A Need for a New Identity:
Conversionism, Transformed Theology, and a New Tulip
Part 3: An Argument for Limiting Atonement

December 21, 2011

By Bob Hadley, Pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Chancellor of Atlantic Coast Bible College and Seminary


This article is the third in a series that offer an alternative to the classical Reformed T.U.L.I.P. The entire series by Hadley is available at www.transformedtheology.com. The first two articles addressed “Total Lostness,” and “Unconditional Love.”

The foundational, bed rock tenet of Reformed Theology is contained in the third point of Calvinism, commonly referred to as Limited Atonement. Wayne Grudem defines limited atonement in the following way: “The Reformed view that Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of those whom He knew would ultimately be saved. Another term for this view is ‘particular redemption’ in that the power of the atonement is not limited, but rather it is fully effective for particular people.”[1] In a sermon preached at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens in London on February 28, 1959, Charles H. Spurgeon made the following comment in a message dealing with Limited Atonement; he said, “The doctrine of Redemption is one of the most important doctrines of the system of faith. A mistake on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire system of our belief.”[2] Whether one accepts his conclusions on this matter or not, Spurgeon statement was absolutely correct.

The issue of Limited Atonement offers a number of valid answers to the many questions dealing with Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Most of the problems that surface with respect to the doctrine of Limited Atonement do so when its proponents carry it to its extremes. Most, if not all, Southern Baptists agree with a concept of Limited Atonement. Anyone who is not a proponent of universalism must by default favor some concept of Limited Atonement. Because Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for “the sin of the world” there are a couple of things that necessarily follow. First, the penalty for all sin, which is death, was paid when Christ died on the cross and second, God is “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). One interpretation of this passage opens the door to Universalism. However, a closer look at the context from which this phrase is contained, reveals a much different picture. First of all Paul says, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 2:17-18a). Obviously, Paul is clear in this discourse that those whom God has reconciled to Himself, are those who are “in Christ” and are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to say that God has given all who have been reconciled into Him a ministry of reconciliation; “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19a). This is not a statement describing God’s character or purpose as much as it is a statement describing the ministry of reconciliation that every born again child of God shares a responsibility to be a part of. Not only is God not directly responsible for the choices men make in accepting the redemption made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross, those who have received this redemption are responsible for leading lost men to the cross where they too may find redemption for themselves.

Anyone who rejects the idea of Universalism by default accepts the concept of Limited Atonement. In its most basic application, limited atonement simply says Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary is by necessity limited to a certain group of people. Reformed Theology proponents identify this “certain group of people” as the “elect.” Non-Calvinist will define this “certain group of people” as those individuals who by faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning work on the cross are convicted by the Holy Spirit of their lostness and in repentance turn from their own attempts at righteousness and turn to God for forgiveness and adoption into His forever family. This “certain group of people” is referred to in the New Testament as believers, those who have been born again, children of God, the church, as well as “the elect.” Here the term “the elect” is synonymous with the believer or that Christian who is in Christ, who is a new creation for whom “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17b).

Since Reformed Theology proponents have defined limited atonement as it relates exclusively to the elect, the third point of Conversionism will be labeled Limiting Atonement. This modified point will highlight the limitless ability of Christ’s work of atonement as God seeks to reconcile a lost and dying world unto Himself and the limiting aspects of that atonement. This Limiting Atonement is available to anyone who by faith in the Lord Jesus repents of their sin and turns to God for forgiveness initiating the new birth or conversion, whereby the Holy Spirit begins the transforming process of giving this new creation the mind of Christ. This is the process that Paul speaks of in Colossians 3 where he says, “1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). This process begins somewhere and that somewhere is conversion or regeneration.

4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:4-11).

 

Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 as he speaks about this ministry of reconciliation that God has given not only to him but to all who are in Christ Jesus. The critical issue raised in verse 20 speaks to the extent of the issue of limited atonement. Paul clearly says that he sees himself as “an ambassador for Christ” and it was “as though God were pleading through us,” through his preaching and teaching with a lost and dying world to come to Christ. For this reason Paul says, “we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Paul no doubt believed in his preaching of this glorious gospel message that God loved everyone so much that He sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and live a perfect life so that He could offer Himself as a sinless sacrifice and pay the penalty for sin for any person who was willing to call upon the name of the Lord, and believing in the saving, transforming power of Christ that individual might turn to God in repentance and find forgiveness as he or she responds to this reconciling work of God.

This is exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians where he said, “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21a). The scope of the cross is indeed limitless to save to the uttermost all that come to Christ. This is the defining qualifier of those for whom the atonement is applied. While Christ died to pay the penalty for sin for mankind, the benefits of the atonement are made effective by the individual’s faith in Christ. Man’s response to God’s provisions is what brings the benefits of the provision. The fact that the benefits go untapped in no way takes away from neither the purpose of the benefits nor the effectiveness of the benefits. The atonement was completed at Calvary. Jesus paid the penalty for sin with His own death. Now, the benefits of the atonement are not automatically applied to all men. They are available to those who come to Christ in repentance and faith. Consider the examples of men’s responses to God’s work in their hearts as seen in Scripture.

