Nov 29, 2012

The End Is Near I

"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer."  (I Peter 4: 7)

I am no date setter, yet I believe that the "day of the Lord" and "day of judgment" are "at the doors."  (Matt. 24: 33)  There are numerous signs and evidences for this conclusion now in existence. 

In the Scriptures there are numerous events that are prophesied to occur prior to the coming of the day of the Lord.  These events are appropriately called "signs of the times."  They are also referred to as the "times and seasons."  These signs may be categorized into political, social, moral, technological, economic, physical, and ecclesiastical. 

Christians in former ages had some reason to think that the signs were evident in their eras, yet Christians today have far greater reason to think that the present state of things in the world show that the day of the Lord is truly imminent.  If "the end of all things" was near in the days of the apostles, then they are certainly nearer today!  Wrote Paul:

"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."  (Rom. 13: 11) 

In this series of articles I plan to look at the evidences in this day for my belief that the coming of the Lord and the day of judgment are "at the doors."

Times and Seasons

"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you."  (I Thess. 5: 1:  See also Acts 1: 7)

"Times" is from the Greek word chronoi and "seasons" is from the Greek word kairoi.  Trench, in his Synonyms, writes:  "According to Ammonius: "Kairos indicates quality of time [chronou];  chronos indicates quantity." Eukairos chronos (a fitting time) occurs in a fragment of Sosipatros." 

The biblical signs of the coming of the day of the Lord are given in either the context of chronological time, in relation of one event to another, or else in the context of an era of physical or social characteristics.  For instance, the month of June is defined by a definite beginning and ending point, or chronologically.  But, when we say that June is the season or time of weddings, we define June by its associated characteristics. 

It is not always easy to put things into their proper chronological order when it comes to studying end time prophetic events.  Sometimes it is done for us by the biblical writers.  When a bible writer says that event A must occur before event B, then there is no uncertainty.  But, there is not always such precise chronology given as respects all the numerous events connected with the coming of the day of the Lord.  If you poll bible students today and ask them - "what is next to occur in the order of events leading up to the coming of the Lord" - you will likely get varied responses. 

One of the chief disagreements among Christians concerns the relation of the "rapture" of believers to the coming "great tribulation."  Some believe that the rapture is scheduled to occur prior to the tribulation, while others, like I do, believe it to occur at the end of it.  In this blog are numerous writings dealing with this issue.  See also the side link dealing with the second coming for numerous articles on this issue. 

Fulfillment of the Great Commission

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."  (Matt. 24: 14)

It is hard for me to see how this prophecy is not practically fulfilled.  Yet, I know that it is not fulfilled, for the end has not yet been experienced.  But, who can deny that its fulfillment is imminent?  Where in the world today is there no knowledge of the Gospel? 

Science and Technology

"But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."  (Dan. 12: 4)

Christians in former ages had reason to think that the above prophecy was fulfilled in their days, yet who can deny that it is superlatively fulfilled in our day? 

Distress and Perplexity

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21: 25-26)

One cannot help but believe that the present distress that we see in the world today is typical of what is described here by our Lord. Doubtless it will grow worse as things progress towards their zenith. Men are in distress and perplexed about what to do in regard to problems that they are not able to solve.  What is happening now in our world is but a prelude.  Men even sense it is coming and the rise of the doomsday "preppers" is phenomenal.  Men are preparing fortifications in the holes and caves of the earth, the place the Lord will find them in the day of his judgments upon the world.  (Rev. 6: 16)  Yet, such hiding places will prove to be a failure for men cannot "hide" from the judgment of God.  The only safe hiding place at such a time is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Isa. 32: 2) 

Nov 28, 2012

Predestinarian Theodicy

A good case for biblical theodicy based upon a Calvinistic and predestinarian system may be seen here.

Throgmorton on the Weak

Dr. W. P. Throgmorton (1849-1929) was another who believed that the common interpretation concerning the weak brothers of I Cor. chapter eight was wrong.  Most interpreters believe that they are born again Christians and yet the context shows that they are not Christians, but polytheists.  In a debate with Elder J. R. Daily of the "Primitive Baptist" church, Throgmorton said:

 "We read of one weak brother for whom Christ died that perished. I Corinthians 8:10-11 “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols? And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” In the Revised Version, American, it reads: For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whom Christ died.” It doesn’t mean a brother in Christ, because we have seen that those in Christ will never perish, but here is a brother in Adam for whom Christ died, who perishes. The Greek word apoleitai (apoleitai) is the same as in John 3:16, where the word perish occurs."  (see here)

In my series on the weak brothers, I showed how Dr. Lightfoot believed that the weak of I Cor. 9: 22 were not saved people, although he failed to see that this is the same group mentioned in the previous eighth chapter.  Also, Dr. Mark Nanos has written a scholarly paper that also shows that the weak are not Christians. (see here)  See my postings on this beginning here in the Baptist Gadfly (see here).

Nov 27, 2012


A. Verbs

exagorazo a strengthened form of agorazo, "to buy" (see agorazo under BUY), denotes "to buy out" (ex for ek), especially of purchasing a slave with a view to his freedom. It is used metaphorically

lutroo "to release on receipt of ransom" (akin to lutron, "a ransom"), is used in the Middle Voice, signifying "to release by paying a ransom price, to redeem"  

Note: While both exagorazo and lutroo are translated "to redeem," exagorazo does not signify the actual "redemption," but the price paid with a view to it, lutroo signifies the actual "deliverance," the setting at liberty

B. Nouns

lutrosis "a redemption" (akin to lutroo), is used in the general sense of "deliverance,"

apolutrosis  a strengthened form of lutrosis, lit., "a releasing, for (i.e., on payment of) a ransom."

The above is taken from Vine's Word Studies.  (see here)

It is clear from a survey of the new testament scriptures relative to the redemption and ransom effected by the death of Christ that the focus is sometimes upon the act and time when the payment was made (when Christ died) and sometimes upon the act and time of the actual release of the slaves and prisoners.  Christ paid the price for redemption when he died.  The payment guarantees that the release of the prisoners and slaves be effected.  This is definite atonement/redemption. 

When a sinner is released from his captivity in sin (delivered), in the work of conversion, it is also called redemption.  Yet, this is not the time when the payment is made but is what results from the payment having been made.  Not only do the scriptures speak of redemption as occurring when Christ died, and when sinners are converted, but also speak of the resurrection of the just as the "day of redemption."  (Eph. 4: 30)  It is the time when believers shall experience the "redemption of our body."  (Rom. 8: 23)   This is the time when believers will be "delivered from the bondage of corruption."  (vs. 21) 

Thus, there are three distinct aspects of redemption pointed to in Scripture.  First, there is the time of the actual payment of the price of redemption when Christ died.  Second, there is the time when release is first experienced in conversion.  Third, there is the time when full release is experienced at the return of Christ.

