Humans love redemption stories. Our movies, literature, and folklore focus heavily on someone trying to make up for a mistake or tragedy in their past. Maybe it's something they did, or perhaps it's something that was done to them. Each story pulls you in with the hope that the protagonist can do something to mend or maybe even build upon that experience.
Did you ever think that we gravitate towards these kinds of stories because it represents our deepest desire? Every one of us has experienced or even carried out betrayals. And even though we all typically know what we should do, we often choose to do the exact opposite. And looking at the world around us, it's easy to see that things aren't the way they're supposed to be. Something's broken—and we desperately want to know it can be redeemed.
Redemption in Scripture
In many ways, the Bible is a story of redemption. On a macro level, it's the story of humanity's fall, our broken relationship with our Creator, and then God's plan for reconciliation and redemption. But throughout the narrative, we see how God is constantly in the redemption business.
The Bible doesn't simply tell the tale of humanity's redemption in the abstract but it also gives us individual tales of redemption. We see Abraham, Moses, and David all commit sins and witness their repentance and redemption. For redemption to work in the grand scheme of things, it needs to operate on an individual basis, too.
Let's examine a dozen key biblical passages about redemption.
1. Let the redeemed tell their story (Psalm 107:2–3)
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
For the Israelites, redemption was experienced in relation to enemies. Thus, throughout the Old Testament, we watch God's people fall into cycles of disobedience, occupation among foreign adversaries, and eventual salvation by God's hand.
But Psalm 107 also talks about God's redemption from desert wanderings, slavery, shipwreck, famine, and drought. Jesus told us that the enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and that destruction manifests itself in many ways—and God can deliver from all of them.
It's important to recognize how these two verses can be read in light of the redemption that Jesus offers.
John tells us that the reason Jesus appeared was to "destroy the works of the devil." The writer of Hebrews communicates it this way:
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:14–15).
God has undoubtedly redeemed us from the hand of the foe, and others' redemption happens when the "redeemed of the Lord tell their story." In essence, this is what it means to fulfill the Great Commission.
2. He provided redemption for His people (Psalm 111:6–9)
He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
Psalm 111 tells us that not only are the things God does faithful and true but also His law is trustworthy. The works of the Lord's hands and the words He has spoken are established in faithfulness and uprightness. What exactly does that mean? Are these things found in God's consistent faithfulness? Yes! But there’s more.
The very next Psalm tells us that the righteousness of the upright endures forever (Psalm 112:3). God's works and words are not only established forever in His character but also in ours. This is one reason that redemption is so critical. The redeemed begin to resemble their Creator, and in their uprightness, people witness the goodness of God.
3. Return to me, for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:21–23)
Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you."
Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.
Through the prophet, God reminds Israel of His mercy. Despite what seems to be a never-ending cycle of disobedience, God continues to forgive and redeem them from their enemies. Pay special attention to the second part of this passage. Israel's redemption causes creation to respond in celebration and joy because the Lord's glory is revealed in His redemption.
Paul tells us that "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:22). Just imagine the party creation will throw when the story of God's redemption is made available to everyone on earth!
4. You redeemed my life (Lamentations 3:55–60)
I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: "Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief."
You came near when I called you,
and you said, "Do not fear."
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me.
Uphold my cause!
You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
The speaker talks about their desperation. Like many of us, the writer of Lamentations becomes desperate for the Lord when it becomes evident that they cannot save themselves. The Lord responds with attentiveness and compassion.
The thing about the Lord's redemption isn't just that He swoops in and rescues us. Like the speaker in Lamentations, the Lord takes up our case against our accuser.
5. To save the world through Him (John 3:16–17)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
There's a reason John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible. It beautifully sums up the New Testament's redemption message. God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to redeem each individual who puts their faith in Him.
Verse 3:17 is a crucial corollary. God has never desired condemnation; He's always longed to redeem us, and reconciling the world to Himself is the entire focus of Jesus' incarnation.
