Theology is a glorious thing. Of all the gifts given to man by our God, the ability and the call to search out our Lord and His ways is a treasure of inestimable value. One I think could well be the central occupation of the redeemed for all eternity. What a joy and privilege to begin then here. It is a foretaste of Heaven.
About two years ago, I put together a paper for the other elders where I pastor. This was to give them some sense of an investigation I’d launched into the doctrine of Limited Atonement. The more I had studied historical Calvinism, the more I saw that there was a continuing discussion on the topic. I especially discovered that this was not a doctrine which had a monolithic consensus among those self-consciously committed to the “doctrines of grace.” At various times certain stricter or less strict views were held by a majority, but even then with shades and nuances. None but the most ardent of truly “hyper-Calvinists” (a technical term worth researching) would deny that there is to be a free offer of the Gospel to all men. And yet, men like John Bunyan argued that if we posit that there truly is nothing to offer some men, since Christ in fact did not die for them (even though we do not know who they are) then our offer is somewhat disingenuous. Some answer, we can say for instance “Christ died for sinners”, and leave it at that. This if course is true. But I am not convinced such an approach encompasses the broader spectrum of Biblical constructs concerning the Gospel and its relationship to the atonement of Christ on Calvary. As Andrew Fuller would put it: “If the atonement of Christ excluded a part of mankind in the same sense as it excludes fallen angels, Why is the gospel addressed to the one, any more than to the other?” (the Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation – pg. 113).
Deep down there remains a tension. Not that it is wrong to have such tensions. The Bible has a number of them. I in fact argue for a tension too. I believe it belongs in a different location than where it is normally placed among the so-called 5-point Calvinists I’m most familiar with (living and dead). Recognizing this tension has led to books from the likes of the venerable John Murray (R. B. Kuiper and many others) justifying our offering of the Gospel to all men, even though we do not believe it is actually for all men. Other noted theologians have repeatedly done the same. Some to greater or lesser success. Yet, there is no question a tension remains.
Fred Leuck is a dear friend of mine. A valued brother in Christ. A stalwart for the faith. A comrade in the Gospel. A faithful Pastor. And, he has written a response to my original paper which is included below, along with my responses to some of his. With the exception of some places where I deleted the Biblical text but left the citation, Fred’s portion remains in its entirety.
I cannot express my thanks enough for the love Fred displayed in writing such a detailed response to my original paper. My poorly constructed and somewhat disconnected musings do not deserve the level of attention he gave them. It is of immense value to the Body of Christ for brothers to dialogue over areas of theology, Biblical interpretation and doctrinal precision. To do so publicly can at times be uncomfortable. But it demonstrates our willingness to humbly question ourselves, to continue to labor for clarity and understanding, and to hold one another mutually accountable for our stewardship in God’s truth.
Every step of the way Fred’s interchange here is filled with an irenic tone and a sweet spirit. I pray my own words will be heard and taken the very same way, since a spirit of true love, genuine respect and gratitude are meant to under-gird each one.
In the spirit of semper reformanda, I submit some answers, clarifications and responses below as I hope will prove most beneficial to the readers, and without over-laboring the points or issues.
I am still learning. Wanting above all simply to understand and communicate what the Bible teaches. I want to do so irrespective of how difficult those doctrines may or may not be in the sight of any man, group, or even myself. I want God’s Word to be as unobstructed as possible, even where, especially where – I might not be able to understand it as fully as I would like. Or, where it challenges or contradicts either my present understanding, my systematic framework, or common notions or opinions.
Quotations from others are used only as representative of schools of thought, not as authoritative in and of themselves.
My own interspersions will be prefaced by: [RAF#] and also in the Arial Narrow font for ease of search, navigation and reference.
Thank you for your own prayerful considerations of the discussion. May Christ’s truth triumph in all.
A Response to R. Ferguson’s View of Atonement
by F. R. Leuck
The Premise- seems to be that to hold to particular redemption, namely that Christ died only for the elect, is a hyper-Calvinistic position. Reid gives a cursory disclaimer in saying, “just because someone retains the view that Jesus died ONLY for the elect, somehow they are automatically Hyper-Calvinists. That isn’t true. I do believe it not only can but often leads [emph. added] to hyper tendencies- I might even say most often [emph. added] But there is not a one-for-one necessary correspondence.” [bottom, p2, top, p3]
1. Yet notwithstanding this disclaimer, the paper references holding to particular redemption as being of a hyper- position: “I would categorize my former position as virtually hyper-Calvinistic, making the doctrine of atonement perform virtually the same function of election. In other words, Christ dies solely for the elect…” [p4] This contradicts his opening paragraph, “Before you read the following, I should make it clear that I was never a Hyper-Calvinist.” [p1]
[RAF #1] Please note my words again carefully. I said “I would categorize MY former position as virtually hyper-Calvinistic.” There are indeed some who hold to a strictly LA view who do not (as I did) make the doctrine of the atonement perform essentially the same function as that of election. The citing of Phil Johnson’s paper was to provide the reader with good definitions for categories like hyper-Calvinism so that we do not sling the terms around loosely. I will only add that in my personal experience and in conversations I’ve had, it has sometimes (indeed oft times) been the case – and it was with me. This was a statement of how I viewed my own case formerly. Hence also my disclaimer there is not a necessary one-for-one correspondence between the two. In fact, I coined a term in my paper – “high-per Calvinist” to show that one may be a “high” Calvinist without succumbing to being an actual hyper-Calvinist.
2. Also heavily weighted in support of this view is the assumption that to believe in particular redemption somehow negates the possibility, indeed the command of God to call sinners [in general] to Christ in salvation. Reid quotes Phil Johnson’s “A Primer of Hyper-Calvinism”, p2, Second paragraph, “note…the stress…on hyper-Calvinists’ “denial of the use of the word ‘offer’ in relation to preaching the Gospel.”
[RAF #2] If I gave this impression I am sorry for it. I can only state that I do not assume that to believe in particular redemption either automatically or necessarily negates the possibility to call sinners in general to Christ in salvation. Fred Zaspel’s article in the Gospel Witness of April 2008 is a notable and admirable example and exception in this regard. At the same time I would mention that while most advocates of the strict view of Limited Atonement would heartily defend a free offer of the Gospel, my experience has been that within these circles, evangelism “tends” not to be a priority, and for some (if not many or even most), what exactly that free offer consists in is subject to confusion and/or uncomfortability. Once again, that is not to say an unqualified all. It is to note a tendency among those I’ve interacted with.
3. Finally Reid quotes a number of men, in particular A. Pink, and J. Edwards as men whose view on the atonement is narrower than his, saying specifically of Pink, “He virtually has God holding nothing but contempt for the lost.” p4
a. Yet Reid goes on to quote from Pink’s sermon, his closing appeal to sinners, “Why not believe in him for yourself? Why not trust his precious blood for yourself, and why not tonight? …God is ready, God is ready to save now if you believe on him. The blood has been shed, [Note: Pink does not say, “the blood has been shed for you”], “the sacrifice has been offered, the atonement has been made” [Again, no personal affirmation, for you], “the feast has been spread. The call goes out tonight, “Come, for all things are ready.” p4,5
[RAF #3] This is an interesting and joyous phenomena to me. Pink at times makes what seems to be very sweeping comments regarding God’s love only for the elect, and yet can at times make an appeal as quoted. This was to show a somewhat happy inconsistency in my opinion. I am sad he did not feel free enough to say “for you” – but have little doubt most hearers would take it to be meant as such. Who would invite anyone to partake of anything that by virtue of the direct and personal invitation to it, isn’t implying on some level that this is FOR them, if they will have it? As Bunyan would express it – the warrant for calling men to Christ is His finished work at Calvary.
b. Likewise, quoting Edwards’ sermon: “Come to Christ and accept salvation. You are invited to come to Christ,2.
heartily to close with Him, and to trust Him for salvation. If you do so, you will have the benefit of his glorious contrivance…God has already contrived everything that is needful for salvation [Note: Edwards, like Pink is only affirming that everything necessary for salvation is finished; he is not saying that the atonement is a reality for unbelievers, as the next phrase indicates]; and there is nothing wanting but your consent…He has not left it for you to finish. Satisfaction is already made; righteousness is already wrought out; death and hell are already conquered….The Savior has already triumphed over all, and is at the right hand of God to give eternal life to his people…[emph. added] All the difficulty now remaining is with your own heart…” [Observe that Edwards, while openly appealing to his audience nevertheless believed and preached that God gives (hence provides) “eternal life” (secured by atonement) “to his people”. He believed in an atonement limited to God’s people (his elect alone) but had no problem calling sinners to come to Christ.]
[RAF #4] Perhaps we must qualify here again what we each mean by limited atonement. And perhaps some of the difference can be quickly dispatched by using the words of Bruce Demarest who notes the need to differentiate between atonement accomplished, and atonement applied. That the atonement is limited in that not all are saved by it is not in question. At least it is not in question to me and I am certain not to Fred. And, I would want to emphasize my preference in language from the original paper in using the term “universal” when it comes to the atonement as well. This is true even though some very notable Calvinistic theologians have used that language. Perhaps a better term would be an “objective” atonement. It really and truly is an accomplished thing – Christ has atoned. How that atonement is applied and carried out in time and space is another question. Christ has died. His atonement is the remedy for sin. As many as will believe may participate in its saving effects (not entering here into the discussion of whether or not there are non-salvific effects for the non-elect ala Dabney). We are not discussing here how it is men come to believe either. We agree on the need for a sovereign act on God’s part to bring that about. Something which He does not do for every man. The issue here is the atonement proper.
c. Both Pink and Edwards, sited by Reid, demonstrate the real possibility of believing in a limited atonement and yet having real freedom in conscience to preach to any/all sinners to come to Christ. This, I believe is the underlying premise of Reid’s tension: he cannot see how a person can believe in a limited atonement AND at one and the same time, give a “free offer” of the Gospel to sinners. This is also borne out by:
[RAF #5] It is not that I cannot see how this can be done, it is that I believe it is inconsistent. There is going to be a tension in the discussion no mater what we do. I believe that tension belongs in a different place within our system. I see a genuine provision for all. I believe the tension between how such a provision is both made and is universally offered in all sincerity by God through us at His behest, and yet God does not see fit to move so as to actually save all – is a tension which remains a mystery in Him. One that should be left with Him.
The Dilemma- Reid’s starting point on this whole study in his own words- “a Hyperesque discomfort with the free offer of the Gospel, without denying it outright….I…had diminished zeal in the calling when I preached. I was like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis, it wasn’t suppose to hurt, the disconnect was all supposed to be in my mind, but it REALLY hurt!”
1. Without minimizing his dilemma and the personal problem he had with giving a free offer of the Gospel to sinners, it does not seem wise to alter centuries of Biblical understanding on the extent of the atonement to ease the pain.
[RAF #6] With all due respect, if it is contrary to the Scriptures, then it can only be the wisest of courses, no matter how many have believed it for however long. The only thing I’m after is how the Bible treats the topic. We have seen in Church history, sometimes, the prevailing view is not the correct one. But I am completely aware of how weighty all of this becomes.
In addition, I took the time to quote from a number of sources precisely to show that I was NOT altering centuries of Biblical understanding, but tapping into a stream of Reformed and Calvinistic thought which has been there all the time.
2. Might the “hurt” Reid experienced lie more in his understanding or lack thereof of the relationship of Gospel proclamation to Faith/repentance, and to the true nature of the atonement we present in the Gospel?
3. There is an even more subtle dilemma here. Reid says on p3, “I am constrained by the Scripture to a adopt a view
of Universal Atonement/Particular Redemption, affirming God’s love to all mankind as well as his secret counsels in election.” Yet the paper is mostly quotes from men like Shedd, Dabney, Hodge, etc. with little or no Biblical support. There is also the assumption that we cannot say that God has a “love” for “all mankind” unless we somehow link it to the atonement. This is old Pentecostalism theology of “healing in the atonement”. Yet when Christ teaches his disciples “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven”, Mt. 5:44 the example of how God loves humanity is “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?…and if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than other? ..Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” v45f Nothing mentioned here identifies atonement to God’s love for his enemies, for those not his ‘brothers”, yet God’s love for the “evil”, the “unrighteous” is commended to the disciples as an expression of the “perfect” Father. If such things as rain, sunshine, which supply the essentials of food, warmth, the health they bring, etc. are viewed by Christ as God loving [Luke’s account adds, “merciful” Lk. 6:36] the unregenerate, is there a necessity to link God’s love to a “universal atonement?” [see Psm. 145:8,9; Psm. 104:13-15,22,27,28; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:26-29]
[RAF #7] I will have to acknowledge my bewilderment at the mention of the “Pentecostal” notion of “healing in the atonement.” The “Pentecostal” view of healing in the atonement as I understand it has to do with physical healing being a necessary provision within Christ’s atonement, so that it is for all intents and purposes a birth-right of Believers both to pray for and to expect to receive physical healing at all times. I do not hold this view nor have I ever. And, I am quite at a loss as to how it would relate to the topic at hand. Why advocating God’s love for all men and an atonement for the sins of all men fits into that category escapes me.