Nov 26, 2012

Definite Atonement XVII

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (II Peter 2: 1)

Dr. John Gill wrote:

"and even denying the Lord that bought them; not the Lord Jesus Christ, but God the father;  for the word kuriov is not here used, which always is where Christ is spoken of as the Lord, but despothv; and which is expressive of the power which masters have over their servants {i}, and which God has over all mankind; and wherever this word is elsewhere used, it is spoken of God the Father, whenever applied to a divine person, as in Lu 2:29 and especially this appears to be the sense, from the parallel text in Jude 1:4 where the Lord God denied by those men is manifestly distinguished from our Lord Jesus Christ, and by whom these persons are said to be bought: the meaning is not that they were redeemed by the blood of Christ, for Christ is not intended; and besides, whenever redemption by Christ is spoken of, the price is usually mentioned, or some circumstance or another which fully determines the sense...Moses aggravates the ingratitude of the Jews in De 32:6 from whence this phrase is borrowed, and to which it manifestly refers: "do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise! is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?" nor is this the only place the apostle refers to in this chapter, see 2Pe 2:12 compared with De 32:5 and it is to be observed, that the persons he writes to were Jews, who were called the people the Lord had redeemed and purchased, Ex 15:13 and so were the first false teachers that rose up among them; and therefore this phrase is very applicable to them..."  (Commentary)

With this analysis by Dr. Gill, there is no justification for advocates of general atonement to cite II Peter 2: 1 and affirm that it clearly and plainly teaches that Christ died for everyone without.  Though the passage is clearly referring to that purchase of Israel by God the Father, and referenced by Moses in the Deuteronomy passage, nevertheless there is clear teaching elsewhere in the new testament that Christ did purchase all men and all things.  Wrote Paul:

"For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living."  (Rom. 14: 8-9)

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2: 36)

"...he is Lord of all..." (Acts 10: 36)

Paul affirms that Christ "died, and rose, and revived," all for the purpose "that he might be Lord" of all.  What does it mean to be a lord?  It means to own, to possess, and then to have authority over.  Christ, by his victorious death and resurrection, purchased all men and all things.  This does not mean, however, that all things are purchased for salvation.  Because all things now belong to Christ, Paul could write this to believers:

"Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your's; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."  (I Cor. 3: 21-23)

Nov 24, 2012

Definite Atonement XVI

"And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?"  (I Cor. 8: 11)

"But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died...For meat destroy not the work of God."  (Rom. 14: 15, 20)

These two verses, in my opinion, represent the best proof for the general atonement position.  All the arguments about Christ dying for all men, and for the world, are not nearly as forceful as are the arguments made from the above two verses.  It seems to present the very proof that one would expect and demand, if the general atonement position is correct.  One would expect that, if Christ died for all men, for those who go to Hell as well as for those who go to Heaven, a verse of Scripture would affirm that those who perish were of the number for whom Christ died. 

What is difficult about the verses is the fact that they seem, on the surface, to affirm that some for whom Christ died will finally perish, a position, as I have shown from other Scripture, is invalidated.  (See for instance Romans 5: 6-10; Romans 6: 4-10; Romans 8: 31-34)  If these verses positively affirm that none of those for whom Christ died can perish, then how can the above verses contradict them?  In my own mind, I am convinced that the verses referred to in Romans show conclusively that none of those for whom Christ died can be lost.  That being so, how are we to interpret the opening verses that seem to teach otherwise?

What is also interesting about these verses is that they are also the focus of the debate concerning apostasy and eternal security.  Among those who believe in general atonement there are those who believe that believers may so sin as to be finally lost and those who deny it, believing that every genuine Christian will be finally saved.  The latter group of general atonement advocates do not often cite these verses to prove that some for whom Christ died will be lost, for they believe that the ones under consideration are "brothers," fellow Christians, though "weak."  However, I do not believe that these "weak brothers" are genuine Christians and would refer the reader to my series on the weak brothers.  All I am saying is that those who advocate general atonement, believe in eternal security, and believe that the weak brothers are genuinely saved Christians, have no grounds for citing these verses to prove that the weak brothers, "for whom Christ died," are eternally lost.  The only ones who can legitimately use these verses to deny definite atonement are those advocates of general atonement who believe that Christians can lose salvation.

I do not believe that the weak brothers are Christians, but pagan neighbors, friends, and brothers to the Corinthian Christians.  (See my series in the archives for Dec. 2011 through Jan. 2012)  Paul said that he labored to "save" and "gain" the weak (I Cor. 9: 22), which ought to be proof enough that "the weak" (impotent) are not saved people already.  The fact that Paul would use the term "brother" to refer to lost Gentiles is no more proof that such were saved than the fact that Paul used the term "brother" to refer to unbelieving Jews proved that such Jews were saved.

Many Calvinists who believe in special atonement, and who of course deny that any truly saved person can be finally lost, explain the verses by saying that the perishing and the destruction warned against is temporal, and not eternal, affirming that the destruction is in the believer's conscience, and is of his joy and peace.  However, I find this view untenable.  I clearly believe that the perishing is eternal.  Since Paul labored to gain and save the weak, the weak are therefore not saved, and thus the perishing must be eternal.  Besides, the word perishing is the word often employed for the final destiny of those who are lost.  Further, the Greek word for "destroy" means to utterly destroy.  Also, Paul does not say that the peace and joy of the weak brother is what perishes, but the brother himself. 

Some Calvinists argue, in the case of I Cor. 8: 11, that nothing can be argued for the certainty of the weak perishing since Paul asks a rhetorical question rather than making an emphatic statement.  And, it is argued, one cannot argue that Paul is absolutely affirming the destruction of the weak brother but simply positing a question.  I find this untenable, though possible. 

I don't think that the question Paul asks is any different than what may be asked in regard to any lost sinner.  We could say to any Christian who is failing to witness to his lost neighbor - "through your behavior shall the sinner perish for whom Christ died?"  Christians may not only be the means of saving sinners but may also be the means of their not being saved.  Paul does not want to say - "well, it is okay if you fail to be a means in the salvation of others, for God will save them anyway."  Paul was no Antinomian or Hyper Calvinist.  The question Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to ponder is this - "will you be a help or a hindrance in the salvation of others?"  This is the message God gave to the prophet Ezekiel.

"When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."  (Eze. 33: 8-9)

Ezekiel's failure to warn the wicked would work towards ensuring the damnation of the wicked, but his warning of the wicked would work towards his salvation.  Jesus said to the Pharisees that they "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men" (Matt. 23: 13) and that when they had made proselytes that they had made them "twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matt. 23: 15) 

Dr. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, writes:

"This passage, therefore, is perfectly consistent with those numerous passages which teach that Christ’s death secures the salvation of all those who were given to him in the covenant of redemption. There is, however, a sense in which it is scriptural to say that Christ died for all men. This is very different from saying that he died equally for all men, or that his death had no other reference to those who are saved than it had to those who are lost. To die for one is to die for his benefit. As Christ’s death has benefited the whole world, prolonged the probation of men, secured for them innumerable blessings, provided a righteousness sufficient and suitable for all, it may be said that he died for all. And in reference to this obvious truth the language of the apostle, should any prefer this interpretation, may be understood, ‘Why should we destroy one for whose benefit Christ laid down his life?’ All this is perfectly consistent with the great scriptural truth that Christ came into the world to save his people, that his death renders certain the salvation of all those whom the Father hath given him, and therefore that he died not only for them but in their place , and on the condition that they should never die."

