Heirs of Salvation: An Answer to Penal Substitution

Eastern Jesus & Western Jesus

By Andrew Hopkins

A common view of atonement in Protestant theology is substitutionary atonement. This belief has its roots in the writings of some early church fathers, though many would claim it began with the apostles. In this paper we consider one form of substitutionary atonement know as penal substitution.

With this view it is believed that God sends Jesus to acquired merit as a result of enduring punishment due the sinner. This merit is then received by God as a ransom, which, in turn, releases sinners from condemnation. The punishment of Jesus is believed to satisfy God’s justice on behalf of the sinner.

In the following notes, I present a few problems associated with penal substitution, along with an alternative view of atonement.

A Legal Transaction

To consider, Jesus being engaged in any kind of transaction with God to satisfy man’s legal obligation, there must be an acknowledgment on God’s part that the other party, that is Jesus, has a legal standing which is independent of himself. By doing so, God would be acknowledging Jesus’s ownership of value, which is transferred to God. If this were the case we might wonder; how could anything be legally transferred to God’s ownership when he owns all things? I would think it more reasonable to believe that value passing from God to his creation and only offerings of the spirit and from the heart pass to God.

 But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee, 1 Chronicles 29:14.

Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? Romans 11:35.

How could a young son ask of his father, to buy his own room? For this to take place, the boy must grow to adulthood, establish independence from his father, and then as a peer, he can legally enter into such an agreement. In comparison, with the case of God, only those who have left his house and have become independent of God can do such a thing. In Jesus’ case, he was never independent of God. If independence from God is not established, a transaction would be meaningless and amount to God, making a payment to himself.

Why would God want to divert his perfect justice from its course? Punishing Jesus in the place of the sinner is like a doctor treating a man for a broken leg who has no broken leg. Similarly, justice can only be just if it is applied to those who have offended – as the scriptures say; I will give to every one according to his deeds. The goal of justice is not to satisfy something with in God, for God cannot be tarnished, the goal of justice is practical, it makes that which is crooked start.

The scriptures say that God is love; from this we can understand that God’s justice is an expression of his love and there for God’s justice is in perfect harmony with his love.

Adam and Eve were given dominion over the natural creation but through the temptation of the devil their minds became subject to the carnal nature which is intimately tied to death, which is the last enemy, 1 Corinthians 15:26 and out of harmony with God’s plan. The love of God responded on their behalf by giving them hope, but this hope would only come through a victory won by the seed of the woman, over the devil the flesh and over death.

The assumption for mankind’s outcome quite often is one of two possibility’s ether the death of Jesus in place of the sinner or the death of the sinner, dust thou art, and unto dust thought shalt return. Another possibility which we consider is that God is not saving mankind from death he is allowing mankind, if they chose, to enter the death of Jesus and by doing so undergo a transformation which leads to a new life in the family of God.

Inheriting Salvation

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

There are scriptures, which I believe explain how sin is handled without a legal transaction taking place between Jesus and God. Acts 22:27, 28 illustrates how this might work; 

Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.

The chief captain had to pay for his Roman citizenship, while Paul, on the other hand, had obtained his freedom as a Roman by reason of his birth.

Here we make a comparison between the principles expressed in Acts, to a believer’s spiritual birth in Christ. For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel, 1 Corinthians 4:15. As members of the family of God, as sons of God, all things that pertain to life and Godliness are theirs by inheritance, and just as Paul was born with the privileges of a Roman and required no payment for his citizenship, as the chief captain did, those who by faith accept Christ are by reason of their spiritual birth into the family of God inheritors of the promises and due all the privileges associated with being sons of God. No payment to God was necessary for this standing.

Acceptance of Christ leads to a spiritual birth into the family of God, 

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir (inheritor) of God through Christ, Galatians 4:7. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs (inheritors) according to the promise, Galatians 3:29.

Several passages emphasize a family relation between Jesus, God and the church.

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

To think that son-ship in the family of God is based on a payment to God seems to contradict the idea of a family bound in love.

What I understand happened is quite natural; Jesus overcame the obstacles set before him and by doing so demonstrated qualities of character, which obtained his father’s favor. For this reason he was blessed above his fellows, this blessings he shares with those who he is not ashamed to call brethren, Hebrews 2:11.

