RPM, Volume 12, Number 21 May 23 to May 29 2010


The Doctrine of Redemption

By John Stevenson

After graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Theology from Florida Bible
College, John went on to receive his Masters of Divinity from Knox Theological Seminary
and his Doctorate from Reformed Theological Seminary. John website is John Stevenson's Bible Study Page.

I know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25).

Job was a man who was acquainted with calamity. On a single day, this man lost all of his wealth, his servants and his family. As if this were not enough, his body was then stricken with a terrible disease which left him covered from head to foot with boils. Overwhelmed by catastrophe after successive catastrophe, he lost everything except a nagging wife.

Any normal man would have fallen into the deepest depression, abandoning his faith in God. But not Job. He continued in his prayers to the Lord. What was the basis of Job's stability? What was the source of his faithfulness? In the midst of his sufferings, he declares what I think is at the root of his stability.

And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26).
Job was able to look past his circumstances to a Redeemer whom he realized would be his salvation. You are going to have problems. They may not be of the magnitude of those which afflicted Job, but they will seem just as big to you. Perhaps you are already in the midst of difficulties. You need a root of stability, a foundation for your faith. It is found in knowing your Redeemer.


What is redemption? It has been described as the deliverance from the power of an alien dominion and the enjoyment of freedom that results. As such, it is closely associated with the idea of ransom and substitution.

These concepts find their roots in the Old Testament and the historical background of that day. Redemption presupposes SLAVERY. The institution of slavery was common throughout the ancient world. Abraham had come out of Ur of the Chaldees owning a small army of slaves. The Israelites had become a nation of slaves in Egypt. Slavery was still enforced during the days of Christ.

Under most legal codes of those days, a slave was merely a piece of property with little or no personal rights. If you killed another man's slave, you might suffer the same punishment as if your had killed his cow.

The Mosaic Law provided for the rights of slaves. One provision was that all slaves were to be freed after six years (though this was not true of women who had been sold into slavery, as they would have no means of supporting themselves once they were set free).

And if a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. 8 If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfaithfulness to her. (Exodus 21:7-8).
Perhaps one reason why a female slave was not to be set free was because she would have no means of supporting herself aside from prostitution. However, verse 8 points out that she could be REDEEMED - that is, she could be purchased back out of her slavery.

Now I want you to notice something. The slave in such a case was HELPLESS. He or she could do nothing to affect the situation. A slave had no means of taking himself or herself out of slavery. It is in this light that Israel is spoken of as a people who had been redeemed.


The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
The entire nation of Israel had originally been under the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They were a nation of slaves. They had been helpless to free themselves. It had taken an outside intervention to give them their freedom. The intervention came at the hand of the Lord bringing ten terrible plagues against what at that time was the mightiest nation on the face of the earth.

This intervention did not come because the Israelites were the most deserving. They were not. If I had been choosing a people, I might have chosen the Hittites or the Babylonians. Why did God choose the Jews? It wasn't because of THEIR faithfulness. It was because of His own faithfulness. It was because of His love and because of His promise. He had made a promise a long time before there were any Jews. And God always keeps His promises.


Another example of the principle of redemption in the Old Testament is seen in the redemption of the firstborn of each Israelite. This ceremony looked back to the Passover. It began at a time when the Israelites had just been released from their slavery in the land of Egypt.
And it shall come about when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to us and to our fathers, and gives it to you, 12 that you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of ever beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord.

But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.

And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, "What is this?" that you shall say to him, "With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.

"And it came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem." (Exodus 13:11-15).

On the night of the first Passover, God killed all of the firstborn in every family throughout the land of Egypt. It mattered not whether one was Egyptian, Nubian or Israelite. All of the firstborn of man and beast were under the sentence of certain death. The only way of escape was through the blood of an innocent lamb smeared on the door posts and over the lintel of each house. It was only in this manner that all of the firstborn of Israel escaped death.

Now God states that the firstborn of each family is His. While they were under the sentence of death, He provided the means for their release. They now belong to God. If they are to continue to live, then must be purchased back into the realm of the living. A purchase price must be set and that which is owed must be paid.

