…Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?


In the world’s markets, something which has no value for a disinterested person may be considered of great value to another who desires it and purchases it. In this sense, we may learn how dear and precious we are to Christ by what He was willing to give for us!

Many Christians are tempted to downgrade themselves too much. I am not arguing against true humility and my word to you is this: Think as little of yourself as you want to, but always remember that our Lord Jesus Christ thought very highly of you—enough to give Himself for you in death and sacrifice!

If the devil comes to you and whispers that you are no good, don’t argue with him. In fact, you may as well admit it, but then remind the devil: “Regardless of what you say about me, I must tell you how the Lord feels about me. He tells me that I am so valuable to Him that He gave Himself for me on the cross!”

So the value is set by the price paid—and in our case, the price paid was our Lord Himself, and the end that the Saviour had in view was that He might redeem us from all iniquity, that is, from the power and consequences of iniquity.

One of Wesley’s hymns speaks of “the double cure” for sin. The wrath of God against sin and the power of sin in the human life—both of these were dealt with when Christ gave Himself for us. He redeemed us with a double cure![1]

Jesus reinforced the paradox by adding, “For what will a man be profiled, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Here is the ultimate hyperbole. “Imagine, if you can,” Jesus was saying, “what it would be like to somehow possess the whole world. Of what lasting benefit would that be, if in gaining it you forfeited your soul, your eternal life?” Such a person would be a walking dead man who temporarily owned everything but who faced an eternity in hell rather than in heaven.

“Or,” Jesus continued, “what could possibly be worth having during this lifetime, if to gain it you would have to exchange your soul?” To gain every possession possible in this world and yet be without Christ is to be bankrupt forever. But to abandon everything in this world for the sake of Christ is to be rich forever (cf. Matt. 6:19–21).[2]

25–26 The logic is relentless: gar (“for”) begins vv. 25, 26, 27. For the sense of v. 25, see comments at 10:39. The orientation is eschatological. Saving one’s psychē (NIV, “life,” GK 6034; see comments at 10:28) now will result in losing it at the end, and losing it now will result in finding it at the end. Verse 26 (cf. 2 Bar. 51:15) furthers the argument by asking twin rhetorical questions, showing the folly of possessing all created abundance and wealth at the expense of one’s psychē. The NIV here changes its rendering “life” (v. 25) to “soul” (v. 26). This is not necessarily wrong. The abrupt change from the physical to the spiritual is amply attested elsewhere (cf. 8:22; Jn 4:10; 6:27); but the change in English is perhaps too sharp (cf. Lk 9:25: “his very self”). The focus is still eschatological, and the loss is the eternal loss of one’s soul = life = self (on the afterlife, see comments at 22:23–33). Terminology aside, the bargain is a bad one.[3]

16:26 The second temptation—that of getting rich—is irrational. “Suppose,” said Jesus, “that a man became so successful in business that he owned the whole world. This mad quest would absorb so much of his time and energy that he would miss the central purpose of his life. What good would it do to make all that money, then die, leave it all behind, and spend eternity empty-handed?” Man is here for bigger business than to make money. He is called to represent the interests of his King. If he misses that, he misses everything.

In verse 24, Jesus told them the worst. That is characteristic of Christianity; you know the worst at the outset. But you never cease discovering the treasures and the blessings. Barnhouse put it well:

When one has seen all that is forbidding in the Scriptures, there is nothing left hidden that can come as a surprise. Every new thing which we shall ever learn in this life or the next will come as a delight.[4]

16:26 exchange. At the judgment when he faces the disastrous hell of remorse and suffering for his lost soul, with what will he buy it back from perdition? Nothing.[5] 16:26 gains the whole world. Acquiring all of the money, pleasure, and power of this world brings no lasting benefit if one forfeits his soul to spiritual death and separation from God (cf. Phil. 3:7–9).[6]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 16:25). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 431). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1268–1269). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 16:26). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1856). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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