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things . . . Hebrews 1:2. Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they, Hebrews 1:4. Jesus explains; What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free, Matthew 17:25, 26.

How is original sin dealt with?

As I understand, prior to the foundation of the world, it was determined that Christ would reveal a new law, which replaces the natural law by which our first parents were judged, and also the system of law by which Israel was judged. The law which Moses received was a shadow, and only a revelation of God’s back parts or train, as some translations say.

Exodus 33:21-23 . . . while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

The things which were hidden from Moses are revealed in Christ. Jesus says; 

I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world, Matthew 13:35.

Just as God wrote the Mosaic Law on tables of stone, the spotless and unblemished tables of Jesus’ heart became the material upon which God wrote this new law, which was ratified as the New Covenant at Jesus’ death. Jesus then, in place of Adam, became the pattern for a new man:

 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature . . . 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This new law is called, 

the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2),

this law, as seen in Jesus, reveals qualities of God in a clarity never before seen by men. Paul describes this law in contrast to the Mosaic Law as; the glory that excelleth;

For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 2 Corinthians 3:10, 11

But why was this new law not revealed to Adam? This is because the first man is of the earth, and by nature had a mindset that leaned toward self-preservation. 

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:47.

In contrast, Jesus had a mindset, which followed the will of God even at the expense of his own life.

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This new law provides a way to make a separation between the mind of the natural man and the new man in Christ. Because Adamic-sin is associated with the natural man and the carnal mind, the possibility of sin can be removed. This happens as the law of Christ is written in the believers heart, working like a two-edged sword, which cuts between the joints and the marrow and removes the old man. As the believer, undergoes this process, he learns to reject sin and to love righteousness.

Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

2 Corinthians 4:16 . . . though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Understanding the difference between the old man of Adam, and the new man in Christ helps to clarify how original sin is dealt with. The following passage in Romans explains that the old man, which is associated with Adam’s sin, is cut off.

Romans 6:7, 8 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed . . . 

In the next chapter Romans 7:1-4, Paul makes the same point with the illustration of a woman bound to the law of her husband while he is alive, but if he dies, she is free to marry another. Our old nature is considered to be crucified, and the law as it relates to Adamic-sin has no claim. The sin associated with the former life is not imputed to the new man in Christ.

Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Romans 8:1 there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The death of Jesus is a key feature in God’s design through which all must pass. The old man is considered to have passed away in the baptism into Christ and a new man is begotten and raised with Christ into a new order. The new man is not a restoration of men to Adam’s original state but is the creation of a new man in the image of Christ. Therefore, we can say that original sin is dealt with by baptism into Jesus’ death, and that no payment to justice is necessary.

Subjection to Christ

Some scriptures show that Jesus’ death and resurrection has two sides. The very same death and resurrection, which provides salvation to some, brings condemnation to others. In Romans 8:3 we read; 

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.

There was a condemnation, which came upon Adam and Eve at their fall, and there was a condemnation, which could befall Israel for not keeping the Mosaic Law. However, Jesus brings a new condemnation, which supersedes all others, by revealing a law that removes any possible standing of the natural man on the basis of the natural law. It is this condemnation, which makes the Day of the Lord possible. As the death of Christ is manifest it convicts mankind, making them subject to Christ;

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5.

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, 1 Corinthians 15:28.

The passage in Romans 8:3 is similar to Hebrews 11:7 where it says; 

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

The presence of Noah’s Ark testified of Noah’s faith and was a witness to the pre-flood world, which brought salvation to Noah’s family and condemnation to the pre-flood world.

It seems that the Day of the Lord breaks the power of Satan over the minds of mankind. Even those in Egypt who did not leave with Moses saw Pharaoh exposed and powerless. They understood as Pharaoh’s servant’s said; this is the finger of God, in a similar way, all will one day stand convicted, every mouth stopped, and brought into the captivity of Christ, based solely on the testimony of Christ and not on any former law. It is as if Jesus was in the place of Nebuchadnezzar who received a dominion from God over all the earth. Jesus’ dominion over the earth grows as men are slain by the two edge sword; 

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, Revelation 19:15.

This is the work of the Day of the Lord as Christ sits at God’s right hand, like the stone of Daniel chapter 2, which strikes the image, breaks it in pieces and fills the earth. This is possible because God has revealed a new law in Christ, which condemns all sin in the flesh and brings both the living and the dead in subjection to Christ; 

. . . Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living, Romans 14:9.

