Was Jesus’ Death a Ransom for Many or for All?
Pronouns are a source of much confusion and bad interpretation of the Bible. In the case of Jesus’ ransom (Gk. lutron), there is confusion that must be resolved by correlation of seemingly contradictory texts.
The apostle Paul wrote Timothy, and he claimed that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:16). Jesus Himself taught that He would give His life, a ransom for many (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45). So, our question to answer is, “Did Jesus give His life for all people head for head, or was there a limitation on that number?
A ransom is a redemption price paid to set captives/hostages free from whatever has them enslaved. In the case of those set free by the blood of Christ (the currency of Christ’s act of redemption), they are set free from the Law of God that holds them in bondage to sin and death.
We know that sin is sin by the Law of God issued to Moses (Ex 20; Dt 5). Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4), and all have sinned (Rom 3:23), which subjects them to death (Rom 6:23). Further, it is appointed once for a man to die and then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27). The apostle John wrote that the sons of Adam are judged already (Jn 3:18), so the Day of Judgment is a day of sentencing to eternal punishment in fiery hell (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).
Those who have been purchased by Jesus with the price of ransom (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23) have His blood redemption applied to them, by the Holy Spirit sprinkling Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18–19), in fulfillment of the New Covenant (Mt 26:28). Jesus paid it all, for those to whom it was applied (Heb 12:24; 1 Pet 1:2).
Those who receive Jesus, by the will of God (Jn 1:12–13), receive the Spirit of Christ sent to them by the Father and the Son (Jn 14:26; 15:26). Those who have the indwelling Spirit belong to Christ (1 Cor 3:23), and those who do not have the Spirit of adoption do not belong to Him (Rom 8:9; 1 Jn 5:12). Those who do not belong to Christ, do not believe in Him (Jn 3:36; 10:26).
The Spirit of Christ is the token or pledge of forever love (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5). To the praise of His glory, Jesus’ pledge of an eternal inheritance is seated by the Spirit (Eph 1:14), His promise is to never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5), while assuring us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35–39).
There are some who say that Jesus paid everyone’s ransom/redemption. They point to Paul’s letter to Timothy, but they err, not acknowledging that Paul is referencing all believers, not all people everywhere. Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6), but Paul’s reference to the Romans is “we” the church. This is why others put emphasis on a particular redemption. Jesus loves His church, and He gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25). He Himself taught that He lays down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:11, 15), not the world.
The ransomed church is the “many” Jesus referenced in His teaching with the ransom concept. He came to set His captive people free from bondage to the sinful world system and its ruler (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph 6:12), Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). Therefore, it is inconsistent to say that Jesus loves the world system and at the same time He died to set people free from that world system.
If Jesus ransomed all people everywhere throughout history, then why do so many of His ransomed people hate Him so much (Jn 7:7; 15:18–19; Rom 1:30)? The fact is that universal redemption is not biblical teaching. It is a made-up doctrine by men who do everything they can to appease the world. They are embarrassed by the doctrine of predestination/reprobation. This is why false teachers tell everyone that Jesus loves everyone.
The false teaching of Jesus’ ransom for all people, universal, is simply confusion. Jesus ransomed His chosen people from a world He would not even pray for (Jn 17:9) and that He will judge with just wrath on the last day (Rev 19:11–21). Christ’s ransomed church boasts in His redeeming love, not for the world, but for His beloved bride, the people of His possession (Tit 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9), the sheep of His pasture (Ps 95:7; 100:3), His church (Mt 16:18; Col 1:18), the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).
In summary, Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10), that is, the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Jer 50:16; Mt 15:24; Lk 15:1, 4, 6), those who call Abraham their Father by adoption that is by faith (Rom 4:12, 13, 16; Gal 3:7, 8, 9, 14). In other words, Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). The scope of Jesus’ ransom has been in dispute, as to whether it is particular or universal.
The ransom for many has the scope of the world. Jesus died for many out of the total number of the sons of Adam (humanity). At the same time, we can see that Jesus ransomed all that would represent the number of the many. Stated another way, Jesus paid the ransom for everyone, all who would comprise the full body of His church.
In conclusion, the ransom for all of the many is the purchase of each member of His body. Jesus did not die for the sins of every person in the world, but He did pay the redemption price to set His chosen people free from enslavement to the Law.
The hostages are free indeed, having received the sprinkling of blood, by the Holy Spirit. The full number of God’s holy nation must be reached before the end. They must have the Gospel preached to them and they must hear the Word of their freedom, as the Spirit opens their hearts to believe the Good News that their ransom has been paid by their Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 29, 2021