Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Christ Jesus’ Role as Ransomer

The foregoing information lays the basis for understanding the ransom provided for humankind through God’s Son, Christ Jesus. Mankind’s need for a ransom came about through the rebellion in Eden. Adam sold himself to do evil for the selfish pleasure of keeping continued company with his wife, now a sinful transgressor, so he shared the same condemned standing with her before God. He thereby sold himself and his descendants into slavery to sin and to death, the price that God’s justice required. (Ro 5:12-19; compare Ro 7:14-25.) Having possessed human perfection, Adam lost this valuable possession for himself and all his offspring.

The Law, which had “a shadow of the good things to come,” provided for animal sacrifices as a covering for sin. This, however, was only a symbolic or token covering, since such animals were inferior to man; hence, it was “not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats [actually] to take sins away,” as the apostle points out. (Heb 10:1-4) Those pictorial animal sacrifices had to be without blemish, perfect specimens. (Le 22:21) The real ransom sacrifice, a human actually capable of removing sins, must therefore also be perfect, free from blemish. He would have to correspond to the perfect Adam and possess human perfection, if he were to pay the price of redemption that would release Adam’s offspring from the debt, disability, and enslavement into which their first father Adam had sold them. (Compare Ro 7:14; Ps 51:5.) Only thereby could he satisfy God’s perfect justice that requires like for like, a ‘soul for a soul.’—Ex 21:23-25; De 19:21.

The strictness of God’s justice made it impossible for mankind itself to provide its own redeemer. (Ps 49:6-9) However, this results in the magnifying of God’s own love and mercy in that he met his own requirements at tremendous cost to himself, giving the life of his own Son to provide the redemption price. (Ro 5:6-8) This required his Son’s becoming human to correspond to the perfect Adam. God accomplished this by transferring his Son’s life from heaven to the womb of the Jewish virgin Mary. (Lu 1:26-37; Joh 1:14) Since Jesus did not owe his life to any human father descended from the sinner Adam, and since God’s holy spirit ‘overshadowed’ Mary, evidently from the time she conceived until the time of Jesus’ birth, Jesus was born free from any inheritance of sin or imperfection, being, as it were, “an unblemished and spotless lamb,” whose blood could prove to be an acceptable sacrifice. (Lu 1:35; Joh 1:29; 1Pe 1:18, 19) He maintained that sinless state throughout his life and thus did not disqualify himself. (Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1Pe 2:22) As a ‘sharer of blood and flesh,’ he was a near kinsman of mankind and he had the thing of value, his own perfect life maintained pure through tests of integrity, with which to repurchase mankind, emancipate them.—Heb 2:14, 15.

The Christian Greek Scriptures make clear that the release from sin and death is indeed by the paying of a price. Christians are said to be “bought with a price” (1Co 6:20; 7:23), having an “owner that bought them” (2Pe 2:1), and Jesus is presented as the Lamb who ‘was slaughtered and with his blood bought persons for God out of every tribe, tongue, and nation.’ (Re 5:9) In these texts the verb a‧go‧ra′zo is used, meaning simply “buy at the market [a‧go‧ra′].” The related e‧xa‧go‧ra′zo (release by purchase) is used by Paul in showing that Christ released “by purchase those under law” through his death on the stake. (Ga 4:5; 3:13) But the thought of redemption or ransoming is more frequently and more fully expressed by the Greek ly′tron and related terms.

Ly′tron (from the verb ly′o, meaning “loose”) was especially used by Greek writers to refer to a price paid to ransom prisoners of war or to release those under bond or in slavery. (Compare Heb 11:35.) In its two Scriptural occurrences it describes Christ’s giving “his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mt 20:28; Mr 10:45) The related word an‧ti′ly‧tron appears at 1 Timothy 2:6. Parkhurst’s Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament says it means: “a ransom, price of redemption, or rather a correspondent ransom.” He quotes Hyperius as saying: “It properly signifies a price by which captives are redeemed from the enemy; and that kind of exchange in which the life of one is redeemed by the life of another.” He concludes by saying: “So Aristotle uses the verb [an‧ti‧ly‧tro′o] for redeeming life by life.” (London, 1845, p. 47) Thus Christ “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1Ti 2:5, 6) Other related words are ly‧tro′o‧mai, “loose by ransom” (Tit 2:14; 1Pe 1:18, 19), and a‧po‧ly′tro‧sis, “a releasing by ransom.” (Eph 1:7, 14; Col 1:14) The similarity of the usage of these words with that of the Hebrew terms considered is evident. They describe, not an ordinary purchase or releasing, but a redeeming or ransoming, a deliverance effected by payment of a corresponding price.

Additional Reading:

Additional Reading:

Though available to all, Christ’s ransom sacrifice is not accepted by all, and “the wrath of God remains” upon those not accepting it, as it also comes upon those who first accept and then turn away from that provision. (Joh 3:36; Heb 10:26-29; contrast Ro 5:9, 10.) They gain no deliverance from the enslavement to Kings Sin and Death. (Ro 5:21) Under the Law the deliberate murderer could not be ransomed. Adam, by his willful course, brought death on all mankind, hence was a murderer. (Ro 5:12) Thus, the sacrificed life of Jesus is not acceptable to God as a ransom for the sinner Adam.

But God is pleased to approve the application of the ransom to redeem those of Adam’s offspring who avail themselves of such a release. As Paul states, “as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person many will be constituted righteous.” (Ro 5:18, 19) At the time of Adam’s sin and his being sentenced to death, his offspring or race were all unborn in his loins and so all died with him. (Compare Heb 7:4-10.) Jesus as a perfect man, “the last Adam” (1Co 15:45), had a race or offspring unborn in his loins, and when he died innocently as a perfect human sacrifice this potential human race died with him. He had willingly abstained from producing a family of his own by natural procreation. Instead, Jesus uses the authority granted by Jehovah on the basis of his ransom to give life to all those who accept this provision.—1Co 15:45; compare Ro 5:15-17.

Thus, Jesus was indeed “a corresponding ransom,” not for the redemption of the one sinner, Adam, but for the redemption of all mankind descended from Adam. He repurchased them so that they could become his family, doing this by presenting the full value of his ransom sacrifice to the God of absolute justice in heaven. (Heb 9:24) He thereby gains a Bride, a heavenly congregation formed of his followers. (Compare Eph 5:23-27; Re 1:5, 6; 5:9, 10; 14:3, 4.) Messianic prophecies also show he will have “offspring” as an “Eternal Father.” (Isa 53:10-12; 9:6, 7) To be such, his ransom must embrace more than those of his “Bride.” In addition to those “bought from among mankind as firstfruits” to form that heavenly congregation, therefore, others are to benefit from his ransom sacrifice and gain everlasting life through the removal of their sins and accompanying imperfection. (Re 14:4; 1Jo 2:1, 2) Since those of the heavenly congregation serve with Christ as priests and “kings over the earth,” such other recipients of the ransom benefits must be earthly subjects of Christ’s Kingdom, and as children of an “Eternal Father” they attain everlasting life. (Re 5:10; 20:6; 21:2-4, 9, 10; 22:17; compare Ps 103:2-5.) The entire arrangement manifests Jehovah’s wisdom and his righteousness in perfectly balancing the scales of justice while showing undeserved kindness and forgiving sins.—Ro 3:21-26.

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1988