From what sins does the antitypical Day of Atonement cleanse?

The Mosaic covenant was designed to accommodate for man’s fallen state, in that it offered services intended for the cleansing of sin. The most prominent was a yearly service called the Day of Atonement. To receive the benefit of this service, Israel had to make a full commitment to follow the Mosaic covenant. This took place when Moses read the words of the covenant to the people, and they responded “all these things we will do” shortly after, Moses offered sacrifice and sprinkled blood on the book of the law and the people, saying;

. . . Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words, Exodus 24:8.

Once under the covenant, Israel was a consecrated nation. Subsequently, God requested that Israel makes free will offerings – from which they would construct a sanctuary for God. Then on a proper day, the high priest would enter the sanctuary and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat and other interments of the tabernacle to atone for sins committed by the nation against the covenant.

The nation was also required to participate in the Day of Atonement, they would have to afflict their souls (repent) or be cut off; Leviticus 16:31. By completing these services God would impute his righteousness to the nation and the camp of Israel was then considered holy. The nation was then forbidden from intermingling with other nations least they defile the camp.

 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp . . . therefore shall thy camp be holy . . . Deuteronomy 23:14; . . . put out of the camp every leper . . . that they defile not their camp, in the midst whereof I dwell. Numbers 5:2, 3.

The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself . . . all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee, Deuteronomy 28:9,10.

The gospel age counterpart to the Mosaic Law is the New Covenant, which is a covenant of the spirit; 

Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life; 2 Corinthians 3:6,

under this covenant sin is redefined; 

whatever is not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23.

Under this covenant, atonement relates not to a cleansing of the flesh but to a cleansing of the conscience. This brings a release from motives that produce dead works, and in this way, the New Covenant deals with sin where it begins, in the heart.  

. . . Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also; Matthew 23:26.

Under the New Covenant the sprinkling of blood as pictured on the Day of Atonement has two important meanings, it represented the righteousness of God which is imputed to his people by faith in Jesus, and it represents Jesus’ unreserved commitment to the will of God, even unto death.

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The Righteousness of God

Several passages in the Old Testament state that Israel as God’s people carry the righteousness of God. The following are a sample of these passages; 

Jeremiah 23:6 . . . this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Isaiah 45:24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness. . . ,

Psalm 71:16 . . . I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.

Psalm 119:40 . . . quicken me in thy righteousness.

Psalm 119:142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness . . . ,

Psalm 4:1 . . . O God of my righteousness . . . ,

Psalm 40:10 I have not hid thy righteousness . . . ,

Psalm 69:27 . . . let them not come into thy righteousness,

Psalm 7:17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness . . .

These passages, establish that Israel was not intended to be a self-righteous nation, but one that carried the righteousness of God. The following New Testament passages, speak of God’s righteousness also, but in these we additionally learn that faith in Jesus is the means by which God impart his righteousness.

Romans 3:21, 22 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ…

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith

Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Another passage, which we can include in this discussion, describes the glory of God as seen in Jesus,

2 Corinthians 3:6  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

My belief is that God is the source of all righteousness. Jesus understood this and said;

 Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God . . . Matthew 19:17. 

Jesus also said; 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you, Matthew 6:33.

Apparently, one of the significant things Jesus did was to manifest the righteousness of God and his own death became the means by which God would impute his righteousness to his people.

The Law of the Spirit and the Law of the Flesh

It appeared that the carnal law had gained victory and established its place as a basic feature in the kingdom of God, even above God’s love when at Jesus’ death he was hung on a tree. As the Mosaic Law said, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree, many scholars believe Jesus’ crucifixion was to satisfy the carnal law. However, as it was later demonstrated, this was not the last word. God overturned the indictment of the Mosaic Law when he raised Jesus from the dead. From Jesus’ baptism until his death a new law was written within him, which produced fruits of the spirit, these are Godly qualities, with a built in sensitivity to the will of God which proved superior to the Mosaic Law. Thereby, allowing Jesus to correctly trace the leading of the spirit and overcome the will of the flesh.

