In Romans 3:24 Paul states that (we) "are justified freely by his grace as a gift, through the redemtpion that is in Christ Jesus." In what was does Christ redeem us from our sins?
Let's begin with a basic definition. The Greek word for redemption is "apolytrosis." Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich and Danker define this word to mean, "buying back a slave or a captive, making him free by payment of a ransom."
John Stott, in his fine commentary, Romans - God's Good News for the World (IVP), expands on with these words, “It is a commercial term borrowed from the marketplace…In the Old Testament it was used of slaves, who were purchased in order to be set free; they were said to be ‘redeemed’ (Lev. 25:47)” (p. 113). So, Paul is saying that we were slaves to sin and that Christ has paid the penalty to redeem us from that slavery. If we push the analogy further with regard to this being a commerical transaction the price that Christ paid to redeem us was his perfect keeping of God's laws. This is the first way that Christ has redeemed us.
James Montgomery Boice in his commentaries on Romans (Baker) notes that there two other complementary meanings to the term redemption that also arise from the Old Testament.
On p. 367 of volume I Dr. Boice comments on the Hebrew word, ‘kopher’, which means redemption. He cites OT law when someone's ox gored a person and killed him (Exodus 21:28-32). If the owner was found negligent his neck was on the chopping block. But the OT made an allowance that a price could be paid to the dead man’s family which would ‘redeem’ the owner’s life. That’s what Christ died for us – he paid the penalty for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to die. It was his life for ours. We were found negligent in breaking God's laws and the penalty was death. He stepped forward to give his life for the guilty so that they wouldn't have to die. This is the second definition of redemption that flows from this passage.
Dr. Boice also provides a third definition of the word redemption. On p. 367 he also explores the Hebrew word, ‘go-el’ = kinsman redeemer. OT law provided for property to remain within the family. If it was lost by means of debt or some other reason a relative acting as a kinsman redeemer could buy it back.
1) “He had to be a close relative (a stranger would not do).
2) He had to be willing to take on this responsibility (nobody could be compelled to do this work), and,
3) He had to be able to pay the ransom price (he had to have sufficient funds at his disposal)."
Dr. Boice refers to the story of Ruth and Boaz which illustrates the kinsman redeemer's role in crystal clear terms. Ruth came back to Bethlehem as a widow with her mother-in-law, Naomi. She went out to glean grain in the fields as the harvest progressed and did so in the fields of a distant relative of Naomi's, Boaz. Ruth found favor in Boaz's eyes and as the story progressed he fell in love with her. At a certain point in time a piece of property that once belonged to Naomi's husband Elimelech, is in danger of slipping out of the family's control. This comes to the attention of Boaz who seeks to fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer, but a closer relative has first right of refusal. When this closer relative learns that he must redeem not only the land but a person (Ruth), he backs out of the deal. But Boaz steps forward to redeem the land and Ruth and in the process becomes an important figure in redemptive history. From this union comes King David and eventually David's greater son, Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to Jesus' birth. The setting is Bethlehem, the place where Boaz acted as a kinsman redeemer to Ruth. But here, a greater kinsman-redeemer comes forth to do a greater work than Boaz did.
Christ fulfilled all three conditions required of a kinsman redeemer for us and our salvation. Dr. Boice points them out on p. 369,
“1) He became our kinsman by the incarnation, being born in this very town of Bethlehem,
2) he was willing to be our Redeemer, because of his great love for us; and
3) he was able to redeem us, because he alone could provide an adequate redemption price by dying.”
Stop trying to work your way to heaven and earn favor with God. You cannot redeem yourself from your sins and the more you try the deeper you dig yourself into a hole. Look to Christ alone as the one who can redeem you.