Jesus spoke to the issue of man’s response to preaching as he said of the people of Nineveh, “for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Luke 11:32b). The Ninevites were terribly wicked people. Their communities were not just dangerous places to wander into; the Ninevites went outside their borders and brought danger and destruction to neighboring areas, including Israel. There’s no evidence or mention of any process of regeneration nor any particular selection on God’s part where the Ninevites were concerned as Jonah began to preach a message of destruction if the people did not immediately repent. This biblical account plainly says the people heard Jonah’s message and they repented and God spared their city. These people did not repent because they were among God’s elect. They heard the warning proclaimed by this Israelite who took his life in his own hands by even coming to Nineveh to preach in the first place. No doubt the spirit of God convicted them of their sin and convinced them of the benefits of repenting and that is exactly what they did (Jon. 3:1-4:11). God’s desire and opportunity to forgive is second only to His desire to love. This whole notion that man is dead in his sin and incapable of even acknowledging his sin does not really make rational sense. The people of Nineveh knew that they were mean and wicked. Perhaps like Saul on the road to Damascus, they knew that God could kill them as easily as He could speak to them. The fact that He offered them an opportunity to repent was reason enough for them to do so.

The Bible says that “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23; see also Matt. 9:35, 12:41; Mark 1:14, 35, 39; Luke 8:1, 9:6, 11:32). Jesus’ ministry focuses on His teaching and preaching. Jesus spoke to the masses that came to hear Him. As Jesus would speak to various groups the Bible says many believed (John 8:30, 31; 10:42). Jesus spoke on a number of occasions in the synagogues and the Apostle John tells us that many of the religious leaders believed on the Lord as well. It is clear in a number of passages that Jesus expected the Jews not only to understand the word of God presented in the Old Testament, but He also expected them to believe His words as well (John 5:38, 47; 8:45; 10:25, 37, 38).

Listen to a discourse that took place between Jesus and Philip:

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves (John 14:8-11).

 

In verse 11 Jesus admonishes Philip to believe Him as He identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus tells Philip to believe what He has said or He tells Philip to believe in the works that he has seen Jesus perform. There is no picture of limited atonement in Jesus’ preaching. He expects people to hear Him and then believe what He says. Jesus’ invitation is simple, “28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).

In John Chapter 7 Jesus makes the following statement,

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37b-39).

 

It is clear that Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and drink was to anyone who thirsts. There is no ambiguity in this invitation; there’s no question about who Jesus is speaking to. His invitation is simple; “if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Jesus’ ability to make atonement for man’s sin is indeed limitless and is available to anyone who thirsts. There is no qualification dealing with the elect in Jesus statement. The same invitation is found in Rev. 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Jesus’ atonement is limitless in that it has the ability to save to the uttermost those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

In 1 Tim. 2, Paul wrote,

1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Tim. 2:1-7).

 

Nowhere in this passage of scripture is there any hint of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross limited. It is absolutely clear that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9b). Finally, 1 John 2 says,

1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).

 

How do these passages and the interaction relate to Limiting Atonement? They relate to the scope of the atonement or the application of the benefits of the atonement. The problem with the atonement as seen in the majority of theological debate has to do with the substitutionary aspect of the atonement. The question asked is, “Who did Jesus die for?” The general thought process simply stated is: If Jesus died for all men, then all men must be saved because the penalty for their sin has already been paid; but if all men are not saved, then that means Jesus cold not have died for all men. Therefore His atonement is limited. Thus Calvinism offers the suggestion that Jesus died on the cross for the elect and not those who die without Christ and are damned to an eternity in hell. This is why we have the Reformed view “that Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of those whom He knew would ultimately be saved. Another term for this view is ‘particular redemption’ in that the power of the atonement is not limited, but rather it is fully effective for particular people.”[3]

Limiting Atonement sees the atonement as complete and fully sufficient to save all men, but the benefits of the atonement are available to those that place their faith in the promises and provisions of God who made the atonement possible in the first place. Instead of seeing the atonement as being made for “a particular people,” the benefits of the atonement, which are limitless to save, are seen as being limited to those who believe.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 1247.

[2] The Spurgeon Archives, “The New Park Street Pulpit, Sermon 181” [Online book]; available from http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0181.htm; accessed on 29 June 2011.

[3] Grudem, 1247.

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Chris Roberts

This is a peculiar post. I won’t bother with my normal lengthy response, but will offer three observations.

