Oct 29, 2012

Definite Atonement VIII

The Scriptures teach the doctrine that Christ died as a substitute for sinners, and suffered the legal penalty that was entailed in that condemnation that the Lawgiver pronounced upon transgressors.  While there are those who deny the doctrine of penal substitution, the vast majority of evangelicals believe it to be taught in the Scriptures and that it occupies a central place in the doctrine of the atonement and of the Gospel message. 

In the previous posting it was shown that the Scriptures teach that Christ paid the sin debt for all that he represented in his death and therefore it cannot be affirmed that any for whom he died will be lost, or have to pay the debt themselves.  If Christ has suffered the penalty of the law for sin, as a substitute for those he represented in his death, then it is not possible that any of them will ever have to suffer or pay the penalty themselves. 

Those evangelicals who believe in unlimited atonement and in penal substitution are therefore inconsistent when they teach that many for whom Christ died will be sent to Hell.  The only thing they can do is to reject the idea of the injustice of this double payment or "double jeopardy."

Dr. David Allen at sbctoday wrote:

"This is the error of justification at the cross of all the elect." (see here)

But, it is Allen who errs.  The Scriptures are clear that people were saved at the time Christ died upon the cross.  In an earlier posting this was shown to be the clear teaching of the Apostle who said that Christ, having "purged our sins," a completed work, "sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high."  (Heb. 1: 3)  In the previous posting, Paul wrote that the "certificate of debt" for sin was paid when Christ died.  (Col. 2: 14)  Many other scriptures may be cited that say the same thing. 

"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  (Rom. 5: 6-10)

These verses are clear that reconciliation and justification occurred when Christ died.  The adverbs "when" and "while" are used several times in these verses.  The "being now justified by his blood" points one to what occurred when Christ died and shed his blood.  When were those for whom Christ died "reconciled"?  It was "when" he died, when we were enemies.  We become the friends of Christ when we are converted.  If the reconciliation occurs after conversion, then it cannot be said that we were reconciled when we were enemies. 

The text does speak of a future salvation from the wrath to come, but this results from having been justified and reconciled. 

Allen said (emphasis mine):

"A careful reading of Owen reveals he did indeed rely heavily on the double payment argument. It is one of the key linchpins of his whole attempt to argue for limited atonement. Virtually every contemporary Calvinist attempting to support limited atonement does so by appeal to Owen’s double payment argument. Remove the errant commercial notion of a “literal payment” for sins and Owen’s double-payment argument collapses."

He also said:

"There are four key problems with the double payment argument. First, it is not found in Scripture. Second, it confuses a commercial view of debt and the atonement with a legal or penal view of debt and atonement. Third, it fails to take account of the fact that the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe according to Ephesians 2:1-3. Fourth, it negates the principle of grace by entailing that the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."

In another posting Allen wrote:

"Like so many high-Calvinists, it appears Schrock has mistakenly bought into a commercial theory of the atonement lock, stock and barrel."  (see here)

First, it is clear that the only way that Allen can rebut the "double payment argument" is to deny it.  In other words, he does not believe that it is an act of injustice for the law to punish two people for the same crime.  He says "it is not found in Scripture."  Allen believes that is is perfectly just to punish Christ for my sins and then to also punish me for my sins.  He does not believe that "double jeopardy" is against Scripture!  Rather than accept the definite atonement view, he rather chooses to say that God does in fact punish two men for the same sins and argues that this is what God does and that it is just.

It is clear however that Paul believes that it is unjust for God to punish both Christ and the sinner for the same sins of the sinner. 

"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."  (Rom. 8: 34)

Paul argues that believers cannot suffer the penalty of the law for their sins because Christ has already died in their place and suffered the penalty.  But, this argument has no force if Paul believed that the double payment was just.  Paul obviously accepts it as an act of injustice for God to punish two men for the same sins.  He argues that Christ's suffering the penalty makes it impossible for the sinner, for whom he died as a substitute, to suffer the penalty.

Allen says that the double payment argument "confuses a commercial view of debt and the atonement with a legal or penal view of debt and atonement." 

But, this is a falsehood.  As we have seen, the Bible uses both a commercial and penal view of debt when speaking of the atonement.  From what Allen has written, one would assume that he does not believe that the Bible presents both kinds of "debt" in its teaching about the atonement.  We have already shown how Colossians 2: 14 pictures Christ as satisfying our "certificate of debt," which is given by Paul as a commercial view of it.  Granted, this is not the whole of it, but it is biblical.  The fact that the Scriptures say that sinners were bought and redeemed shows that the commercial view of the atonement is biblical.  The bible teaches that Christ paid our debt, a just equivalency to what was owed by those sinners for whom he died. 

While Allen seems to reject the commercial view of atonement as given in Scripture, he nevertheless wants to uphold the "legal or penal view of debt."  Okay, but does he accept the injustice of having Christ suffer the penalty in addition to sinners themselves suffering it?  Yes, he does.  He does not believe that Christ's suffering the penalty frees anyone from having to also suffer the penalty. 

