Thursday, December 03, 2009

to become a ransom

Given the continued vilification of the atonement, I found this by John Piper in “The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die” especially refreshing ...

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, And to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew10:45

There is no thought in the Bible that Satan had to be paid off to let sinners be saved. What happened to Satan when Christ died was not payment, but defeat. The Son of God became human so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). There was no negotiation.

When Jesus says that he came “to give his life as a ransom,” the focus is not on who gets the payment. The focus is on his own life as the payment, and on his freedom in serving rather than being served, and on the “many” who will benefit from the payment he makes.

If we ask who received the ransom, the biblical answer would surely be God. The Bible says that Christ “gave himself up for us, [an] . . . offering . . . to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Christ “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14). The whole need for a substitute to die on our behalf is because we have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). And because of our sin, “the whole world [is] held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). So when Christ gives himself as a ransom for us, the Bible says that we are freed from the condemnation of God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The ultimate captivity from which we need release is the final “judgment of God” (Romans 2:2; Revelation 14:7).

The ransom price of this release from God’s condemnation is the life of Christ. Not just his life lived, but his life given up in death. Jesus said repeatedly to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him” (Mark 9:31). In fact, one of the reasons Jesus loved to call himself “the Son of Man” (over sixty-five times in the Gospels) was that it had the ring of mortality about it. Men can die. That’s why he had to be one. The ransom could only be paid by the Son of Man, because the ransom was a life given up in death.

The price was not coerced from him. That’s the point of saying, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” He needed no service from us. He was the giver, not the receiver. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). The price was paid freely; it was not forced. Which brings us again to his love. He freely chose to rescue us at the cost of his life.

How many did Christ effectively ransom from sin? He said that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Yet not everyone will be ransomed from the wrath of God. But the offer is for everyone. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). No one is excluded from this salvation who embraces the treasure of the ransoming Christ.

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