First, I am puzzled that Hadley argues against the Reformed view of limited atonement, yet seems to hold the Reformed view. For instance:

“Limiting Atonement sees the atonement as complete and fully sufficient to save all men, but the benefits of the atonement are available to those that place their faith in the promises and provisions of God who made the atonement possible in the first place.”

This is not far from the Calvinist formula, “Jesus’ death is sufficient to pay for the sins of all the world, but only efficient for the elect.” If it is the word elect that bothers him, we can use another, though the end result is the same – although Jesus’ death offered a sufficient atonement to pay for all the sins of all the sinners who have or would sin, his death only covers and is applied to the sins of those who are ultimately born again.

Bob, so to make the distinction clear, let’s put it another way – would you say that Jesus died in the same way for every person?

My second observation comes from what seems to be a major point of emphasis. Hadley tries to make the case that because we find clear and repeated calls to repentance, and because we find examples of repentance, limited atonement must not be true. However, B does not follow from A. Calvinists are clear that the proclamation must go out to all people because the invitation to come to Christ goes out to all people. Jesus really does call all people to repent and come to him for salvation. But that universal call is not the effectual call. All are called to come to Christ. That fact alone does not explain how or why those who come choose to come. It is not an argument against election that some passages describing the repentance of people does not mention their election. All are called, yet few of those are chosen, and ultimately it is only the chosen who will be found at the banquet table.

All that aside, the matter of choice really has nothing to do with limited atonement so I’m not sure what place it plays in this discussion.

The third observation has to do with Hadley’s statement, repeated in different ways a time or two, that some of these Calvinist doctrines do “not really make rational sense”. I am pleased to know that Hadley’s intellect is such that he is in a better position than Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Piper, and many others, to determine what is rational and what makes sense.

    volfan007

    Chris,

    Was your last paragraph a joke? or were you being serious? I hope it was a joke.

    Also, Chris, I’ve heard many 5 pointers say that the atonement was for the elect only. They say nothing about it being sufficient to cover the sins of everyone in the world. It was only for the frozen chosen.

    Also, Chris, I believe that Jesus and the Bible gives a sincere, honest cry for people to be saved…all people…every person…I dont believe that the call for salvation is just some theoritical, academic call to all kinds of mankind. I believe that God earnestly, sincerely calls out to all people; not just all kinds of people.

    David

      Chris Roberts

      “I’ve heard many 5 pointers say that the atonement was for the elect only.”

      It depends how you use the term, but “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is a fairly common formulation. Calvin didn’t like it, but offered something similar. But that it was sufficient for all doesn’t change the fact that it was efficient – effective – applied – only to the elect.

      Your mocking phrase “frozen chosen” adds nothing to the discussion.

      “I believe that God earnestly, sincerely calls out to all people; not just all kinds of people.”

      Neat, I believe that too.

    Bob Hadley

    Thanks for your comments.

    You wrote, This is not far from the Calvinist formula, you do realize “far” is a relative term… and a matter of perspective. 500 yards may be far for a golfer but not far at all for a marathon runner. “Jesus’ death is sufficient to pay for the sins of all the world, but only efficient for the elect.” If it is the word elect that bothers him, we can use another, though the end result is the same – although Jesus’ death offered a sufficient atonement to pay for all the sins of all the sinners who have or would sin, his death only covers and is applied to the sins of those who are ultimately born again.” You are correct; I have no problem with THIS statement. What I do have a problem with are those who say that Jesus died for those who are the elect and He did not die for those who are eternally damned. I believe you are guilty of not quite painting the picture that Limited Atonement in the RT camp paints. I did say that I don’t have a problem with the concept of Limited Atonement, as long as the definition did not go to far to the extreme.

    Yep… Jesus died in the same way for EVERY PERSON… unless of course you are suggesting He died different ways… not sure HOW He could have done that. Not everyone will receive the benefits of the death He died…. but same death for all.

    But that universal call is not the effectual call. Do these two terms have anything to do with the “different ways you suggested that Jesus died for folk?” Can you cite any Scripture passages that mention “universal or effectual call”?

    You are correct, “All that aside, the matter of choice really has nothing to do with limited atonement so I’m not sure what place it plays in this discussion.” Choice has nothing to do with Limited Atonement but it has everything to do with Limiting Atonement because the choices men make concerning the claims of Christ in his heart and on his life determine whether or not he receives the benefits of the atonement.

    “I am pleased to know that Hadley’s intellect is such that he is in a better position than Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Piper, and many others, to determine what is rational and what makes sense.”

    I will take that as a compliment and simply move on. I might have taken offense if you had put your name in that list. :)

    ><>”

      Chris Roberts

      “Can you cite any Scripture passages that mention “universal or effectual call”

      Matthew 22:14 immediately comes to mind as one example.

