OUR text is one of those passages of Scripture which is often quoted in favor of what is called the doctrine of Universal Redemption. Personally, I am not very fond of theological controversy; but it does sometimes happen that I am asked for my opinion upon controversial passages, and I find it very convenient when I can place in the hands of an inquirer my views of these passages as they have appeared in some of my printed sermons or papers.
Now, I have no wish to present my text to you in a controversial spirit, but to give you plainly and honestly what appears to me to be its true meaning. When I have done so, I shall leave the subject with you, praying that the God of all grace may give to each of us a right judgment in all things.
In directing your attention to the exposition of our text, I shall propound four questions:--
(1) What is a Ransom?
(2) What is the Ransomer?
(3) Who are the Ransomed?
(4) The time of its testimony.
If we can give Scriptural answers to these questions, then our text will be Scripturally expounded.
First, then, What is a Ransom? I will give you some of the definitions of a ransom which I have met with. A ransom is a price paid for the redemption and deliverance of a captive who has been taken in war. It is a compensation, or the giving of one thing for another. The word for ransom in our text (antilutron), is very emphatic; it means a corresponding price, the substantial price of Redemption.
We read of a ransom price in the 30th of Exodus, verses 12 to 17. Every Israelite from twenty years old and above when the census was taken, had to offer unto the Lord for the ransom of his soul a half-shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary. The half-shekel was a little over a shilling in our money. This was not much for the ransom of a soul. The rich were not to give more, and the poor were not to give less than half a shekel, when they gave an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for their souls. The half-shekel was the ransom price, or the atonement-money. This offering served as a memorial to the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for their souls.
The whole of this passage seems to me to be typical of the Ransom of the souls of the true Israel of God by the Blood of Christ. Peter makes the following allusion to the ransom of souls by silver and gold, but shows the superiority of the Ransom of souls by "the precious blood of Christ." "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." (1 Peter 1:18-21) The Ransom Price paid for the deliverance of captive souls, is the Blood of the Lamb. "Ye are not your own: for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:19,20) The atonement money, which God accepts as a Ransom Price for the Redemption and Salvation of sinners, and which passes current in heaven, is "His own blood." (Acts 20:28)
The nature of God's Ransom we learn from our Lord Himself: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a Ransom for many," or instead of many. (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) Man, by the transgression of the law, had forfeited his life. In law, he was a dead man. Christ says, Here is My life, take it as a Ransom, Price for the many.
Now consider the second question: Who is the Ransomer? "Who gave Himself." These words are very emphatic, and must be viewed in their connection. We read in the 5th verse: "For there is One God, and One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself."
The dignity of Him Who gave Himself is thus set forth in the Word of God: He is "the mighty God"--"the Creator of the ends of the earth"--"all things were made by Him." He is the Father's Equal and Fellow. This is the Person Who bowed the heavens and came down for the Redemption and Salvation of His people.
He is described by His office, "Mediator between God and men." The Middle Man. The One Who comes in between God and men--the wonderful Daysman Who can lay His hand upon both, upon Divinity and upon humanity. He is the perfect Man, the Man of the Old Testament, the Man Who wrestled with Jacob, and the Man of sorrows. He is the sinless Man--there was no sin in His nature, no sin in His thoughts, no sin in His words, and no sin in His works. And such a Middle Man, Intercessor, Advocate, and High Priest "became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and now made higher than the heavens." (Heb. 7:26) This is the Man, Who offered One sacrifice for sins, and then sat down at the right hand of God, having, by the One Offering of Himself, perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14)
What did the Ransomer give? "Who gave Himself." Here we have the price of Redemption, voluntarily offered to God by Him Who is the Ransomer. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father." (John 10:17,18)
Mark the words of our text: "Who gave Himself." I must here show you how Paul magnified this price of Redemption in his numerous writings. In his Epistle to the Galatians, he says, "Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." (Gal. 1:4) "The Son of God Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) Now turn to his Epistle to the Ephesians. "He abolished in His flesh the enmity;...to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both (Jew and Gentile) unto God in one Body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby," or in Himself. (Eph. 2:14-16) Again, "Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." (Eph. 5:2) "Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for her...that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church." (Eph. 5:25,27) "He made Himself of no reputation...He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:7,8) "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:14)
I must add a few expressions from the Epistle to the Hebrews: "When He had by Himself purged our sins." (Heb. 1:3) Our High Priest "offered up Himself." (Heb. 7:27) "Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God." (Heb. 9:14) He has offered Himself once, "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Heb. 9:25,26)
And Peter says, "Who His own self bare our sins in His Own Body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:24)
You will now see from these quotations, that the Ransom Price in our text is more valuable than ten thousands of gold and silver. The price paid for the ransom of a soul to deliver it from going down into the pit of hell is the Blood of the Son of God. This is the most wonderful and marvelous gift ever known! Would you like to know more about this Ransom Price? Then go to Calvary, and see the Son of God going Himself.