Allen's third objection to the definite atonement view, and the double payment argument in support of it, is to say that "it fails to take account of the fact that the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe according to Ephesians 2:1-3."  But, I have already disposed of this argument and shown that such an argument, if valid, would prove that people are not even saved now in conversion.  The Scriptures say that sinners will be saved at the end of time, in the day of judgement.  Does this prove that they were not in any sense saved before then?  No, of course not.  Well, then, so the fact that sinners are saved in conversion does not prove that they were not saved before then at the time Christ died. 

Allen gives his final rebuttal argument, saying "Fourth, it negates the principle of grace by entailing that the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."   But, the Scriptures affirm what Allen denies.  It does affirm that "the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."  This, as we have seen, was the logic and argumentation of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8: 31-33.

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."

Paul argues that the giving of Christ, in atonement, for the elect, assures them that God will give them "all things," which must of course include the application of the atonement.

J. I. Packer, in THE TYNDALE BIBLICAL THEOLOGY LECTURE (1973) "What did the cross achieve? - The Logic of Penal Substitution" (see here), wrote (emphasis mine):

"In this broad sense, nobody who wishes to say with Paul that there is a true sense in which ‘Christ died for us’ (huper, on our behalf, for our benefit), and ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (huper again) (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 3:13), and who accepts Christ’s assurance that he came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (anti, which means precisely ‘in place of’, ‘in exchange for’16), should hesitate to say that Christ’s death was substitutionary. Indeed, if he describes Christ’s death as vicarious he is actually saying it."

"Should we not then think of Christ’s substitution for us on the cross as a definite, one-to-one relationship between him and each individual sinner? This seems scriptural, for Paul says, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). But if Christ specifically took and discharged my penal obligation as a sinner, does it not follow that the cross was decisive for my salvation not only as its sole meritorious ground, but also as guaranteeing that I should be brought to faith, and through faith to eternal life? For is not the faith which receives salvation part of God’s gift of salvation, according to what is affirmed in Philippians 1:29 and John 6:44f. and implied in what Paul says of God calling and John of new birth? And if Christ by his death on my behalf secured, reconciliation and righteousness as gifts for me to receive (Rom. 5:11, 17), did not this make it certain that the faith which receives these gifts would also be given me, as a direct consequence of Christ’s dying for me? Once this is granted, however, we are shut up to a choice between universa1ism and some form of the view that Christ died to save only a part of the human race. But if we reject these options, what have we left? The only coherent alternative is to suppose that though God purposed to save every man through the cross, some thwart his purpose by persistent unbelief; which can only be said if one is ready to maintain that God, after all, does no more than make faith possible, and then in some sense that is decisive for him as well as us leaves it to us to make faith actual. Moreover, any who take this position must redefine substitution in imprecise terms, if indeed they do not drop the term altogether, for they are committing themselves to deny that Christ’s vicarious sacrifice ensures anyone’s salvation. Also, they have to give up Toplady’s position. ‘Payment God cannot twice demand, First from my bleeding surety’s hand, And then again from mine’ — for it is of the essence of their view that some whose sins Christ bore, with saving intent, will ultimately pay the penalty for those same sins in their own persons. So it seems that if we are going to affirm penal substitution for all without exception we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, deny the saving efficacy of the substitution for anyone; and if we are going to affirm penal substitution as an effective saving act of God we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, restrict the scope of the substitution, making it a substitution for some, not all."

"Though the New Testament writers do not discuss the question in anything like this form, nor is their language about the cross always as guarded as language has to be once debate on the problem has begun, they do in fact constantly take for granted that the death of Christ is the act of God which has made certain the salvation of those who are saved. The use made of the categories of ransom, redemption, reconciliation, sacrifice and victory; the many declarations of God’s purpose that Christ through the cross should save those given him, the church, his sheep and friends, God’s people; the many statements viewing Christ’s heavenly intercession and work in men as the outflow of what he did for them by his death; and the uniform view of faith as a means, not of meriting, but of receiving — all these features point unambiguously in one direction. Twice in Romans Paul makes explicit his conviction that Christ’s having died ‘for’ (huper) us — that is, us who now believe — guarantees final blessedness. In 5:8f. he says: ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath through him.’ In 8:32 he asks: ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?’ Moreover, Paul and John explicitly depict God’s saving work as a unity in which Christ’s death fulfils a purpose of election and leads on to what the Puritans called ‘application of redemption’ — God ‘calling’ and ‘drawing’ unbelievers to himself, justifying them from their sins and giving them life as they believe, and finally glorifying them with Christ in his own presence. To be sure, Paul and John insist, as all the New Testament does, that God in the gospel promises life and salvation to everyone who believes and calls on Christ (cf. John 3:16; Rom. 10:13); this, indeed, is to them the primary truth, and when the plan of salvation appears in their writings (in John’s case, on the lips of our Lord) its logical role is to account for, and give hope of, the phenomenon of sinners responding to God’s promise. Thus, through the knowledge that God is resolved to evoke the response he commands, Christians are assured of being kept safe, and evangelists of not labouring in vain. It may be added: is there any good reason for finding difficulty with the notion that the cross both justifies the ‘free offer’ of Christ to all men and also guarantees the believing, the accepting and the glorifying of those who respond, when this was precisely what Paul and John affirmed?"

