bears witness to the fact that we have been redeemed, that we have been bought back to God, and that we are His own children because of this. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we [Jewish believers] might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye [Gentile believers] are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:5, 6).
There is, for the believer, a threefold redemption—past, present, and future; and it has all been procured by the grace of God and the blood of Christ.
We have been redeemed from "the wages of sin [which] is death" (Rom. 6:23) by the substitutionary death of our Saviour, and bought back to God by His precious blood: "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). Our sins have been righteously and eternally put away, and God "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:13, 14).
We who are saved will never have to face the righteous judgment of God upon our sins, for we have been delivered from this by the payment of a price. We are redeemed! "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:24-26). "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Cor. 6:19, 20).
But redemption not only bought us out from under sin's awful penalty, it also bought us from under its power. "Our Saviour Jesus Christ...gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Tit. 2:13, 14). The same precious blood that secured our forgiveness also broke sin's power, that we might be redeemed "from all iniquity." Elsewhere we read that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2-4).
Every person is born into this world with a corrupt, sinful nature. After we are saved, we still have this nature together with the new nature which we receive from God. This old nature, sometimes called the "flesh,'' must be constantly kept by the believer in the place of subjection, the place of death. We are told: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:12-14).
How can we refuse sin's dominion and live unto God? Simply because the blood of Christ has bought us from under sin's power. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation [manner of life] received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (I Pet. 1:18-20). "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (I Cor. 7:23). So, presently, we are being redeemed from the power of sin in our lives.
We shall be redeemed in our bodies when the Lord Jesus comes for us, and we shall then be taken out of the very presence of sin. "Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). When we believed, we were "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:13-14), and we are exhorted to "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). What a blessed expectation is "the day of redemption," when our groanings will be over, and "we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2)!
Israel was redeemed out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12), yet it took the power of God to divide the Red Sea and deliver the Israelites from their enemies and oppressors (Ex. 14). So redemption is both by blood and by power. We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, "for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (I Cor. 5:7). Yet it constantly takes God's power to deliver us from our enemies and oppressors, Satan and his hosts; therefore we need always to "walk in the Spirit." When we are with the Lord in glory, our eternal theme of praise will be the redemption which He has wrought for us. "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9).
His word to His own is: "Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine" (Isa. 43:1).
From Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation by John B. Marchbanks. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1970. Chapter 4.