Wednesday, August 1, 2018
A Ransom For All: Why Every Human Being Will Be Saved (Part Two)
What about the body of Christ?
Before moving on to the next "ransom" passage (1 Timothy 2:1-7), it should be noted that there are differing views on who else will benefit from the new covenant that God promised to make “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” The predominant view among Christians is that the beneficiaries of the new covenant will include not only those constituting the “Israel of God” but also the called-out company of saints that Paul referred to in his letters as “the body of Christ” (which is a company of saints composed of people from both a Jewish and – primarily – Gentile background). According to this view, the saints comprising the body of Christ are seen as either a continuation of faithful Israel, or as having been incorporated into faithful Israel (in fact, many Christians see no difference at all between the “Israel of God” referred to by Paul and the “body of Christ”). Either way, those in the body of Christ are understood as being just as much a part of the “many” for whom Christ said he came to give his soul a ransom as the believing Israelites to whom Christ was speaking in Matthew 20:28 (and, ironically, this view would also mean that the primary recipients of the new covenant blessings promised in Hebrews 8:7-12 will be of a Gentile background, rather than Jewish).
I’m not convinced that this position is correct. According to my understanding, the new covenant was not made with – and thus does not directly pertain to - those in the body of Christ (although I don’t think the future beneficiaries of the new covenant will be exclusively Jewish in background, either). Despite my misgivings concerning the more popular view, I must emphasize that it is, nonetheless, completely consistent with the overall position I’m defending in this study. With regard to the identity of the “many” of Matthew 20:28, the only point that can be said to be essential to the conclusion at which I’ll be arriving in part two of this article is this: the “many” for whom Christ said he came to give his soul a ransom is a definite group of people whose salvation was procured by virtue of Christ’s death on their behalf.
This point is perfectly consistent with the more popular view that the “many” of Matt. 20:28 includes those who are in the body of Christ. After all, it’s certainly the case that the body of Christ consists of “a definite group of people whose salvation was procured by virtue of Christ’s death on their behalf.” For example, in Ephesians5:23-25, Paul wrote that Christ is the “Head of the ecclesia (a “called-out company”)” and “the Savior of the body,” and that Christ “loves the ecclesia, and gives Himself up for its sake.” In Titus 2:13-14, Paul wrote that “our Saviour Jesus Christ…gives Himself for us, that He should be redeeming [lutroō, from lutron] us from all lawlessness and be cleansing for Himself a people to be about Him, zealous for ideal acts.” A few verses later, Paul went on to write, “Yet when the kindness and fondness for humanity of our Saviour, God, made its advent, not for works which are wrought in righteousness which we do, but according to His mercy, He saves us, through the bath of renascence and renewal of holy spirit, which He pours out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Saviour, that, being justified in that One's grace, we may be becoming enjoyers, in expectation, of the allotment of life eonian” (Titus 3:4-7).
So, regardless of whether one understands the future beneficiaries of the new covenant to consist primarily of Israelites or primarily of those who are Gentile in background, I think scripture supports the view that it is the future beneficiaries of this covenant who comprise the “many” for whom Christ said he came to give his soul as a ransom.
PART TWO: A CORRESPONDENT RANSOM FOR ALL
In the previous installment of this study, I argued that the “many” referred to in Matthew 20:28 should be understood as comprised of the future beneficiaries of the new covenant, and that it is from their sins that these people are ransomed by virtue of Christ’s death. I also noted that, in regard to the identity of the “many” of Matthew 20:28, the acceptance of the following point is all that my overall argument requires: the “many” for whom Christ gave himself a ransom is a definite group of people whose salvation was procured by virtue of Christ’s death on their behalf.
Here, again, is the logical (and, I believe, scripturally-informed) argument I provided in support of this position:
1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself a ransom will be ransomed as a result.
2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved.
3. The “many” for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom will be saved.
Now, in his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:
“I am entreating, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, pleadings, thanksgiving be made for all mankind, for kings and all those being in a superior station, that we may be leading a mild and quiet life in all devoutness and gravity, for this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Saviour, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus, Who is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all (the testimony in its own eras), for which I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth.” (1Timothy 2:1-7)
The word translated “wills” in verse 4 (thelo) means just that – i.e., to form a decision, choice or purpose. Thus, what Paul is telling us in these verses is that, whether a person has come to such a realization or not, they are embraced by God’s purpose to save all mankind. Some – in an attempt to limit the meaning of the words “all mankind” in the above passage - have argued that the word “all” here means “all without distinction” or “all kinds of humans” instead of “all humans without exception.” However, the literal meaning of “all” necessarily refers to every member of whatever category of people or things that are in view – i.e., the entire number or quantity of people or things.
