daily biblical sermons


HOW DID CHRIST GIVE HIMSELF AS A RANSOM FOR ALL?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 24th Week of the Year, September 16, 2019
1 Timothy 2:1-8, Psalm 27, Luke 7:1-10


 

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).

 

 

These verses of today’s first reading tell us a lot. First of all, they tell us that God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). It is not true that God only desires some people or certain people to be saved. This is what the Jews thought, namely that only Jews and those Gentiles that became Jews could be saved. Some Christians believe that God made a decision either before he created the world or after the first sin that only certain people (the elect) will be saved. These are those whom God himself decided to save, but all the rest would be lost. Today’s Scripture clearly contradicts this belief, for this epistle tells us that God our Savior “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). That is, he desires that every single individual be saved. 

 

 

This text tells us that not only does God want everyone to be saved, but that he also wants everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth. “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). What truth is this? It is the truth about the Savior Jesus Christ. God wants everyone to know the truth about the gospel, the good news that all can be saved through faith in Christ, because of his atoning, propitiating, redemptive death on the cross to make just and complete reparation for all our sins.

 

 

So we see that it is God’s desire that everyone in the world should know this and accept with faith the Savior Jesus Christ, whom he has sent us so that this salvation can take place. However, it is clear that St. Paul does not teach universalism, that is, that everyone will in fact be saved, for Jesus taught us that many will not be saved, for at the last judgment the sheep will be separated from the goats who are at his left and then the Son of man will say to them, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels … And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 46).

 

 

So how is it that there is a seeming contradiction between God’s desire that all men be saved, and the fact that not all will be saved? The reason for this seeming contradiction is that in order to be saved one must put his faith in Christ, and to do that one must know something about him and what he has done for our salvation. Salvation is not automatic. It requires a conscious reception on our part.

 

 

Even among Christians who know the gospel very well, many of them reject Christ and turn to a life of deadly sin and do not repent. They lose their salvation. Furthermore, we must personally and actively receive this salvation that God freely offers to us in Christ. This means that we must make an act of faith; that is, we must entrust ourselves to Christ for our salvation, because of his redemptive death, and freely choose this salvation and commit ourselves to following him as our master and Lord.

 

 

“God’s desire for all men to be saved is conditioned by His desire to have a genuine response from human beings. He won’t fulfill His desire to save all men at the expense of making men robots that worship him from simply being programmed to do so” (David Guzik).

 

 

So although God desires all men to be saved, not all will in fact be saved, not because of any limitation in God’s ability to save us, but because of a limitation in our ability to receive his salvation, for God has given us a free will so that we may either freely will his salvation and accept his offer, or freely reject it. For the sake of giving us this freedom and ensuring that our salvation will be a loving act of receptivity on our part, not all will be saved. But since God desires that all be saved, we must proclaim the gospel to everyone. Those who accept the gospel proclamation will be saved.

 

 

Then St. Paul says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Just as there is only one God, there is also only one mediator between God and man. And what does that mediator do? He saves those that put their faith in him. How many mediators are there? Only one! Who is he? Jesus Christ the Son of God. So it is necessary that Jesus Christ be proclaimed to everyone everywhere, for there is no other Redeemer that can redeem them, for “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is why Christian missionaries go into all the world to preach Christ to people of every race, culture, and religion.

 

 

Then St. Paul says about this one mediator for all mankind, that he “gave himself as a ransom for all” (Timothy 2:6). The Greek word for ransom used here (antilytron) means redemption or a redemption price, a price of release or a ransom by which someone is freed from captivity or slavery. What is the ransom price that ransoms and frees us from slavery to sin and death for our sins? It is Jesus Christ himself, “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus himself is the ransom, the price that sets us free from sin and death. He gives this ransom by giving his life, “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). He did this on the cross.

 

 

But to whom was the ransom paid? It was not paid to the devil, as though the devil who had captured us receives this price and sets us free. There is no biblical basis for this belief, although it was a common belief among many in the history of the Church. The ransom is paid to God the Father himself. It is not really an exact parallel to the human experience of giving a ransom price to a kidnapper to get your child back. That is probably why so many thought that the ransom must have been given to the devil who held us in captivity so that he would let us go.

 

 

The correct interpretation is that the ransom is given to God, precisely because we have a debt with God that prevents us from being saved, and our debt is the punishment that we owe him for our sins so that they can be justly forgiven by an all-just God. Our debt is eternal punishment in hell for our serious sins, which we cannot pay and be saved at the same time. So God sent his Son Jesus Christ as our substitute to die in punishment for our sins for us, instead of us dying forever in hell for them. He substituted for us who should have died in punishment for our sins.

 

 

When we put our faith in Christ, God counts his suffering and death as paying our debt with God of suffering and death for our sins, thus enabling the all-just God to justly release us from our captivity to sin and death and admit us into his fellowship, reconciling us with himself.

 

 

There are many places in the New Testament that speak of ransom or redemption, all using the basic Greek root lytron, meaning in its verbal form to loose, to release, to ransom, to redeem. One key passage is, “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (lytron) for many” (Matthew 20:28). His ransom price was sufficient for all human beings, but is effective only for those that put their faith in Christ. The verb to redeem or to ransom (lytroo) is found in Titus 2:14: “Who [Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem [lytrosetai] us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” We also find the verb form in 1 Peter 1:18: “You know that you were ransomed [elytrothete] from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Then in Romans 3:24, St. Paul says, “They are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption [apolytroseos] which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). And in Hebrews 9:12 we read, “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption [lytrosin].” And in the letter to the Ephesians we read, “In him [Christ] we have redemption [apolytrosin] through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he has lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7).

 

 

So we can conclude that since God wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth about salvation, and since the means he gave us for this salvation is the death and resurrection of his Son, he therefore wants his disciples to proclaim this good news to everyone in the world for their salvation. And that is exactly what Jesus tells us, when he commissions his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Those who accept the gospel message with faith will be saved. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

 

 

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