Now for the third question: Who are the Ransomed? The answer is, "For all." Now, as the word "all" occurs very often in the New Testament, perhaps 1,200 times, it must be restricted in its use to the subject in hand or under consideration.
"All" frequently means a great number, as in Matthew 3:5, "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Reasoning is not required to show you, that "all" in this verse means nothing more than that a great number of persons went to John to be baptized of him in Jordan.
To preach the Gospel among all nations, is to preach the Gospel to Jew and Gentile. (Romans 1:6,16)
All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) The "all" in this verse is restricted to the number whom the Father has given to Christ.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me." (John 12:32) Men is not in the original. The "all" here again has its limitation by the number whom Christ actually draws to Himself.
Now read the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost: "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My spirit upon all flesh." The all flesh in this verse is limited to those pious Jews, who were dwelling in Jerusalem, out of every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:17,5)
In the 8th of Hebrews, you read, "For all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest." (verse 11) The "all" here is restricted to those persons of whom the Lord says: "I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people." Every one of these shall know the Lord.
I need not multiply examples of the use of the word "all." Some of all sorts of men, high and low, rich and poor, and from among all nations, shall be saved with an everlasting salvation. What is it that redeems and saves a soul? The Ransom Price, you say. True! And if this Ransom Price be for all men and everybody, then all men and everybody will be saved.
Let us now read together the opening verses of our chapter. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks, be made for all men." Who are the "all men" intended by the Apostle in this verse? He leaves us in no doubt upon the point, for he says, "For kings, and for all that are in authority." His design is clear from the words which follow: "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
God will have all men to be saved. Well, if He will, He will, and no one can turn Him from that purpose. "He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens." (Romans 9:18) There is no resisting His will. He is one mind. If it were not so, our God would often be a disappointed God! A heathen monarch has said, "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Daniel 4:35)
"He will have all men to be saved." According to this, then, all men are not only to be redeemed, but saved. And I believe that all men spoken of in this verse will be saved, and will go to their Saviour to be with Him for ever in heaven and glory. "All men" in the 4th verse, and "all" in our text, are "all sorts of men," who are chosen, redeemed, and saved out of the whole world of mankind.
What I mean will be best illustrated by a quotation from the 5th of Revelation, verse 9: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." The Ransomed of the Lord will be an exceeding great multitude, which no man will be able to number, when it stands victorious before the throne of God and the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9,10) All the Ransomed of the Lord shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)
The Lord will accomplish His Own work in His Own way. He can catch big sinners, or little sinners (if there be such), with His Gospel net whenever and wherever He pleases. He caught Paul on his way to Damascus, Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree, a Magdalene sinner in a Pharisee's house, Matthew at the receipt of custom, Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the sea; and thus we might go on.
But we must proceed to give an answer to our fourth question: The time of Testimony? "To be testified in due time;" or "the testimony in His own times." What is this testimony? "The testimony of our Lord" is the glorious Gospel of the ever-blessed God. Of this Gospel testimony, which reveals to us the whole plan of salvation, we are not ashamed, for it comes into the heart "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." (1 Cor. 2:4) "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness (testimony) in himself." "And this is the record (testimony) that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." (1 John 5:10,11) The Gospel revealed to the soul is the Holy Ghost's testimonial of Christ, and blessed are all they who have it.
The time of testimony--"In due time," or "In His own times." The Lord has His own time for everything under the sun. In the Old Testament there are many prophecies concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. His birth, His holy life, His baptism, His miracles, His sufferings, His death, His Resurrection, and ascension--all these are events which have been duly accomplished, in His own time. He has fulfilled and finished every prophecy concerning Himself, in His own time. He paid the Ransom Price for souls to God, in His own time. He died and rose again, in His own time. He sent the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, to baptize souls, in His own time.
He calls a sinner by His grace out of darkness into marvelous light, in His own time. He revives the drooping, comforts the mournful, and cheers the sorrowful soul with the oil of gladness and with the light of His countenance, in His own time. He may seem to leave His disciples for a while; but He says, "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:22) Such, indeed, is a fair description of the Lord's times and dealings with His people in their pilgrim journey through this world.
I have now given you an exposition of our text, and one which, I hope, will not only commend itself to you, but one which I believe to be consonant with the uniform teaching of God's Word.
The only Ransom Price which God accepts for the deliverance of a sinner is the Blood of the Lamb. The work of Christ is the only satisfaction which he accepts for the violation of His holy law. it is by the Blood of the everlasting Covenant that the prisoner goes forth from his prison-house. The Ransom Price has been paid into the hand of God, by His Own dear Son: hence, the believer can say, "Look to Calvary, and you will see all law claims met by my Substitute, Redeemer, and Saviour." "The terrors of law, and of God, with me can have nothing to do." God neither demands nor requires a second payment for the Redemption of souls.
What more can I say to you? May the God of all grace, bless with His Holy Spirit's blessing the words which I have spoken to you, and to His own great Name be ascribed all honor and glory, through our adorable Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen! and Amen!