‘I WAS an insolent persecutor,’ admitted a formerly proud and violent man. He had been an abusive blasphemer who had heartlessly harassed and assaulted God-fearing followers of Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless,” he stated gratefully, “I was shown mercy.” Incredible as it may seem, this rabid persecutor became the faithful Christian apostle Paul.—1 Timothy 1:12-16; Acts 9:1-19.
Not everyone has done the sort of things that Paul did. Yet, all of us fail to meet God’s standards. Why? Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Moreover, it is very easy to sink into a quagmire of despair, perhaps feeling that we are too bad to receive God’s mercy.
While contemplating his sinful inclinations, Paul himself exclaimed: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” Answering his own question, he wrote: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”—Romans 7:24, 25.
How could a righteous Creator have dealings with sinners? (Psalm 5:4) Note that Paul said: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Another recipient of God’s mercy explained: “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:1, 2.
Why is Jesus Christ called “a helper with the Father”? And how is Jesus “a propitiatory sacrifice” for sins?
Why a Helper Is Needed
Jesus came to the earth “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) A ransom is the price paid to buy back, or to bring about the release of, someone or something. The verb form of the Hebrew word rendered “ransom” conveys the idea of covering, or atoning, for sins. (Psalm 78:38)
The Greek word, such as that found at Matthew 20:28, was used particularly to refer to the price paid to ransom prisoners of war or to release slaves. To satisfy the demands of justice, one thing is given in exchange for another of corresponding value.
Mankind came into slavery because of the first man’s rebellion against God. As shown in Genesis chapter 3, that perfect man—Adam—chose to pursue a course of disobedience to God. By doing so, he sold himself and his yet unborn descendants into slavery to sin and death. For himself and all his offspring, Adam thus forfeited the gift of perfect human life.—Romans 5:12, 18, 19; 7:14.
In ancient Israel, God arranged for animal sacrifices to atone for, or cover, the sins of the people. (Leviticus 1:4; 4:20, 35) In effect, the life of the sacrificial animal was given in place of that of the sinner. (Leviticus 17:11) Consequently, “the day of atonement” could also be spoken of as the “day of the ransoms.”—Leviticus 23:26-28.
Since animals are inferior to man, however, it was “not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away [completely].” (Hebrews 10:1-4) For a sacrifice to have sufficient value to atone for, or remove, sins permanently, it would have to be equal in value to what Adam forfeited.
The scales of justice required a perfect man (Jesus Christ) to counterbalance what another perfect man (Adam) had lost. Only a perfect human life could pay the ransom price to redeem Adam’s offspring from the enslavement into which their first father had sold them. A ‘soul for a soul’ would meet the demands of true justice.—Exodus 21:23-25.
When Adam sinned and was sentenced to death, his as yet unborn offspring were still in his loins and therefore died with him. The perfect man Jesus, “the last Adam,” willingly did not produce a family. (1 Corinthians 15:45) He had unborn offspring in his loins when he died as a perfect human sacrifice.
Therefore, it might be said that the potential human race within his loins died with him. Jesus took Adam’s sinful, dying family as his own. He gave up the right to have a family of his own. By sacrificing his perfect human life, Jesus repurchased all mankind descended from Adam so that they could become His family, making Him their “Eternal Father.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice opened the way for obedient mankind to receive God’s mercy and obtain everlasting life. Consequently, the apostle Paul wrote: “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
We cannot help but praise God for the love and compassion associated with the ransom, provided at tremendous cost to himself and his dearly beloved Son. (John 3:16) And Jesus surely proved to be “a helper with the Father” when he was resurrected to heavenly life and presented the value of his ransom sacrifice to God in the heavens.* (Hebrews 9:11, 12, 24; 1 Peter 3:18)
Please support us to reach others by sharing this article