6. He is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 28–31)
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."
The interesting thing about God's redemption is that it's set up so that we can't take responsibility for it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians, Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Israelites couldn't fathom the idea of a Messiah claiming to be God and being killed as a criminal. Everyone else can't get past the idea that salvation isn't achieved through effort and the right philosophies.
In the end, it is Jesus who has secured our redemption. It is Jesus who sets us apart and makes us holy. And it is Jesus who is the source of our righteousness.
7. God's redemption has come to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13–14)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
God promised Abraham that the whole world would be blessed through his descendants (Genesis 12:3). But Israel frequently lost the plot and made their relationship with God solely about them.
By the time Jesus came, they were expecting a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel. But Jesus came to fulfill God's promise to Abraham. His redemption wouldn't just be for Israel, but for the entire world.
8. Redemption through His blood (Ephesians 1:7–8a)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us.
The very word redemption is about paying a price to purchase something or to pay a ransom. So when Paul says that we have redemption through His blood, he's talking about the price that was paid for our redemption. Our ransom was paid with the Savior's very life.
It's important to recognize that we also have the forgiveness of sins. This is part of our redemption. Sin leads to bondage and death. We needed to be redeemed from the penalty of our sin, and that's part of what Jesus bought with His blood. Not only that we could be forgiven for our sins, but that we could be bought back from the penalties.
9. Rescued us from darkness (Colossians 1:13–14)
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
A lot of the language Paul uses comes from his Hebraic upbringing. An Israelite reading these words would associate them with the Exodus. God swooped in and rescued the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, and He led them to a promised land that would become their home.
Exodus becomes a metaphor for a spiritual problem that God's redemption solved. Namely, how could He rescue His creation from a sinful kingdom that they have often willfully embraced? How could He reconcile Himself with people who belong to another kingdom?
Jesus went into this dark dominion and took upon Himself the punishment for humanity's sin. This act ransomed them from the enemy’s kingdom and brought them into the kingdom of God.
10. He redeems us from all wickedness (Titus 2:11–14)
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Redemption isn't just about saving us from the past to be assured about our future. Redemption offers us a reset. We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God's kingdom. But we've also been redeemed from the fruitlessness of worldly passions.
Our gratefulness for God's grace should help us be self-controlled, but part of the inheritance that comes with redemption is God's Spirit deposited in each of us to teach and empower us to live godly lives.
11. He has died as a ransom (Hebrews 9:15)
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
The word "testament" means covenant. That's why Christians divide the Scripture up into two parts, the old and new covenant. The old covenant was represented by God's law. A carefully prescribed list of rules describing how to worship God and live a godly life.
Jesus is the high priest of the new covenant. He reveals to us the covenant and then He offers Himself as the only acceptable sacrifice to inaugurate it. His redemption sets us free from our sins committed under the old covenant, and it also fulfills the requirements of that covenant—ushering in a whole new relationship between God and humanity.
12. Redeemed with precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19)
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.
In a section of his epistle on holiness, Peter reminds His readers that they have been ransomed. And we need to remember that in the way that we live. Our choices need to be driven by thankfulness for the kindness and grace God has demonstrated toward us.
If someone had paid a high monetary price for our freedom, we would feel responsible to honor that gift with the decisions we make. We’d appreciate such a gift and desire to live worthy of it. Peter gently reminds us that the price paid to deliver us was more expensive than that. Jesus actually paid the ultimate sacrifice to redeem us. And while this knowledge shouldn't fill us with constant guilt or shame, it should inspire us to live lives worthy of this gift.
God's glorious grace
God's redemption wasn't offered because we deserved it. It was His love and mercy that drove Him to rescue us. He freed us from our bondage to the law and the enemy to walk in new freedom in Him.
If you're unfamiliar with Jesus' story and ministry, you can watch the "JESUS" film or the "Life of Jesus" based on the Gospels of Luke and John (respectively). Either film would be a great place to familiarize yourself with God's redemptive story.