It is important to distinguish not only the various aspects of the work of Calvary but also their effects, so as to avoid confusion of thought and doctrine. When the Holy Spirit speaks of truths such as salvation, justification, reconciliation, sanctification and redemption, He is not using a variety of words just for the sake of it; rather, each word has its own peculiar meaning.
Redemption sees the sinner as shackled and bound by a power which afflicts him and which he cannot break. Thus, what is needed is a price to be paid, sufficient to secure his freedom, and a deliverance afforded to the one who is redeemed. There is also the thought in scripture that that deliverance has a purpose in view greater than the immediate blessing and greater happiness of the redeemed person.
In the Old Testament, the great picture of redemption is where Israel is delivered from the hand of Pharaoh. The words of God to Moses at the burning bush are worth recalling: ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them’, Exod. 3. 7-8. Who has not felt the burden of the Israelites, the people of God held captive by a mighty captor, as they were beaten by the taskmasters, held in the iron furnace of affliction, hated by the Egyptians, and also been grieved for those who still are captives to iniquity?1 God Himself felt their affliction and heard their cry and so brought them ‘out of the house of bondage’, ‘from the hand of the enemy’, and ‘out of the house of servants’.2
He accomplished this by blood, Exod. 12, and by power, Exod. 14.
Blood in the basin was not sufficient by itself. All the time that the blood was in the basin, the firstborn still languished under the judgement of God, and would die at midnight, just as surely as the lamb had already died. But the obedience of faith, seen in the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts and the lintel, meant that the lamb was most surely a substitute for the firstborn: it could now be said that the lamb had died instead of that son, and not only on his behalf. How often have the Lord’s people rejoiced in the fact that the blood of Christ has shielded them from judgement as they have lived in the good of the fact that the blood of sacrifice was always firstly for the eye of God, and that it is still true, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you’, 12. 13.
When God, of old, the way of life
Would teach to all His own;
He placed them safe beyond the reach
Of death, by blood alone.
It is His word, God’s precious word,
It stands for ever true:
When I, the Lord, shall see the blood
I will pass over you.
Daniel W. Whittle
The blood of the lamb in Exodus chapter 12 is complemented by that which speaks of the death of Christ, the Red Sea, in Exodus chapter 14. Redemption is not merely purchase. In the parables of the kingdom a man found treasure hid in the field and, for the joy he had in the treasure, he sold all that he had to buy the field. Now, ‘the field is the world’, Matt. 13. 38, 44. By the blood of Christ such a price was paid that the whole world was purchased, so that Peter could speak even of apostates as those bought by the Lord, 2 Pet. 2. 1. The price He paid puts, as it were, the title deeds of the universe in His hand. However, the world does not yet know redemption (and the apostate never will), because it knows nothing of deliverance from the vanity to which it is now subject. The Israelites were delivered. God opened the sea to let them out of Egypt; and closed it again behind them to ensure that they did not return to that which formerly held them in bondage. We praise God that our Lord Jesus Christ ‘gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father’, Gal. 1. 4.
It is little wonder that the first song in the Bible, and the last, is a song connected to redemption. ‘He brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness’, Ps. 105. 43. In that first song the purpose of God as to the reason for their deliverance is recognized. Moses and the people are not taken up merely with the fact that they no longer need to endure Egyptian rigour, but sing of the fact that God had redeemed them for Himself, and would learn that He would have them be His ‘peculiar treasure’, Exod. 19. 5. They were now peculiarly and uniquely His, even as when He delivered us, Gal. 1. 4, He delivered us for Himself.
‘In whom we have redemption through his blood’, Eph. 1. 7; Col. 1. 14, is the language of assurance for believers in the present day. Our redemption, together with every other blessing we have, is in Him, the risen and ascended Christ, something peculiar to this church age. Its basis is the blood of Christ. What a price He paid! The Greek agorazo has the thought of one entering into the market place to do business, buying or selling. Thus, ‘ye are bought with a price’, 1 Cor. 6. 20; 7. 23. The Lamb is worthy because He was slain, and has ‘redeemed us to God’ by His blood, Rev. 5. 9. But another word, exagorazo, is also used. This has the added idea that not only has a price been paid but it was with a view to the freedom of the one who was purchased: it means, ‘to buy out’, Gal. 3. 13; 4. 5. Then, in addition, another word that is used is lutroo. It means ‘to release on receipt of a ransom’, and is used in the well-known verse in which we learn that we ‘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’, 1 Pet. 1. 18-19. The currency of heaven is not the precious metals of earth, which, at best, are corruptible, but Christ’s precious blood, the sacrifice which He offered to God.
‘The curse of the law’, ‘vain conversation’, and ‘all iniquity’ are all things from which redemption has delivered us.3 Galatians tells us that we have been redeemed that we might know sonship. Under the law, the Israelites are viewed as children under tutors and governors, and, in a statement of great dispensational significance, the apostle says that ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ’, Gal. 3. 24. The thought in the verse is that the law was our schoolmaster ‘until’ Christ; when faith came, which had Jesus Christ as its object, they were no longer under a schoolmaster nor in bondage, 4. 3. Redemption brought them into the privilege of sonship. Titus tells us that God redeemed us that He might ‘purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’, 2. 14.
We praise God that the shackles that bound us are snapped. The Son has set us free by redemptive power.
Although it is true that ‘we have redemption’, it is also to be remembered that our bodies are not yet redeemed. That will happen when sonship in all its fullness is known and experienced, when we shall be ‘conformed to the image of his Son’, Rom. 8. 29. In anticipation of what is involved in the redemption of the body, believers now groan within themselves, 8. 23. They live in a fallen world, in a groaning creation, in a universe subjected by God to vanity, in a body not yet redeemed. How different will it be when they are conformed to the image of His Son!
Creation itself also awaits its glorious deliverance, as it waits for the ‘manifestation of the sons of God’, 8. 19. It shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Christ is a redeemer inheritor. The field, having been purchased at Calvary, will be delivered. His saints, ‘sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession’, Eph. 1. 14, will then be brought into the good of His inheritance, jointly possessing it with Christ.
Israel, too, will be in the good of all that the Redeemer will bring. Speaking of signs that will yet be seen relative to His coming, our Saviour said, ‘And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh’, Luke 21. 28. ‘Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness’, Isa. 1. 27, and ‘the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away’, 51. 11. What a day it will be for the afflicted earthly people of God when ‘the redeemer shall come to Zion’, 59. 20, and they shall call them ‘the redeemed of the Lord’, 62. 12.
Redemption has brought to us true freedom. But that freedom is not a liberty to do as we will in self-pleasing. It is, rather, a deliverance that brings us into being bondmen of the Lord, and this is true freedom. ‘Let my people go that they may serve me’, was the word to Pharaoh. They became His own peculiar treasure. The contemplation of all our Redeemer has done for us, the price He paid to secure our redemption, the blessings into which He has brought us, all ought to combine to give to us a desire to repay something of the debt of love we owe in devoted service to Him.