"Sin is viewed as a debt men owe.  Men are criminals against the law and government of God and therefore owe him a penalty.  That penalty is death.  "The wages of sin is death."  (Rom. 6: 23)  When criminals serve their time in prison they are said to have paid their debt to justice.  Eternal death and punishment in the prison of Hell is the penalty that sinners must pay." 

Oct 27, 2012

Definite Atonement VII

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

This is a song which nearly all Christians, especially evangelicals, are familiar.  The author of the song, Elvina M. Hall (1865), no doubt recognized that the Bible represents sins as debts and that those debts were paid by the sinner's substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin has put us in debt 

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," Jesus taught us to pray.  (Matt. 6: 12)  Paul said that the "wages of sin is death."  (Rom. 6: 23)  Paul said:  "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."  (Gal. 5: 3)  When one violates the law of God, he is put in debt.  In Hebrews 2: 2 Paul said that "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward."   Violations of the law of God brings one into debt and the actual judgment upon sin is payback.  Jesus compared sins to debts in the following words from one of his parables.

"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt."  (Matt. 18: 23-27)

Of course, sin is not literally a pecuniary debt.  It is only so by analogy.  Further, when sin is viewed as debt, it is often in the context of forensic indebtedness and not pecuniary debt.  A criminal, when he is judged and sentenced, becomes a debtor to the law and is forced to pay the criminal penalty.  And, when a criminal has paid the debt, either by fine or imprisonment, he is said to have "paid his debt" to society, or to the law and commonwealth.  A debt is an legal obligation. 

In Colossians 2:14 Paul wrote:

"...having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."  (NASB)

The KJV translates the verse as follows:

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." 

The KJV translation has caused some to wrongly assume that "the handwriting of ordinances" refers to the Mosaic law or to the old covenant and that Paul's meaning is that the old covenant and the law of Moses have been "canceled," "blotted out," or "erased."  This, however, is not the intended meaning of the apostle. 

There is little disagreement on the meaning of the Greek term exaleipho.  In the KJV this word is translated as "blot out" three times and "wipe away" two times.  The word "erase" would be good. The NASB translates as "canceled out."  This would not be the literal meaning of the word but is what, as we shall see, is what the apostle intends to convey.  The erasing of the "handwriting" or "certificate of debt" is for the purpose of effecting a cancelation.  In any blotting out, wiping away, or erasure, there is a removal of the writing that is on the document, or an expunging. 

According to scholars of the word, exaleipho "signifies to smear or plaster over and then it is used to denote the act by which a law or deed of obligation is cancelled...to expunge."

Lightfoot translates the words of the apostle thusly:

"then and there canceling the bond which stood valid against us (for it bore our own signature), the bond which engaged us to fulfill all the law of ordinances, which was our stern pitiless tyrant. Yes, this very bond Christ has put out of sight forever, nailing it to his cross and rending it with his body and killing it in his death."  (the foregoing citations are from preceptaustin.org - see here)

The aorist tense pictures a past completed action.  The blotting out has been accomplished by Christ on the cross. Paul pictures God as blotting out and totally erasing our certificate of debt (our sin debt).  Christ did not simply make it possible for a sinner's debt to be paid, but actually paid it.

THE CERTIFICATE OF DEBT: to kath hemon cheirographon

"Certificate of debt (5498) (cheirographon from cheir = hand + grapho = write) is literally handwriting or a handwritten document and then a written record of a debt such as a promissory note. A document is written in one's own hand as a proof of obligation, e.g., a note of indebtedness. The word means primarily a bond written by a person pledging himself to make certain payments.

Friberg writes that figuratively in the only NT use in Colossians 2:14 cheirographon refers not to the law itself, but to the record of charges (for breaking God's law), which stood against us and which God symbolically removed by "nailing it to the cross," handwritten account, record of debts (Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker Academic)

Thayer writes that cheirographon means...

specifically, a note of hand, or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to he returned at an appointed time

TDNT writes that in Colossians 2:14 cheirographon means

a “promissory note.” God cancels the bond that lies to our charge. This bond is not a compact with the devil, as in some patristic exegesis. It is the debt that we have incurred with God. The forgiveness of sins (Col 2:13-note) through identification with Christ in his vicarious death and resurrection means that this note is cancelled; God has set it aside and nailed it to the cross. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)

For example, in Philemon we find an "IOU" Paul writing

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). (Philemon 1:19)

The idea is that of list of our crimes or moral debt before God, a debt no imperfect person can completely pay. But it can be taken out of the way, by payment from a perfect man, Jesus Christ.