My link between God’s love and the atonement is purely a Biblical one. The giving of God’s Son is directly tied to God’s love in John 3:16 (and elsewhere). Owenic attempts aside (to make the word “world” in that passage mean “elect”) that is the clear statement of the text. “God so loved the world…that He gave”, and not “God so loved the elect”. In the words of J. C. Ryle on this: “On the other hand, we must beware of narrow and contracted opinions. We must not hesitate to tell any sinner that God loves him. It is not true that God cares for none but His own elect, or that Christ is not offered to any but those who are ordained to eternal life. There is a “kindness and love” in God towards all mankind. It was in consequence of that love that Christ came into the world, and died upon the cross. Let us not be wise above that which is written, or more systematic in our statements than Scripture itself. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is not willing that any should perish. God would have all men to be saved. God loves the world.” I cite him simply because he says what I would say on the subject.
Or again, as Calvin writes here: “As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. (Emphasis mine). It was His love for the human race, not the elect alone. That does seem to be the plain meaning of the text. While it says nothing about how men come to possess it (beyond faith that is) we dare not try to get such matter out of it.
Simply to show that my thought here is not foreign to Reformed thought I cite Calvin once again: That, then, is how our Lord Jesus bore the sins and iniquities of many. But in fact, this word “many” is often as good as equivalent to “all“. And indeed, our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: ‘For God so loved the world, that he spared not His only Son.” But yet we must notice that the Evangelist adds in this passage: “That whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but obtain eternal life.” Our Lord Jesus suffered for all, and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for we can obtain salvation through him. Unbelievers who turn away from Him and who deprive themselves of him by their malice are today doubly culpable. For how will they excuse their ingratitude in not receiving the blessing in which they could share by faith? John Calvin, Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ, 52:12, p., 140-1. (Emphasis mine)
One is forced to question how it is men can be “doubly culpable” for rejection of an atonement which has no reference to them and isn’t for them.
Unnecessary Quandaries– Reid’s views postulate positions which cause unnecessary tension in Christian doctrine and experience:
1. The tension between atonement and redemption– p18, “Atonement must be distinguished from redemption. The latter term includes the application of atonement.” [Reid quoting Shedd but agreeing with him]
[RAF #8] While I cite Shedd here, I do not as much approve of his language, as what he is driving at. The Reformers often used “redemption” – as best as I can tell – somewhat more broadly and less technically at times than we tend to today. Shedd uses the redemption vs atonement language to emphasize that atonement is the work of Christ done objectively, but that redemption is a better way to express the fullness of that atonement applied to an individual in salvation. Hence he uses Universal atonement/Particular redemption, to show there is one aspect which is general, and from out of which the particular comes about. Two quotes from Calvin may serve as examples of how this redemptive language was used then in ways we probably wouldn’t now:
“On the other hand, when Luke speaks of the priests, he is speaking of the responsibility of those who public office. Principally, they are ordained to bear God’s word. So when some falsehood appears or Satan’s wicked disseminations proliferate, it is their duty to be vigilant, confront the situation, and do everything in their power to protect poor people from being poisoned by false teachings and to keep the souls redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from perishing, from entering into eternal death. John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1-7, Sermon 9, Acts 4:1-4, p., 112.
And that speaks not only to those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching God’s word, but to everyone in general. For on this point the Holy Spirit, who must be our guide, is not disparaging the right way to teach. If we wish to serve our Master, that is the way we must go about it. We must make every effort to draw everybody to the knowledge of the gospel. For when we see people going to hell who have been created in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that must indeed stir us to do our duty and instruct them and treat them with all gentleness and kindness as we try to bear fruit this way.
But still Stephen had a special reason. He. was speaking to the Jews, who professed to be God’s people. ‘That then has to do with the ‘brothers’ Stephen was talking about at the outset. ‘That is the relationship we now have with the papists, although they differ from us. ‘They confess that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world and then destroy his power while still retaining some sign of the gospel. They confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that what the Evangelists wrote about him must be adhered to as God’s truth, even though they do not believe it. So if we have that in common with the papists, there is some appearance of brotherhood. “John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1-7, Sermon 41, Acts 7:51, pp., 587-588. (All emphases mine)
But there can be no doubt Calvin is wrestling with similar issues – something was done for all, and yet savingly only appropriated by others. He sees those for instance in 2 Peter 2:1 who deny the Master who “bought them” as truly purchased by Christ, and yet not savingly. Reformed and Calvinistic thought on the interpretation of such passages is not as monolithic as we might imagine.
a. What accomplishes atonement?
1) (Cited Romans 3:21-26 / RAF Omitting text)Romans 3:21-26 [Observe that Paul asserts that “righteousness” comes to all who believe, based on the “redemption” that came by Christ Jesus, in that God presented Jesus as the “sacrifice of atonement” through “faith”. There is no separation of the terms saying that redemption is the application of atonement. The terms are used co-terminally of one and the same recipient, namely those who “have faith in Jesus”. There is no suggestion of an atonement [expiatory blood sacrifice] without faith in Jesus, nor of a redemption [release upon payment] apart from the atoning sacrifice. In fact the “atoning sacrifice” of Jesus’ body is the redemption payment. Peter puts it this way- [Omitted text – 1 Peter 1:18-20
[RAF #9] Romans 3:21-26 is a good passage for us to examine, though I am not quite sure the objection here. There is absolutely no argument that our salvation is “based on the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”, and that it must be received by faith. If the core of the concern here is that “there is no separation of the terms saying that redemption is the application of atonement” I would only say that while the ideas of redemption and atonement in terms of the Believer’s salvation are inseparably linked to one another, they nevertheless are not identical, and are at times used in different ways in the Bible. For example, the redemption of Israel from Egyptian slavery was not in fact an atonement issue. We must allow for the semantic range of the words, their various uses in Scripture. Secondly, while it is true that Jesus’ body is the redemption payment, no one is in fact justified, declared righteous, until they believe. The mere fact of atonement does not in and of itself make the individual “saved” yet. As good as saved, I am willing to own based upon God’s predestination – but not saved as of yet. I believe this is more faithful to the Biblical picture. This is where our thinking can bring us dangerously close to a doctrine of eternal justification which we need to avoid. Remember too, we are trying to use some scientific formulations to describe the mechanics of the salvific process. I would hate for us to get too caught up in semantics.
Again, several quotes from Calvin may be useful here. Not because he is the authority, but simply because he articulates in these places what I hold, and to show that this thinking is not outside of the Calvinistic/Reformed camp. On Isaiah 53:12 he writes: “First, He offered the sacrifice of his body, and shed His blood, that he might endure the punishment which was due us; and secondly, in order that the atonement might take effect, he performed the office of an advocate, and interceded for all who embraced this sacrifice by faith.” On John 14:16 he notes: “Christ’s proper work was to appease the wrath of God by atoning for the sins of the world, to redeem men from death and to procure righteousness and life. That of the Spirit is to make us partakers not only of Christ Himself, but of all His blessings.”
In at least these places, Calvin distinguishes between atonement accomplished and atonement applied.
As one has pointed out regarding the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement – the blood being poured out was not enough. This blood needed to be applied by the priest on the mercy seat, or the work was not done. I think it is reasonable to posit something of the same regarding us. Christ’s death, while it is the means whereby cleansing is to be had, and while it procures salvation, does not bestow salvation ex opere operata.
My understanding of this passage is simply that: In the Gospel era, the righteousness all men need in order to be right with God, is seen not to be dependent upon the Law and has been revealed to us as attainable without the Law – even though the Law and the Prophets pointed to it all along. That the nature of this righteousness is that it is God’s, and that it is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. It is given to all who believe. This is the same whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, and whether you have known the Law or been ignorant of it. It is necessary for all, because all have sinned in that we fall short of God’s glory (the image we were collectively created in). We are declared righteous by God’s free gift of grace, and that – through the redemptive work of Christ Jesus – whom God has placed before us as a satisfaction obtained by His blood. A satisfaction which is to be received by faith. And this was done when it was done to vindicate God’s righteousness – who had patiently put up with us for so very long (it almost looked like He was ignoring the problem). It was done this way to demonstrate how He could declare sinners righteous, while at the same time not violating His own righteousness and justness.
I do not find anything in the passage to contradict anything I have asserted, and much to support it. Our righteousness is an imputed one, but one we do not have imputed to us until we believe. We are not justified before hand.
As regards 1 Peter 1:18-20, once again I would agree that it is Christ’s blood which is that which redeems us. But that does not make us yet either a regenerate nor a justified person – until it is received by faith (see again the Romans citation – as the ESV renders it: “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:25, ESV – emphasis mine) The propitiation put forward by God needed to be received by faith. There is no Biblical justification apart from faith. And there is no salvation apart from justification. Paul’s order in Romans 8:30 seems to indicate that we cannot collapse all of these various aspects into one. In Rom. 8:30, predestination must precede calling. Calling precedes justification. And justification precedes glorification. The predestinated one is not glorified, justified or even called at the time of his predestination. These must happen in order in their proper order. Nor when Christ atoned, were a great many yet called, justified nor glorified. Each had still to enter into these by faith.
I understand 1 Peter 1:17-21 to be saying: If you consider yourself God’s, as belonging to the One who must judge all men justly regardless of their profession, live like it. Keep in mind what it cost to deliver you from your empty, inherited religion. The price was high. Higher than all the perishing treasures of earth. The precious blood of Christ was what was shed for you. As though He Himself were the perfect, spotless lamb for your sin offering. He was always in the mind of God as such, but wasn’t revealed to us in this way until now. He is revealed to us who have come to believe God – through Him. The God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory – so that in fact our faith and hope are not in a mere man – but in God Himself.
Again I see no contradiction to anything I have asserted thus far in this passage either.
Calvin remarks on this passage: “This ought also to be no less attended to by us in the present day; for, in order that the redemption of Christ may be effectual and useful to us, we must renounce our former life, though derived from the teaching and practice of our fathers. ” Calv. Comm. on 1 Peter 1:18. (Emphasis mine) Note Calvin’s assertion that the redemption needs to become effectual, and is not so automatically.
2) Hebrews 2:14-17 [Text omitted] [Observe: The writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus’ incarnation with the fact that the “children” for whom he came to die were flesh/blood, “Abraham’s descendants” (not Israelites, but those of faith- Gal. 3:7), “brothers” (Hb. 2:11, of the same family; also Jn. 20:17)- it is these who comprise the “people” whose sins were atoned for Hb. 2:17. No atonement for the “flesh and blood” of all the world, but only for the people who are the “children, Abraham’s descendants, brothers.” It should also be noted that “death” [redemption payment implied] and “atonement” are again used co-terminally of the same recipients of grace.
