One of the things I’ve noticed being a long-time TPM believer is that TPM doesn’t stress on the perfect sovereignty of God. They tend to paint a picture where man and even Satan is more sovereign than God. I can see shades of the Roman Catholic Church in them. In many of TPM’s publications, you can see them saying along the lines of God needing mankind. Newsflash! God doesn’t “need” anyone. He “wants” us, because He loves us. There is a huge difference between those two words.
Pastor A. C. Thomas is considered an icon in TPM. Even today these words – “A Father of Many Nations” – are etched in the place of his burial. The same pastors who preach against visiting the graves of our loved ones are seen visiting AC’s grave. Another thing they preach as a rule but do not practice. But let me digress.
This article is about a certain sermon by Pas. A.C. Thomas where he claims God paid the price of our freedom to Satan. Yes, you heard it right! God ransomed us by paying the price to Satan! Below is the transcript of the section.
“Man is called to be next to God. But what is our state today? We are far away from God. Sin has separated us from God. Fallen angels have destroyed man. And therefore man had to be restored. That is why Jesus came into the world. In the restoration of man, the first thing that God had to do was to buy him back. Man had gone into strange hands. We had fallen into the hands of the devil. He had to be bought back. How could he be bought? What is the price to be paid? Will the devil be satisfied with anything that is material? No, certainly not. So what does he demand? He demands our price. Because of our greatness, he is demanding the very life of God. That is why Jesus had to give himself.”
You can notice the pastor did not quote a single verse to prove this claim of his. Later on, in the sermon, you can hear him say that he isn’t preaching mad theories but the very truth of God. This is how you deceive people by teaching something as God’s truth without a biblical basis and then claiming you are teaching God’s truth.
Did the Pastor conjure up this theory? Is this the “deeper truth” TPM keeps bragging about which they received as revelation from God? Unfortunately, No. TPM has a habit of plagiarizing other people’s work. I’ve seen they borrow songs from artists like Matt Redman and Rend Collective but never give them credit in their hymn books but rather present it as their own work. In a recent Youth Camp, brother Teju was answering an FAQ question on proving the existence of God to atheists. He used William Lane Craig’s argument (Kalam’s Cosmological Argument) almost word for word. But Teju never gave credit to WLC or even called his argument “Kalam’s Cosmological Argument”. He was received with applause after his answer, with the youths thinking TPM came up with such a good argument. Similarly, what pastor AC is teaching here is not something God revealed to TPM, but what is commonly known as the “Ransom Theory of Atonement” that was put forward by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa in the 3rd Century AD.
The Ransom Theory of Atonement
Essentially, this theory claimed that Adam and Eve sold humanity over to the Devil at the time of the fall; hence, justice required that God pays the Devil a ransom to free us from the Devil’s clutches. God, however, tricked the Devil into accepting Christ’s death as a ransom, for the Devil did not realize that Christ could not be held in the bonds of death. Once the Devil accepted Christ’s death as a ransom, this theory concluded, justice was satisfied and God was able to free us from Satan’s grip (Robin Collins, Understanding Atonement: A New and Orthodox Theory)
“To whom did Christ give his life a ransom for many? Assuredly not to God; could it then be to the evil one? For he was holding us fast until the ransom should be given him, even the life of Jesus; Satan being deceived with the idea that he could have dominion over it, and not see that he could not bear the torture in retaining it.” –Origen (Commentary on Matthew 16:8)
“In order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by Satan who required it, Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of flesh, and thus, life being introduced into the house of death, and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active. -St. Gregory of Nyssa (The Great Catechism, 24)
The implications and problems of this theory are the following,
- Satan could demand God to do something.
- God makes a compromise with Satan.
- God becomes a deceiver by deceiving Satan.
- Satan becomes the “good guy” who kept his word by releasing mankind, but God deceived Satan by taking Jesus back.
- The ransom is paid not to satisfy the justice of God, but to bribe Satan to give back things he stole.
Let us look at the word of God. What does scripture say about the devil?
“He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
In the garden, we read that Satan deceived Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).
“…the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…” (Rev 12:9)
Do you think God trusted the deceiver to keep his word and hand over humanity? Was our salvation hanging by the metaphorical thread that is the “goodness” of Satan? This theory makes Satan the one who is in control and the one who is running the show and God merely a pawn. The pastor in the clip says, Satan demands the life of God and that is why Jesus had to die on the cross. What a blasphemous thing to say! Satan is nothing but an infinitely small speck compared to God. Funnily enough, we read in Matthew 16 that Peter is trying to stop Jesus from dying on the cross. Jesus replies saying “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.” It seems rather odd that Satan is trying to stop the very thing he demanded from God.
The Biblical View
- Jesus said no one can take his life but that he lays it down on his own accord. This was the command from the Father. This totally destroys the notion that it was the devil who demanded Jesus’ life. Satan has no role to play in the redemption of mankind. It’s high time TPM stop giving so much credit to Satan.
- “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18)
- Psalm 49 gives an excellent insight into this. It says the ransom is to be given to God, not Satan.
- “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (Psalm 49:7-9)
- Sin had separated man from God. It is God who demands the price for sin. It is God who demands perfect righteousness for us to be saved. Since we cannot have this perfect righteousness by our works, when we believe in the finished work of Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us. Therefore, the mediation is between men and God and the price was paid to the Father and not to Satan. God in his love initiated the covenant with man because of God love, not because of Satan’s compulsion. God didn’t go begging to Satan and ask him how he would be satisfied.
- “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5,6)
- It was the Father’s will that the punishment for sin be on His son. Nobody demanded that He do this. We read that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world. This wasn’t an idea that Satan came up with after the fall. Even before the world was made, the all-knowing God was in complete control. He knew what would happen and what is to be done.
- “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34)
- “..all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
- “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53: 4-6)
- “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19,20)
The ransom theory of atonement died in the 11th century when Anselm of Canterbury criticized and refuted it. TPM is merely resurrecting an age-old heresy and presenting them in a different packaging to make it sound “new” and alluring. Since believers are expected to take everything they hear without questioning, I’m afraid many who hear AC Thomas’ messages would accept this heresy as God’s truth. We hope we have provided a sound scriptural based argument to counter this.