This is a picture of what Christ has done for us. Because of our sin, we were under the sentence of death. We were helpless to save ourselves. God's righteousness demanded that the debt of our sin must be paid if we were to return to the land of the living. We were without hope apart from a Redeemer. But God provided a substitute to die in our place. Through the blood of that innocent substitute, we were spared. And now we belong to God. He has paid the price of redemption for us.


Leviticus 25:29-34 describes the regulations concerning the redemption of any portion of property which had been previously sold. It stipulates the conditions under which a man who sold a piece of property was able to buy it back.
Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year.

But if it is not BOUGHT BACK for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not revert in the jubilee" (Leviticus 25:29-30).

The phrase "bought back" in verse 20 carries with it the idea of redemption. A price is paid for that which has been forfeit so that it can be returned to its original state. The Law provided that any land which was sold would revert back to its original owner on the year of Jubilee (this took place once every 50 years). But there was an exception clause. The exception dealt with a house in the city. Such a house had to be redeemed in order to stay within the family.

Once again, the object which was to be purchased was absolutely helpless to affect the outcome of the purchase. But that is not all. Notice also that the thing which was redeemed became the property of the one who paid the redemption price. We have been similarly purchased. We are a "house in a city." It is a house that God both built and which He has now purchased.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The story is told of a little boy who built a toy sailboat. He loved that sailboat. It held a special place in his bedroom and he would imagine sailing on exciting adventures with his toy boat. One day, he was down and the lake and put the boat in the water when the wind changed and, much to his dismay, his boat was swept away.

It was a few months later when he was walking down the street and saw the same sailboat in the window of a pawn shop. "That's my boat!" he told the pawn shop owner. "It may have been your boat," replied the owner, "but it's mine now and it will cost you twenty dollars."

The little boy went home and collected and saved until he had $20.00 and then he went back to the pawn shop and purchased the boat. "Little sailboat," he said, "You are mine. I made you and then I bought you back. You're twice mine." The Lord is our Maker. He not only made us, He also bought us and paid for us. We are twice His.


Leviticus 25:47-49 presents another aspect of redemption. It is the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer. Picture the situation. An Israelite living in the land of Canaan is hit with economic disaster. Perhaps a famine has come over the land and wiped out his crops. Rather than resort to begging, he can sell himself into slavery, using the proceeds to pay off his debts or care for his starving family.

And so, he becomes a slave. How can he regain his freedom? It can only be if the redemption price is paid.

Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of your becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. (Leviticus 25:47-49).
If we look very closely, we can find four qualifications which were necessary for a Kinsman Redeemer to accomplish this redemption. It was only when a man possessed these four qualities that he was permitted to perform this task.

1. He must be a Kinsman.

The passage is very specific that this redeemer must be related to the one whom he is going to buy back out of slavery. There must be some family connection.

2. He must be Free Himself.

A slave was unable to purchase another slave. The most that a slave might be able to do would be to free himself from slavery. Therefore, a Kinsman Redeemer must himself be free of the debt and of the bondage which had fallen on the one who was to be redeemed.

3. He must be Able to Pay the Ransom Price.

If he did not have the necessary sum of money which was required to pay the purchase price, then he would not be able to redeem his relative. Good intentions were not enough. He must have the wherewithal to accomplish those intentions.

4. He must be Willing to Pay the Price.

It was not enough to have a kinsman who was able to accomplish the work of redemption. He must also be willing to make the sacrifice of paying the price. I imagine that there were a number of slaves with rich uncles who just didn't want to spend the money to release their unfortunate relative from slavery.

Each of these qualifications was fulfilled in the person of Jesus. God sent Him into the world's slave market to purchase men from their bondage to sin.

a. He was a Kinsman.

This is why it was necessary for God to become flesh - to be born and to grow up and to walk this earth as a man. It was because only a man could die for other men to buy them back from the bondage of sin and death.

Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15).
God could not die, for He is eternal life and the source of all life. It was only by being born as a man and taking on human flesh and becoming a man that He could experience death for us.

b. He was Free Himself.