During the creation, God rested on the seventh day and sanctified it, in this way God separated the works done on the first six days of the week, from the Sabbath. Works that relate to the natural world and the carnal man are governed by the Mosaic Law and are associated with labor and the first six days of the week. Those believers who have entered God’s rest have ceased from their own works. Their works now manifest the righteousness of God, and are works that can only be credited to God.

At Jesus’ baptism, he put aside his own will to do the will of God, and God responded by anointing him with the Holy Spirit. At this time, Jesus entered God’s Sabbath and he became a spiritual man. He ceased from his own works and became

Lord even of the Sabbath day, Matthew 12:8.

Jesus was then driven by the spirit into the wilderness, where God began to write within him the law of God, after the inward man, Romans 7:22. The giving of this new law to Jesus would parallel the giving of the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai.

By writing this law upon Jesus, God cultivated within him, qualities of character which through suffering were crystalized, making Jesus the pattern for a new man in Christ and establishing him as the foundation for a sanctuary into which God will gather; 

all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; Ephesianns 1:10,

  . . . Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation . . . Isaiah 28:16, 

 . . . I lay in Sion a chief corner stone . . . 1 Peter 2:6, . . . 

In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:22,  

. . . unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:13.

What we find in our day is that the suffering and death of Jesus is understood in two opposing ways: As a triumph of the natural law, which needed to be satisfied or a triumph of God’s spirit over the natural law. Through the accomplishment of salvation by Jesus, from within God’s Sabbath and therefore by God’s spirit, God pull’s the proverbial rug out from under the endeavors of the natural man under the Mosaic Law, making salvation an exclusive work of the spirit. In this way, God rewards qualities of character, which are empowered by the spirit; this enables men to do the works of God. These fruits of the spirit do not come by the will of the nature man; 

it is God which worketh in you, Philippians 2:13. 

This eliminates the possibility of any righteousness other than that of God’s being expressed. In this way, no flesh can glory in God’s sight. The character and good works of men in this new order are all of God’s design.

Romans 8:3-10 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Through Jesus’ ministry, he maintained his place in God’s rest and prevented any credit, which the natural law might gain over his works. For every aspect of the natural law, there was a spiritual counterpart, which Jesus fulfilled. Jesus passed through the eye of the needle untouched by any claim of the natural law. Prior to Jesus’ baptism all men were of the earth – Jesus died that we in him might put off the carnal natural and be transformed into persons of a spiritual mind. At Jesus’ resurrection, God rewarded Jesus for reasons that had nothing to do with the flesh. The world, the flesh, and devil were defeated by Jesus’ reliance on the spirit, rather than in the keeping of works to satisfy the Mosaic Law.

A form of Christianity

After the days of the apostles a form of Christianity emerged, which took aspects of the Mosaic Law and incorporated them within the Christian faith. This can be seen in how the Day of Atonement is commonly understood in Christian doctrine, where Jesus’ death becomes a carnal offering to God in order to satisfy a system of justice based on the natural law. In this view, the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law are replaced by the physical punishment of Jesus. For some, Christianity went from what the gospel of John says of Jesus’ body

“the flesh profiteth nothing”

to a belief where flesh constitutes the most important thing – in order to satisfy the carnal law. This view is similar to the Mass in that both derive merit from what happens to Jesus’ physical body.

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Any offering of Jesus, which relates to his physical existence, would come under the domain of the carnal law and the Aaronic priesthood. However, Jesus who reveals the true nature of God was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, which is a spiritual priesthood and relates to the new law of the spirit. If God were to accept any appeasement to the Mosaic Law he would be obliging himself to that law and participating in the carnal nature. Salvation was a work of God in Christ, everything that Jesus accomplished from his baptism was a work of the spirit. In this way God did not allow his love for mankind to be subject to a natural law. It was God’s design that the law in which he had no desire would pass way, and Jesus made this possible when he put away self-will and entered God’s Sabbath, where there is no place for the natural law.

Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

2 Corinthians 3:7,11 But if the ministration of death, written and engravenin stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away . . . For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

When all is completed, I believe it will be said that no part of the kingdom of God is based on the keeping of any natural law. Jesus ministry was a work of God’s spirit and for this reason I believe it can be said of his ministry; 

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts, Zechariah 4:6.

Just as Paul expressed of himself (Romans 7:22), I believe God has a love for the law of God after the inward man, and has no love for the law of natural man. The Mosaic Law, which governs the works of the natural man is contrary to the nature of God who is a spirit, who seeks such to worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4:24. 

