Whereas the imagery of propitiation is that of the temple court, the imagery of redemption is that of the market-place. The basic meaning of ‘to redeem’ is to buy or buy back, whether as a purchase or as a ransom. Strongly implied is the plight from which we needed to be ransomed.
In the OT, property, animals, persons and even the nation were ‘redeemed’ by the payment of a price. The ‘kinsman-redeemer’ had the right (and duty) to buy back property which had been alienated, in order to keep it in the family. In all cases, redemption was a costly and decisive intervention. ‘A redemption without a price paid is as anomalous a transaction as a sale without money passing.’ (Warfield)
In NT teaching, the plight is moral rather than material, and the price is the death of God’s Son, Mk 10:45.
What was the plight from which we were redeemed? If in the OT people were redeemed from debt, captivity, slavery, exile and liability to execution, in the NT it is a moral bondage from which Christ has ransomed us. This is expressed as our sins or transgressions, Eph 1:7; Col 1:14, and as ‘the curse of the law’, Gal 3:13; 4:5. Yet there is more than this release from past captivities: we look forward to a day when we shall be liberated from all the ravages of the Fall, Tit 2:14; Lk 2:38; 21:28; Eph 1:14; Rom 8:18-23.
What was the price with which we have been redeemed? ‘The New Testament never presses the imagery to the point of indicting to whom the ransom was paid, but it leaves us in no doubt about the price: it was Christ himself. To begin with, there was the cost of the incarnation, of entering into our condition in order to reach us. Certainly we are told that when God sent his Son, he was “born under law, to redeem those under law”, Gal 4:4f…Beyond the incarnation, however, lay the atonement. To accomplish this he gave “himself”, 1 Tim 2:6; Tit 2:14, or his “life” (his psyche, Mk 10:45), dying under the law’s curse to redeem us from it, Gal 3:13.’ In fact, the most frequent word used to express this thought is the word ‘blood’, 1 Pet 1:18f etc.
Who is the person by whom we have been redeemed? It is Jesus the Christ. And it is he who has propriety rights over his purchase. His lordship over the church is attributed to his having bought us with his own blood, Acts 20:28; Rev 5:9. ‘If the church was worth his blood, is it not worth our labour?’
‘A remembrance that Jesus Christ has bought us with his blood, and that in consequence we belong to him, should motivate us as individual Christians to holiness, just as it motivates presbyters to faithful ministry and the heavenly host to worship.’
Based on Stott, The Cross of Christ, (IVP) 175-182