Cheirographon then described a note or bond written by hand thus obligating the writer to fulfill the debt that is written out. In other words it is analogous to an "IOU" signed by hand and obligating the signer to repay the debt. Paul's idea seems to be that the sins of mankind had piled up a list of "I.O.U.'s" so large that they could never be repaid. Paul uses cheirographon not as the law itself, but as the record of charges for breaking God's law and which therefore stood against us.

Men were in debt to God because of their sins and they knew it. There was a self-confessed indictment against them, a charge-list which, as it were, they themselves had signed and admitted as accurate. The debt was impossible to pay, but God dealt with it; he had blotted it out and cancelled the bond by nailing it to the cross. This is a vivid way of saying that because Christ was nailed to the cross, our debt has been completely forgiven." 

Jesus completely obliterated and wiped out our "certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us". When someone had a debt in ancient times and it was paid off, they would write "Tetelestai" on the certificate of debt. Tetelestai meant PAID IN FULL and is the same word Jesus uttered ("It is finished") just before He died (Jn 19:30). When the Jews nailed Jesus to the cross they drove the nails into their own law. The old covenant was made obsolete by the blood of the new covenant."  (see here)

CONSISTING OF DECREES AGAINST US AND WHICH WAS HOSTILE TO US: kath hemon...tois dogmasin o en hupenantion hemin:

this note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us) (Amp)

God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses (CEV)

Against us (kath' hemon) in the sense that we could not keep these decrees. The "certificate of debt" signifies a claim of unpaid debt but "against us" indicates that it therefore signifies a debt warranting punishment. This hand writing was against us and contrary to us for it threatened our eternal ruin."  (ibid)

HE HAS TAKEN THEM OUT OF THE WAY HAVING NAILED IT TO THE CROSS: kai auto erken ek tou mesou proselosas (AAPMSN) auto to stauro:

This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross. (Amp)

fastening it to the cross (DRB)

The perfect tense speaks of a completed action in the past with present effects and thus signifies that Jesus' once for all death on the cross in the past has produced a permanent, eternally efficacious effect, specifically in regard to the removal of the bond that once was against us. The debt is permanently removed and cannot be presented against us again! This truth also helps one understand how it is that he is "complete in Christ" and protects one from persuasive arguments and empty philosophy. John uses airo with a similar meaning in in his first epistle writing.

Eadie writes:

The idea of the apostle is, that when Christ was nailed to the cross, the condemning power of the law was nailed along with Him, and died with Him— “Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead in which we were held.” Ro 7:6-note. In other words, God exempts sinners from the sentence which they merit, through the sufferings and death of Jesus. The implied doctrine is, that the guilt of men was borne by Christ when He died—was laid on Him by that God who by this method took the handwriting out of the way. Jesus bore the sentence of the handwriting in Himself, and God now remits its penalty; having forgiven you all your trespasses, inasmuch as He has blotted out the hostile handwriting and taken it out of the way, for He nailed it to the cross of His Son. (Colossians 2:14, 15 In Depth Commentary)

This is what Colossians 2 is all about. The law of God has declared us spiritually bankrupt. But our great debt has been completely removed. It has been paid in full by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. We are free. The only thing we owe now is an eternal debt of thanks and praise to our wonderful Lord. — Mart De Haan" (ibid)

Now, if Jesus paid the debt in full for those sinners for whom he died, how can it be taught that Christ paid the debt for every sinner?  If this were so, then every sinner would be saved.  Here is definite atonement.  Will God collect the debt twice?  First from Christ and then from the sinner?  This is what those who believe in universal atonement must accept as a consequence of their doctrine.  Does Jesus suffer the penalty for the sins of a man and then send that man to Hell to pay the penalty?  Would that not be a kind of double payment or double jeopardy?

Jesus is said to have ransomed and redeemed sinners by his death.  He did not simply make the redemption and ransoming of sinners possble but actually redeemed and ransomed.  In redeeming and ransoming, a price is paid to effect release.  Christ paid that price and therefore, all for whom he died must be set free. 

Oct 8, 2012

Definite Atonement VI

In previous postings it was shown that Christ gave his life as an atonement for the sins of a particular people, for the sheep and for the church, for many, for the people of God.  In this posting I will give further scriptures that show that Christ died for believers and for them only.

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  (Rom. 5: 8-10)

Who is referenced by the apostle by the pronouns highlighted in the above passage?  Can anyone deny that they refer to Christians?  To the believers in Rome?  Again, the only thing that the promoters of a general atonement can do is to say, "yes, but it is not for us only."  And, again, I respond by saying that believers only is clearly the meaning of the apostle. 

Those who believe in general atonement insist that "Christ died for us" cannot be limited to believers or to the elect.  But, again, consider that the ones denoted by the pronouns are they who are justified and who shall be saved from wrath.  Is this true of any other than believers?  Is it not true of believers "only"?  If one argues that "Christ died for us" cannot exclude unbelievers, then they may also argue that "we shall be saved" and "we were reconciled" are not limited to believers.