[RAF #10] This is certainly one of the many passages that refers to the particular aspect of the atonement. There is no question that God specifically intended to save the elect through Christ’s death, and that particular references to dying for “His people”, “His sheep” and the like are throughout the Scriptures. My contention is that they do not satisfy ALL references to His death, nor that saving the elect exhausts all of God’s intentions in sending Christ. No one is denying particularity. I am arguing against EXCLUSIVE particularity – that the ONLY thing Christ intended to do in dying was save the elect. To use Bunyan’s words from his dissertation on reprobation:
“First, In the language of our Lord, ‘Go preach the gospel unto every creature’ (Mark 16:15); and again, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved; all ye ends of the earth’ (Isa 45:22). ‘And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Rev 22:17). And the reason is, because Christ died for all, ‘tasted death for every man’ (2 Cor 5:15; Heb 2:9); is ‘the Saviour of the world’ (1 John 4:14), and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” (Emphasis mine)
“Second, I gather it from those several censures that even every one goeth under, that doth not receive Christ, when offered in the general tenders of the gospel; ‘He that believeth not, – shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16); ‘He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son’ (1 John 5:10); and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, ‘Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida!’ (Matt 11:21) with many other sayings, all which words, with many other of the same nature, carry in them a very great argument to this very purpose; for if those that perish in the days of the gospel, shall have, at least, their damnation heightened, because they have neglected and refused to receive the gospel, it must needs be that the gospel was with all faithfulness to be tendered unto them; the which it could not be, unless the death of Christ did extend itself unto them (John 3:16; Heb. 2:3); for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God’s allowance, be offered any further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away, there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended. Besides, if by every creature, and the like, should be meant only the elect, then are all the persuasions of the gospel to no effect at all; for still the unconverted, who are here condemned for refusing of it, they return it as fast again: I do not know I am elect, and therefore dare not come to Jesus Christ; for if the death of Jesus Christ, and so the general tender of the gospel, concern the elect alone; I, not knowing myself to be one of that number, am at a mighty plunge; nor know I whether is the greater sin, to believe, or to despair: for I say again, if Christ died only for the elect, &c. then, I not knowing myself to be one of that number, dare not believe the gospel, that holds forth his blood to save me; nay, I think with safety may not, until I first do know I am elect of God, and appointed thereunto.” (Emphases mine)
My citation here is an attempt once more to show I am not trying to overthrow the the years of theology and the theologians who have preceded us, but to show that a goodly number of those within the Calvinistic/Reformed camp have held this same view all along. And secondly, to demonstrate how there is both particularity and universality (though once again I do not care for the term universal – but prefer “objective”) in the atonement.
3) 1 John 1:7 & 2:1-3 [Observe: Christ’s blood [redemption’s price] “purifies us” (the believers to whom John wrote) who are also “my dear children”, to “you”, so that “you” will not sin. But if “anybody” [any of “you” “children” to whom I am writing] does sin we [John and them] have one who speaks in “our defense” – namely Jesus Christ who is the “atoning sacrifice for our sins” and not ours only [those to whom John is writing] but also for the “sins of the whole world” (those other sinners in the world for whom Christ died who are not in John’s immediate audience, but in time, by faith, will become part of the “dear children” who comprise God’s family] Reid calls this “exegetical gymnastics” p6, to interpret these passages referring to “world” to the elect only, but it appears to me that the real gymnastics would be to introduce into 1 John 1:7-1 Jn. 2:3 the concept of universalism when the passage only speaks of Jesus’ cross work in reference to “us”, “dear children”, “you” [recipients of John’s letter], “our sins” [John and his readers] then (Boing!! “whole world” in the sense of every last human being??? This is to deny the context and the two above passages we have already studied on atonement, Rom. 3:21f, I Pet. 1:18f]
[RAF #11] I cannot at all accept the interpretation of “the whole world” as referring to the elect. I do not believe it is sound exegetically. While it is clear that not all are purified – this belongs only to the believer – nevertheless, He IS the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. One only savingly enters the experience of that through faith however. At the very least, the statement regards Christ being a propitiation not for the Jews only, but also for the Gentiles (John Gill’s view, while also wanting to maintain the idea of those out of the world who are yet to believe). Bunyan clearly says it is to be understood as “all” (see the citation above),
Musculus writes: “Therefore when it is said, that God gave his son for the world, and that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world what else is meant, but that the grace of forgiveness of sins is appointed unto all men, so that the Gospel thereof is to be preached unto all creatures? In this respect the gentle love of GOD towards man is set forth unto us to be considered, whereby he would not have any to perish, but all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. But for all that, this general grace has some conditions going withal, of which we will speak hereafter. “ (Emphases mine)
Luther: “It is certain that you are a part of the world. Do not let your heart deceive you by saying: “The Lord died for Peter and Paul; He rendered satisfaction for them, not for me.” Therefore let everyone who has sin be summoned here, for He was made the expiation for the sins of the whole world and bore the sins of the whole world. For all the godless have been put together and called, but they refuse to accept. Hence it is stated in Is. 49:4: “I have labored in vain.” Christ is so merciful and kind that if it were possible, He would weep for every sinner who is troubled. Of all men He is the mildest, of all the gentlest. With every member He feels more pity than Peter felt under the rod and the blows. Take any man who is extraordinarily kind and gentle. Then you would know that Christ is much kinder to you. For just as He was on earth, so He is in heaven. Thus Christ has been appointed as the Bishop and Savior of our souls (cf. 1 Peter 2:25). But at His own time He will come as Judge. Since we see this, let us give no occasion to gratify lust.” Martin Luther, “The Catholic Epistles,” in Luther’s Works, 30:236-237. (Emphases mine)
Charles Hodge: “This is what is meant when it is said, or implied in Scripture, that Christ gave Himself as a propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He was a propitiation effectually for the sins of his people, and sufficiently for the sins of the whole world. Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what
the Bible teaches.” Charles Hodge, SystematicTheology, 2:558-9. (Ephases mine)
J. C. Ryle: “The true view of the words, “God loved the world,” I believe to be this. The “world” means the whole race of mankind, both saints and sinners, without any exception. The word, in my opinion, is so used in John i. 10, 29; vi. 33, 51; viii. 12. – Rom. iii. 19. – 2 Cor. v. 19. – 1 John ii. 2; iv. 14. The “love” spoken of is that love of pity and compassion with which God regards all His creatures, and specially regards mankind. It is the same feeling of “love” which appears in Psalm cxlv. 9. – Ezek. xxxiii. 11. – John vi. 32. – Titus iii. 4. – 1 John iv. 10. – 2 Pet. iii. 9. – 1 Tim. ii. 4. It is a love unquestionably distinct and separate from the special love with which God regards His saints. It is a love of pity and not of approbation or complaisance. But it is not the less a real love. It is a love which clears God of injustice in judging the world.”
Edmund Calamy: Debating redemption in the Westminster Assembly:
“I am far from universal redemption in the Arminian sense, but I hold with our divines in the Synod of Dort that Christ did pay a price for all, [with] absolute intention for the elect, [with] conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe; that all men should be salvabiles, non obstante lapsu Adami; that Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend, in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving himself did intend, to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do obey.’…‘This universality of redemption does neither intrude upon either doctrine of special election or special grace’ (Minutes, p. 152).
My understanding simply is that upon Christ’s death, the Father in effect said: “I am satisfied with this death, this blood, this sacrifice. All who come to me by means of this same Lamb, I will freely and lovingly accept. I am satisfied with Him as a substitute for any and all who will come in His name. I will not accept them alone, nor with any other substitute. With Him alone am I satisfied.”
Now, each one is required to appropriate the Lamb for himself. Each one must bring the same blood. Each one must believe that the Father is satisfied with Christ, and that if I come in Him, He will be satisfied with me. Each one must rest his own entire weight upon the head of the Scape-goat, while confessing His own sins.
4) 1 John 4:7-12 [Text omitted] [Observe: The “dear friends” are the “us” who are exhorted to love one another, and if we love, we are assured of being “born of God”. God showed his love “among us” by sending his Son “into the world, that we” might live, and demonstrated that love by sending his Son “as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”. Thus the impetus, “since God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Here the word, “world” is used by the same author of 1 Jn. 2:2 and it is clearly confined to those who “live through Him” [Jesus], who love him and are “born of God” and for whom Christ is the “atoning sacrifice”. There is no atonement made for those who do not love God, who are not born of God, and therefore “does not know God” v8
[RAF #12] I cannot at all accept this interpretation of the word “world” here. It seems to me there is nothing more being said in reference to the use of that word in this text than that God’s Son was made incarnate. If you are meaning that the text of verse 9 is saying that “God sent His only Son into the elect so that we might live through him” – I do not see how that can be its proper interpretation. That seems wholly novel to me. I cannot find such a construction in Calvin, Poole, Trapp, Henry, JFB, Clarke, even Gill writes only “and the place he was sent into is the world” – interpreting “world” as this physical sphere of existence, not the elect.
Again, I have no argument with the fact there are particularistic passages. There is a particularistic aspect to how the atonement was intended and is applied.
Conclusion: While the terms, redemption [redeemed] and atonement [expiating sacrifice] are not identical, they are much like a metonymy, the one term referring closely in meaning to the other because the “redemption” payment is the “atoning sacrifice.” And they appear in the same texts and are used co-terminally referring to the same people.
[RAF #13] A word of caution if I may. I would have to disagree with the last statement, as it is not universally true. In other words, atonement is sometimes applied not to people, but the furniture of the Tabernacle/Temple. Sometimes redemption is used salvifically (in the eternal sense) and sometimes only temporally. Then there are applications to the elect, and the non-elect. ALL of Israel physically was “redeemed” out of Egypt, but most of that generation fell in the wilderness in “unbelief” (Heb. 3:19) They were all “atoned for” in the sacrifices, and yet a great many of them remained unregenerate. To apply these terms without qualification in every instance is to confuse the realities.
Those “same people” are identified as people of “faith”, “Abraham’s descendants”, recipients of “redemption”, “dear children, “dear friends”, “brothers”, “the loved of God”, “born of God” and “world” in the sense of Jesus’ prayer, “My prayer is not for them alone. [the Eleven, Judas now gone from the group] I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, [those of the world yet to believe] “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20, 21
[RAF #14] That the very same thing God intends to be a blessing may also be a curse is a repeated motif in Scripture. The blessing of the Passover was for those who believed and obeyed, the curse for those who did not. Faith differentiates which it will be.
b. What does not accomplish atonement?
1) If we understand atonement in its Biblical meaning [Grk, ^s propitiating or expiating sacrifice- having to do with actually satisfying the just demands of God’s broken law through a substitute] Hb. 10:3-6 states, “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.” Hebrews 10:3-6
2) Hb. 10:1 tells us, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming– not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” Hebrews 10:1 Again, “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper.” Hebrews 9:9; Paul even says to the church at Colossi that the regulations of the law- “..are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:17
3) Reid references the animal sacrifices of the Day of Atonement and argues “Whether or not all were actually regenerate, all of Israel benefited. Not salvifically in the eternal sense, but certainly in the temporal sense. Here, the sacrifice [typical of Christ] died for all, yet all were not saved [eternally].”
This is begging the question since it has not been established that Christ died for all, and since the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the animal sacrifices provided no actual expiation of sin, but instead states, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin” and “were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” What is more, all Israel did not benefit from the animal sacrifices in a temporal sense because the writer of Hebrews tells us: “Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?” Hebrews 3:16-18 [Note: the animals sacrifices did not atone for their rebellion, for their disobedience- they were barred from entering the Promised Land and died in the desert under God’s just condemnation.] Conclusion: The tension between atonement and redemption in Reid’s position is an unnecessary quandary since there is no atonement apart from the sacrifice of the body of Christ Hb.10:10, and the sacrifice of Christ is the redemption price made to purchase sinners. 1 Pet. 1:18 and both terms are only used interchangeably with regard to God’s elect. The New Testament, not the Old [with its types and shadows] is the final revelation on faith and doctrine. It is faulty exegesis to read back into the Old what only became known in the time of the New.
