Ransom, Propitiation,
Sin Offering

“The man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
—I Timothy 2:5,6

IT TRULY HAS BEEN SAID that most of our misunderstandings arise from the fact that language is an inadequate vehicle with which to convey our thoughts to others. To some, written words may convey exactly the opposite meaning to the same words when spoken, and divergent ideas can be founded on exactly the same passages of scripture. Many are familiar with the difference in meaning between “I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” and “I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) This is the case of the misplaced comma.


Perhaps the Apostle Paul had some language difficulties among the brethren of his day, when Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, Persian, and Egyptian-speaking Christians gathered in the same ecclesia. We read, “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (I Cor. 1:10) This advice was not given to all the people of Corinth, but only to the ‘brethren.’

In connection with Paul’s advice we might add that there is no greater sophistry prevalent among Christians today, and even among Bible students, than the statement that “we all have the right to believe as we please.” As Christians, we have been “bought with a price” even “the precious blood of Christ,” and can we say to our Master, “I will believe what I please, regardless of your teachings?” (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23; I Pet. 1:19) Or does our consecration include the acceptance and recognition as Truth “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God?” (Matt. 4:4) “Incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.”—Prov. 2:2

God’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration declared, “This is my beloved Son, … hear ye him.” (Matt. 17:5) As we endeavor to walk in his footsteps, we are not following him unless we follow his teachings, and the teachings of God, through the prophets and apostles.

There are difficulties in all languages. But writing and speaking in English, a very gifted writer, who was the greatest exegete of the Bible in modern times, was often misunderstood, even though to many he could make most obscure things of the Bible plain. If he, with his logical mind and gift of expression, was so woefully misunderstood, the rest of us should not be surprised if we are also found conveying thoughts to others at times, which are different from what we intend.

Among Christians there are certain terms or words that are used rather loosely, and in many cases, interchangeably. For example, the words ransom, propitiation, sacrifice, sin offering. To many these all mean the same thing, but not if we make a careful analysis of the words, however, and their real meaning. All of these have as their central thought the death of our Savior on Calvary, and yet none of these words is actually synonymous with any of the others.


To get a proper setting for our study, let us look back to the Garden of Eden. God had created man and made him a helpmate—“They twain shall be one flesh.” (Matt. 19:5) He “called their name Adam.” (Gen. 5:2) Thus the unity of man and wife was recognized. Originally, Adam possessed all the qualities of perfect humanity. Strong temptations were presented to this first pair; both disobeyed God, and, although the woman was the first in the transgression, God’s penalty was pronounced because of Adam’s sin. It was by one man’s sin that death came into the world. A perfect man had sinned, and the penalty was death. The Adversary told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), but God had told Adam that disobeying, he would surely die, cease to be, and go back to the dust from whence he was derived.

Here began the great struggle between truth and the lie. Either God told the truth and the Devil the lie, or it was God who lied and the Devil that told the truth. Practically every religion today teaches, by implication, that the Devil told the truth. But if we are to believe the Word of God, we must believe that God was correct, and that it is impossible that he should lie. The Bible is consistent from beginning to end that humans are mortal and die; that they do not have immortal souls, but pass into the state of death where there is neither “device, nor knowledge.” (Eccles. 9:10) This, then, leaves Adam in the bosom of Mother Earth, and since none of the race was born before the penalty was pronounced, the entire race came under condemnation of death. All in Adam die.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4), and the perfect man must pay the penalty for his transgression, without hope of release, unless some other perfect man is willing to take his place and pay that penalty. Job records the philosophy for such a substitution and its result, if it were possible of accomplishment. If that perfect man could be found, then God would be “gracious unto him [mankind],” and say, “Deliver him from going down to the pit [sheol, the grave]: I have found a ransom [Hebrew, kopher—literally, a covering; figuratively, that which would cover the transgression, or the equivalent of the penalty].” The result would be, “His [mankind’s] flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.”—Job 33:23-25


But “there is none righteous [perfect], no, not one,” so what fallen mankind could not do, God, in his infinite mercy and love, did for him. (Rom. 3:10) He sent his only begotten Son, in the likeness of the flesh that sinned (the perfect man Adam), to die for all mankind, so that all who would believe on him should not perish, but on the contrary, have a life that would be everlasting.—John 3:16

The life of Jesus was not a forfeited one of Adam’s race, but a transferred life, yet human. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6) He was born of woman, made flesh. There had been no other perfect humans on earth from Adam’s transgression to the birth of Jesus. Jesus possessed all the marvelous characteristics of a perfect human, and was, therefore, an exact corresponding price for father Adam before he sinned.