For example, when Paul wrote, “all those being in a superior station” (v. 2), the word “all” necessarily includes every person “in a superior station.” This group of people (on whom Paul placed a special emphasis because of the degree of influence that they have over the lives of believers) is simply a subcategory of the “all mankind” referred to in verse 1. Because prayer is fundamentally the aligning of our wills with God’s will, Paul exhorted believers to pray for “all mankind” (i.e., all without exception, which necessarily includes those in power over us) because of the fact that God has willed that this very same, all-inclusive group shall be saved and come into a realization of the truth. In other words, because all people are the objects of God’s unconditional, redemptive love, we should not show any partiality in our prayers for others, but have the same attitude toward humanity as a whole that our God and Father has.
Again, the literal meaning of the word “all” necessarily refers to every member of whatever category of people or things that are in view – i.e., the entire number or quantity of people or things. Thus, those arguing that “all” here should be understood as referring to less than the total number of people constituting “mankind” are actually arguing that Paul was not using the word literally here. That is, if the word “all” in this verse doesn’t actually include the entire number of people in view (which, in this case, would be every member of that category of people that is “all mankind”), then it can only be because Paul was using a figure of speech (hyperbole) when he used the word “all” here. Although the word “all” is, on some occasions, used hyperbolically in scripture, there is no good reason – that is, no non-question-begging reason - to understand it in this non-literal sense here.
Moreover, when Paul used the same expression “all mankind” later in his letter to Timothy, it’s pretty clear that he meant all humans without exception, for he considered “believers” to be a subcategory of this larger group:
“Faithful is the saying and worthy of all welcome (for for this are we toiling and being reproached), that we rely on the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of believers. These things be charging and teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:9-11
It should come as no surprise that many Christians – both Calvinists and Arminians – have tried to make 1 Tim. 4:10 mean anything but what it seems to be saying. “Surely,” some Christians will argue, “Paul didn’t really mean that God is the Savior of all mankind.” And yet, that’s exactly what Paul wrote. As with the expression “all mankind” in 1 Tim. 2:4, some have tried to argue that the expression “all mankind” in 1 Tim. 4:10 was simply Paul’s way of saying, “all kinds of men.” But if that were the case, then it would mean that believers are one “kind” of men of which God is the Saviour. And this, in turn, would mean that the other kind of men of which God is the Savior are unbelievers. But this, of course, would “prove too much” for those who want the expression “all mankind” to mean “all kinds of men” rather than “all men without exception,” for a human being is either a believer or an unbeliever.
By virtue of what is God able to be referred to by Paul as “the Saviour of all mankind, especially of believers?” Well, we know why God is called the Savior of believers. It’s because believers have been, and will be, saved by God. Paul would not (and could not) have referred to God as the “Saviour” of believers if he didn’t think that we had been, or ever would be, saved. Neither God nor Christ can be considered the “Saviour” of anyone whom they will never, in fact, save. Now, regardless of who it is believed will be the recipients of the blessings of the new covenant after Christ’s return, it is believed by most Christians that only believers will, in fact, be saved. Based on the above passage, however, Paul clearly believed otherwise. God is the Savior “especially of believers,” but not exclusively. He is also the “Savior of all mankind.”
But if God is the Savior of all mankind, then what did Paul mean when he called him the Savior “especially of believers?” Whatever one believes it to mean, the meaning can’t contradict the fact that God is the Savior of all mankind. To better understand Paul’s use of the word “especially” here, we need only look to other examples in his letters. In Galatians 6:10 we read, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (for more examples of Paul’s use of “especially,” see 1 Cor. 14:1; Phil 4:22; 1 Tim 5:8, 17; Titus 1:10 and Philemon 16).
Is Paul saying that we are to “do good” to those who are of “the household of faith” to the exclusion of all others? Or, is Paul saying we are to do good to all people, but that those who are of “the household of faith” should come first? Obviously, the latter is Paul’s intent. Those who are of “the household of faith” ought to come first, though we should make the best of the opportunities God gives us to help all people who are in need - even those people who dislike or hate us. Similarly, Paul calls God the Savior “especially of believers,” since Scripture reveals that those who believe are going to be saved by God before everyone else. But this early salvation of believers does not in any way diminish or subtract from the salvation that all people are certain to receive from God at a later time.
