Jesus Paid a Ransom, But to Whom?
“The Son of Man came … to give His life as a ransom for many.” [Mt 20:28] I’ve been reading once again of the crucifixion of our Lord and His work of atonement. I guess I always dread reading this portion of Scripture because I always feel so badly that Jesus had to suffer so much when He was entitled to glory and great honor as the Son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity. It hurts me to see the shame, suffering, hurt and persecution He had to endure to complete the task of atonement.
As I paged through this “old, old story” (from the old hymn Tell Me the Old, Old Story”), I began to think about the idea of ransom. In the Matthew passage (Mt 20:20-28) Jesus is quite clear in His understanding that He was being given a cup that only He could drink and was paying a ransom for His people. I suppose I had never thought too much about this ransom idea and maybe even had considered that the ransom was being paid to Satan to free believers from Satan’s clutches.
Upon doing some research on this ransom idea, it seems the view that Satan was being paid off is an idea held by many in the church over the years. But in reading through material from one of my favorite sources, Dr. R.C. Sproul, the contention is made that payment of a Satanic ransom does not square with Bible teaching. Per Sproul: this idea does not agree with Scripture’s view of Christ’s work as “a victory over Satan.” He quotes 1 Jn 3:8b which states that Jesus “appeared…that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Dr. Sproul further notes that, for Satan to receive the ransom, Satan would actually be the victor in Christ’s death, and we all know that Satan has been defeated. If that’s not so, then we don’t have salvation! Further, Sproul states that, “… the devil is himself a rebel and has no right to demand a ransom for our redemption.”
God our Father, however, has every right to demand a ransom to release us from the “state of condemnation” brought about by Adam’s sin [Rom 5:12]. A pure, just and holy God cannot permit even one sin to abide before Him. While, by Jesus’ atonement, we are secondarily freed from slavery to sin and death, we are primarily saved from the wrath of God Himself. As Sproul puts it: “We are saved from God, by God, for God.” In short, Jesus Himself was the ransom paid to His Father to rescue each one of us.
Dr. Sproul, during the course of his teaching career, was always fond of saying that, for any of us to commit even one little sin, amounts to “cosmic treason” before a perfect and holy God. I suspect that you, like me, have many more than one sin for which Jesus had to atone. Thank God Himself, we have a Savior!