[RAF #15] Several important issues are raised here.
a. Fred asserts it has not been established Christ died for all. I disagree. I believe it is the clear statement in Scripture. And, I believe I have shown a sufficient number of quotes from Calvinistic & Reformed writers who have historically held if not the identical view, certainly ones akin to it. This is important if only to point out this is a debate WITHIN our circles. The long history of this debate is worth the Church revisiting in our generation. I am hoping to contribute to stirring up that investigation in our day, and to hopefully assist a corrective. There is no question in my mind, that with a few notable exceptions, an un-Biblically narrow view of the atonement robs many of the powerful sense of the large-heartedness of God we are to imbibe from passages like John 3:16.
b. While the animal sacrifices are but ultimately types and shadows of Christ, there were nevertheless tangible effects wrought through God’s honoring of them. We cannot dismiss these. Israel’s history did not end with the wilderness culling. The sacrifices continued throughout their history, and the sacrifices were for the people as a whole – comprised of elect and non-elect. In 1 Sam. 3 we are given an instance of God refusing to accept atonement on behalf of the house of Eli. There was a real result there. In 2 Sam. 21, David is required to make atonement for sins against the Gibeonites – and when he did the 3 year famine was arrested. In Numbers 16 Moses had to make atonement for the people after Korah’s rebellion so that God’s anger would not consume them. And it was received. The High Priest could not stand before God in the Holy of Holies without the blood of atonement – or he would die. God interacted with these acts of atonement directly. If men did not utilize the sacrificial system, they could not be accepted. Atonement then was not a mere memorial. Though each is but a type yet to be fulfilled in Christ – the economy required it in staying God’s wrath from the people.
c. The note that not all benefited by reason of the fact they fell in the wilderness serves to prove my point exactly. But we need to be careful here. They DID benefit some. God’s presence remained with them, the cloud & pillar of fire remained, they received manna, they received water from the rock, their clothes did not wear out – etc. (This would be more akin to Dabney’s list of temporal blessings which flow to all mankind from the atonement). But Hebrews tells us they fell ultimately due to “unbelief”. And this again is the key. Atonement is ACCOMPLISHED solely by Christ at Calvary. But its saving effect in justification is always tied to faith. A faith sovereignly granted and wrought – without doubt. But neither is it contravened.
d. I am forced then to disagree with the “conclusion” on several counts. First, the OT atonements DID affect something – though they were in substance but types and shadows of Christ. Second, a tension (a Biblical one I believe) does remain, since atonement performed still must be received by faith as demonstrated in the examples cited above. Third, there is an assumption that Christ’s redemptive purchase only purchases the elect. While it is true that only the elect are saved by virtue of it, as Calvin would write on 2 Pet. 2:1:
“Though Christ may be denied in various ways, yet Peter, as I think, refers here to what is expressed by Jude, that is, when the grace of God is turned into lasciviousness; for Christ redeemed us, that he might have a people separated from all the pollutions of the world, and devoted to holiness ,and innocency. They, then, who throw off the bridle, and give themselves up to all kinds of licentiousness, are not unjustly said to deny Christ by whom they have been redeemed. Calvin, 2 Peter 2:1.
“The only Lord God,” or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, “Christ, who alone is God and Lord.” And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. But He means that Christ is denied, when they who had been redeemed by his blood, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus render void as far as they can that incomparable price. Calvin, Jude 4.
2. The tension between Faith and Atonement is also an unnecessary quandary
a. Reid argues repeatedly (using Shedd as his model) that the only distinguishing mark between what he believes is an objective atonement- provided for all, and an atonement which has true saving properties is Faith. No Faith = no saving atonement [though the atonement exists objectively. It is out there, paid for, secured.] Perhaps Reid’s strongest statement is found on p 13, “Will there be men in Hell whom Christ died for? Yes.” I fail to see how this position is any different than the Arminian position which makes atonement simply a ‘provision’ rather than an actual procurement- there but not there, awaiting whoever
will tap into its standing benefits. Hendriksen, in his commentary on 1 Tim. 2:4, quotes the Arminian position from P. Schaff’s “Creeds of Christendom”, of the original “remonstrance” wording they espoused- “Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet…no one actually enjoys the forgiveness of sins except the believer.” p. 96 footnote This is Reid’s position as far as his paper explains it, with this exception- for the Arminian that belief (faith) is innate and self-assertive.
[RAF #16] A fair rendering of my thoughts, but with (I fear) too little a sense of the “exception”.
I would never want to argue that simply because an “Arminian” holds to something, therefore it cannot be true. I do not reject Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because they are in the Roman Bible too. And there is no reason (historically or exegetically) to make the words “that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life” mean something other than what they do mean because Arminians hold that meaning too.
I do however disagree with the Arminian view in precisely the place where their entire system fails – Their beginning presupposition is to deny eternal predestination. I do not deny it – I whole-heartedly see it in Scripture, teach it and preach it. To me it is incontrovertible. Secondly, the Arminian denies election. Once again I do not. In their view, Jesus died for no one in particular. This is clearly contrary to Scripture. That God had His elect chosen unto salvation and adoption before the foundations of the world, and that, NOT through mere foreknowledge – I hold to as strongly as any. But I do not see these particular aspects of the atonement and salvation as encompassing the entire story – nor doing proper justice to the fullness of His sacrifice, and God’s sincere desire for all men to be saved – though He does not act sovereignly to finish it in them as He does in the elect. This I believe is the Biblical tension. Lastly, the Arminian would say (based upon his scheme) that Christ died to make all men salvable. This is in error, I think it is better to say Christ died to make all sin forgivable. His death did not accomplish anything IN the individual ex opere operata. My view is neither Arminian, nor Amyraldian. It is (I believe) above all – Biblical .With all of its tension.
But to point out again that my approach here is not novel – let me cite A. A. Hodge in his section on predestination from his “Evangelical Theology:” Note the atonement/faith issue –
“The expiatory work of Christ which is sufficient for, adapted to, and freely
offered to all men, being presupposed, the question of questions is, How — by what agencies and on what conditions — is it effectually applied to any individual? The Scriptures make it plain that the condition of its effectual application is an act of faith, involving real spiritual repentance and the turning from sin and the acceptance and self-appropriation of Christ and of his redemption as the only remedy.” (Emphasis mine)
This is not an “Arminian” tension. Nor is it one invented by myself. It is one which naturally arises within Reformed and Calvinistic thinking.
Let me cite Ryle again on John 3:16 – and I will cite at length so as to cover a number of points in a greater economy than my own words will allow. And here, Ryle states my exact view with precision:
“The words, “God loved the world,” have received two very different interpretations. The importance of the subject in the present day makes it desirable to state both views fully.
Some think, as Hutcheson, Lampe, and Gill, that the “world” here means God’s elect out of every nation, whether Jews or Gentiles, and that the “love” with which God is said to love them is that eternal love with which the elect were loved before creation began, and by which their calling, justification, preservation and final salvation are completely secured. – This view, though supported by many and great divines, does not appear to me to be our Lord’s meaning. For one thing, it seems to me a violent straining of language to confine the word “world” to the elect. “The world” is undoubtedly a name sometimes given to the wicked exclusively. But I cannot see that it is a name ever given to the saints. – For another thing, to interpret the word “world” of the elect only is to ignore the distinction which, to my eyes, is plainly drawn in the text between the whole of mankind and those out of mankind who “believe.” If the “world” means only the believing portion of mankind, it would have been quite enough to say, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that the world should not perish.” But our Lord does not say so. He says, “that whosoever believeth, i.e., that whosoever out of the world believeth.” – Lastly, to confine God’s love to the elect, is taking a harsh and narrow view of God’s character, and fairly lays Christianity open to the modern charges brought against it as cruel and unjust to the ungodly. If God takes no thought for any but his elect, and cares for none beside, how shall God judge the world? – I believe in the electing love of God the Father as strongly as any one. I regard the special love with which God loves the sheep whom He has given to Christ from all eternity, as a most blessed and comfortable truth, and one most cheering and profitable to believers. I only say, that it is not the truth of this text.
The true view of the words, “God loved the world,” I believe to be this. The “world” means the whole race of mankind, both saints and sinners, without any exception. The word, in my opinion, is so used in John i. 10, 29; vi. 33, 51; viii. 12. – Rom. iii. 19. – 2 Cor. v. 19. – 1 John ii. 2; iv. 14. The “love” spoken of is that love of pity and compassion with which God regards all His creatures, and specially regards mankind. It is the same feeling of “love” which appears in Psalm cxlv. 9. – Ezek. xxxiii. 11. – John vi. 32. – Titus iii. 4. – 1 John iv. 10. – 2 Pet. iii. 9. – 1 Tim. ii. 4. It is a love unquestionably distinct and separate from the special love with which God regards His saints. It is a love of pity and not of approbation or complaisance. But it is not the less a real love. It is a love which clears God of injustice in judging the world.
I am quite familiar with the objections commonly brought against the theory I have just propounded. I find no weight in them, and am not careful to answer them. Those who confine God’s love exclusively to the elect appear to me to take a narrow and contracted view of God’s character and attributes. They refuse to God that attribute of compassion with which even an earthly father can regard a profligate son, and can offer to him pardon, even though his compassion is despised and his offers refused. I have long come to the conclusion that men may be more systematic in their statements than the Bible, and may be led into grave error by idolatrous veneration of a system. The following quotation from one whom for convenience sake I must call a thorough Calvinist, I mean Bishop Davenant, will show that the view I advocate is not new.
“The general love of God toward mankind is so clearly testified in Holy Scripture, and so demonstrated by the manifold effects of God’s goodness and mercy extended to every particular man in this world, that to doubt thereof were infidelity, and to deny it plain blasphemy.” – Davenant’s Answer to Hoard, p. 1.
“God hateth nothing which Himself created. And yet it is most true that He hateth sin in any creature, and hateth the creature infected with sin, in such a matter as hatred may be attributed to God. But for all this He so generally loved mankind, fallen in Adam, that He hath given His only begotten Son, that what sinner soever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. And this everlasting life is so provided for man by God, that no decrees of His can bring any man thither without faith and repentance; and no decrees of His can keep any man out who repenteth and believeth. As for the measure of God’s love exhibited in the external effect unto man, it must not be denied that God poureth out His grace more abundantly on some men that on others, and worketh more powerfully and effectually in the hearts of some men than of others, and that out of His alone will and pleasure. But yet, when this more special love is not extended, His less special love is not restrained to outward and temporal mercies, but reacheth to internal and spiritual blessings, even such as will bring men to an eternal blessedness, if their voluntary wickedness hinders not.” – Davenant’s Answer to Hoard, p. 469.
“No divine of the Reformed Church, of sound judgment, will deny a general intention or appointment concerning the salvation of all men individually by the death of Christ, on the condition if they believe. For the intention or appointment of God is general, and is plainly revealed in Holy Scripture, although the absolute and not to be frustrated intention of God concerning the gift of faith and eternal life to some persons, is special, and limited to the elect alone. So I have maintained and do maintain.” – Davenant’s Opinion on the Gallican Controversy.
Calvin observes on this text, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.” Again he says, “Christ employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite indescriminately all to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such also is the import of the term world. Though there is nothing in the world that is worthy of God’s favor, yet He shows Himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ.” The same view of God’s “love” and the “world,” in this text, is taken by Brentius, Bucer, Calovinius, Glassius, Chemnitius, Musculus, Bullinger, Bengal, Nifanius, Dyke, Scott, Henry, and Manton.
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 3, by J. C. Ryle. See pages 156-158. (Emphasis mine)
If Ryle has it wrong here – then let me be wrong with him. But I believe he has stated the case more faithfully than I once knew it. I believe him to be correct. This is my view.
b. Reid does not believe in a naturalistic, innate faith. He mentions a number of times that [saving] faith is the gift of God. [p11 ‘Only the elect have the gift of and can and do exercise saving faith”; p14, “We are lost until sovereignly regenerated, divinely granted saving faith..] But Reid does not see the connection between the gift of faith [sure to all the elect] and real atonement, or to say it another way Atonement and Saving Faith are never separated in the mind of God, [see discussion above on Rom. 3:21f, Heb. 2:14f; 1 Jn. 1:7f] indicating of course that there is no atonement “out there” which exists apart from saving faith. With atonement comes the faith to apprehend it [when the Gospel is proclaimed to the elect] and apart from faith there is no atonement. This however, is purely academic [as is much of Reid’s arguments] because there is no death of Christ and benefits that accrue from it except for the elect and all the elect are given both saving faith and repentance to lay hold of what God has procured for them. [see section on Biblical Theology below] The needless tension which Reid postulates between faith and an atonement that is saving in effect is necessary to his position of an objective atonement independent of a spiritual salvation. To me, this muddies the water about the doctrine of atonement and introduces confusion and tensions which do not exist in the mind of God.