The Greek for "for whom" is ὃν δι’ and literally means "for whose sake."  Paul does not use the Greek word "anti" which denotes substitution, nor the Greek word "huper" which means "for whose benefit."  Thus, the passage does not say that the one who perishes is one for whom Christ died as a substitute.  As I have stated previously in this series, it is not denied that Christ died for all men in some sense.  What I have affirmed is that Christ died specially for his elect, dying for them as a penal substitute and making their salvation certain.  This is what Dr. Hodge and other Calvinists have affirmed.  The passage in Romans, however, does have "huper" in "destroy not him with your food for whom Christ died."  But, again, huper does not necessarily denote substitution. 

Paul, in the passage in Romans 14 says "destroy not the work of God."  This certainly cannot be interpreted to mean "destroy not the atonement," or "make the atonement a failure."  In a previous posting it has already been shown how Paul rejected the idea that Christ had died "in vain."  Paul is therefore not warning against making Christ's work on the cross to come to no effect.  What then is "the work of God" that Paul warns against destroying?  What work of God can be destroyed, if it is not the atoning work of God in Christ?

First, it must be said that not all warnings against destruction imply an absolute possibility of destruction.  Again, Hodge wrote:

"Shall we, for the sake of eating one kind of meat rather than another, endanger the salvation of those for whom the eternal Son of God laid down his life? The infinite distance between Christ and us, and the almost infinite distance between his sufferings and the trifling self-denial required at our hands, give to the apostle’s appeal a force the Christian heart cannot resist. The language of Paul in this verse seems to assume that those may perish for whom Christ died. It belongs, therefore, to the same category as those numerous passages which make the same assumption with regard to the elect. If the latter are consistent with the certainty of the salvation of all the elect, then this passage is consistent with the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ specifically died. It was absolutely certain that none of Paul’s companions in shipwreck was on that occasion to lose his life, because the salvation of the whole company had been predicted and promised; and yet the apostle said that if the sailors were allowed to take away the boats, those left on board could not be saved.

This appeal secured the accomplishment of the promise. So God’s telling the elect that if they apostatize they shall perish, prevents their apostasy.

And in like manner, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died shall perish if they violate their conscience, prevents their transgressing, or brings them to repentance. God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end. If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent. This passage, therefore, is perfectly consistent with those numerous passages which teach that Christ’s death secures the salvation of all those who were given to him in the covenant of redemption."

Nov 19, 2012

Definite Atonement XV

Christ Died For All

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."  (Heb. 2: 9-12)

The fact that the KJV says that Christ died "for every man" is no proof that "every man" means all men without exception. 

John Owen wrote:

"Secondly, The assumption, or minor proposition, we absolutely deny as to some part of it; as that Christ should be said to give himself a ransom for every man, it being neither often, nor once, nor plainly, nor obscurely affirmed in the Scripture, nor at all proved in the place referred unto: so that this is but an empty flourishing. For the other expression, of “tasting death for every man,” we grant that the words are found Heb. 2:9; but we deny that every man doth always necessarily signify all and every man in the world. Nouqetounte" panta anqrwpon didaskonte" panta anqrwpon, Col. 1:28—”Warning every man, and teaching every man.” Every man is not there every man in the world; neither are we to believe that Paul warned and taught every particular man, for it is false and impossible. So that every man, in the Scripture, is not universally collective of all of all sorts, but either distributive, for some of all sorts, or collective, with a restriction to all of some sort; as in that of Paul, every man, was only of those to whom he had preached the gospel. Secondly, in the original there is only uper panto", for every, without the substantive man, which might be supplied by other words as well as man,—as elect, or believer.

Thirdly, That every one is there clearly restrained to all the members of Christ, and the children by him brought to glory, we have before declared. So that this place is no way useful for the confirmation of the assumption, which we deny in the sense intended; and are sure we shall never see a clear, or so much as a probable, testimony for the confirming of it."  (The Atonement - see here)

Owen clearly shows that the term "every man" does not always mean every man without exception, citing Col. 1: 28 as an example.  I do not know of any advocate of general atonement who will insist that "every man" in Col. 1: 28 literally means every man without exception;  And, if they admit that "every man" does not always mean every man without exception in certain passages, then how can they insist that "every man" means such in Hebrews 2: 9?  All they can say is that the context determines whether "every man" means every person in the world.  But, what is there in the context of Hebrews 2: 9 that forces us to interpret "every man" to mean every person without exception? 

It would give weight to the general atonement view if "anthropos" (man) were actually used in the original Greek, as the KJV seems to imply.  But, its absence takes away support from such a view.  Christ tasted death "for each."  But, each of what class?  From the class of men in general?  Does the context support that supposition?  It seems to me that there is greater weight for supposing that the group alluded to is the elect and not mankind.  Paul says that the purpose of Christ becoming incarnate was in order to "bring many sons unto glory," those who compose the "church" or "brethren" of Christ.  Again, it would be absurd to think that Christ tasted death for Cain, Pharoah, Baalim, and Esau. 

When Paul said that he preached to "every man," he did not mean that he did this to every person of the human race, but that he preached the Gospel to all men he met, without any restriction.  Thus, as the advocates for special atonement aver, "every man" and "all men" are terms that often mean "all without distinction" and not "all without exception." 

Died Once For All

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."  (I Peter 3: 18 NASB)

"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."  (Hebrews 10: 10 KJV)

"For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God."  (Rom. 6: 10 NASB)

These are a few of the verses that speak of Christ dying once for all.  Some cite them as if they mean that Christ died once for all men, but the meaning is not "once for all" people, but "once for all" time.

Died For All The Dead?

"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."  (II Cor. 5: 14-15)

"Then all were dead" is not the best translation but rather "then all died."  It is aorist tense.  Other translations have improved upon the KJV and have translated it correctly as "all died."  However, some still cite the verse as the KJV has it and argue that Paul is affirming that Christ died for everyone who is spiritually dead.  But, the text is saying that the "all" for whom Christ died also died when Christ died, and were also raised when Christ was raised, a truth stated in other new testament passages.  All for whom Christ died not only died, but also rose with Christ and are therefore viewed as alive. 

What is this death that all for whom Christ died experienced vicariously?  It is death to sin.  All men are dead in sin but not all men are dead to sin and alive to righteousness. 

It seems clear that the context of the above words show that the "all" Paul has in mind are the all for whom Christ died, which are those who are actually saved in conversion.  Paul concludes this chapter by saying "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."  (vs. 21)  Clearly the "us" denotes believers.  They are the "all" for whom Christ died.  They died to sin when Christ died to sin. 

Nov 15, 2012

Definite Atonement XIV

In this posting we will look at some of those passages which speak of Christ's death being for the "world" and the "whole world."  We will not take time to look at all the passages brought forward by the advocates of universal atonement, but will look at a few of the most often cited verses and see if they teach that Christ redeemed, atoned, propitiated, or reconciled every man.

Savior of the World (kosmos)

The Greek word kosmos (cosmos) is used in various ways in Scripture and the person who thinks that it must always refer to the totality of men simply has not done sufficient study of the word.  The advocates of universal atonement often cite verses where Christ is said to love, die for, and save the world and affirm that its plain and ordinary meaning is that the word denotes the totality of human beings.  But, if anyone looks at all the instances of the use of kosmos in the new testament he will see that this is a false supposition and that it is not plain that it always carries that connotation.

 In the previous posting I showed how the promise that Christ will save the world, by taking away the sin of the world, and giving his life for the world, is no failure.  Christ has indeed saved the world by saving the elect (believers).

