"Redeem" comes from a root word that means to buy or to distribute. In Latin, it came to mean to buy back. The word "ransom" comes from the same root, so in that sense, the word "redeem" is the ransom paid to buy back a captive. At the time John Wycliffe translated the New Testament, the word "redeem" was not in the English language. He translated the concept of redeem as "again bought" (redeem came into use in the English language around the year 1415).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "redeem" as to buy back a thing formerly possessed; to make payment for a thing held or claimed by another. It also means to ransom, liberate or free a person from bondage, captivity or punishment; to rescue, save and deliver. It also means to free mortgaged property, to recover a person or thing put in pledge, by payment of the amount due, or by fulfilling some obligation. The OED defines "redeem" in its religious context as Christ delivering us from sin and its consequences.
An important aspect of redemption is the deliverance of captives. An essential element of redemption is that we are in bondage to sin and death. And as Paul said, it is only the Savior who can deliver us from the bondage of the fear of death that we are subject to for all of our lifetime (Hebrews 5:15).
Earlier in this series, we talked about the word "peculiar," as in we are a peculiar people. As we noted there, "peculiar" means we are a purchased people. As Peter teaches us, however, this is no earthly price. We can only be redeemed by a perfect and eternal price; we are "not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Another important aspect of redemption is that we are redeemed as something owned or claimed by another. As Moses taught, we are redeemed "out of the house of bondmen" (Deuteronomy 7:8).What is sometimes overlooked in discussing the Atonement is that if the Savior had not exercised this supreme eternal act of agency, we would otherwise have been eternally subject to the devil. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob teaches that the "great Creator suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that they might become subject unto him. For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the eternal God, and become the devil, to rise no more" (2 Nephi 9:5, 8).
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News. E-mail: ">email@example.com