Granted, Paul's use of the Greek preposition "huper" does not necessarily denote substitution in every passage where it is used, but clearly it includes both ideas of "in the stead of" and "for the benefit of" in the above passage.  Further, the benefits mentioned are not of the kind that all men enjoy as a result of the death of Christ, but are justification, reconciliation, and salvation. 

Shedd, in his Dogmatic Theology, said (emphasis mine):

"The atonement of Christ is represented in Scripture as vicarious. The satisfaction of justice intended and accomplished by it is for others, not for himself. This is abundantly taught in Scripture. Matt. 20: 28, "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for (anti)) many." Matt. 10: 45, " This is my body which is given for (anti) you." In these two passages the preposition anti indisputably denotes substitution. Passages like Matt. 2 : 22, "Archelaus reigned in the room (anti) of his father Herod;" Matt. 5: 38, "An eye for an eye;" Luke 11: 11, "Will he for a fish give him a serpent," prove this.

In the majority of the passages, however, which speak of Christ's sufferings and death, the preposition huper is employed. Luke 22: 19, 20, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for (huper) you." John 6: 51, " The bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world." John 15: 13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Rom. 5 : 6-8, " Christ died for the ungodly; while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Rom. 8: 32, "He delivered him up for us all." 2 Cor. 5: 14, 15, "If one died for all then all died." 2 Cor. 5: 21, "He made him to be sin for us." Gal. 3 : 13, "Being made a curse for us." Eph. 5 :2, 25, "Christ gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God." 1 Tim. 2: 5, 6, "The man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all." Heb. 2: 9, Christ " tasted death for every man." 1 Pet. 3: 18, Christ "suffered the just for the unjust."

The preposition huper, like the English preposition "for," has two significations. It may denote advantage or benefit, or it may mean substitution. The mother dies for her child, and Pythias dies for Damon. The sense of "for" in these two propositions must be determined by the context, and the different circumstances in each instance. Christ (John 15 : 13) lays down the proposition: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for (huper) his friends." The preposition huper, here, may mean either "for the benefit of," or " instead of." In either case, the laying down of life would be the highest proof of affection. The idea of substitution, therefore, cannot be excluded by the mere fact that the preposition huper is employed; because it has two meanings. In 2 Cor. 5: 20, 21, huper is indisputably put for anti. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead (huper), be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (huper)." In Philemon 13, huper is clearly equivalent to anti. "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead (huper) he might have ministered unto me." In 2 Cor. 5: 14, it is said that "the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all (huper), then all died." Here, the notion of substitution is plain. If Christ died in the room and place of the " all," then the "all" are reckoned to have died. The vicarious atonement of Christ is regarded as the personal atonement of the believer. It would be nonsense to say, that "if one died for the benefit of all, then all died."  (pg. 378-79)

It is to be further observed how the justification, reconciliation, and salvation in the above passage comes as a direct result of Christ dying vicariously for sinners.  Definite atonement that invariably secures the above benefits is clearly taught in the above passage.  But, this is what is denied by those who teach universal atonement. 

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."  (Rom. 8: 31-34)

Again, we must ascertain who is denominated by the pronouns in these words.  Who is the "us" in the statement "but delivered him up for us all"?  Those who believe in general atonement agree that it refers to "God's elect" but will again say that it does not mean them "only."  But, again, we must ask whether the other statements about the "us" means us only?  In the first statement - "if God be for us" - the "us" cannot possibly include unbelievers or those not of the "elect" for this would force us to accept Universalism.  Is God "for" unbelievers?  If so, then who can be "against" them?  Further, the "us all" for whom Christ died cannot possibly include unbelievers.  If unbelievers or the non-elect are included in "us all," then they will certainly be given all things. 

Clearly Paul identifies the "us all" (or "all of us") as being "God's elect."  And, he argues that no one can condemn the "us" for whom Christ died, for they are justified by Christ dying for them.  The logic is irrefutable.  Paul argues that no one can condemn the "us," or "God's elect," for the very reason that Christ died for them.  Paul affirms definite and successful atonement.  Those for whom Christ died are justified by his dying for them and cannot therefore be condemned.  Those who believe in general atonement cannot accept the argumentation of the apostle.  They cannot affirm that the reason why any are saved is because Christ died for them.  If Christ dies for Paul and Judas equally, and in the same sense, and Judas goes to Hell but Paul goes to Heaven, it cannot be argued that Paul goes to Heaven because Christ died for him. 

Also, again the apostle uses the Greek preposition "huper" twice, when he says God is "for" us, and when he says God delivered up Christ "for us all."  But, again, the benefits are specifically identified, benefits that only God's elect receive.

"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."  (Titus 2: 13-14)

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour."  (Eph. 5: 1-2)

Again, we must ask - "who is denominated by the pronouns in the above passage?"  Those who believe in particular and definite atonement affirm that the elect, or believers, are referred to, and them only.  But, again, this must be denied by those who uphold a general atonement.  It is the "dear children" of God, his "peculiar people," who Christ gave himself for and his sacrificial and atonement offering was accepted by God on their behalf.  The result of this sacrifice being accepted by God those for whom it was offered must be then viewed by God as justified and reconciled. 

