Psalm 16:5

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

God's Warth is Coming... Are You Ready?

You had better listen to the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter, but he that does the will of my father in heaven.” If ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live. If you live after the flesh, you’ll die! The cross does not give us a minor shift or two with regard to a few of our ethical and religious values. The cross radically disrupts the very center and citadel of your life from self to Christ. And if the cross has not done that, YOU’RE NOT A CHRISTIAN! My Friend face it, young rogue, you’re not a Christian until the cross has radically disrupted the very center and citadel of your life! And brought you from a life of commitment to serve self…What are the focal points of the reign of your self? If you’ve gone to the cross in union with Christ, it’s been shattered!"
- Al Martin

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sovereign Grace Part 5 - Limited Atonement and the Destruction of the Gospel

Central to the Calvinist system is the idea that Christ died only for the elect. This doctrine is expressed in the terminology, Limited Atonement.
In common parlance, however, it is a term used to describe the Calvinistic belief that Christ's atonement was fully effective to accomplish its design of redemption for all those for whom it was intended; but its intention was limited to the elect. This point of view is in opposition to what is commonly called “unlimited atonement,” which teaches that the intention of Christ's death was to provide redemption for everyone in the same way without exception; but the efficacy of his redemptive act is limited in its power to ensure everyone's final salvation. Christ's death, in other words, provided everything necessary for anyone's salvation besides the one conditional element of faith; but this faith was not provided by his death for anyone at all. -
This definition places before us two possible views of the atonement, of which I take neither. The atonement is an amazing subject. Books have been written about it that are much more indepth than I could ever dream of going. I merely wish in this post to lay a small foundation for the idea that Christ died for all of mankind and not for merely the elect. I will seek to show that the very gospel we preach requires that to be the case if it is to be the gospel, and that if held consistently, Calvinists will not preach the gospel Paul preached, but rather a modified version which is not the true gospel.

For whom did Christ die? It is usually best to take Scripture at face value unless there is serious reason to maintain that the face value reading may be a misunderstanding of what God was saying (being justified by works in the book of James for example). Therefore, my initial answer to this question will simply be to provide those passages of Scripture which declare the extent of the body of people for whom Christ died. From there I will branch into why the face value reading is the correct reading.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. - 2 Cor. 5:14-15
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. - 1 Tim. 2:5-6
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.  - 1 Tim. 4:10
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2:2 
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. - 1 John 4:14 
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. - Heb. 2:9
Now, these passages present the Limited approach with a real problem straight off the bat. All of the verses put the death of Christ in a universal context. Two of them do this in such a way as to not allow redefinition of the terms: 1 Tim. 4:10 and 1 John 2:2 which refer to the elect and non-elect explicitely, and declare that that which is true for the elect is also true for the non-elect. However the death of Christ is interpreted, it made Him the Savior of not just the elect, but also the non-elect. And it made Him the propitiation not just for the believer's sins, but also the propitiation for the sins of the non-elect. Don't shoot me, that's what the text says. We'll get to what that means in a little bit. Last, but not least, we have the great discourse in John 3:14-21 which settles this question once for all in that it does not allow the word world to mean anything but world as the Calvinists are want to make it.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
This passage uses the word world five times and it becomes clear what it means in this passage. In this particular place, the love of God is generalized and the promise of salvation is generalized. God loved the world so that whosoever believed could be saved. This world which God loved is obviously the world of mankind in this context and into this world the son came not to condemn, but that it (the whole world all inclusive) might be saved. Not will be, but might be. This world contains two groups mentioned in the next verse, those who believe and are saved and those who do not believe and are damned. Clearly, the world is not just the world of the elect as none of them can be, in the end, lost. Christ who is light has come into this world of mankind whom God loved and for whom He gave His Son and the men of the world loved the darkness rather than the light! This last use of the word world cannot be made to mean the world of the elect. It is an all inclusive world that includes those men that will forever reject Him for their deeds are evil.

We see then from these passages that Christ died for all, he is a ransom for all, He is the Savior of all, He is the propitiation for all, He is the Savior of the World, He tasted death for every man, and he was given for the world that whosoever believes in Him should be saved. What these passages tell us is that Christ made the salvation of all men possible by taking on Himself the sins of the world. Yes, the sins of every man, woman, and child who ever lived were laid upon Christ and He bore the wrath of God for them all that the world through Him might be saved. It is at this point that both Arminians and Calvinists go astray. The Calvinist rejects this flat out saying that Christ died for His sheep to make a peculiar people for Himself - a true statement that we will get to in a minute - and he in no way died for the world making a possible salvation and not a guaranteed one. They say Christ died particularly for the sins of His people and for none else or else Christ death was ineffectual and he died in vain. Worse, say they, it would be a cosmic double jeopardy in which God accepts Christ's payment and then still casts the sinner into hell for the vary sins Christ died for. The Arminians, on the other hand, leave it right here and say that God did not guarantee to Himself a particular people and thus Christ died in the same way for all.

Let's take a look first at the Calvinist claim that Christ died for a particular people. I think the clearest passage of a limited application of the death of Christ is found in John 10:15-16, 26-27:
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
This is rather clear. I lay down my life for the sheep. The sheep hear My voice. Those who do not believe do not believe because they are not of My sheep. So we have a clear case here of Christ dieing a particular death for this body of His sheep and the non-elect are particularly excluded in the same discourse from that body. We are left with a particular atonement. Next we have Titus 2:13-14,
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
This passage obviously is limited in its scope. The us is the saved, peculiar people. So once again we have a particular redemption that is about a specific people and not all men generally. This presents the Arminian with a real problem in the same way that the first set of passages presented a problem for the Calvinist. What do we do with this?

End of Part 5. In Part 6, I will answer the last question and make my case for a general particular atonement. (OK, I admit I don't have a good title for what I believe, but for now, that will have to do.) 

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