Question: "What does it mean that Jesus is our Redeemer?"
Answer: A redeemer is someone entrusted with securing one’s release from oppression, harm, evil, enslavement, or some other binding obligation. A redeemer restores the lost rights and freedoms of another by avenging any wrongs and paying whatever price is required to set that person free. The role of “Redeemer” is uniquely assigned to Jesus Christ, who rescues believers “from the dominion of darkness” and delivers them into God’s kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13–14).
In the Old Testament, two main words and their derivatives communicate the concept of redemption. The verb gaʾal means “to buy back; to ransom or redeem by paying the price.” The term is used in Exodus 6:6 and 15:13 to designate God’s sovereign act of redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt (see also Psalm 77:15). From this point forward, the Lord reveals Himself as a deliverer, redeeming people from danger, oppression, captivity, and death (Psalm 72:14; 103:4; 106:10; 107:2; Jeremiah 32:16–44; 50:34; Isaiah 43:1; 48:20). In the book of Ruth, Boaz acts as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 2:20), liberating them from destitution and widowhood by buying back the land of Elimelech and taking Ruth to be his wife (Ruth 4:1–12).
The idea of redemption from sin is included in the Old Testament legal term padah (Psalm 26:11; 49:7; 103:8; 130:8; Isaiah 1:27; 59:20), which is associated with an animal being substituted as the ransom price for either a person or another animal (Exodus 13:13; 34:20). In conjunction with Israel’s sacrificial system for sin, these terms and concepts served as constant reminders that a price or ransom had to be paid for one to be released from the guilt and penalty of sin.
The theme of redemption develops further in the New Testament with two more terms. The first is lutron, which means “to redeem,” “to liberate,” or “to ransom.” The Gospels use this word to express the heart of Christ’s mission as Redeemer: Jesus came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; see also Mark 10:45). His death on the cross paid the ransom price to set sinners free from bondage to sin (Revelation 1:5; Romans 3:23–24; 6:18, 22; Hebrews 9:15; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:3–5; 1 Peter 3:18). Just as the Old Testament animal sacrifices paid for Israel’s sins, Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree” and satisfied the debt we owed (1 Peter 2:24).
Another New Testament word, agorazein (and its cognates), is used to express the costly nature of God’s redemptive work in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 4:5). Redemption cost Jesus, our Redeemer, everything: “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13, NLT; see also 1 Corinthians 7:22–24). Christ paid the ransom to secure our freedom from sin and death with His own precious blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12–14; 13:11–12; Revelation 1:5; 5:9–10). The apostle Peter testified, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
Throughout the Bible, God’s work of redemption points to Jesus as the supreme Redeemer of humanity (Isaiah 63:16). Christ is the fulfillment of Scripture’s redemptive theme (Romans 3:25).
Although our sins separated us from God, the Father, in His love and mercy, sanctioned the ultimate rescue mission by sending His Son to be our Redeemer. Christ gave His life so we might live (John 3:16; 10:10–11). Believers are “justified by his blood” and “saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9). We are forgiven and cleansed from our sins (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:7), released from guilt and condemnation (Hebrews 9:14; Romans 5:9; 8:1–2), and restored to fellowship with God (1 John 1:6–9; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 1:19–22; Ephesians 2:14). Jesus our Redeemer sets us free from evil forces and powers of darkness in the world (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13; 2:20; Galatians 1:4) and rescues us from the “the terrors of the coming judgment” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).
The apostle Paul explains that our complete redemption will be experienced in the future. Right now, we have “the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory” as we “wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23, NLT). In the eternal state, we will enjoy every glorious aspect of the spiritual inheritance God has promised to His people (Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3–5). Oh, what a Redeemer we have in Jesus! May we always remember and rejoice in the deliverance and freedom He supplies.