[RAF #17] a. To assert: “there is no atonement “out there” which exists apart from saving faith. With atonement comes the faith to apprehend it [when the Gospel is proclaimed to the elect] and apart from faith there is no atonement.” – in answer to my argument, is to ignore the very key word one MUST include – “WHEN.” Atonement “existed” before either Fred or I were conceived. It existed before we believed. It existed before we existed. This is the point. Ephesians 2:2-13 states that before we believed we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” We did not have faith at that point. There was an atonement already accomplished and yet we were not yet saved. As good as saved I will grant. Already elect – for sure. Destined to believe – without question. But still dead in our trespasses and sins. Not alive in Christ yet. Still walking according to the course of this world. Still under the influence of the prince of the power of the air. Still living in the passions of our flesh. Still carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. Still by NATURE, children of wrath even as the rest. Nothing in our nature had yet been changed. That faith was purchased for us, I have no doubt of. That we were once without it, I also have no doubt of. That it was in this sense provisional, is beyond question. Just as provisional as the things which no eye has seen, and no ear has heard, and no heart has imagined – that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9) – which are all in Christ, and yet are not yet ours. God deals with us sequentially in space and time. He does not collapse the order into some form of eternal justification. Atonement was accomplished at Calvary. It has not yet been applied to those who have not yet been born, who are yet to be saved. They will yet be born into this world lost, undone, and dead in their sins too.
3. Tension in the theological authors quoted
a. A careful reading of the authors Reid quotes demonstrates that a number of them never referred to the kind of universal atonement Reid imagines. That is, they do not describe anything close to an “atonement” but instead reference what Boettner describes – “Many blessings flow to mankind at large from the death of Christ, collaterally and incidentally, in consequence of the relation in which men, viewed collectively, stand to each other…the death of Christ had special reference to the elect in that it was effectual for their salvation, and the effects which are produced in others are only incidental to this one great purpose.” [Underlining added, p161, “Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”, L. Boettner] If this is all Reid is saying in his view, then this response is pointless because all Calvinists would agree with Boettner’s assessment. But Reid quotes Dabney, Hodge and others, “finding” more in their words than Boettner’s analysis.
1) Of Dabney, Reid writes, “Note Dabney’s reference in #2 to a “reprieve of doom for every sinner of Adam’s race who does not die at birth.” p6 [Question: Is a “reprieve of doom”- what Solomon says of the wicked, “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Ecclesiastes 8:11f- is a reprieve the same as “universal atonement”? Reid continues, “And #3- the “manifestation of God’s mercy to many of the non-elect.” [Question: Must the reference to God’s mercy indicate a ‘universal atonement?” Luke notes, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35, 36 [See also Matt. 5:44f]
2) Next Reid quotes Hodge, p7 who makes statements such as: “..it does not follow from the assertion of it’s [the atonement’s] having a special reference to the elect, that it had no reference to the non-elect…it moreover secures to the whole race at large and to all classes of men innumerable, blessings, both providential and religious…The simple question is, Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did he come into the world to secure salvation of those given Him by the Father, so that the other effects of his work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object?” [Here Hodge poses several questions, the most significant of which as it relates to Reid’s paper, is the intent of God in sending his Son into the world. Did Christ “come into the world to secure salvation of those given him by the Father” [the elect?] Thus, ‘the other effects of his [Christ’s] work are merely incidental” ? Reid ends the quote here, but in his theology Hodge answers his own questions saying, “That these questions must be answered in the affirmative is evident- “ [p546, Vol. #2 Systematic Theology, Hodge] Thus Hodge, along with Boettner affirms that any talk of the benefits of the atonement to mankind in general must be understood as “incidental” and cannot be affirmed in the terms of “universal atonement.” There is no idea in Hodge as he proceeds to argue from the Covenant of Grace, that the atonement was intended directly for anyone else except the elect of God. That others benefit by their association with the elect and the Gospel they proclaim and the Christian life they live is understood.
[RAF #19] Here in fact is a most astute observation by Fred which points to part of the real key. Note Boettner’s language and Hodges’. Note how they wrestle with these benefits to the non-elect, but must make them “incidental”. This is the natural result of assuming that God can only – or DOES only have one intent in the atonement. This of course is unsupported by Scripture. It is a logical conclusion within the system. But revelation I believe contradicts the logical conclusion. God expresses His love for, and sends Christ to die for all. That a mystery remains that not all are saved, remains with God. But Boettner’s and Hodges’ constructs demonstrate their own tension – by which they then, must, with a sweeping motion relegate the vast number of those made in God’s image and for His glory – to have nothing but an incidental relationship to Him, and His redemptive work in Christ. Such an “incidental” view to me is inconsistent with a Christ who weeps over a Jerusalem that will not come to Him. Why be angry or sad? They’re just fulfilling their destiny. Why make men “doubly culpable” (as Calvin says) when they reject a Gospel which holds no true benefit for them anyway? Why appeal to these men to be saved – when He has not the slightest “intention” toward them? Let us rather accept that we cannot fathom how God can love them, and make provision for the cleansing of their sin, and yet not move sovereignly to save them beyond that – than to make men created in the image of God and for His glory merely incidental. Men whom when we merely curse them, God rebukes us for it. (James 3:9)
3) Finally Reid quotes Calvin [later Dr. Shedd] commenting on Ezk. 18:32, “Meanwhile Ezekiel announces this very truly…that God wills not the death of him that perishes: [Reid’s underlining] “for the explanation follows directly afterwards, be you converted and live. Why does not God delight in the death of him who perishes? Because he invites all to repentance and rejects no one. …there is nothing in this passage doubtful or thorny, and we should also hold that we are led aside by speculations too deep for us.” p8 [Question: Does the fact that God “wills not” (Calvin’s words not the Bible’s which says, “I have no pleasure in the death of him who perishes” KJV] have the equivalent conclusion of “universal atonement”? All I see is that Calvin is arguing for the free offer of the Gospel to sinners “because he invites all to repentance and rejects no one”.
[RAF #20] My point is not that God’s love for all equates to an atonement for all directly – but was used to show that there is a sincere desire on God’s part for all men to be saved. With that, God in fact commands the Church to preach the good news of the Gospel to all men. That there is more than one intent in the mind of God is what I’m after here. There is some measure of inscrutable mystery here. But one does not need to posit a limited atonement, in order to guard against a universal salvation. This was the problem in the view of a number of men at Dordt – like Davenant. The one does not necessarily flow from the other and showing God’s multiple intents goes to reinforce that reality. We can fight the Arminian errors without falling into one on the opposite end.
4) It is clear from the above quotes from the various theologians that Reid sees more in their words than simply that the atonement sacrifice of Christ had residual benefits to the lost. These extrapolations sometimes make the authors appear to support his views. This is not all that uncommon for we all tend to see in the writings of others, support for our own thinking. I do the same. But there is a better way. I am convinced that we need to shift our research from Systematic Theology which loves to dissect doctrine ad infinitum, even getting into the “secret counsels” of God that He has not revealed, to Biblical Theology which takes its definitions of doctrine from the Author of the Bible itself. We also need to spend more time in New Covenant study than in Old Covenant study for the New explains the Old, replaces the old [Heb. 8], and is the final, fullest and most complete revelation from God that has been given to us. There is nothing better.
[RAF #21] I will shout my hearty amen to the direction, even if I disagree with the assessment directly bearing on myself. While, at the same time, fully heeding the need to guard myself from misstating those I quote. There is no question Boettner, Hodge, Edwards, (certainly not) Pink nor Dabney share my exact view. I have not cited them to say so. Only to point up how the problem exists and how often even stricter “5 point” men have to wrestle with some realities that do not fit the system neatly. If I have actually mistaken or misapplied their words outside of that aim, I will most gladly correct them as shown.
We absolutely must let the Bible speak, even where it is uncomfortable, and where we might not be able to reconcile all of its assertions within either a theological schema, nor the rigid logic of our own rational (but fallen ) minds.
1. The decree of election determines the extent of the atonement. The Bible affirms, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 We may not go beyond the things revealed. While the decree of election does not tell us who the elect are, when they will be saved, and under what circumstances, we are told the essentials about the extent of the atonement/redemption which purchased them, and how the elect come to be the children of God.
[RAF #22] I have to disagree with this opening sentence. I find nothing in Scripture which reveals the supposed hidden thing that “the decree of election determines the extent of the atonement.” While it is reasoned this way by many – it is not an assertion of Scripture itself. I will grant its logic if taken by itself, but find it contradictory to Biblical teaching. If it is secret, it belongs with God and not with us, and therefore we ought not to be building doctrine upon it. We are told that God elects. We are told that Christ has atoned for sin. We are told also that there are those whom Christ specifically intended to save. And, we are told that based upon Christ’s atonement, we are to make that good news known to all men, and that God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Such a command is a clear statement of intent – it is God’s intent all men repent – and to save all who do. We are not told anything explicit about the extent of the atonement.
a. A decree in eternity-past with specific “names” attached to it:
1) Moses pleading for God not to destroy his wayward people said, “But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.” Exodus 32:32, 33 [Moses understood his name to be written in the book of God’s registered saints] Psalm 69:28 calls it “the book of life.”
[RAF #23] I would argue this interpretation is problematic. First, it fails to account for the fact “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) including Moses. It cannot be as general a statement as Fred would seem to take it as here. This statement is confined contextually to those who had sinned in this particular incident and in this particular way. It cannot be more broadly applied without making some men not to be sinners at all. This has nothing contextually to do with any eternal decree. Secondly, I would find it difficult to assert with certainty the “book” referred to here as “the book of life” in terms of eternal salvation. If we take it in that sense, God is clearly stating that those who sinned would in fact be blotted out of the book of eternal life. That would be an absurd response. Whatever else they may actually imply, I take Moses’ words here simply to mean “if you are going to kill them, kill me too.” Which in fact God refuses as it would be a perversion of justice. It is those who sinned in this fashion that must die as a result. Moses’ intercession here is refused.
2) Paul writing to the Philippians says, “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3
3) The brethren at the church of Sardis who are said to have ‘not soiled their clothes”, Christ says, ‘They will walk with me, dressed in white for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life., but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
4) Rev. 13:8f describes those who will worship the beast [anti-Christ]- “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8 [Note: In the context it says of the beast, “he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast…” v7,8 The beast worshipers are the pagans of the world, who comprise every people group, every nation. 2nd: those registered in the book of life are listed by name as belonging to the Lamb, ‘slain from the creation of the world”, indicating that it was for those so named in the book of life that Christ died and for no one else! 3rd: the slaying of the Lamb took place in the mind of God, “from the creation of the world”, an indicator of the decree of election [Eph. 1:4]
[RAF #24] I have no argument with the NT references here (2-4) as showing there are those already written in the “book of life.” But I am not sure what exactly that proves in this case. Though Christ was slain in the mind of God before the creation of the world, Calvary had not yet occurred and we in fact were not yet saved. He would still have to come in time and space and die on the Cross. Apart from that, there would be no salvation. And apart from faith, we could not partake of it. / Eph. 2.8 As for the peculiarities of Rev. 13, I do not think we can unpack all of those things here. Bishop Poole for instance writes: “God here showed his prophet the general subjection that would be of all people to the papacy, except some few, whom he had chosen to eternal life and salvation, whom Christ had redeemed with his blood, and would preserve from this pollution.” Now if in Poole’s eschatology (and that of most of the Reformers) we want to posit that every single human being worships the Papacy, we are going to have a very difficult time working Fred’s interpretation into that. That all men either intentionally or inadvertently (by virtue of their birth in sin) serve Satan is a truth extant both now, and one which applied to all the ELECT even before they were saved as well. The strict juxtaposition in this passage is something of a different order I imagine, and do not know if it is in fact germane to our discussion. Nevertheless, we do not disagree that those elected from before the creation of the world will in fact be preserved no matter what, and in the end – saved. Mere election makes no qualitative difference in them before salvation. Election is designation only. Justification occurs in time and space, and that, not apart from faith.
5) Rev. 17:8 describes the reaction of the pagans when they see the Beast come to its ruin, but observe the wording, “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.” Revelation 17:8 [Note: By implication those who have their names written in the book of life were so registered ‘from the creation of the world’ [same time reference to the death of Christ in 13:8f above] 2nd– the ones astonished at the ruin of the beast did not have their names written in the book of life from before the creation of the world; 3rd- Thus Christ was never “slain” for them and this is why they are excluded from the book of life. No universal atonement here.
[RAF #25] Fred’s conclusion in the 3rd point is simply a non-sequitur. There is no reason why the designation of election directly translates into a denial of a general atonement. The strict 5-point system requires that, but not the Scriptures.
6) Rev. 20:12, 15 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:12, 15 [Note: those whose names are not found in the book of life, the Lamb’s book, are consigned to hell’s fires because, by implication, they do not belong to the Lamb, have never “done” anything as a benefit from the Lamb’s sacrifice, nor has his sacrifice mitigated their sentence- they are judged “according to what they have done.”]