Not only in Scripture, but in every day language, the word "world" is used to denote what is generally, though not universally, true.  Notice these words:

"The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him."  (John 12: 19)

Surely the Pharisees did not mean that every human being on the planet had "gone after him."  What they intend is that men of all sorts, men of all nations and languages, were going after him in great numbers.  They are stating what is generally true, not what is universally true of every human being.  Could it not be that Jesus used the term "world" in the same sense as did the Pharisees on this occasion?  Again, we note these verses:

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world."  (Rom. 1: 8)

"Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth." (Col. 1: 6)

Who will affirm that the terms "world" and "whole world," in these passages, are to be understood in a universal sense, as applicable to every person on the planet?  Was the faith of Christians spoken of in the Americas?  Did the Gospel bring forth fruit in China at the time Paul wrote to the Colossians?  It seems best to interpret the above verses as applicable to the Roman Empire or to the known Gentile world in general. 

I could well say that the whole world knows this or that when it is clear that I do not mean that every person in the world but simply mean that such knowledge is wide and extensive, or what is generally known. 

It is also clear, as other able scholars have shown, that it was a common Jewish manner of speaking to refer to "the nations" as "the world."  They would use the term "kosmos" as applicable to the Gentile world in general.  Paul does the same when he writes:

"Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?...For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?"  (Rom. 11: 12, 15)

It is obvious that "the world" is identified with "the Gentiles" in these words.  When Jesus said "For all these things do the nations of the world seek after" (Luke 12: 30), he doubtless was referring to the world of the Gentiles to the exclusion of Israel. 

"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."  (I John 2: 2)

The advocates of universal atonement insist that by "whole world" is meant either the entire human race without exception, or else the totality of unbelievers.  Clearly it cannot mean the former, for those denominated by the pronoun "our" is viewed as a separate class from the "whole world."  It is important to ascertain first who is intended by the pronoun "our."  There are two possible answers.  First, John could be referring to believers, both Jews and Gentiles.  Second, he could be referring to Jewish believers.

If the pronoun refers to believers, then "whole world" must refer to the class of unbelievers.  But, such a view is not tenable.  What could be John's purpose in affirming that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of unbelievers exactly as he is the propitiation for the sins of believers?  He could not be affirming such for he would be affirming what is clearly not true.  Now, some may argue that John simply affirms that Christ is actually or effectually the propitiation for the sins of believers but only hypothetically or potentially the propitiation for the sins of unbelievers.  But, again, this is not tenable, for clearly John is affirming that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the "whole world" in exactly the same sense in which he is the propitiation for the sins of the apostle and those he addresses.  What does John mean when he says "he is the propitiation for our sins"?  Does he not mean that they had been saved from their sins?  And, since that is his clear meaning, then when he says "and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world," he must mean "the whole world is also saved from sins."  But, is this true in regard to every person in the world?  Whoever is included in the term "whole world" is viewed as enjoying propitiation in the same way as do those included in the pronoun "our." 

Thus, it is not likely that Christians in general are referred to by the pronoun "our," but rather Jewish Christians.  If this is so, it is obvious that John means to say that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of Jewish believers and for the sins of Gentile believers as well.  It is very probable that John is restating what he wrote in John 11: 51-52 where he wrote the following about the words of Caiaphas the high priest.

"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." 

Thus, John is saying that Christ died for, was the propitiation for, the sins of the Jewish Christians as well as the sins of Christians from among "the nations," or of the Gentile world. 

Further, though it is sometimes denied by advocates of the universal atonement view, yet it is clear that John, like Peter, wrote to Jewish believers.

"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter...And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."  (Gal. 2: 7, 9)

Thus, it is clear that the epistles of John were addressed to Jewish converts.  Thus, the "our" of the verse in question would refer to Jewish Christians.  And, lest some think that Christ excluded the Gentiles in his atoning work, John says "and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole (Gentile) world." 

Also, it is clear that by "whole world" John does not include people like Cain, Pharoah, Cora, or Baalim, men who died before Christ and who were in Hell when Christ made propitiation. 

Besides, John is not contradicting the many verses that speak of Christ dying for his people, the sheep, the church, etc.  Further, since there is mention made of the "world of the ungodly" (II Peter 2: 5), a world that does not include the godly, so there is a world of the godly that excludes the ungodly.

All said, it is not a clear proof of universal atonement to cite I John 2: 2. 

Nov 12, 2012

Definite Atonement XIII

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  (John 3: 16)

Does God love all men? Does God desire the salvation of all men?  The answer to these questions is yes.  But, this does not mean that he loves all men equally.  Even the advocates of universal atonement, except for the Universalists, are forced to admit this.  Certainly they agree that God loves the believer, or his own people, in a sense and degree in which he does not love the unbeliever.  In fact, salvation is characterized as being in the love of God.  Jude wrote - "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."  (Jude 1: 21)  This is said to Christians, to those "in the love of God."  Those who are not Christians are outside of the love of God. 

John says of Jesus - "having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."  (John 13: 1)  This is special love above the common love that God has towards all men.  It is not his general love for "the world," but for his own which are in or among the world.  And Paul wrote in Hebrews - "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."  (Hebrews 12: 6)  Lest some should affirm that God loves and chastens all men, the same apostle says "if you are without chastisement, then are you bastards and not sons."  (vs. 8)  And, if one is without chastisement, then he is not only not a son, but not loved with that special love that God has only for his own.  The Apostle also wrote:

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it...let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself."  (Eph. 5: 25, 33)

Who can deny that the love that Christ has for "the church" is special and uncommon?  Above his common love for all? 

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."  (I Tim. 4: 10)  

As God is the Savior of all men generally but of believers specially, so we may say the same of God as a lover of men.  He loves all men generally but loves the elect specially. 

Does God love all men redemptively?  Yes, if by this we mean that he is not unwilling to save any man who truly seeks him and calls upon him to save him from his sins.  But, the question is, do any sinners do this?  The record of Scripture is that there are "none."

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."  (Rom. 3: 10-11)

Thus, if only those who seek God are finally saved, then none will be saved.  So, in order to insure that at least some be saved, God will have to do something to guarantee that some do seek him and call upon him to save them.  God's general love will move him to save all who call upon his name, but his special love makes certain that some in fact will do so.

Yes, God so loved the world that he provided Jesus Christ as a Savior.  But, does this mean that he loved all equally, the believer (or elect) the same as the unbeliever?  John 3: 16 shows that God makes a distinction among the world that is loved.  He provided Christ so that the believer may have everlasting life, not that the unbeliever may escape eternal perishing. 

Further, one must ask in what sense God loves the world.  John said:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (I John 2: 15)

Does God do that which he forbids us to do?  Does he love the world and then order us not to do so?  From these words it is clear that there is a sense in which God does not love the world.  Some push the idea of God loving the world to an extent that one wonders whether God has any hatred or anger towards the world.  But, clearly God does have wrath towards sinners.  The record of Scripture is that "God is angry with the wicked every day."  (Psa. 7: 11)  The Scriptures also say that "the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth."  (Psa. 11: 5)

Further, the Scriptures teach that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, choosing the former and rejecting the latter, even before they were born, and that his attitude was not based upon anything that they did.  (Rom. 9: 11-13) 

Was Esau a part of the world of John 3: 16?  To affirm such involves absurd logical consequences.  Did God so love Esau that he sent Christ to die upon the cross for him?  Again, this would involve the absurdity that Christ died to provide salvation for those who he had not chosen to salvation and who were in Hell at the time Christ was sent into the world. 

