In numerous places in Scripture Christ’s work of redemption is declared to have been accomplished through the payment of a ransom. Nowhere is this set forth more clearly than in our Lord’s own teaching. ‘The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,’ said He concerning His own mission. Matt. 20:28. These same words are repeated in Mark 10:45. Paul doubtless had these words in mind when he declared that Christ ‘gave Himself a ransom for all,’ I Tim. 2:6. To the Corinthians he wrote, ‘Ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price,’ I Cor. 6:19, 20. The elders from the church at Ephesis were admonished to ‘feed the church of the Lord which He purchased with His own blood.’ Acts 20:28. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us,’ he wrote to the Galatians, 3:13. In the epistle to Titus he declares that Christ ‘gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works,’ 2:14. While it is the privilege of a disciple to ‘lose’ his life in the service of his Lord (Matt. 10:39; Luke 9:24), it was the part of the Lord to ‘give’ His life voluntarily for His people (John 10:15; Gal. 2:20).
Closely parallel with this is Peter’s teaching: ‘Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from the fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ,’ I Peter 1:18, 19. In his second epistle he warns against those who ‘bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them,’ 2:1. And in the book of Revelation praise is ascribed to Christ in the words, ‘Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,’ 5:9.
To ‘ransom’ means specifically to buy back, to deliver by means of purchase; and the kindred expression, to ‘redeem,’ means to deliver by payment of a ransom. We are taught that Christ is our Ransomer, and that He has purchased our redemption at a tremendous cost, the price being His own life. The one pre-eminent service which Jesus came into the world to perform was that of dying–giving His life a ransom in behalf of others who themselves deserved to die, in order that they might not have to die. No person can understand the purpose and meaning of the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ until he grasps this central truth, that Jesus came into the world to give Himself a ransom for others. The numerous Scripture references to redemption or to the payment of a ransom invariably imply that redemption has cost something, indeed, that it has cost much. The inability of man to redeem himself or any other man turns precisely on his inability to pay the price which the commission of sin has made mandatory. Christ, and Christ alone, was able to pay the price which would free His people from the curse of sin.
The meaning of the ransom terminology as used in Scripture is set forth by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield in the following paragraph: ‘Lutron, usually in the plural lutra, designates an indemnification, a pecuniary compensation, given in exchange for a cessation of rights over a person or even a thing, ransom. It is used for the money given to redeem a field, Lev. 25:24-the life of an ox about to be killed, Ex. 21:30–one’s own life in arrest of judicial proceedings, Num. 35:31, 32, or of vengeance, Prov. 6:35–the first born over whom God had claims, Num. 3:46, 48, 51; 18:15, etc. It is ordinarily used of the ransom given for redemption from captivity or slavery, Lev. 19:20; Is. 45 :13, etc.’ (Biblical Doctrines, p. 342).
A present day English writer has set forth the implications of the term very clearly in these words: ‘I do not merely decide that Christ shall be my Lord. He is my Lord, by right. I was a slave of sin and Satan, and, try as I would, I could not obtain my freedom. I was never a free man,’I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity.’ A slave! And there would I be now, were it not that Christ came and ‘bought me with a price.’ What follows ‘Ye are not your own.’ I am still not free! I have been bought by a new Master ! I am a slave, the bond-servant of Christ ! He is my Lord, for He has bought me. He does not merely ‘demand my soul, my life, my all;’ He has bought them, they are His. I am His, because He is my Lord, because He owns me, because He has bought me with His own precious blood,’–Dr. D. Martyn LloydJones.
THOSE RANSOMED MUST BE SET FREE
A ransom, because of its very nature, makes not merely possible but mandatory and certain the release of those for whom It is paid. Justice demands that those for whom it is paid shall be freed from any further obligation. God would be unjust if He demanded the penalty twice over, first from the Substitute and then from the persons themselves. Because of what Christ has done for His people, and because of the covenant that exists between Him and the Father, all of those for whom the ransom was paid must be brought to salvation. Salvation is thus not of works, not through any good deeds done by men, but purely of grace. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,’ I John 1:9–faithful in keeping His promise that if we turn to Him we shall find forgiveness, and righteous in keeping His covenant with Christ who suffered vicariously for His people and purchased for them the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Those who have been given to Christ by the Father invariably receive these influences and are effectively brought to salvation. Under no conditions can they be called upon to pay the debt a second time, nor can these saving influences be withheld from them, and that specifically for the reason that salvation is by the grace of God and not by the works of men. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?’ Rom. 8:33, 34. ‘He that believeth hath eternal life,’ John 6:47. As God’s elect we have the assurance that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ Rom. 8:38, 39.