[RAF #26] The passage immediately above simply records that those who are not Christ’s and have not trusted in Him, will ultimately be judged according to their works. We have no disagreement on this. That does not means salvation was never truly offered to them based upon Christ’s sacrifice if they would have trusted in it. They perish in unbelief. Their “sin” is wrapped up in their works, not in their not being elect. All mankind was at one time upright in Adam, both elect and non-elect. Non-election is not tantamount to eternal damnation until after the Fall. Men are not damned because they are not elect, but because in Adam they collectively fell. Men abide under the wrath of God because they are fallen, not because they are non-elect. This confusion of categories brings no end of difficulty to the discussion.
7) Finally, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:27 [Note: Heaven is to be populated by people who have names written in the Lamb’s book of life; people by name are not random, not indiscriminate, not impersonal, not universal, but rather, intentional, discriminate, personal, and select [elect]. There is no universal atonement separated from particular redemption.
[RAF #27] I have nothing to add here since I fully embrace an eternal decree of unconditional (unconditional as respects us, not without reason or condition within God ) election. I will repeat however that election is but designation. It does nothing in the creature itself, any more than my choosing to use one quarter to make a phone call and another to buy a stick of gum changes anything in the quarters themselves. I’ve designated each for its purpose, but that does not produce any inherent change. Neither does our election unto salvation as far as anything indicated in the Scripture that I am aware of.
b. A decree in eternity-past with a time-space fulfillment [selected Scriptures of many]
1) Isaiah 53:4f-“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his
wounds we are healed…. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,… “he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken… “the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, … “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” “..he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” [Note: clearly this text prophecies that, in keeping with God’s decree of election, Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God, was stricken and smitten for “our infirmities”, “our sorrows”, pierced for “our transgressions” ,”our iniquities” – the “our”, being the “sheep” who comprise the “us all”. [no universality here] 2nd the Lamb is said to have been led to “slaughter”, “cut off”, for the “transgressions of my people, he was stricken” [redemption price]; 3rd the “my people” are “many,” but not all; it was these for whom Jesus bore ‘their iniquities’ as God made him a “guilt offering” [concept of atonement] No universal atonement here, but the sacrifice of Jesus to atone for “sheep’, for specific people with real names/faces.
[RAF #28] As an off-topic aside, isn’t it an astounding blessing that in a dialog such as this, we have the privilege of having our hearts and minds focused on such transcendently beautiful and glorious passages? Oh what a God we serve!
Now we need to observe several things on this passage – things which prevent us from flattening the verses out completely, so as to lose some of the nuances and particularities.
a. Note first this passage is not written in the first sense to “Christians” – but to the Jews in the Babylonian captivity. Whatever else these words mean to Believers in Christ in this age (and in one sense they mean everything to us) we must not ignore that there was an intended application to those people at that time under those circumstances. The first sense of these words has to be to the Jews in captivity. Certainly Isaiah’s first readers would have understood them as such. They would have seen the personal pronouns referring in the first case to themselves. And however they could clarify their concept of the “suffering servant”, He would suffer for THEIR sins. Indeed, this base thought is reiterated to us in the words of “prophecy” uttered by Caiaphas in John 11:50-51 “Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”
He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.”
Note that Caiaphas was not speaking of his own accord, but by the Spirit, and prophesied that one man should die for who? Not the elect, but the “nation.” The passage admits of no other interpretation that than Jesus would die for Israel as the ethnic people of God. This of course does NOT mean all ethnic Jews are saved. And, John goes on to open to us how it is God will gather into one ALL the children of God who are scattered outside of Israel. But we also understand salvation belongs to the Jews first, and that the promises given to them are given to them AS Jews, indiscriminately as Jews – just as Paul can say in Romans 9 that the covenants and promises belong to them as a people – even though we see that not all that are of Israel are “Israel” in the final analysis. Even the New Covenant was made to them as Jews, though one can still only partake of it if brought to faith by the Spirit. It still was made with a mixed group – believing and non-believing Jews alike. All of those in Egypt were led to leave for the Promised Land. All were promised the land. But not all believed. In faithlessness they failed. Just as many were led back from Babylon. Were all those “believers”? I doubt it. Were they “redeemed” in some sense? Absolutely. But apart from an obedient faith, such glorious and even supernatural blessings contain no salvation for the soul.
True, their deliverance from Babylon would prove to be typical (as the Exodus was) but it was real nonetheless. Exodus gives us a picture of redemption from a forced captivity, while Babylon the redemption of the captivity brought on judiciously due to sin. Both serve as types of the work of Christ in breaking the yoke of Satan off of our backs (a captivity brought about by deception) and that due to our deliberate disobedience in Adam. As a complete Savior He does both. In both cases however (Egypt & Babylon) we have to reckon with a mixed group that is redeemed or set free. There are both elect and non-elect among them. Some enjoy the FULL benefits (spiritually and temporally) some only temporally. But in both cases the redemption encompasses more than the elect alone. Christ ministered to both the elect and non-elect. He did not require proof of belief before feeding the 5000, or raising the Widow’s son at Nain. And His gospel is preached to all because He is always willing to receive all who come to Him. Non will be cast out. All are called, because there is provision for all.
b. We are met with a second, very serious complicating factor in interpreting this passage as flatly as cited above. At least a portion of this prophecy (Isa. 53:4), was explicitly proclaimed as fulfilled NOT in the context of Christ’s cross-work for our sins in the sense of payment for guilt, but in physical ministrations during His life: Matt. 8:16 “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Emphasis mine) If Matt. 8 is the fulfillment of Isa. 53:4, then we need to apply the rest of the pericope carefully, and not simply over-extend the entire discourse to refer to our soul’s condition, and that of only the elect – without qualification. Unless we DO want to posit healing in the atonement (as mentioned above), and then to assume all those healed were in fact the elect, we cannot merely take all of the personal pronouns as restricted to the elect and this issue of our soul’s salvation.
The “all”‘s, “many”‘s, “we”‘s & “people” require several different treatments to handle the whole. And in terms of eternal life, it is had not simply in the work itself but in the believing of the report (Isa. 53:1).
a) Reid quotes Shedd to support that there is an atonement objectively made which “naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims.” p15 [the claims of the Law on sinners] “…Christ’s death, as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite ‘propitiation for the sins of the whole world” p16 (1 Jn. 2:2 underlining added) [Note: Shedd identifies “vicarious atonement” with the whole world rather than with those alone whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life] Apparently Reid agrees with this, thus the quote.
b) But clearly the Isaiah 53 text limits atonement [guilt offering] and redemption [slaughter] for the sheep alone. The word, “vicarious” is one of these theological terms meaning, in English, “performed or suffered by one person for another” [Webster’s 7th Collegiate Dictionary, p.990] The Bible terms are “for”, “on behalf of”, etc. Shedd makes ‘vicarious’ apply to “all mankind” and speaks separately of a “personal” atonement. In support of this he quotes [Hb 10:28 –wrong reference] Hb. 9:28, “Christ once suffered to bear the sins of many” 14. and then proceeds to add, “This one offering expiated “the sins of the whole world”, and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them.” [Underline added] By “whole world” Shedd means “all mankind” and obviously does not see an inconsistency with his view of “whole world” in juxtaposition to the “many” [not all] of Hb. 9:28! All of this is a violation of the whole idea of “vicarious” and of the clear teaching of Isa. 53. Christ stands in “for” and makes atonement “for” his people alone [those who will become his people by faith in Him]
[RAF #29] The first sentence in b) above is a conclusion controverted on its face by Matt. 8. The rest is addressed in those remarks I made on the passage previously. In terms of the closing lines – I agree – “those who will become His people by FAITH in Him” (emphasis mine). While the atoning work is done, it is appropriated only by faith.
c) One thing Shedd say with which I agree: “By accepting a vicarious atonement for a particular individual, divine justice precludes itself from requiring a personal atonement from him.” This being true both Shedd and Reid, in their view of Christ dying ‘vicariously’ for the whole world, [“world” is understood by them as meaning all mankind] have given support, perhaps unwittingly, to universal salvation, for if justice is satisfied with “…Christ’s death, as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly”, then there is nothing the Law can condemn. All for whom Christ died are exonerated. But Shedd and Reid with him, would argue- “Vicarious atonement without faith is powerless to save. It is not the making of this atonement, but the trusting in it that saves sinners…if it were made but never imputed and appropriated, it would result in no salvation.” p17 [Question: Is there such a thing as non-imputed atonement? If so then the atonement cannot be vicarious, for it is on the merit of Christ’s intervention that the law is satisfied. Is there such a thing as an atonement when there is no faith in it? If “no faith” then has atonement occurred for that person? What is more, if the law of justice has been fully satisfied by the atoning work of Christ [an actual atonement with no faith] how can God condemn that person? Is faith even necessary? [We answer, “Yes,” because the Bible affirms that faith and repentance are essential to salvation] but Shedd is posing an atonement-offering for all men which “expiated the sins of the whole world” p16. Illustration: Consider a man on death row for whom another willingly agrees to take his place, and not only so, but is actually executed by the State in his stead. The governor issues a ‘release order’ and orders the man on death row to be set free. But the man on death row does not “believe” it to be true and refuses to leave his cell. Does his non-belief alter the fact that his sentence has been paid in full by his “substitute”? Will he not be taken from his cell and released? If it be argued that the released criminal is still “not righteous” because he had no faith in the work of the substitute who died for him, would not that unbelief on his part have been something the substitute also died for and thus atonement made? Much of this is academic I admit, for in the Biblical account, Christ is the Substitute who took the place of the prisoner on death row, and in his death purchased, not only the prisoner’s release, but the faith and repentance necessary unto, which is gifted to the prisoner [Eph. 2:8, Acts 11:18] Let us turn now to see what the New Testament says about Christ and his work in reference to Isaiah’s prophecy:
[RAF #30] In answer to the parable put forth by Fred, regarding the man sentenced to death – there are several things to be considered.
First, when Christ died for Fred, Fred was still dead in trespasses and sins. There would be nearly two millennia pass before Fred would be born in sin. But if Christ died for Fred, 2000 years earlier, how could Fred be born in sin? How could he be a child of wrath by nature even as the rest of mankind? How could he still be bound to the very sins Christ died for, and be still guilty of them and on his way to judgment if in fact they had already been atoned for? Why was Fred not born sinless? Why not guiltless? Hadn’t atonement already been made? Wasn’t Fred already free from the influence of the Prince of the power of the air? Was Fred not already redeemed? After all, hadn’t Christ already died in his place? Yet the truth is Fred was not a partaker of the divine nature yet. He was not baptized into Christ yet. He had not yet become indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He did not yet believe. He stood guilty, condemned, unclean and was on his way to Hell – even though Christ had already died for him. How can it be? Because Christ’s substitutionary atoning death still must be applied to the individual. The individual must still believe. For apart from faith, by which alone we are justified – we remain guilty and condemned. There is no difference here between Fred’s situation and anyone else’s – Christ’s death did not save by itself. It alone saves, but it does not do it apart from faith – even though ALL is already done.