Jesus was the only man since Adam who has ever been free from sin. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to this day, all men are under this bondage.

This is important. Another man could not die for my sins since he would have to pay the penalty for his own sins. Only someone who is free from sin could be a substitute for the sins of another.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus lived His entire life on earth without committing a single sin. This qualifies Him as the only free man.

c. He was Able to Pay the Ransom Price.

Even if there had been a man who had been without sin, his death would not have had the infinite merit to pay for the sins of the whole world. At best, the sacrifice of a single finite man could atone for the sins on only a single man.

But the death of Jesus was not the death of a mere man. It was also the death of an infinite being. It was the death of God in the flesh. God experienced death. He died in our place. Only the death of such a One could have been sufficient to save the world.

d. He was Willing to Pay the Ransom Price.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8).

This is one of the most profound passages in the Bible. Just think, a member of the Godhead emptied Himself of His glory in order to take on the form of a man and become a man. And that is not all. He went on to suffer and to die on a cross for us. This is redemption.


The result of redemption is that we are free. Redemption, by its very nature, is a very liberating doctrine. We don't need to ever feel guilty again. And we don't need to play the "holier than thou" game. God doesn't grade on the curve. He has already graded on the cross.

A second result of redemption is that it signifies that we are a people of great value. We have a price tag affixed to us and God paid the highest possible price for us.

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Johnny Lingo was a handsome bachelor in a village where the custom was that a man would pay a dowry to the father in order to be granted permission to marry the daughter. The average dowry price for a maiden was three cows, although an exceptionally beautiful girl might go for as high as five cows.

One day, Johnny Lingo went to the father of Sarita to negotiate a dowry. Tongues immediately began to wag, for it was well-known that Sarita was not very pretty. In fact, she was considered to be rather plain.

On the other hand, Johnny Lingo was known for being such a sharp negotiator that some speculated that he might be able to obtain Sarita for as low as one cow. However, Johnny Lingo did nothing of the sort. He marched up to Sarita's father and offered eight cows for her hand in marriage.

Eight cows! It was unheard of! No one had ever paid such a high price for a bride. And for such a plain woman as Sarita! But after the wedding, a strange thing happened. Sarita began to take on a noble bearing. Her head was held high. Her eyes sparkled. She beamed with an inner glow. And in the years that followed, she became renown as the most beautiful woman in all the village. People would come from afar to see her as her radiant grace became almost legendary.

One day, Johnny Lingo was asked why he had paid such a exorbitant price for a wife. He replied, "I loved Sarita and wanted to express the high value of our marriage. Her self esteem has been greatly elevated as she realizes that her dowry price was higher than any other woman in the village." Then with a grin, he added, "But the other reason I had was that I wanted to marry an eight-cow wife."

God paid the highest possible price for you. Not merely in cows, but in His only begotten Son. And that makes you a prized possession of inestimable value.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

Subscribe to RPM

RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. To subscribe to RPM, please select this link.

http_x_rewrite_url /magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ereformedperspectives.org%5Earticles%5Ejoh_stevenson%5Ejoh_stevenson.FREE.html&at=FREE! thispage server_name reformedperspectives.org script_name /magazine/article.asp query_string link=http:%5E%5Ereformedperspectives.org%5Earticles%5Ejoh_stevenson%5Ejoh_stevenson.FREE.html&at=FREE! url /magazine/article.asp all_http HTTP_CONNECTION:Keep-Alive HTTP_ACCEPT:text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING:br,gzip HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE:en-US,en;q=0.5 HTTP_HOST:reformedperspectives.org HTTP_USER_AGENT:CCBot/2.0 (https://commoncrawl.org/faq/) HTTP_X_REWRITE_URL:/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ereformedperspectives.org%5Earticles%5Ejoh_stevenson%5Ejoh_stevenson.FREE.html&at=FREE! HTTP_X_ORIGINAL_URL:/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ereformedperspectives.org%5Earticles%5Ejoh_stevenson%5Ejoh_stevenson.FREE.html&at=FREE!