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."  (II Cor. 5: 18-21)

Again, we ask - "who is denominated by the personal pronouns?"  Christ was made sin "for us."  Who is this "us"?  Those who uphold general atonement insist that all men without exception must be included and say that this is clear because the text says that God was "reconciling the world" and the "world" must include everyone.  But, the "world" cannot mean every individual because all are not reconciled.  All those who are in fact reconciled are the world.  The text does not say that reconcilation was simply made possible, but was actually made. 

Reconciliation, in Scripture, goes in two directions.  There is the case of God being reconciled towards sinners, whereby his wrath against them is appeased and removed, but also the case of sinners being reconciled, in their minds, towards God.  God, because of sin, is an enemy towards sinners, and likewise, because of sin, sinners are enemies toward God.  The first is accomplished by the work of Christ upon the cross and is the basis for sinners becoming reconciled to God in the work of conversion.  (See Col. 1: 21)  In the above text we have God being reconciled to us and us being reconciled to God.  In sinners being now reconciled towards God the sacrifice of Christ is the basis and the Gospel is the means.

"Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father."  (Gal. 1: 4)

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us..."  (Gal. 3: 13)

Again, it cannot be successfully denied that a particular people are denoted by the personal pronouns.  Paul is not addressing the total body of lost sinners, but believers in Jesus.  Further, Paul advocates a successful atonement, one that accomplished its purpose.  All those for whom Christ died are redeemed and delivered. 

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."  (I Peter 2: 24-25)

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."  (I Peter 3: 18)

Again, it is not possible to say that these verses are applicable to every man.  Clearly they are applicable only to the elect, or to believers. 

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures."  (I Cor. 15: 3)

Again, this Scripture is addressed to the believers of the church of Corinth and cannot be made to apply to those who die in unbelief.  Some of the advocates of general atonement insist that the message that "Christ died for our sins" was preached to the Corinthians before they became believers, and thus proves that this is what Paul announced to every men.  But, this is an assumption without proof.  There is in fact no Scripture to show that the Apostles told unbelievers that Christ died for them personally.  Also, Paul says that he testified to all that Christ died for our sins "according to the scriptures," which must certainly include Isaiah 53 which we previously saw limited the atoning work of Christ to the "many," or to the chosen people of God, among Jews and Gentiles. 

Oct 3, 2012

Definite Atonement V

"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20: 28 & Mark 10: 45)

"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26: 28)

"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28)

These verses speak of Christ dying for "many."  Who are these "many"?  Do they represent every human being?  Every sinner?  Or, do they represent some men, or some sinners?  Those who believe that the atonement is limited to the elect, or to the sheep, insist that the "many" denote them.  Those who believe in a general atonement believe that the term "many" may refer to every sinner.  Who is right?

First, I admit that it may be possible to refer to the totality of humans as being "many."  Thus, by itself, the fact of Christ dying for "many" does not prove that it excludes any.  If I were talking to an angel, in the time before the flood, about the human race, I could say that they are "many" and my reference to them as being "many" would not exclude any of them.  On the other hand, if I were talking to an angel, in the time immediately after the flood, about the human race, I would say that they are "few."  Or, if I am talking about a virus that is in the world, I could say about this virus that there were many or few of them, and when speaking of the viruses as being few or many I would be talking about the totality of them.

This being said, however, it seems most natural to interpret the use of the word "many" to denote a number less than all.  This is how we most often use the word in every day language.  If I say "many of the citizens are democrats," I imply that not all of them are democrats. 

When I speak of all of a certain group as being many it is when I want to impart information about the size of the group.  The totality of a group may be few or many.  But, who can read the above passages where Christ is said to die for many and think that the purpose is to inform one about the size of the human race, or the number of sinners in the world? 

When one looks at the numerous instances where Christ and the Bible writers used the word "many" (Greek polys), then it becomes obvious that they are not using the word to denote the totality of the class under consideration, but to a limited number of that class.  Further, most times the word "many" is used as an adjective, as in "many people," or "many bodies," etc.  In the above passages about Christ dying for "many," the word is used as a noun and without the definite article, except in Heb. 9: 28 where the definite article is present.  Christ gives his life for "many" and for "the many." 

Even though the word "many" is used as a substantive, it nevertheless cannot be comprehended apart from its connection with an implied noun, or lose its adjectival quality.  If I say to a waiter "I'll have a large," I am using the adjective "large" as a noun, yet the the idea is still adjectival, meaning a "large drink."  Thus, when Christ says he will give his life for "many," the reader naturally asks "many what?"  Christ dies for many sinners, or many people.  And, again, the normal way of interpreting "many people" is to denote a portion of the whole, and not of the whole.  Let us look at some examples.

"And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils..."  (Mark 1: 34)

Clearly Christ did not heal everyone that was sick or demon possessed, but a large number of them.