Did Christ Save The World?

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."  (John 3: 17)

"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." (I John 4: 14)

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."  (John 1: 29)

"For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world...I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."  (John 6: 33, 51)

These verses are prophetic.  They speak of what Christ would accomplish by his coming into the world and by his death upon the cross.  The question we must ask is - did he do it?  The advocate of universal indefinite atonement (excepting the Universalists) must answer no.  He did not save the world that he came to save.  He only saved a few that he came to save.  Thus, Christ failed.  There is no escaping this conclusion.  The message of Scripture is that Christ did not simply try to save the world, and failed, but that he actually has saved the world.  Christ's mission into the world was a complete success. 

Doubtless the salvation of the world does not equate with the salvation of every person in the world.  God saved the human race as a race but not by saving every person in the world.  By saving the elect, or believers, he has in fact saved the human race. 

How did God save the world in the time of Noah?  Was it not by saving the few?  The destruction of the vast majority of the human race did not prevent God from saving the world.  The Scriptures speak of "the world to come."  (Heb. 2: 5)  Thus, the kosmos that God loved and sent Christ to save is viewed as saved and existing throughout eternity.  It was God's intention that the world be saved by the salvation of the chosen people.  God loved the cosmos so much that he provided Christ to come and be its Savior and he succeeded in saving it. 

In the next posting we will look more in debth at how the Scriptures use the term "world," "whole world," "all," "all men," and "every man" and see if they are to be interpreted as the advocates of universal atonement insist.

D. A. Carson wrote:

"I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love (in the third sense developed in the first chapter). Further, all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect (in the fourth sense developed in the first chapter).

Pastorally, there are many important implications. I mention only two.
(1) This approach, I content, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?” No doubt the question is put to me because I still do a fair bit of evangelism, and people want models. Historically, Reformed theology at its best has never been slow in evangelism. Ask George Whitefield, for instance, or virtually all the main lights in the Southern Baptist Convention until the end of the last century. From what I have already said, it is obvious that I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that when one preaches evangelistically, one ought to retreat to passages of the third type (above), holding back on the fourth type until after a person is converted. There is something sleazy about that sort of approach. Certainly it is possible to preach evangelistically when dealing with a passage that explicitly teaches election. Spurgeon did this sort of thing regularly. But I am saying that, provided there is an honest commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God, preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals. The Bible’s ways of speaking about the love of God are comprehensive enough not only to permit this but to mandate it. [Footnote 4: Cf. somewhat similar reflections by Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” in Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (January 1998), 10-16.]

(2) At the same time, to preserve the notion of particular redemption proves pastorally important for many reasons. If Christ died for all people with exactly the same intent, as measured on any axis, then it is surely impossible to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate distinguishing mark between those who are saved and those who are not is their own will. That is surely ground for boasting. This argument does not charge the Arminian with no understanding of grace. After all, the Arminian believes that the cross is the ground of the Christian’s acceptance before God; the choice to believe is not in any sense the ground. Still, this view of grace surely requires the conclusion that the ultimate distinction between the believer and the unbeliever lies, finally, in the human beings themselves. That entails an understanding of grace quite different, and in my view far more limited, than the view that traces the ultimate distinction back to the purposes of God, including his purposes in the cross. The pastoral implications are many and obvious."  (The Love of God and the Intent of the Atonement - D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.  Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2000), 73-79)  (see here)

Nov 10, 2012

Definite Atonement XII

Dr. David Allen, of wrote:

"...God himself cannot offer salvation to the non-elect because there is no salvation to offer them – Christ did not die for their sins. They can’t be saved even if they wanted to be. But the point is they cannot be “offered” that which does not exist for them. What is being offered the non-elect? Nothing. There is no salvation available for them because there is no atonement made for them."

If salvation is offered to all, then Christ must have died for all. In other words, no one can be offered salvation for whom Christ did not die.  This is the argument of Dr. Allen and those who respond apologetically to those who believe in both definite atonement (particular redemption) and a universal call and offer of salvation.  In this posting I will show how it is not inconsistent to believe in both and how the arguments against both being true and consistent are not tenable. 

The OT Offer of Salvation

Surely Christ offered salvation to all even in the time period between Adam and Christ.  I don't think that any believer in universal atonement will deny this.  Yet, their acceptance of this premise undermines their argument.  Christ had not as yet made an atonement when salvation was offered to those in pre-Christian times.  But, how could he if there was no salvation/atonement to offer?  The only possible response to this is to say that it was in view of a coming atonement for all that the offer could be made to all in that period of time.  But, if we accept this reply, then the logical consequence of it is to say that Christ died for every OT sinner who died in his sins.  Who can believe such a thing?  Christ died on the cross and made atonement for those who were already condemned in Hell fire?  Yet, such is the reductio ad absurdum of such a view that says that God cannot offer salvation to a man without Christ having died for that man. 

If Christ died for those who had already died lost and were in Hell, then does it not follow that there is salvation possible after death?  Who, among the universal atonement advocates, are willing to affirm it?  If Christ died for Cain, Cora, Baalim, and Pharoah, then why?  For what purpose?  If he died for them, when there was no possibility of them being saved, then would this not be dying for them "in vain"? 

Some might respond that Christ had to die for the OT unbelievers in order simply to justify his previous offers of salvation.  But, this is similar to those who argue that Christ must die for every man in order to justly condemn them in the day of judgment.  But, again, what an absurd consequence is this to believe!  Jesus said, in regard to his mission into the world and atoning death, that he came not into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.  (John 3: 17)  In such a case his ministry would be a "ministry of condemnation" rather than of salvation.  (II Cor. 3: 9)  Christ died in order to justify his condemnation of the wicked?  Who can believe it? 

Particular Atonement & the Universal Call

T. P. Simmons wrote (see here):

"Nor was it necessary that Christ die for the whole Adamic race in order to make God's general call sincere. It is the notion of some that God's general call requires men to believe that Christ died for them. This is not true. The twenty-eight chapters of Acts, "though replete with information about apostolic dealing with souls, record no precedent whatever for that now popular address to the unconverted- Christ died for you" (Sanger, The Redeemed). "All men are called on in Scripture to believe the gospel, but there is no instance in Scripture in which men are called upon to believe that Christ died for them" (Carson, The Doctrine of the Atonement and Other Treatises, P. 146)."  (Systematic Theology, chapter 21)

Simmons cites the great Baptist scholar Alexander Carson, whom we shall hear more from later in this posting.  But, already I have shown how the argument that no salvation can be offered without an atonement is false based upon the case of the OT example. 

Simmons wrote:

"The following illustration from "The Blood of Jesus," by William Reid, p. 37, also shows the compatibility of a limited atonement and the general invitations of the gospel. After describing passengers boarding a train at Aberdeen Station of the North-Eastern Railway, he says: "Nor did I see any one refusing to enter because the car provided for only a limited number to proceed by that train. There might be eighty thousand inhabitants in and around the city, but still there was not one who talked of it as absurd to provide accommodations for only about twenty persons, for practically it was found to be sufficient. "God, in His infinite wisdom, has made provision of a similar kind for our lost world. He has provided a train of grace to carry as many of its inhabitants to Heaven, the great metropolis of the universe, as are willing to avail themselves of the gracious provisions.