But Jesus’ mission in that First Advent, nearly two thousand years ago, was to die as a corresponding price, that the life of a perfect man might be paid to justice to offset the transgression of the perfect man Adam. On Calvary’s cross he “poured out his soul unto death.” (Isa. 53:12) There he triumphantly finished his baptism, and surrendered his human life, committing it to the hands of his Father.


Paul said, “The man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Tim. 2:5,6) The word ‘ransom’ can be used in different ways: as an adjective, as a noun, and as a verb. A familiar use of the word is in connection with the cases of kidnapping, and that can well serve as an illustration. When the demand is to be met, the party who gives the money prepares the required amount. This is the ransom price.

Thus the Scriptures speak of Jesus, “A body hast thou prepared me.” (Heb. 10:5) The ransom price was being prepared, and at the age of thirty years the perfect man, Jesus, presented himself as a sacrifice which was to begin at Jordan and end at Calvary. Then he had the ransom price, a price to correspond.

But Jesus could not give that price into the hands of justice at Calvary, for he was dead. However, on the third day, God, by his own mighty power, raised Jesus Christ from the dead. (Acts 10:40) He was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened [made alive] by the [life-giving] Spirit.” (I Pet. 3:18) Jesus did not desire, and did not take back, his human nature, although at times during the next forty days he appeared as flesh.

Then, ascending to the Father with his completed sacrifice, Jesus appeared in the presence of Jehovah, the very embodiment of justice. He presented his finished sacrifice to his Father, leaving it in his Father’s hands as a surety for a further work. It had been prophetically said of the Messiah, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,” yet Jesus, just before he left the upper chamber in Jerusalem for Gethsemane, had told the Father, “I pray [ask] not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” (Ps. 2:8; John 17:9) In due time Jesus will ask for the heathen (Gentiles), and all of Adam’s race will hear the voice of the Son of man.


An English dictionary defines the word ransom as a verb, as follows: ‘To pay the required price and effect the deliverance of that which is held by another party.’ To pay means to completely release to the other party the price demanded. To be technical, we might say that the ransom has not yet been paid, or released. It is being used as security until those whom God draws to Jesus during this age have been selected and trained and changed into the Divine likeness.

In God’s economy it appears very desirable that Jesus should have these trained assistants in the great work of bringing back billions of the dead to human life. A position of joint-heirship with Christ is not to be lightly given. They must earn it. Worthiness is shown by faithfully enduring suffering, sorrow, and shame, such as fitted our Master for his position.

How much will the death of Jesus cover when it is finally paid into the hands of justice, and the release effected? It will be the price to cover the sin of Adam, and the condemnation upon him and the race in his loins when he sinned. Its coverage is exactly coextensive with the curse. It has that much value, and nothing of merit left over. All Jesus had to do to redeem Adam and his race was to surrender his perfect human life. The manner of its surrender had no effect on the price or its value. That price still stood—a perfect man’s life for a perfect man’s life which had been forfeited because of sin.

However, Jesus became “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 53:3) He lived a life of sacrifice. The Son of God who was to be heir of all things had not a place of his own on which to lay his head. He, by whom the worlds had been created, the most honored of the Father, was mocked and reviled by sinful men, and put to death in one of the cruelest ways known to man. Why? For one reason, God desired that his Son should prove himself worthy of the great exaltation that awaited him. He was proved perfect “by the things which he suffered.”—Heb. 5:8

Another reason for Jesus’ cruel crucifixion is given us by Paul. He wrote, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13) The Jews, having undertaken to live up to the requirements of God’s perfect law, came under an additional condemnation when they failed. So Jesus was “made under the law, … to redeem them that were under the law.”—Gal. 4:4,5

For three and a half years the message was confined to Israel and proselytes to Judaism, and then the message went forth that Gentiles could be fellow heirs of the glorious promises. The Apostle Paul mentions that the Gentiles were in need of propitiation before they could come into Christ. (Eph. 2:11-16) The whole world is under Adamic condemnation. The ransom price in the hands of justice is also surety for their propitiation, and thus effects their reconciliation.


What is propitiation? It is defined as that which causes a favorable decision; the act or thing which makes for conciliation and reconciliation between the offender and the offended. The basis for such propitiation was provided at the cross. While the original sin which caused the alienation of man from God’s favor was committed on earth, we could properly think of the judgment against him as being entered in the courts of heaven. So the depositing of the ransom price on the antitypical mercy seat would be the cornerstone of any attempt at reconciliation.