Second, The offer of salvation is based upon a condition. If we would have forgiveness, we must repent and believe. God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
c. The eternal decree of election and the prophecy of Isaiah 53, accomplished by Christ
1) Texts on “many” [Many does not = “All or every”]
a) …the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 [Isaiah 53:12, also Mk. 10:45]
b) “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28 [see also Mk. 14:24]
c) “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:23-25 [Note: Christ is the seed about to “fall into the ground” and “die” which will produce “many seeds” = people of this world, but who “hate” their life in the world and therefore come out of it by faith [“lose it”] to gain ‘eternal life’]
d) “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Romans 5:15
e) “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:10, 11 [Note: This text shows the intent of God in sending his Son to suffer, which was to die for the ‘many sons’ who were, by the decree of the One ‘for whom and through whom everything exists, to be Jesus’ brothers.]
f) “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:26-28
Conclusion: There is no way that this preponderance of texts describing Christ’s death, blood “poured out”, “suffering” for the “many” can be construed to mean “one offering” that “expiated the sins of the whole world” [Shedd, p16 in his interpretation of 1 Jn. 2:2]
2) Texts on “sheep” [Isaiah 53:6]
a) Jesus initially instructed his disciples concerning a preaching tour- “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” Matthew 10:6, 7
b) “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Matthew 15:24 [Here, the “sheep” may indicate only the Jewish people to be saved, but if we understand the New Covenant emphasis that “Abraham’s offspring” is not to be identified with physical Israel but people of faith Gal. 3:7; John 8:39-41, then “sheep” could embrace all who believe. The significant point however is that Christ tells us he was “sent only to the lost sheep”- his sheep]
c) “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:32-34 [Note: the sheep are the only ones who are “blessed of the Father” with the “kingdom” associated with “him” [Jesus] and which was “prepared for” them “since the creations of the world”, and bought for them by the Lamb who was slain for them. Here is that wonderful phrase (“before the creation of the world” )associated with the “names” of the people who were written in the Lamb’s book of life, Rev. 17:8 and purchased by his blood Rev. 13:8 ]
d) “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink 17.
from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be will be scattered.’” Matthew 26:26f (also Mk. 14:27)
e) “All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life– only to take it up again.” John 10:8f [Note: Jesus makes a distinction between ‘thieves and robbers” who come ‘before him” and his “sheep”. Thieves stand for the people of the world who come only to “steal, kill and destroy”- He does not identify with them; he does not say he laid down his life for them. Rather he laid down his life ‘for the sheep”, all sheep, there and in the future (“other sheep”), but only the sheep who will be brought into “one flock” ruled over by the “Shepherd” who is the owner of the sheep, v12 and who laid down his life for them, v11]
f) “He himself bore our sins [quoted from Isa. 53:4,11] in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24, 25
Conclusion: It is crystal clear from the Biblical accounts that Jesus died for his sheep only who comprise “many” but not all people in the world. Thus, those texts which speak of “world” , “all”, “every” may not be used, as the Universalists do, to speak of an atonement made for every person who lived. Shedd’s position and Reid with him, attempt to make a distinction between atonement and redemption, which admittedly are slightly different in concept, but nonetheless refer in Scripture to one and the same people- those whose names are written in the Lamb’s
book of life, the “many” for whom Christ died, the “sheep” whose kingdom was prepared for them “before the creation of the world”.
[RAF #31] My simple response to the excellent catalog of scriptures just cited is simply that the insertion of the word “only” in the first sentence of Fred’s conclusion is not one found in any of the texts themselves. I have no argument that Christ died for His sheep, His own, His people, His elect, etc. But such statements are not qualified as “only” statements in Scripture, and must be held in tension with passages like John 3:16 and others. Did Christ die for His own? Without question. Did He die for His own – alone? No. I do not believe the Scripture teaches that. In Genesis 3, mankind falls as a unit. Mankind is condemned as a unit. And mankind is promised the “seed” of the woman who will bruise the Serpent’s head as a unit. They are given coverings as a unit. Sacrifice is depicted as provided for all. But all will not believe. The serpent is raised up in the wilderness so that all who were bitten may look upon it and be healed if they would. And this, Jesus teaches us, is a type of His own being raised up. He is raised up for all who are bitten. Not all will look and be healed. But He is no less raised up for those who do not, as those who do.
When Erskine was being accused of offering Christ too freely to sinners, and then tried by the General Assembly in Scotland – Ryle says he silenced them with John 6:32 “Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Jesus declared He was the true bread from heaven – which the “Father gives to you.” To whom was He given here? To the very ones who then rejected Him and went back from following Him a few verses later. He should have said “my Father gives only the elect the true bread from heaven.” But He didn’t. Neither can we.
3. Actual Atonement [the reality, not the shadow]
a. The book of Hebrews is the most important New Covenant explanation of atonement that we have. [Two of the three N. T. passages which speak of atonement are found here: Hb. 2:17, Hb. 9:4, along with Rom. 3:25f- See analysis above, Unnecessary Quandaries, 1. a. b.] We need to understand that the writer of Hebrews portrays Christ as an atoning priest, not to equate Him with the priesthood of the Old Covenant, but to contrast him to it and to demonstrate his superiority over it.
1) Jesus was not even a priest of the Aaron line:
a) “So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.”” Hebrews 5:5, 6
b) “He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no-one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Hebrews 7:13, 14
2) Jesus’ priesthood, being that of Melchizedek, is superior to that of Aaron and supercedes it:
a) “one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”” Hebrews 7:16,17 ; “permanent priesthood” v24
b) “And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest for ever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” Hebrews 7:20-22
c) “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Hebrews 8:1, 2; “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” Hebrews 8:6 [Note: The author of Hebrews is distancing Jesus as Priest from those priests 19.of the Old Covenant. So it is not the similarity to O. T. atonement which becomes the defining expression of true atonement [Reid’s analogy, p9 and Shedd, p14f] but rather what the New Covenant has to say about atonement. [Next point]
3) The Levitical priesthood [with Aaron as high priest] failed to make atonement
[RAF #32] My only concern at this point is what I think may be an injudicious use of words. To say they “failed to make atonement” simply isn’t accurate. Exod. 29:33 for instance is but one of dozens of passages which employ the very language of atonement “made”: “They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy.” (Emphasis mine) No doubt these atonements were typological of Christ’s atonement, did not deal with sin itself but were a temporary measure, and were pointing all along to the work Christ would do. But that they did at those times and in those places get treated by God AS atonements in forestalling His wrath is without question. Nor do we want to push aside the pictures given to us in those sacrifices, specifically because they are meant to open up to us the myriad facets of Christ’s final and eternally salvific atonement.
a) “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come–one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” Hebrews 7:11, 12; v18,19 “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless” “(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:19 ; v28 “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect for ever.” [Note: It is only through the “better hope” of the work of Christ that we may draw near to God without fear, which reconciliation is the underlying basis of atonement. The Old Covenant itself was weak and useless and the priests administering it were weak and imperfect.]
b) What is more the sacrifices of the Old Covenant priests were ineffectual to atone- “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,” Hebrews 10:3; “because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4; “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper.” Hebrews 9:9 [Note: The obvious message of all these Scriptures is ineffectual, ineffectual, ineffectual! No atonement, no atonement- not then, not ever!]
b. The Atonement Christ Secures and for whom:
1) “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22
[RAF #33] Hallelujah! This is the glorious reality for all who believe. But none CAN draw near UNTIL they believe. Christ opened the way, but we must enter in – by faith. The way has been opened. The veil was rent. The call to all is to come.
2) “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:11-15 [Note: Christ, acting as high priest, entered the true Holy Place by his own blood to clear “our conscience” from sin, “those who are called”, paying the “ransom” to set them free and secure an “eternal redemption”. Here the terms for ransom, redemption are used, but note the next reference- ]
[RAF #34] Again, if this is pressed, Fred’s own argument is voided. For the statement cited above is that “he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”(Emphasis Fred’s). If we are to take all of Fred’s verses cited before regarding Christ dying for His sheep and people, and make them apply to the elect ONLY, then we must read this passage with the same hermeneutic. The problem being, this ransom referred to only applies (in the text) to those who were under the FIRST covenant – which I take it from the context can be no other than the covenant of Moses. The passage then reads: “That He has died as a ransom to set those under the first covenant free from the sins they committed while under that covenant.” Thus, (using Fred’s interpretive grid) this means He was a ransom only for those who sinned under the Mosaic covenant, which does not apply to you and me! And, it applies indiscriminately to believing and unbelieving Jews alike – for they are the ones under the first covenant – and ONLY them. If the statement of the particular must exclude the general, then we have no means of seeing this passage as including any but Jews, and with no reference to whether or not they believe. The system collapses at this point if those narrow interpretive principles are to be applied throughout. However, if we bring all of this back under the Scriptural umbrella of application via faith, the solution is clear.
At this point, I will conclude my individual responses, and move to a concluding statement after Fred’s good words.
3) “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Hebrews 2:17-3:1 [Note: There is similar concepts to the text just analyzed above. Christ, as high priest, suffered for his “brothers”, “the people”, who “shared in the heavenly calling”. But here the word is atonement, thereby indicating that those he redeemed and those for whom he made atonement are one in the same. And who are they? Not the people of the world at large, but those “who are called” 9:15, those “who share in the heavenly calling” 3:1.
Conclusion: In the Book of Hebrews which is the New Covenant revelation explaining true, real atonement, Christ is the High Priest representing only his own people whom he called out of the world. His offering is his own blood; His blood is both the atonement that clears the conscience and reconciles believers to God and the ransom which set them 21. free from sin’s deadly hold. The Bible knows of no atonement but that of Christ for his people, brothers.
1. Many other Bible texts explain the extent of the atonement, using different ways of expressing it:
a. Jesus said to his disciples- “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:13,14
b. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19
c. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18
d. “and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2; “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25
e. Paul tells us to live godly lives, “while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:13, 14
f. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
2. Texts using “world”, “all”, “every” must be analyzed within context and the analogy of all Scripture and not assumed to have the broadest application [Arminians and Universalists do the latter]
a. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone [KJV, “all men”- Greek]– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle–..and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” 1 Timothy 2:1-8 [Note: The “all men” of v1 for whom we are to pray, must agree with the “all men” for whom the Mediator “gave himself a ransom” and has to harmonize with the “God our Savior wants all men to be saved”. Who are these “all men?” The context explains they are “kings and all those in authority”, “Gentiles” as well as Jews for whom Paul is the “herald”. The meaning is expressed in 1 Tim. 1:15- “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15 All is not every, but all is all kinds of people who are sinners in the vein of Rev. 5:9, “And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 Anything more, and we are left with a universal redemption, which even Reid rejects.]
b. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:9-11 [Note: the “everyone” for whom Christ tasted “death” and “suffered” are God’s “sons” brought to glory, “of the same family”, “brothers”.
c. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11 Who are the “all men” who are saved? All is not every, but within context the all would include, “older men” v1; “older women” v3; “younger women” v4; “husbands and children” v4; “young men” v6; “slaves” and “masters” v9 In short every class of men, free or indentured, male or female, young or old, married or unmarried.
d. The “world” passages in John deserve special consideration, but that is another whole intense study, so just a few comments on “world”:
1) The term is s [kosmos] used by John in every reference in his writing with the exception of John 9:32-23.
KJV, “Since the world [ aeon, eon, “age” hence a time reference- “Since the beginning of time”] began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.”
2) Kosmos, then is the predominant word used by John, and also by the other Biblical authors. What is it’s meaning? According to Arndt and Gingrich [447-8]there are no less than 8 ways this word is used in Greek literature, none of which mean “every person on earth who every lived.” The term’s primary meaning is that of the orderly whole, the orderly universe, hence, when talking of people, “mankind” [#5 A & G, p447] So when John says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” Jn. 3:16, he is not saying that God’s electing/saving love was directed to every last person on earth, but to mankind in general [Adam’s lost race] and [from the context- “whoever believes”] specifically to those who trust Christ for their salvation.
a) We have already admitted that the love of God, as Creator/Sustainer of his creation, including sinful man, is demonstrated in his provision for mankind all that is necessary for life [food, health, etc.] and for learning of the way of salvation [the Gospel when preached] In this sense, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” v17 But to press Jn. 3:16f to mean that God has provided atonement for every person in the “giving” of his Son is to go too far. Within the context, Jesus mentions exclusions: “Whoever believes is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” [Shedd and Reid might argue that the condemnation “stands” because the hearer has not exercised faith, the faith needed to appropriate the benefits of atonement, but “no faith” is the way all men come into existence, and “not believing” is part/parcel of the unregenerate heart- as v19f indicate, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come to the light…”
b) Can it not be said that God loved the world of mankind enough to send a Savior without indicating that such “love” is tantamount to universal atonement? Is there not a sense in which the world of mankind was doomed without a Savior and God corrected this by saving a “people” from the world to be his own, and in that way “saved” the world of mankind from extinction? Christ’s sacrifice certainly has that effect, as indicated by Paul, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 [Note: The work of reconciliation of God to the world is viewed as happening as God reconciles the believer, “us” to himself through Christ. While not of the world now (“new creation”) we once were of the world. Jesus- “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19 Whatever more can be said of the believer, we are at least representative of a saved world. [humanity]
Conclusion: Text and context and word usage by the Biblical authors cannot always have a universalistic meaning simply because the words themselves may seem to indicate such. We ourselves, use the words, “all, every, world, everyone” in restricted ways. When I return home from a family reunion I might say, “It was wonderful- we got to see everyone.” Yet the reality is that “every family member” was not present, and we didn’t get to personally see or talk to everyone who was there. It is simply a colloquial way of saying that we saw many of the family members and talked to them. “Family” in this analogy was represented by those who showed up. God can love the world of mankind and set in motion reconciliation through Christ’s coming, and thus “save” the world. Thus 1 Timothy 4:10, “…we put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior [Grk- Savior, yes but in what sense? – “Deliverer”, “Preserver” is the basic meaning. Here again, we need to exercise caution to not read into every term it’s most appreciated benefit by the believer]- “we put our hope in the living God, who is the Deliverer/Preserver of all men, and especially of those who believe.” There is deliverance/preserving/saving and then there is DELIVERANCE/PRESERVING/SAVING !!! Christ as Lord of the Universe saves and preserves his creation [Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:16-20] but as Propitiator/Redeemer He reconciles God to his people by atoning for their sins alone- a saving that is “eternal redemption”. [Hb. 9:12]3. The Nature of the Atonement and the Free-Offer of the Gospel
a. I began this response to Reid’s premise that holding to limited atonement can, even often does, lead to hyper-Calvinism and his personal dilemma of what he calls his “Hyperesque discomfort with the free offer of the Gospel, without denying it outright…”
b. A right view of the atonement will lead to peace, even joy and fervor in calling sinners to Christ. I am indebted to John Murray’s excellent treatment of this in his wonderful little book, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” which I now quote:
“The question is: on whose behalf did Christ offer himself a sacrifice? Or whose behalf did he propitiate the wrath of God? Whom did he reconcile to God in the body of his flesh through death? Whom did he redeem from the curse of the law, from the guilt and power of sin, from the enthralling power of Satan? In whose stead and on whose behalf was he obedient unto death, even the death of the cross?