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, Romans 7:22 : 

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4:24.

Israel’s Ransom

There are over 80 passages in the Old Testament, which speak of Israel’s departure from Egypt. These passages, in the King James Bible, each use two words “brought” and “Egypt”, I was able to easily compile a list of these passages using a computer. One example is Amos 2:10

brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness.

I believe these 80 passages place Israel’s departure from Egypt, as the most notable event in the Old Testament.

I found three passages, which tell Israel to remember the time of their exodus:

Exodus 13:3  . . . Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage . . .

Deuteronomy 5:15 . . . remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand . . .

Deuteronomy 16:3 . . . remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. 

There is another set of passages, which speak of Israel’s exodus but use the word “redeem” or “redeemed”. These passages establish that Israel’s departure from Egypt was, a work of God who ransoms Israel from Egypt. Israel’s Exodus is the only event in the Old Testament that I believe can qualify as Israel’s ransom. The following passages speak of God as redeeming Israel “out of the house of bondage”, “out of the hand of Pharaoh”, “out of the bondage of Egypt”, and “out of the house of servants”, Exodus 6:6 (H1350), Deuteronomy 7:8, 9:26, 13:5, 15:15, 24:18, 2 Samuel 7:23, 1 Chronicles 17:21, Micah 6:4, (H6299).

The two Hebrew words, used in these verses, from which the English words redeem or redeemed are translated, can be properly translated as: ransom or ransomed. Even though God ransoms Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, no payment is made to Pharaoh or to Egypt. This is because the word redeemed is used in a figurative manner, and yet we can say this redemption did have a price, it cost the life of the Passover lamb.

Hosea 13:14 uses one of these Hebrew words (H6299), and in this example, it is translated “ransom”,

 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.

In this passage, it is evident that no legal transaction is made between God and the power of the grave.

The next few passages are similar, and in each, God initiates the redemption work;

Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave:

Isaiah 43:1 . . . O Israel, Fear not: for I (God) have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

Throughout the Old Testament we find, in context, it is God who is ransoming or redeeming his people from their enemies. However, in the following New Testament passage it does not specifically say from whom “all men” are ransomed;

1 Timothy 2:6 who (Jesus) gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Some understand this passage to say that Jesus is ransoming mankind from the hand of God, either his justice or his wrath. However, this passage can also be understood to say, similar to many Old Testament passages, that it is God who by Jesus is ransoming men from their enemies, such as the world the flesh and the devil. Also notice the writer in this passage may not necessarily be saying that a literal payment is being made to another party to accomplish this ransom.

The following passage: Act 20:28, speaks of the church as being “purchased” and similar to the passage in 1 Timothy, it does not say from whom the church is being purchased, is it from God’s justice or his wrath? Or is Jesus purchasing the church from their enemies?

Acts 20:28 . . . feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

The word “purchased” is also used in Exodus 15:16, and in this passage, God purchases Israel from their enemies.

Exodus 15:16  . . . till the people pass over (the Red Sea) which though hast purchased.

In the two previous verses Act 20:28 and Exodus 15:16, we see the use of the word “purchased” as a figure of speech, as also seen in the 1 Timothy 3:13,

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

In my understanding, the verses we have considered, Jesus is redeeming, ransoming, and purchasing mankind not from God but from the hand of their enemies. No transaction or payment is made to these enemies to accomplish this liberation, but it does come at a price – it costs the life of Jesus. In my view, the intent of these passages is to say that God is working in Christ, to redeem or ransom mankind from their enemies.

2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . .

Another point we have considered is that Israel’s ransom relates to their departure from Egypt, whereas Israel’s atonement takes place after the covenant is made between God and Israel in the wilderness. This would mean that Israel’s ransom and their atonement, accomplish different tasks. The blood of the Passover lamb releases slaves from bondage in Egypt and the blood of the sin-offering maintains Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Also notice that the ransom, which relates to the Passover, is celebrated in the first month and is the first feast in Israel’s festival cycle, whereas the Day of Atonement is celebrated on the seventh month and is the sixth feast in Israel’s festival cycle. Israel’s ransom and their atonement seem to be two distinctly different events, each being accomplished by the sprinkling of blood, but for different reasons.

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About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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