There are many biblical truths that are only known in what I call Bible talk—words and phrases directly taken from the Scriptures. No problem with doing that, the Scriptures are the foundation for our faith being grounded in truth. The problem comes when they are used as if everyone does or should understand them, but no clear understanding is given of these Bible terms, words and phrases. Redemption is one of those terms that gets repeated often, but I wonder if it's understood very well. What is redemption from God's point of view? What does it mean for us as humans?
It's not too hard to find a dictionary definition for redemption, there's plenty of online sources for that. I like looking at things a little more "organically," that is, understanding things from a more natural sense. One way to do this is looking at the biblical context of a word. But this may lead to more Bible talk where words stay hidden in a theological form. For instance, Ephesians 1:7 gives a specific working definition right within its own context. It says that redemption comes "through His blood" and results in "the forgiveness of our trespasses," declaring that it is a work of God's great grace. This is a great start, but to get to the heart of it requires an understanding of what "through His blood" means, and the forgiving of "trespasses." A simple way to get to the heart of a truth is redefining it in your own words. Sounds simple, but it often isn't. One thing that helps me is processing how I can explain a truth to an eight-year old child. I figure that if I can explain something to a child so they understand it, then I'll have a pretty good grasp of it myself.
So, what is meant by redemption? Yes, indeed, forgiveness is an essential part of redemption. But too often it can be reduced to the idea of God cleaning us up from our sin. But it's far more than that. It is not just an initial cleaning up from the effect of sin, but an ongoing work of God. The book of Hebrews speaks of an eternal redemption (Heb 9:12), and later in Ephesians (Eph 4:30) Paul speaks of "the day of redemption." Paul also speaks of our bodies being redeemed (Rom 8:23). These three verses indicate a work or effect of redemption that is yet to come.
So, what's at the heart of redemption? In a word—restoration. When redemption is considered only for life at this moment, it can have a limited sense. The idea of restoration reaches back to the Garden with Adam and Eve. This is where sin entered into the world and why God needed to provide a way of reconciliation for restoring relationship with man as it was in the beginning. So, Jesus (God as a human) became the means for this reconciliation by His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead.
Yet, restoration looks ahead to when God will restore things back to where they were before sin disrupted paradise—before we had to figure out right from wrong and grapple with our selfish will. But redemption is part of the process of getting there. King David expressed this in his most well-known psalm—He restores my soul (Ps 23:3), and he knew a bit about God's gracious redemption. He was an unknown shepherd and became Israel's most beloved king. He was an adulterer and murderer (among other things), yet God called him a man after his own heart (Acts 13:22).
So, when I think of redemption the word restoration comes to mind. But it can't be reduced to one word or a simple sentence. It must be understood within the context of God's story as it unfolds from Genesis and concludes in the book of Revelation. The heart of redemption—restoration—is found in God's story. How does your experience and understanding of redemption fit into God's continuing story? Once you know this, then you can share it with others.