Suppose God had waited until the end before sending Christ to die, (as He could have done just as easily as He waited four thousand years after sin entered the world before sending Christ), and had then sent Him to die for all that had believed. It would then have been manifest that a limited atonement offers no hindrance to the salvation of any man that does not already exist because of the perversity of man's nature. Surely it is clear to every thinking person that the occurrence of Christ's death two thousand years ago does not change the case; for He died for all who shall ever believe, these having been known to God from eternity as fully as they shall be in the end."

The case of the size of the ark and the preaching of Noah also shows how the general call to salvation is consistent with a limited view of atonement.  If the reasoning of the advocates of universal atonement is correct, then the size of the ark should have been large enough for every man, alive at the time of the flood, to have dwelt in it. 

Carson wrote (Works of Alexander Carson see here):

"But there are many who plead for the atonement of Christ, who, in effect, deny it, as well as its open opposers. They suppose that it is a conditional atonement, of efficacy only to those who comply with certain terms. It is evident, however, that a conditional atonement is no atonement in the proper sense of the word; for an atonement must expiate the sins atoned for, just as a payment cancels a debt. Where, then, there has been an actual atonement made, the sins atoned for never can be punished again, more than a debt once paid can be charged a second time. It would be unjust in God to charge the debt to the account of man that was fully paid by man's surety. It may be alleged that one man may pay another man's debts upon certain conditions; and that if those conditions are not fulfilled, the debt will be still chargeable upon the debtor. But it is evident that, in such a case, the surety either does not actually pay the debt till the conditions are fulfilled, or if he has conditionally paid it, he is refunded before it is chargeable upon the debtor. In every such case, the debt is not really paid. But Jesus has paid the debt. He has already made atonement; and if they for whom he died are not absolved, the debt is charged a second time. He can never be refunded. His blood has been shed; and there is no possibility that what he suffered can be now either more or less. They, then, who suspend the efficacy of the atonement of Christ upon conditions to be complied with by man, in effect deny that atonement has been truly made.—Romans x. 4. People of this opinion consider Christ's death as making the salvation of sinners merely possible. The deficiency of the merit of our works for obtaining a place in heaven, is made up by the righteousness of Christ. But it is not only unscriptural to say that man merits heaven by working, it is also unscriptural to say that Christ paid a price for heaven. He paid a price for sinners; but heaven is a gift. He bought them from misery; but happiness is bestowed through him freely."  (pg. 59, section II)

Carson also wrote:

"In giving the commission to the apostles the Lord Jesus Christ declares, that the belief of it is eternal life.—Mark xvi. 15, 16. Preach the gospel;—he that believeth shall be saved. Is there any obscurity here with respect to the thing to be believed for eternal life? Is not this necessarily found in the expression, publish the glad tidings of salvation to all the world, he that believeth those tidings shall be saved. Can any other passage be necessary to convince any one who submits with deference to the word of God? Our Lord did not say to the apostles, "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth that I died for himself, in particular, shall be saved." Now, what is the gospel? The answer to this will shew us, what is the truth to the belief of which is attached eternal life. It is the good news with respect to the atonement of Christ. Let us hear the apostle Paul's account of this gospel:—1 Cor. xv. 1—4. What, then, is the gospel that the apostle preached, that the Corinthian Christians received, and in which they stood; yea, more, by which they were saved? It is neither more nor less, than that Christ died for the sins of his people, that he was buried and rose again. This standing on record, is it not astonishing that systematic orthodoxy has had the effrontery to say, that the belief of this gospel is not enough for salvation ; that in addition to this, men must believe their own interest in the death of Christ, in order to entitle them to the benefit of it? What the apostle calls the gospel is, "that Christ died for our sins." As he is addressing believers, the word our, must refer to believers only. The thing, then, that a man believes for eternal life is, that Christ died for the »ins of all believers, even of all that believed on him before and since his death, and of all that shall believe on him to the end of the world. A man has no need to puzzle, or torment himself with inquiries in the first instance, whether he be included among those for whom Christ died. As he died for all that believe, as soon as a sinner is conscious that he believes the gospel, he has the same ground to believe that Christ died for him, as that he died at all. But this belief of his own interest in Christ's death is not the faith that saves him, but it is founded on that faith. He believes that he died for him, because he believes that he died for all that believe the gospel."

Dr. Allen, however, believes differently, writing:

"There is direct, overt, evidence that Paul in his preaching did indeed tell unsaved people that Christ died for their sins and furthermore it was his consistent practice to do so. Such evidence comes from 1 Corinthians 15:3: “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. . . .” Here Paul is reminding the Corinthians of the message he preached to them when he first came to Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). He clearly affirms the content of the gospel he preached in Corinth included the fact that “Christ died for our sins.” Notice carefully Paul is saying this is what he preached pre-conversion, not post conversion. Thus, the “our” in his statement cannot be taken to refer to all the elect or merely the believing elect, which is what the high-Calvinist is forced to argue. The entire pericope of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 should be kept in mind. Notice how Paul comes back around to what he had said in verse 3 when he gets to verse 11: “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” The customary present tense in Greek used by Paul when he says “so we preach” along with the aorist tense in Greek for “believed” makes it clear Paul refers to a past point in time when they believed what it was his custom to preach. What did Paul preach to them in his evangelistic efforts to win all of the unsaved to Christ? He preached the gospel, which included “Christ died for our sins.” And so they believed."  (see here)

The argument Dr. Allen makes about Christ being preached as dying for "our" sins is not a "direct" and "overt" proof that the apostles preached that Christ died for everyone.  Clearly the "our" is a reference to believers.  Further, Paul adds that Christ died for our sins "according to the Scriptures," which must mean the old testament scriptures, none of which speak of Christ dying for everyone.  We have already notice the chief old testament passage on the atonement (Isaiah 53) and there it is clearly limited to those who are styled by God as "my people."  What Paul preached was that Christ died for the sins of those who believe in Jesus.  He certainly did not preach that Christ died for those who were already in Hell. 

Besides, Paul is not giving verbatim quotations of his sermons preached to the Corinthians prior to their believing and being converted.  Therefore, he is not saying that he said to them, while unbelievers and pagans, "Christ died for our sins."  He is saying that he preached to them that Christ died for believer's sins, for us who are now believers.  This is the message of Paul in all his epistles to believers.  He was constantly saying to them, and to them only, "Christ died for our sins."  There is no way that "our" can be a pronoun alluding to the entire human race. 

Also, even if we admit, for the sake of argument, that Paul said to a group of lost sinners, "Christ died for our sins," this does not necessarily imply that he said this without any further qualification.  Those who believe in special and particular atonement affirm this much when they preach to groups of lost sinners.  We tell them that Christ died for sinners, for such as we are. 