Immediately after declaring that God ”wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), Paul explained how the salvation of all mankind was secured: Christ gave himself “a correspondent Ransom for all.” Here’s the key part of v. 6 in six different translations:
New English Translation: “…Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all…”
Young’s Literal Translation: “…the man Christ Jesus, who did give himself a ransom for all…”
Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible: “…a man - Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom in behalf of all…”
Concordant Literal New Testament: “…a Man, Christ Jesus, who is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all…”
Dabhar Literal Translation: “…the man, Christ Jesus, having given Himself as instead-loosening for all…”
Disciple’s Literal New Testament: “…the man Christ Jesus, the One having given Himself as a ransom for all…”
The expression translated as “a ransom for all,” “a ransom in behalf of all,” “instead-loosening for all” and “a correspondent Ransom for all” are the words “antilutron huper pantōn.” The first word – antilutron – is a combination of the Greek prefix “anti” and the noun “lutron.” The prefix “anti” means, “instead of,” “corresponding to,” or “serving as the equivalent of,” while the noun “lutron” is the same word translated as “ransom” in Matthew 20:28. In the Expositor’s Greek Testament, we read the following concerning Paul’s use of the prefix “anti”: “If we are to see any special force in the ἀντί [anti], we may say that it expresses that the λύτρον [lutron] is equivalent in value to the thing procured by means of it. But perhaps St. Paul’s use of the word, if he did not coin it, is due to his desire to reaffirm our Lord’s well-known declaration in the most emphatic way possible. λύτρον ἀντὶ [lutron anti] merely implies an exchange; ἀντίλυτρον ὑπέρ [antilutron huper] implies that the exchange is decidedly a benefit to those on whose behalf it is made.”
Commenting on the meaning of the words “correspondent ransom,” A.B. Screws remarked as follows:
“Christ's death is the exact equivalent of the need of the human family. And that need is more than to simply be restored to the Adamic “purity.” We need the grace that superabounds - not grace that puts us back in Adam’s condition. Everything that is needed to affect the salvation of all mankind (I Tim. 2:4) is supplied in Christ. It is in this sense that He is ‘the One giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all.’ Nor would it be amiss to consider the meaning of ransom. It will secure the release of the person for whom it is paid, unless the one accepting the ransom intends to deceive the one paying it. If Christ gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all, and any part of the human family is not subsequently released, then God has deceived His Son. In other words, since Christ gives Himself a correspondent ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God stands eternally discredited as dishonest. Perish the thought! No one can read 1 Tim. 2:3-6, and believe every word of it, without believing in the salvation of all humanity.“ (http://www.theheraldofgodsgrace.org/Screws/17_07_38_02.htm)
Now, in light of Paul’s use of the word “all” in 1 Tim. 2:5, let’s hear again from Calvinist theologian Loraine Boettner concerning Christ’s use of the word “many” in Matthew 20:28: “…this verse does not say that He gave His life a ransom for all, but for many.” Echoing this statement by Boettner, one Calvinist pastor (Wes Bredenhof) wrote the following on his blog: “The word “many” tells us that Jesus did not give his life as a ransom for all. He laid down his life for the sheep. That means that he made the atonement with the intent of paying for the sins of the elect and the elect only. Jesus did not die for all people. He died on the cross for his chosen ones and them alone.“ Bredenhof went on to say, “If Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all people, then why did the Holy Spirit say, “many” and not “all” or “everyone”?”
Given their understanding of Christ’s words in Matthew 20:28 - and, it should be emphasized, Boettner and Bredenhof are affirming the standard, traditional Calvinist view here - consistency would demand that they admit that, in light of Paul’s use of “all” in 1 Timothy 2:5, all people without exception will be ransomed by virtue of Christ’s death. For if Christ’s use of the word “many” “in Matthew 20:28 means that he’s not talking about “all,” then Paul’s use of the word “all” in 1 Tim. 2:5 means that he’s not talking about “some” or “many.” The expression, “there is one mediator of God and mankind” helps us to determine who is included in the “all” for whom Christ gave himself as a ransom: it is all persons who fall into the category of “mankind” (anthrōpos), and who are in need of a Savior. Contextually, then, Paul’s clearly talking about all mankind. And since Calvinists admit that the “many” who are in view in Matthew 20:28 will, in fact, be saved, consistency demands that they also believe that the “all” in view in 1 Tim. 2:5 will, in fact, be saved as well.
Here is a modified form of the argument presented earlier:
1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself a ransom will be ransomed as a result.
2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved.
3. The “all” for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a correspondent ransom in 1 Timothy 2:5 will be saved.