In a free market society the idea of purchasing things is important. However, when it comes to scriptures things get rather confusing. The question is what does this mean in practical meaning of "bought with a price" or "purchased"?
Recently I bough a beautiful Ruby Red F-150. It is all aluminum and has a steel frame. It rides great. It has better hauling and towing abilities. The four door cab is spacious and has comfort that would surprise my long deceased dad who so enjoy his F-100. And the power plant in this new Ford is far superior to that his old flathead 8. If dad had had a truck like this, he would have thought himself the richest man in the world. But the point here is not about an F-150, but about the fact that I bought it. I own it. It is mine. It is not yours.
Now, if I own it I can be like the potter in the scriptures as mentioned in Isa 64:8 and Jer. 18:6. I can do with that truck as I want. Same is the indication of both the prophets as mentioned here. So can God do as he wants with us. There is no doubt that he who has created the world by his word, cast the stars, solar systems, and galaxies in to space, the God who created the baffling DNA and RNA can certainly do as he may. He is sovereign. But even then, though he is sovereign, he is governed by his Word. When he speaks we need to listen. When he says we must believe, he means that that is our responsibility in the work of salvation. Not him. With this in mind allow me to continue with my illustration.
While the comparison here will not be perfect, I think that it will fit my simple point. Because I bought the F-150 means that I own it. That is what the Ford dealership would understand. They don’t own it. I do. If I want to rough it on old log road I can do that if I want to. If I want to drive it on the freeways, I can. If I desire to give it to a person that needs transporting, I can. Even if I would want to blow it up, I can as long as I don’t hurt my neighbors and so forth. The reason for this is my ownership. Would any deny these things to me based on the fact that I own it?
Now Paul is telling the Corinthians that they are owned by God. That is they were “bought with a price.” Now lets stop and think a bit about that phrase. What can be said or implied by that phrase? Paul does not deny that that purchasing was done on the Cross by the shedding of Christ's blood and his resurrection which purchased all mankind. Because this is really the idea, the redemption of the world, means that Christ died for all men. That “whosoever believes” can be saved. This atonement can completely save all in the world if they would all believe.
But this bags a question. Does it mean that all mankind will be saved? If it does, then we would have the heresy of Universalism. But still in the context of the scripture, God desires all to be saved through faith. But though that is the case, Universalism is hardly what is meant here.
On the other hand if Paul means that “bought with a price” which only the elect are meant in this terminology, then we have what seems to be opposite of Universalism. That is only those who God foreknew to be the elect - chosen before the foundation of the world have been “bought with a price.” The condition to believe does not need to apply here. They will believe no matter. Therefore only the elect can be saved. But this does not seem to catch the spirit of the rest of the ideas that Paul's writings to the Corinthians demands.
So what does this mean? Universalism or Calvinism? I would suggest neither. There is something here that many seem to ignore. He did not pay the devil anything for us, though we were the devils children. We were born the children of the devil. However the Bible says we are called adopted into sonship of Christ. We were slaves to Christ. Slaves in word and deed. It was the natural thing. Sin is foreign to God. He wanted to reclaim his lost creation. He set that plan to work after the first sin was committed. The crimson threat started the day that God shed the blood of animals to cover the nakedness of Adam. From that day we looked forward to the coming of God’s son. From the garden to the global flood, to Abraham, to Moses, to King David, and through the great prophets. Then one remarkable cold winters night angels appeared to the lowly shepherds and announced in a massive chorus of praise the arrival of the Savior of the World. Not for the so called elect, and not for just the Jews, but the world. From a baby in a manger, to a lad in his dads carpenter shop, to the sprinkling of the baptismal waters of Jordan, Christ was prepared to minister for three or so years. At the end of those years, he was cruelly crucified, bleed, and died. He was buried and was raisin from the dead. Hence that crimson threat sowed up the way of salvation to all men. He made it clear that he gave his life and no man took it from him. He offered himself as the perfect lamb for the sacrifice. It is that sacrifice that is the purchasing agent.
Satan’s way was destroyed. His head was mortally injured. He no longer had any right to any man. So what does that mean. Simply, the way of salvation is by his blood. The way of salvation is sealed. The devil can not close the door. God accepted his Sons blood as an offering for our sins. There is so much more that can be said about his selfless sacrifice.
So where does this leave us. First the way of salvation has been purchased by his selfless actions. Second, that all men can gain heaven. Not all men universally or just the elect. All men have the ability to gain heaven and in that sense, he did purchase us. But wait. Paul was supposedly talking to Christians at Corinth. Yet look at all their problems. But he is using this phrase to show how they were once slaves. Because of Christ’s atonement, they should be willing to be slaves to Christ because of this selfless act of great love. Slaves not to Satan, but Christ. It was not in the sense that God bought them as we buy things in a free market system. If they gave themselves to him, they were to be willing to be used by God as in the example of the potter and clay. Not only willing for that but to give him glory and praise.
Paul never ever implied that being “bought with a price” means a kind of ownership of God in payment to some one for you. Many many Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and Pentecostals seem to teach that they are owned of God in the sense that I own my new truck. Atonement does not purchase anyone. Instead you are saved grace through faith! You believed in the work of salvation that Christ accomplished for you on the Cross and his resurrection. Your believing therefore applies Christ’s atonement. God accepted his only Son’s work of redemption on the Cross on our behalf. We must accept this atonement by faith. No money or blood was given to the devil in payment in the same sense of how I bought my F-150.
This purchase means that salvation is in the grasp of all mankind. We are therefore saved by works. John 6:26 says “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” That is that we must do, believe. Wesley said that this is a “work most pleasing to God, and the foundation of all others.” Indeed God helps our unbelief. He gives us the ability to believe. But that is our work. Why? Simply because God can not believe for us. That is for us to do. My dear reader, have you doing this work? Are you believing in the sacrifice that he made for us on the Cross. Giving ones life is a high price for any to pay for another man. But how much of a price is it if the holy Son of God gave himself for you and me and the world? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.