Some of those who argue for indefinite and universal atonement argue that we cannot say to a group of sinners that Christ died for us who are sinners, for this would imply that Christ died for every sinner.  They often cite verses where it is said that Christ died for sinners and say that this must mean every sinner.  But, this is non-sequiter.  When Paul said that "Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5: 6) he no more means everyone who is ungodly than he meant everyone who is ungodly when he said that God "justifieth the ungodly."  (Rom. 4: 5) 

Carson wrote:

"All men are called on in Scripture to believe the gospel, but there is no instance in Scripture in which all men are called upon to believe that Christ died for them. All men, possessed of natural understanding, who have. heard the gospel and have not received it, shall be condemned for unbelief. He that believeth not shall be damned. But shall a man be damned for not believing that which is not true? When an unbeliever shall come before the judgment-seat, can he be condemned for not believing that Christ died for him, seeing Christ did not die for him, and the Scriptures did not say that he died for him? Will it be inconsistently replied, that if he had believed that Christ died for him, then he would have died for him? Is not this supposing that he is a believer? But it never can be true of any that shall eventually perish, that Christ died for them, nor can it be duty for such to believe that he died for them. Consequently, it is not sin in them not to believe that he died for them. But all unbelievers shall be condemned, because they believed not the gospel; because they believed not the record that God gave of his son, —and this is the record that God hath given to us, (believers), eternal life, and this life is in his son. This is a truth—a truth declared to them, and by the rejection of this truth, they are in the utmost guilt.—A like account have we of the gospel in the first epistle to Timothy, i. 15. "This is a faithful saying, &c." the saying that is to be believed for salvation, and which is worthy of all acceptation is, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the chief of sinners. This is the saying, that every one is bound to believe who hears it. This is the saying that is worthy of being received, and for the rejection of which they shall be condemned. The report, then, that Jesus died for all who believe in his atonement is the gospel, and the belief of this gospel is eternal life."  (80-93)

"As this fact is of great importance to the comfort of the Christian, as well as to the sinner enquiring the way of salvation, I shall adduce a few other passages. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."—1 John v. 1. Can any thing exceed the decisiveness of this testimony? The Apostle does not say, that whosoever believeth that Jesus died for him in particular is born of God; but that "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." This is the very faith of which our systematic divines speak so contemptuously. The man who believeth even the fact that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."  (93-94)

Nov 7, 2012

Definite Atonement XI

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."  (Eph. 1: 3-6)

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (II Thess. 2: 13-14)

The doctrine of election supports the doctrine of particular redemption and special atonement.  If God has chosen to save a particular people, it would not be consistent for him to send Christ to die for those not chosen to salvation.  This does not mean, however, that God does not desire, in any degree, or in any sense, the salvation of those not chosen.

If the Father unconditionally willed and determined the salvation of only some of the human race, it would be a contradiction for him to send Christ to save more than he willed.  If the Father willed that Christ save the elect and Christ wills to save more than the elect, then the Father and the Son are not one, are not in agreement and this would overthrow the unity of the Trinity.  But, Jesus is in agreement with the Father.  Notice these words of Christ.

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."  (John 6: 37-39)

Jesus says that he came down from Heaven, being sent by the Father, to save those who the Father had given to him.  Who were these people?  Doubtless they are the ones the Father had chosen and predestined to salvation. 

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."  (John 10: 14-15, 27-30)

When Jesus says that he and his Father "are one," he surely includes the idea that he and his Father are in agreement regarding who they both have willed and determined to save.  It is the sheep, those who were given to Christ, in eternal covenant, by the Father.  They are in Scripture said to be "the elect." 

"Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 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: 30-34)

These verses speak of those who are "God's elect."  They are the ones God predestined to salvation before the world began.  They are the ones for whom Christ died and cannot therefore be condemned.  Thus, the work of Christ is in perfect agreement with the eternal will of God.

God's General Will

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."  (I Tim. 2: 4)

"For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."   (Eze. 18: 32)

"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"  (Eze. 33: 11)

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."  (II Peter 3: 9)

These verses speak of God as being "willing" that all be saved.  But, if this is so, how is this consistent with those verses which speak of God willing only that the elect be saved?  Paul gives us the answer. 

God's Special Will

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."  (I Tim. 4: 10)

The word "specially" is significant.  It shows that God is the Savior of all men in a common or general sense, but only of some men specially, particularly, or chiefly.  That is, God is the Savior of some men in a greater way.  But, not only is this true of God as Savior, but also as regards his loving and desiring the salvation of men.  We may say that God wills the salvation of all men but of some men he specially wills it.  God, in this sense, is not different from us.  We will things in degrees.  We may will something and yet will something more. 

Even the advocates of universal atonement cannot deny that this is so.  They admit that God wills all men to be saved, but does not will it for unbelievers to they same degree for believers.  It is perfectly scriptural to say that God wills the salvation of all men, but specially the salvation of the elect.

Obviously, whether we use the term "believer" or "elect," God's general willing of salvation does not guarantee the salvation of any.  God not taking pleasure in the eternal destruction of a given sinner does not assure the salvation of that sinner.  All it affirms is that God is willing to save any man who calls upon him to do so through faith in the blood of Christ. 

God's special willing of the salvation of a man is different from his general willing.  Unlike his general will, his special will guarantees that a man will be saved.  We can think of many illustrations of this principle.  Obviously God's special willing of a man to be saved moves God to do for him what his general willing does not move him to do.  God's special willing causes God to do something for a man that his general willing does not do for him.  God's general willing says that God will save any man who desires for him to save him from his sins.  But, God's special willing moves God to actually cause the man to desire God for salvation.  God's general will says that he will save any man who has faith but his special will actually gives the man faith.

Was the atonement of Christ the result of God's general or special willing?  It cannot be the former for it would assure that all would be saved and then, in such case, there would be no distinction in willing, or no special willing. 

The preaching of the Gospel and the offer of salvation to all men is the result of God's general willing, but his actually giving faith and repentance is the result of his special willing.  Some think that God cannot make a general offer in the Gospel to all unless an atonement is made to all, but this is false reasoning, as I shall show in my next posting.

Nov 6, 2012

Definite Atonement X

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Gal. 2: 21)

Did Christ die in vain? Those who affirm a universal atonement and teach that most of those for whom Christ died will be lost, do in fact, as a logical deduction, affirm that Christ died in vain for those who are lost. 

John Gill wrote:

"Now, if some for whom Christ gave His life a ransom, are not ransomed then that shocking absurdity follows...namely, that Christ is dead in vain, or that so far He gave His life a ransom in vain; wherefore it will be rightly concluded that He did not give His life a ransom for every individual man" (John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, p. 98).

Charles Spurgeon said:

"It is quite certain, beloved, that the death of Christ must have been effectual for the removal of those sins which were laid upon him. We cannot conceive that Christ has died in vain." ("Jesus the Substitute for his People," Metropolitan Tabernacle, 21:160)

J. P. Boyce said of the general atonement view - "This theory makes it possible that Christ should have died in vain." (Abstract of Theology)

Others have said the same thing.  Advocates of definite and successful atonement see the doctrine of universal atonement as affirming that Christ died in vain.  Is this true? 

Clearly Paul rejects the idea that Christ "is dead in vain."  Paul believed that to teach salvation by law keeping would involve one in the conclusion that Christ died in vain, or for nought.  Clearly he believes that any proposition that would logically lead to such a conclusion cannot be true.  I do not think the advocates of universal indefinite atonement would explicitly affirm that they believe that Christ died in vain.  But, the question is, does their view on the atonement support such a logical conclusion? 

