QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
♦ Visitor challenges explanation of ransom in Part 4 - Who is Jesus Christ?
On October 1, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiries:
"I've read with interest your article "Who is Jesus Christ?" and in particular the section where you deal with the doctrine of the ransom. I share with you the same perplexity about the explanation that depicts Jehovah as being the captor and the provider of the ransom at the same time; But I find dumbfounding your explanation that there was no real need for a ransom for the atonement of sin from all mankind - that Jesus only allowed that the Jews understood his death as a sacrificial death because they had their beliefs formatted in a way that only a sacrificial life with blood shed could atone sins.
“In your article you disregarded texts like Colossians 1:13, 14: "He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins." ; also Ephesians 1:7 : "By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of [our] trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness." In both these passages, Paul connects the ransom with the atonement of sins and specifically with the blood shed. How come you have ignored these passages? Paul wasn't writing for the Hebrews here.
“You also ignored 1 Timothy 2:5, 6: "Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all" - yes, a 'corresponding ransom". Corresponding (or equivalent) to what? The only possible explanation is that is corresponding to the exceptional loss that Adam, by sinning, had- for him, and for all of us to follow. And not only to the Jews; Paul says: "For all". In the context, Paul was talking about his ministry for the nations. So it wasn't merely a dramatization to help the jews think out of the box. It was a real ransom, a real price that needed to be paid - not only for the benefit of the rigid-thinking Jews, but also for the gentiles who knew nothing about the sacrificial rites of the Hebrews.
“I also don't see any mention of Jesus' own words: "Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many." (Matthew 20:28). “Dear brothers, the Scriptures encourage us to "test the inspired expressions" to see whether they originate from God. (1 John 4:1) While you don't claim to be inspired, nor do you propose your explanations as doctrinal teachings, I perceive that this particular explanation "fails the test.”
To the author, we thank you for submitting your comments. We suspect that there are others who share your concerns. The ransom doctrine is a deeply ingrained teaching that, we believe, has been misunderstood and may require time to resolve. Therefore, we will attempt to clarify the matter further.
First, you will find a reference to Matthew 20:28 in response to Question 2 of that article that serves as the introduction to the ransom explanation. Jesus did indeed come to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many, as the response to Question 3 explains.
As for each of the other scriptures you refer to, Colossians 1:13, 14; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6, please note that they were all penned by the Apostle Paul, who was himself a Jew and a prior Pharisee, and thus also a possessor of the entrenched Jewish mind. He was an outstanding apostle for sure, but he was still a man who had to work out his own salvation to the best of his ability. And he was doing so by explaining that Jesus’ death brought the Law Covenant to an end. Notice also what he wrote to the Corinthians:
“But their mental powers were dulled. For to this present day the same veil remains unlifted at the reading of the old covenant, because it is done away with by means of Christ. In fact, down till today whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts.” – 2 Corinthians 3:14-15
You will continue to have difficulties with doctrines that originate with the Law Covenant as long as you attempt your interpretation of Jesus and his ministry through that veil. The belief that we must reconcile the Christ through Moses is the error of pouring new wine into old wineskins. We are counseled not to get too caught up in the old wine:
“Moreover, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; but if he does, then the new wine will burst the wineskins, and it will be spilled out and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. No one that has drunk old wine wants new; for he says, ‘The old is nice.’” – Luke 5:37-39
We need to let go of the old ways and its partial understanding of God and his purposes. We must accept the new wine as brought by Jesus. We are people most to be pitied if after all Jesus taught, we still look at the Father as a vengeful God who wants blood. You might want to read the articles Foreordained from the Founding of World, Everlasting Life Now, and even Freedom of the Children of God. These articles will lead you to the new wine.
But more importantly, we do not believe you can dispute that the ransom doctrine is inconsistent with the loving God and Father that Jesus taught about. You even admit as much. So clearly the ransom doctrine as it is traditionally understood is the ‘inspired expression’ that ‘fails the test.’ However, if you have another explanation of how the ransom doctrine harmonizes with our loving heavenly Father that does ‘pass the test,’ please share it with us. We are open to your view.
In the meantime, as the article stated:
“If you have difficulty digesting this understanding, then we encourage you to pray for the Spirit of Truth to guide you in this matter. He will provide the needed conviction and understanding, and bear witness with your spirit as to its truthfulness. Until then, if you are so inclined, you are free to hold onto your belief in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind, while at the same time continuing to serve God whole-souled. The ransom doctrine is a matter of theology, not salvation. Whether Christ died as a ransom sacrifice or for some other reason, the fact remains that your sins have been forgiven (1 John 2:12), that you are a child of God by having faith in the living Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and that you are an heir to the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Romans 8:17)
The bottom line, brother, is that we differ only in theology, not in spirit. The ‘fire’ will test all theological doctrines that we build on the foundation of the true good news – the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man with a heavenly destiny. And if in the end, our doctrines are revealed as worthless, we can still be saved.
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, [it will be] as through fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Therefore, we remain in brotherly union with you, despite our current, and perhaps temporary, theological difference as we look forward to your response.