With that price so deposited, Jesus could stand surety for any member of Adam’s race, for the price was sufficient for the purchase of all. Thus God could be just in keeping the death penalty upon mankind in general, yet still be the justifier of those who believe on Jesus. While we believers are still in fallen flesh, we have the Master standing as our Advocate, representing us before the Father. No mediator is required, as we have complete reconciliation, and are in accord with God.

Jesus is “the propitiation for our [the church’s] sins: and not for ours only, but [in due time] also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) When the ransom price is applied for the sin of Adam, eventually it will effect a conciliation and reconciliation between God and man, and thus become a propitiation for the whole world.


It was sin that had alienated man from God, and only by some offering for sin could there be any propitiation, so in that sense the depositing of the ransom price with justice was in the nature of a sin offering. But before we go further with this thought, let us look at the definition of the term sin offering and we find it to be ‘that which is offered because of a transgression to effect reconciliation or atonement.’ The appearing in the presence of God for us, and presenting his sacrifice, was foreshadowed in the Tabernacle services by the first sprinkling of the mercy seat. This, it will be remembered, was done with the blood of the bullock, and afterward the Lord’s goat was also sacrificed and its blood taken into the Most Holy for the second sprinkling of the mercy seat; and only then did the high priest come out to bless the people.

The Most Holy represented heaven itself, the seat of God’s throne, and his place of abode. Since the presentation of the completed sacrifice was to be made to Jehovah, that offering on behalf of transgressions, the sin offering, must be made in heaven. Like the ransom, all parts of the sin offering are prepared on earth, but all the rest of the presentation is pictured as taking place in heaven.

It is only those who have come to God through Christ who can now claim him as their sin offering. While the work of reconciling the whole world began at Calvary, for the first two thousand years thereafter the benefits have been confined to a little flock. These are to accept the work of reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins, and through faith present themselves in full consecration, and have peace with God, and no longer be “aliens” and “strangers.”—Eph. 2:12

Paul entreats us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” (Rom. 12:1) Why should we? Was not the sacrifice of Christ sufficient to atone for all sin? Perhaps the Jew thought the slaying of a fine, fat ox was sufficient without the additional sacrifice of that goat which could hardly be compared to the ox. Truly here was a mystery that was hidden from ages and generations, although shown in symbol in the Tabernacle, that the Christ was to be made up of many brethren, who, like their Head, must walk the way of sacrifice; and that sacrifice could have no value except as it first received it from the blood of Jesus. These brethren become members of his body, and their sacrifice counted in with his sacrifice. In due time, the entire body will be presented to the Father, their sacrificing finished and acceptable to God through the merit of the Savior’s death.

Thus the church enters into, and is a part of, the sin offering—an offering made on behalf of sin. When the second sprinkling of the mercy seat occurs, the footstep followers of Jesus are with him, but it still is all his merit. The blood of the goat was not acceptable until the slaying of the bullock and its blood applied on the mercy seat. The goat’s blood was merely a repetition of the bullock’s. So it is only as members of the body of Christ, and not in our own merit, that any are permitted to be counted as a part of the sacrifice that is offered on behalf of the transgressions, filling up “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.”—Col. 1:24

The sacrifice of Jesus was vicarious; that is, it was made for us who were unable to do it for ourselves. No one of Adam’s race was able to “give to God a ransom” price for the entire race (Ps. 49:7); so God sent his own Son. But when the ransom price has been fully paid, fully released to justice, then “whosoever will” may come and drink of the “water of life.” (Rev. 22:17) However, belief and obedience will be required.

The term atonement is used when the real thought is at-one-ment—full reconciliation between God and man. One of the Bible’s pictures of bringing about this at-one-ment, which is made possible by the ransom, is “the [high]way of holiness.” (Isa. 35:8) It will require desire and effort on the part of mankind to walk in this way. Salvation to human perfection, restitution, will not come without sincere and earnest effort on the part of humanity. But the final results will be glorious.

When the at-one-ment is complete and Jesus turns the kingdom over to the Father, Jehovah will take direct charge of his human sons. That will be the completion of God’s great plan of the ages through Christ Jesus our Lord. Then all the world will stand on the threshold of the ages of glory to follow. Truly ours is a great God and worthy of our reverence and love!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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