Just as Paul did not say that those who believe in salvation by keeping Torah actually affirmed that Christ had died in vain so the advocates of definite atonement do not explicityly affirm that Christ died in vain.  But, just as Paul, Christ dying in vain is a logical deduction for the position that Christ died for those who go to Hell as it is for those who believe that salvation is by law keeping.

Paul spoke of Christ as "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."  (Gal. 2: 20)  But, the advocates of universal atonement must say that this is true of every man, as much for those who go to Hell as for those who go to Heaven.  Though the Son of God's love and atonement for Paul was not in vain, yet it must be in vain for the vast majority for whom Christ died. 

Successful Atonement

"He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law."  (Isa. 42: 4)

"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: 11)

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Heb. 12: 2)

Not only is it a logical deduction of the universal atonement view that Christ has died in vain for many people, but it is another logical deduction of that view to say that it makes Christ's atoning work a failure and disappointment to a large degree.  Though the prophesies speak of Christ not failing or being discouraged, yet who could deny that he failed to atone for the sins of most of those for whom he died according to the general atonement scheme?  If Christ died on the cross for every man, with the intention of saving them, and yet only a few of them are actually saved, who can fail to see that Christ has failed?  Who can deny that he was discouraged and disappointed?  How could Christ see the results of his atoning work and be satisfied and happy when most of those for whom he died are lost in spite of his sacrificial death?

The above verses speak of Christ as successful in his purpose in dying.  How happy can Christ be in failing to save most of those for whom he died to save?  The only view that one can take, in view of the above verses, is to affirm that all for whom Christ died will in fact be saved by his death.

Nov 5, 2012

Definite Atonement IX

"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: 2)

For whom did Christ give himself as an offering and sacrifice?  Paul says it was for believers, for those who are styled "elect."  The apologists for universal atonement respond by saying - "yes, for Christians, but not for Christians only."  But, those who argue this way are not consistent in affirming this, for they will not say "but not Christians only" in regard to other verses in the Ephesian epistle where Christians are addressed or are the subject.  For instance, two verses prior to the above verse, Paul said - "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Will the advocates of universal atonement say that this does not apply to Christians only?  Why affirm that Eph. 4: 32 means Christians only but Eph. 5: 2 does not mean Christians only?

What the new testament teaches about the sacrificial nature of Christ's death upon the cross was first revealed in the old testament through the sacrificial system, spelled out chiefly in Leviticus and the Torah.  The writer of Hebrews says that the old testament priestly and sacrificial system was a type, pattern, or example of the priesthood of Christ and of his sacrificial death.  In other new testament writings there is also application made of the type to the antitype of Christ's death and sacrifice for sin and sinners. 

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."  (I Cor. 5: 7-8)

Christ is here pictured as the antitypical "passover lamb" and points one back to the first Passover sacrifice.  The institution of the Passover is first recorded in Exodus chapter twelve.  This sacrifice was to be made for the Israelites, or to those who were part of "the election."  (Isa. 45: 4)  The Passover lamb was sacrificially killed for Israelites, and the blood was to be applied to the houses of the chosen people.  No lamb was ordered to be killed for Egyptians and no blood was to be applied to the houses of the Egyptians. 

Paul speaks to Christians as being the true antitypical elect/Israel.  They are to keep the feast, to eat of the sacrifice of Christ, for he says, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."  Who is the "us"?  Is it all men without exception?  Again, the advocates of universal atonement insist that Paul does not mean "for us" only.  But, again, will they consistently affirm that the things Paul says to the Corinthians believers in his epistle does not mean them only?  Further, do they invite unbelievers to come and keep the feast? 

Sacrificial Typology

"And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses." (Lev. 16: 34)

"And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually." (Exo. 28: 29)

The atonement was to be made "for the children of Israel," for a particular and chosen people.  Aaron represented them when he went into the holy place to apply the atoning blood on the mercy seat.  He did not make an atonement for all men, but for the chosen people.  So also Christ did not make atonement for the sins of every man but for those who had been chosen to salvation.  (Eph. 1: 4; II Thess. 2: 13; I Peter 2: 9)

Those who advocate universal atonement will respond by 1) denying that the atonement of Israel was typical of the atonement of Christ, and 2) saying that those Israelites who were represented in the atonement were not all saved. 

In reply it must be said that it is clear that the atonement of Israel's sins was typical of the sacrifice of Christ as the book of Hebrews and the statements of the new testament writers affirm.  Paul wrote:

"Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself."  (Heb. 7: 27)

Christ offered up himself as a sacrifice "for the people's" sins.  What people?  Was it not for the chosen people?  Was it not limited to them? 

In reply to the second objection, it is not true that some of the Israelites were not forgiven.  Though the typical atonement only blotted out sins for one year, it did in fact blot them out.  Of course the typical atonement did not pertain to eternal forgiveness of sins and it is true that some of the Israelites were not truly spiritual Jews.  (See Rom. 2: 28-29; 9: 6-7)  The atonement was "for the children of Israel," for all of them, not for some of them.  That is the point.  It was for every Israelite though not for any others.

"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."  (Heb. 10: 10-14)

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."  (Heb. 9: 11-12)

"...but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."  (9: 26)

These verses speak of Christ fulfilling, as the antitype, what the typical sacrifice of the Day of Atonement pictured.  They speak of a definite and successful atonement, one that accomplished what was intended, namely, the salvation of the elect people.  They do not speak of salvation simply being made possible by the atonement of Christ, but as actually being accomplished.  The sacrifice of Christ, on behalf of the true Israel of God, did in fact sanctify and perfect them.  Eternal redemption was obtained for the chosen people.  In offering himself a "sacrifice for sins" Christ did "put away sin" by his sacrifice.  It is therefore not possible that any for whom Christ died to be lost. 

"I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine."  (John 17: 9)

Christ, in his priestly functions, not only offers himself as a sacrifice for sin, but also mediates on behalf of his chosen people, "for them which thou has given me."  If he does not pray for the world, for those not given, then why would one think that he gives his life for them? 

Charles Spurgeon said:

"While justice survives in heaven, and mercy reigns on earth, it is not possible that a soul condemned in Christ should also be condemned in itself. If the punishment has been meted out to its substitute, it is neither consistent with mercy nor justice that the penalty should a second time be executed."  ("Jesus, the Substitute for His People," Metropolitan Tabernacle, 21:159)

"Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not secure the salvation of anybody. Now, I had rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did not go all the way across the stream."  (Particular Redemption," New Park Street, 4:135, 136)

"We declare that the measure of the effect of Christ's love, is the measure of the design of it. We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the atonement, can by any way whatever be missed of."  (ibid)

"It is quite certain, beloved, that the death of Christ must have been effectual for the removal of those sins which were laid upon him. We cannot conceive that Christ has died in vain. "He was appointed of God to bear the sin of many," and it is "not possible that he should be defeated or disappointed of his purpose. Not in one jot or tittle will the intent of Christ's death be frustrated. Jesus shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. That which he meant to do by dying shall be done, and he shall not pour his blood upon the ground in waste in any measure or sense."  ("Jesus the Substitute for his People," Metropolitan Tabernacle, 21:160)

"Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, "It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself," they say, "to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty." I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before he died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ's intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very person who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever be imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!"  (Autobiography, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962)