"...and many bodies of the saints which slept arose..."  (Matt. 27: 52)

Clearly not all the bodies of the old testament saints were raised, but a large number of them.

"And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him."  (Mark 2: 15)

Clearly not all publicans and sinners sat with Christ and followed him, but a large number of them.

One writer said this about this issue of the use of the word "many" in Scripture:

"Acknowledging the difference between the Greek words for ‘many’ and ‘all’, scholars point out that based on a distinctive Semitic usage, the Greek word for ‘many’ in the New Testament can bear an inclusive meaning. In other words, in some cases, “Many is the qualitative designation of all: all men are many in number” (F. Delitzsch). For example, in Rom 5:12 ‘all’ are said to have sinned in Adam. However, in v19 Paul says, “By one man’s disobedience ‘many’ were made sinners.” Clearly here, many does not contrast with all; many actually represents all. The same is true in Heb 9:28. The ‘many’ in question are the ‘men’ appointed to die in v27."   (see here)

Though I agree that "many" can mean "all," as explained earlier, and agree that the word "many" may be used qualitatively (anarthrous), yet I do not believe that this is necessarily so in Hebrews 9: 28 and Romans 5: 19.  First of all, the definite article "the" is used in the two passages referenced ("the many").  It is agreed that the definite article is not used in the other passages mentioned at the head of this posting, however.  Thus, the argument that "many" in Heb. 9: 28 and Rom. 5: 19 give a "qualitative designation" is not valid for those passages.  But, more on those two passages later.

All this being said, still one must take into account the words of Paul, who wrote:

"Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (I Tim. 2: 6)

It is important, in analyzing all these passages to pay attention to the Greek prepositions used.  In Matt. 20: 28 the preposition is "anti" which always denotes substitution, or "instead of" or "in behalf of."  It is sometimes translated "in the room/stead of." (See Matt. 2: 22; Philemon 1: 13)  In Matt. 26: 28 the preposition is "peri" which means "concerning."  The passage in Heb. 9: 28 has no adjective and simply means "to bear the sins of the many."  The preposition in I Tim. 2: 6 is "huper."  This preposition does not necessarily denote substitution, though sometimes it is used in context with "anti" which shows that the writer is using them interchangeably.  "Huper" means "for the benefit of" without always including the idea of substitution. 

Thus, two questions need to be addressed regarding I Tim. 2: 6 and its relation to the passages in the Gospels where Christ speaks of himself giving his life a ransom for many.  First, how do the words of Christ harmonize with those of the Apostle?  In other words, how are the all and the many the same group?  Second, why does Paul not use the Greek preposition "anti" which clearly denotes substitution?

Those who favor general atonement insist that Paul's "ransom for all" means ransom for every person, or for every sinner, and that Paul's wording should explain the use of "many" by Christ.  That this is plausible cannot be denied.  This is why one's interpretation must take into account the totality of Scripture.  Does such an interpretation contradict the rest of Scripture on the subject?  Those who favor particular or limited atonement interpret Paul's "for all" in various ways.  Some say that "for all" means for "all kinds" of men, for some of all nations, for "all without distinction," though not for all without exception.  This too is plausible based upon how "for all" or "all" is used elsewhere in Scripture.  Some agree that "all" denotes everyone without exception and yet do not believe that it contradicts the teaching of special atonement. 

The first thing to say, relative to this discussion, is the fact that it cannot be denied that the "many" for whom Christ died and shed his blood are the same group called the "sheep" and the "church."  As was shown in previous postings, Christ laid down his life for the sheep and for the church and therefore these must be the "many" of the passages now in question.  This being so, the many cannot mean "all men" without exception. 

Secondly, it is possible that the "all" of I Tim. 2: 6 does mean every sinner, but does not mean that Christ died as a substitute for every sinner, but that he died for the benefit of every sinner, and explains why Paul used the preposition "huper" rather than "anti."  Those who believe that Christ died as a substitute for the elect do not deny that the death of Christ was for the benefit of all, that all receive numerous blessings from the death of Christ. 

Thirdly, one's interpretation of I Tim. 2: 6 must square with the context.  In verse one Paul said:

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men."

And, in verse four Paul said:

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 

Clearly the "all men" of these verses is the same "all men" of verse 6.  The "all men" that are to be prayed for and that God wishes to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth are the same group that Christ gives himself for a ransom.  If "all men" in verse six is restricted to the elect, then so must "all men" of verses one and four be restricted to the elect.  But, who can deny that prayer is to be made for unbelievers and for the non-elect?  Who can deny that, in some sense, God wishes the salvation of all? 

Therefore, like other believers in particular atonement, such as Charles Spurgeon and John Piper, I believe that the "all men" of this passage does refer to all men without exception.  And, like them, I also believe that this does not mean that Christ did not die specially, as a substitute, for the elect only. 

Christ died "for" the benefit of all men, though he did not die as a substitute for all men.  He died for all men, but died especially or particularly for the church.  Later, in this same epistle, Paul spoke of God as being "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."  (I Tim. 4: 10)   God wills the salvation of all, but he especially wills the salvation of the sheep. 

