To redeem means to “buy back”.  The term was originally used with reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom.  Through the consequences of the Fall, creation finds itself in a condition of slavery, bondage to sin, with resultant problems of a decaying world, including problems of poverty. 


God however, through his love of His creation (John 1:15-17), has redeemed all people, has purchased their freedom so that they are no longer bondage to sin.  The cost of the redemption was God’s only Son, Jesus of Nazareth, who gave His life and was raised from death to make it possible for all people of all nations to be reconciled to God and thus have a right relationship with Him.  The message is for everyone, the rich and the poor, people of other faiths and people of no faith, people who strive to do good and people with hardened hearts.  God’s message of hope is wholly inclusive.


To be redeemed is to: be forgiven (Eph.1:7); to be reconciled to God (Gal 4:5; Col 1:18-20); to have eternal life (Rev.5:9-10); to be set apart (Rom.5:17); to be free from legalism and the bondage of sin (Gal 3:13; Titus2:14; 1 Pet1:14-18).


Redemption has thus provided the people of this world the opportunity for true freedom; the liberation of men, women and children from the slavery and bondage of the ways of the world, the recovery of a vision for things that are good, the release of those who feel exploited and downtrodden (cf: Luke 4:16-21).  A freedom that has an eternal significance (1 John 5:11)


Redemption is used several times in the New Testament. 


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. (Col. 1:13-14)


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace" (Ephesians 1:7, 8)


...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  (Romans 3: 23,24)


How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death... (Hebrews 9:14)


While there may often be a New Testament focus on redemption, Old Testament scholars will point to the richness of God’s work in Exodus as a starting point to try and understand the depth and meaning of what happened on the Cross:


How big is our understanding of redemption?  Mission clearly has to do with the redemptive work of God and our participation in making it known and leading people into the experience of it.  If as I am seeking to argue throughout this book, mission is fundamentally God’s before it is ours, what is God’s idea of redemption?  The scope of our mission must reflect the scope of God’s mission, which in turn will match the scale of God’s redemptive work.  Where do we turn in the Bible for our understanding of redemption?  Already it will be clear enough that in my view it will simply not do to turn first to the New Testament.  If you had asked a devout Israelite in the Old Testament period “Are you redeemed?” the answer would have been a most definite yes.  And if you had asked “How do you know?” you would be taken aside to sit down somewhere while your friend recounted a long and exciting story – the story of exodus... (Wright 2006, p265)


God’s redemption is not just personal but includes all the world – the environment.


The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  (Romans 8:21)


If creation has suffered the consequences of human sin, it will also enjoy the fruits of human deliverance. When believers are glorified, creation's "bondage to decay" will be ended, and it will participate in the "freedom that belongs to the glory" for which Christians are destined. Nature, Paul affirms, has a future within the plan of God. It is destined not simply for destruction but for transformation. To be sure, this transformation is tightly bound to the future of God's own people; and the rest of Romans 8 focuses on the future of believers. These circumstances have led some interpreters to view the references to creation in vv. 19-22 as remnants of apocalyptic imagery that Paul uses solely to foster belief in the hope of human transformation.  Certainly, Paul uses vv. 19-22 – to come back finally to our initial question – to explain the need for and nature of the "glory that will be revealed in us." However, without in the slightest taking away from the anthropological focus of Romans 8, vv. 19-22 must be allowed to make their own point. The reversal of the conditions of the Fall includes the created world along with the world of human beings. Indeed, the glory that humans will experience, involving as it does the resurrection of the body (8:9-11, 23), necessarily requires an appropriate environment for that embodiment.  (Moo 2006, p 449-88)


Thus, holding onto the idea that broken relationships are the cause of poverty, as outlined above, then the solution points to the reconciliation of relationships:


Restored relationships as the ultimate solution to poverty

Forgiveness of sin


Restored relationship with God


Recognition of accountability to God and hence responsibility towards others


Righteous, selfless attitudes, actions and values (love, humility, compassion, justice…)


Striving for restoration of relationships with others and environment


Equity, justice, equality, hope, rejection of oppression, justice & fair governance, richer helping the poorer…


Sustainable livelihoods


Transformed communities


(Tearfund 2002, p7)


Such a concept shouldn’t preclude traditional socio-economic approaches to poverty reduction, but complement them.  Thus the approach is more integral, more holistic, going beyond just the physical.




Disclaimer: the views or opinions expressed in this publication and website do not necessarily represent those of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies or Tearfund.LAIMER: The views expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies or Tearfund

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