The question is not the relation of the death of Christ to the numerous blessings which those who finally perish may partake of in this life, however important this question is in itself and in its proper place. The question is precisely the reference of the death of Christ when this death is viewed as vicarious death, that is to say, as vicarious obedience, as substitutionary sacrifice, and expiation, as effective propitiation, reconciliation and redemption. In a word, it is the strict and proper connotation of the expression “died for” that must be kept in mind…(I Thess.5:10; I Cor. 15:3)…
If we concentrate on the thought of redemption, we shall be able…to sense more readily the impossibility of universalizing the atonement. What does redemption mean? It does not mean “redeemability”, that we are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased and procured redemption. This is the triumphant note of the New Testament…Christ redeemed us to God by his blood (Rev.5:9) He obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) “He gave himself for us in order that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14)…Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people.
We have the same result when we properly analyze the meaning of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. Christ did not come to make sins expiable. He came to expiate sins- “when he made purification of sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3) Christ did not come to make God reconcilable. He reconciled us to God by his own blood…
Did Christ come to make the salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation, and merely make a provision for salvation? Or did he come to save people? Did he come to put all men in a savable state? Or did he come to secure the salvation of all those ordained to eternal life?…The doctrine of the atonement must be radically revised if, as atonement, it applies to those who finally perish as well as those who are the heirs of eternal life. [Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, p63-64]
c. We may ask, “Then how are we to present sinners with a free and gracious offer of Christ in the Gospel? What is it that we “offer” sinners when we preach the Gospel? It is a true salvation, not the mere opportunity for salvation. In short, we preach “salvation”. Since there is salvation in none other than in Christ, we preach Christ to sinners as best human tongues can express. We preach him as the one who made propitiation for sin and secured redemption. Preaching this would be injurious if we portrayed Jesus’ work as only making salvation possible, or merely as the one responsible for providing salvation.
1) We call men to repentance and faith knowing all along that such means of grace are bereft of the sinner in his lost estate. But we are not appealing to sinners’ abilities; we are appealing to their responsibility as commanded by Christ- “now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30 We plead, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
2) We issue warning- “But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”” John 8:23, 24 We make promises- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:36; “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” Romans 10:9-13, NIV.
3) We are confident of results- “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: …How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” …Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17; “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Acts 13:47, 48; “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14
4) The results will vary but the Gospel will not fail- “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? …in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. …Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant— not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” 2 Corinthians 2:15-3:12;
5) Finally, human lack of faith is no impediment and does not hinder the end, because: “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”” John 6:36-40. Could anything be more assured? Could any other view of the atonement grant greater pathos in preaching and incentive for a free and full offer of Christ in the Gospel? We do not have to preach, “Christ died for you” [an unknown] to obtain this effect. All we need do is to preach to men that they are sinners dead toward God. And tell them that Christ died for sinners. And tell them that salvation is theirs for the asking. We may then leave to the Holy Spirit the ministry of convincing the hearers that they are the sinners for whom Christ died. [“No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44; “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life… This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” John 6:63f
Well I see this has become a treatise more than a simple response! Blessings Reid as you continue your contemplations. With Love and deep affection for your brother,
F. R. Leuck, pastor
© F. R. Leuck, 4-10-08
[Recipients may freely copy and distribute this response, so long as they do so free of charge]
RAF – As anyone who takes the time to sift through all of the above can see, this is not a simple discussion. Though it is a most necessary one. And once again I must express my humble gratitude for the depth of Fred’s considerations, and for the invaluable treasure of such fellowship in the throes of a discussion that arouses great excitement. This is how the Body of Christ is supposed to conduct discussion over such important topics – In Christ’s love – each searching for the truth of the Scripture to be mined out and upheld.
I hold to a view of God’s having more than one intent in the atonement. Due to His love for all mankind, there is a clearly demonstrable, revealed divine intent that all men hear the Gospel and respond to it in faith. An intent which nevertheless, in His secret counsels, does not in fact bring all men to salvation – though Christ died for them. This is a mystery. It is His mystery, not ours. I will leave it with Him.
In closing I must above all fall on my face in absolute astonishment at the great grace that has been extended to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. What a Gospel we have been given to preach. To tell lost men and women that there is forgiveness for all their sins, reconciliation to God, freedom from guilt and eternal life for all who believe is almost beyond belief itself.
Let me close with three more citations. The first from Henry Scudder. This is copied from the Theological Meditations web site, hosted by my friend Tony Byrne. The second is from James Petigru Boyce’s analysis of Andrew Fuller’s view of the atonement. Boyce cites it negatively, I cite it as essentially my own. Some argue Boyce has interpreted Fuller wrongly. However, if he had been interpreting me instead, he would have been correct. The third, is from J. C. Ryle once again – on what we ought to tell men in calling them to Christ. May these feed your own soul as they have mine.
This is one of the clearest expressions of a dualist view that I have seen. The following quotation by Henry Scudder is packed with excellent theological insight.
In 1642, Scudder was “commissioned to be a member of the Westminster Assembly” and “served there faithfully, chairing a committee that reviewed proof-texts for the Confession of Faith” (Beeke, Meet the Puritans, p. 514.). John Owen wrote a foreward to this book (The Christian’s Daily Walk) and said, “I must say that I find in this [book] that authority and powerful evidence of truth, arising from a plain transferring of the sacred sense of the Scripture in words and expressions suited to the experience of gracious, honest, and humble souls, that the most accurate and adorned discourses of this age do not attain or rise up unto.” Richard Baxter also highly praised it.
Scudder, seeking to refute the idea that all men shall be saved (he’s using “universal redemption” in that sense in his refutation), writes:
“8. Some others go farther: they acknowledge that God’s justice must be satisfied, and they think it is satisfied for them, dreaming of universal redemption, by Christ, who indeed is said to die to “take away the sins of the world.” This causeth their conscience to be quiet, notwithstanding that they live in sin.
It must be granted, that Christ gave himself a ransom for all. This ransom may be called general, and for all, in some sense: but how? namely, in respect of the common nature of man, which he took, and of the common cause of mankind, which he undertook; and in itself it was of sufficient price to redeem all men; and because applicable to all, without exception, by the preaching and ministry of the gospel. And it was so intended by Christ, that the plaster should be as large as the sore, and that there should be no defect in the remedy, that is, in the price, or sacrifice of himself offered upon the cross, by which man should be saved, but that all men, and each particular man, might in that respect become salvable by Christ.
Yet doth not the salvation of all men necessarily follow hereupon; nor must any part of the price which Christ paid, be held to be superfluous, though many be not saved by it.
But know, that the application of the remedy, and the actual fruit of this all-sufficient ransom, redoundeth to those who are saved only by that way and means which God was pleased to appoint, which, in the case of adults, is faith, by which Christ is actually applied. Which condition, many to whom the gospel doth come, make impossible to themselves, through a wilful refusal of the gospel, and salvation itself by Christ, upon those terms which God doth offer it.
Upon this sufficiency of Christ’s ransom, and intention of God and Christ, that it should be sufficient to save all, is founded that general offer of Christ to all and to each particular person, to whom the Lord shall be pleased to reveal the gospel: likewise that universal precept of the gospel, commanding every man to repent, and believe in Christ Jesus; as also the universal promise of salvation, made to every one that shall believe in Christ Jesus.
Although, in one sense, it is true, Christ may be said to have died for all, yet let no one think to enjoy the benefits of his precious death and sacrifice, without serious diligence to make their calling and election sure. For God did intend this all-sufficient price for all, otherwise to his elect in Christ, than to those whom he passed by and not elected; for he intended this not only out of a general and common love to mankind, but out of a peculiar love to his elect. He gave not Christ equally and alike to save all; and Christ did not so lay down his life for the reprobate as for the elect. Christ so died for all, that his death might be applicable to all. He so died for the elect, that his death might be actually applied unto them. He so died for all, that they might have an object of faith, and that if they should believe in Christ, they might be saved. But he so died for the elect that they might actually believe, and be saved. Hence it is that Christ’s death becometh effectual to them, and not to the other, though sufficient for all. Now that many believe not, they having the means of faith, the fault is in themselves, through their wilfulness or negligence; but that any believe to salvation, is of God’s grace, attending his election, and Christ’s dying out of his especial love for them; and not of the power of man’s free-will: God sending his gospel, and giving the grace of faith and new obedience to those whom of his free grace he hath ordained to eternal life, both where he pleaseth and when he pleaseth.
Furthermore, it must be considered that notwithstanding the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death, whereby the new covenant of grace is ratified and confirmed, the covenant is not absolute, but conditional. Now what God proposeth conditionally, no man must take absolutely. For God hath not said that all men without exception shall be saved by Christ’s death: although he saith, Christ died for all; but salvation is promised to those only who repent and believe.
Wherefore, notwithstanding Christ’s infinite merit, whereby he satisfied for mankind; and notwithstanding the universality of the offer of salvation to all to whom the gospel is preached; both scripture and experience show, that not all, nor yet the most, shall be saved, and that because the number of them who repent, and unfeignedly believe, whereby they make particular and actual application of Christ and his merits to themselves, are fewest. For of those many that are called, few are chosen. Wherefore let none ignorantly dream of an absolute, universal redemption, as many simple people do. For though Christ be said to suffer to take away the sins of the whole world, yet the scripture saith, that the whole world of unbelievers and of ungodly men shall perish eternally.”
VIII. The eighth theory of the Atonement is that which declares it to be general, but asserts that it is limited in its application.
According to this theory, the work of atonement was not wrought out by Christ for the elect as such, nor for the church, either as foreseen, or designed to be composed of those to be saved; but for sinners, as sinners. The work of atonement had nothing to do with the persons to whom it was to be applied considered as an atonement, but only had respect to men as guilty sinners in God’s sight. The work to be accomplished was precisely what would have been, had there been no election, no church to be established, no work of grace to be wrought on the heart, but each person left to act in its reception, or rejection, as he should choose. It is in its application only that it has respect to Election, and thus is it made particular, not because in time it is applied to certain persons, but because it was designed in eternity to be thus applied. The application itself, however, involves the design of the atonement; but, simply, that which is made in respect to each individual, when, by regeneration and faith, he is vitally made partaker of Christ. It does not include the sovereign pleasure of God in the purpose to apply. This is involved in election. The most distinguished advocate of this theory is Andrew Fuller, a man of the clearest perceptions, and of remarkable power of precise statement. His views on the subject appear in the Conversation on Particular Redemption, Andrew Fuller’s Works, Vol. II, p. 692 to 698.
From Ryles’ essay on Election:
For another thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God’s Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.” To everyone we ought to say, “Awake, — repent, — believe, — come to Christ, — be converted, — turn, — call upon God, — strive to enter in, — come, for all things are ready.”