The "will of God" in Scripture sometimes denotes God's sovereign decree of what shall certainly come to pass.  Other times, however, the term denotes what God simply announces as his will without any determination of making it so.  In the former case, God's will cannot be resisted or fail of fruition, for "who has resisted his will?"  (Rom. 9: 19)  In the latter case, God's will is often resisted and fails of being realized.  God wills that all men not lie and steal but they do lie and steal nonetheless.  Thus, God does not will that any be lost in the same sense that he does not will or wish that any break his commandments. 

Certainly God has willed that not all be saved, for he has restricted salvation to believers.  All but the Universalists must admit this.  So, even the believer in general atonement must admit that God wills the salvation of sinners, but at the same time does not will the salvation of unbelieving sinners. 

God asks - "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?"  Then he says postively - "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."  (Eze. 18: 23, 32)

Thus, in accordance with I Tim. 4: 10 we may say that God wills and desires the salvation of every sinner, but "especially" wills and desires the salvation of the elect.  And, how does this "especially" manifest itself towards believers, or to his elect?  Is it not in that he operates upon them with special power and grace which assures their salvation?  That he died not only to benefit them generally but specially?  That he died for them as a substitute and bore the punishment for sin that they deserved?

Now let us look again at Rom. 5 and the verses about "many" and "all," which I have somewhat noticed already in a previous posting.

"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Rom. 5: 18-19)

The first question to be addressed concerns whether "all men" who are condemned and judged by the one offence of Adam are the same number as the "many."  Obviously it is.  Then, does this not prove that "many" can mean "all"?  Yes;  And, as I said, it is possible to refer to all of a group as being many.  The second question to be addressed concerns whether "all men" who receive the free gift and are justified, the "many" who shall be made righteous, are the exact same group as the "all" and "many" who are condemned. 

As I stated in a previous posting, citing Hodge, we know that the sin of Adam did not simply make the condemnation of "all" possible but actually condemned them.  So, likewise, the obedience of Christ does not simply make the salvation of "all" merely possible, but certain.  Therefore, unless we are prepared to become Universalists, we cannot make the "all men" or "many" that Adam and Christ represent to be the exact same group.  Adam represented all men/many who are in him and Christ represents all men/many who are in him.

I believe that the passages cited at the start of this posting, about Christ dying for "many" and "the many," must be interpreted in the light of Isaiah 53 which must have been in the mind of Christ and Paul when they spoke of Christ dying for "many." 

"He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken...He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." (Isa. 53: 8, 11)

Clearly the "many" whose sins Christ is to bear are identified as being the people of God.  These are not all men, but are the elect, or the spiritual Israel.  So was the announcement of the angel to Mary:

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."  (Matt. 1: 21)

Notice that the prophecy here is not that Christ would merely attempt to save "his people" but that he would actually do it.  Further, "his people" cannot possibly refer to those who are "Jews by nature" (Gal. 2: 15), who are naturally "his own" (John 1: 11), according to the flesh, for we know that not all of them are saved from their sins.  Paul says that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel," and that "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children" (Rom. 9: 6-7), and he speaks of the "Israel of God" (Gal. 6: 16), the true spiritual Israel, those chosen to salvation, who are the elect from both the nation of the Jews and the nations of the Gentiles.  Paul speaks of "Israel after the flesh" (I Cor. 10: 18) which is distinct from that Israel which is after the Spirit.  He also says that "he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."  (Rom. 2: 28-29)

Further, when Paul is identifying the antitypical "elect" he says:

"Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"  (Rom. 9: 24)

"What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."  (Rom. 11: 7)

God's elect are a "remnant" among the Jews together with those who are "called out" or "taken out" from among the Gentiles.  (Acts 15: 14)  This is in keeping with the words of John 11: 51-52:   "And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." 

Jesus said the same thing when he said:

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."  (John 10: 16) 

The elect are those children of God (sheep) who are within the Jewish nation ("this fold") together with those who are among the Gentile nations.  This is why God says to Paul:

"Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city."  (Acts 18: 9-10)

Those people of God within the city of Corinth were those who God had chosen to salvation and who needed to be called and saved by the Gospel.  This is in keeping with what Paul wrote:

"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."  (II Tim. 2: 10)

When John speaks of Christ coming to "his own" (John 1: 11) he denotes the fleshly Jews, or natural Israel, but in John 13: 1 it seems clear that "his own" refers to the antitypical elect from all the nations.

"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." 

Notice it is his own "which are in the world," not merely his own which are in the Jewish nation.

Thus, the "many" referred to in Matt. 20: 28, Matt. 26: 28, Romans 5: 19, and Hebrews 9: 28 are the same "many" first introduced in Isaiah 53, or the elect people of God.  "The many" of Hebrews 9: 28 are the "many sons" of Hebrews 2: 10 and "all the people" of Israel (elect) of Hebrews 9: 19.