I think we had a wonderful discussion last week. I want to follow-up on the discussion we had on vv.4-6: “[Our God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all.” Or as other translations state (v.6): “who gave himself as a payment to set all people free.”
There are different theories of the atonement (i.e. how Jesus brings about (as the Creeds say) “our salvation”, with the ransom theory the oldest. The understanding of Jesus as a ransom begins with Jesus himself who stated that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:41-45. A ransom is a payment made to a captor for the release of (usually an enslaved) captive. Under this analogy, we are the captives, having been captured by sin and death through Adam’s Fall (Rom. 5:12-21) and being held captive by the prince of the power of the air and the disobedient spirits (Eph. 2:2). Jesus is the payment for our release. As Paul tells us: Jesus was “delivered over to death for our sins” (Rom 4:25) and Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” (Gal 1:3). The ransom is paid at the Cross when Jesus is given over to the Jewish and Roman authorities who put him to death. (Mark 10:34). Jesus is ransomed over to sin, death, and the devil (Heb 2:14) for our freedom.
We see this teaching throughout the early church. Particularly we see it in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil (as used in the Eastern Churches) which proclaims that “He gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive and sold under sin.” This understanding is also expressed by Martin Luther in his Small Catechism where he writes that Jesus Christ “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and delivered me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” We also see the ransom theory play out in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There the White Witch asserts her ownership of Edmund Pevensie because “every traitor belongs to her.” (VIDEO at 1:15) but Aslan gives himself over to the White Witch to free Edmund (prior video at 3:01 and this VIDEO).
The benefits of the ransom theory are that it preserves the unity of the Godhead. (I and the Father am one. John 10:30) If the Son is sacrificed to the Father or if the Father’s wrath is poured out on the Son, then divisions within the Trinity are created. The ransom theory also has the benefit, that, since it is God’s will that all be saved, the efficient act of salvation comes wholly from God and not us. The mechanics of Christ’s atoning work are ultimately a great mystery and beyond our comprehension, but these verses in Timothy give us one way of attempting to understand the ineffable.
See everyone next week.