        Bob Hadley

        Thanks… that really does clear things up… let me ask the question in another way…

        If I had never heard the term “effectual call”, can you mention a passage that would cause me to say, wow… that is effectual call alright! I know the passage you cited here never did for me…

        ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          Do you mean can I give you a specific proof text? Probably not, particularly since I cannot control how you would respond to any particular passage. Could I present what I consider a compelling biblical case for it? Absolutely. Would you agree with the case I make? Doubtful.

          Les

          Bob, if I may cut in…

          John 10 comes to mind for an effectual call. The relevant portion concludes:

          “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
          (John 10:25-27 ESV)

          Bob Hadley

          Les,

          I think you and I have tackled this text before. In all fairness, this text can be read BOTH ways… it can speak to His sheep being able to hear BECAUSE they are His sheep but it can also speak to the identity of His sheep as those who do hear and follow Him.

          Chris,

          I read EVERY comment and evaluate EVERY comment on its own merit… or at least try to. I am doing this to be challenged. Now, just because I disagree with a particular interpretation it does not mean I am being closed minded… no more than it does for you. So I try to avoid those kinds of comments, MOST of the time. What I really find frustrating is the tendency of folks to generalize criticism or comment on a secondary remark that has very little to do with the overall thrust of the comment or article… that is frustrating.

          It does not even matter if I agree with the case. I do evaluate the comment and who knows how the Lord can open my mind. That is my goal.

          One other thing though… as I made mention to someone else on my blog, I have been doing this for some time and even much more time has been spent on this whole project. At least humor me with comments that are not so general as to give the impression that I am still standing on home plate, or even worse, sitting in the dug-out.

          I hope that is a fair request. (not aimed at your comments as such) We have over the past couple months actually had some relatively intelligent dialogues back and forth.

          ><>”

          Les

          BOB,

          You said, “In all fairness, this text can be read BOTH ways… it can speak to His sheep being able to hear BECAUSE they are His sheep but it can also speak to the identity of His sheep as those who do hear and follow Him.”

          Which of these two do you take the text to mean?

          Chris Roberts

          Bob,

          My comment was meant to be a fair evaluation, not a personal criticism. I can say any case I make would not be compelling to you since we have run this gamut several times before. You haven’t convinced me, I haven’t convinced you; I have no reason to believe that I would be able to convince you now.

    Bob Hadley

    You wrote, “All that aside, the matter of choice really has nothing to do with limited atonement so I’m not sure what place it plays in this discussion.”

    It is vital IF the contention that belief or choice is the qualifier to receive the benefits of the atonement as opposed to lets say, divine determinism.

    ><>”

      Chris Roberts

      But that is not an issue when discussing limited atonement. The question behind the atonement is not, “How does one receive the benefits?” but “For whom did Christ die?”

Les

Chris,

Wish there was a “Like” button on blogs because I Like your comments. Agree wholeheartedly.

I continue to be amazed at hoe non-five pointers mischaracterize us five pointers and what we (generally) believe.

    volfan007

    Les,

    I stand amazed at how 5 pointers dont own up to what they truly believe. And, at how they bring up the “mischaracterize” arguement every time someone spells out the hard things that they believe, which they know people will have a hard time swallowing.

    I have heard 5 pointers say that the death of Jesus was ONLY for the elect. ONLY. And, the call of God to all people, everywhere, does seem to not be a earnest, sincere call…IF…the people getting the general call cannot respond, since they’re not the chosen. If they are absolutely not able to respond to the general call and the light which is shed upon them, unless the Holy Spirit regenerates them first…AND, the only ones being regenerated are the chosen, elect….then, the general call is not an earnest, sincere, honest call in my opinion. Its merely a theological, academic thing.

    David

      Les

      David,

      Key words you just used are “seem” and “in my opinion.” You certainly are entitled to your own opinion, but not to mischaracterize what most Calvinists believe, however illogical YOU may think they are.

        volfan007

        Les,

        Show me where I mischaracterized a true, 5 pointer.

        David

          Jacob Hall

          David, what is your definition of a true 5 pointer? If you are the arbiter of who is and who is not a true 5 pointer, you will never be pleased with a response, because at best its a moving target. It’s like saying that because Spurgeon was a Calvinist no Baptist will disown he was one of the good 5 pointers, but not a true 5 pointer for some unknown unstated reason.

          Les

          David,

          For starters: “They say nothing about it being sufficient to cover the sins of everyone in the world. It was only for the frozen chosen.”

          Maybe someone has said that. That’s not Calvinism. It is a caricature or a mischaracterization.

          “…I dont believe that the call for salvation is just some theoritical, academic call to all kinds of mankind. I believe that God earnestly, sincerely calls out to all people; not just all kinds of people.”

          You seem to say that Calvinists give “theoretical, academic call[s] when presenting the gospel. That too is a caricature or a mischaracterization.

      Les

      David,

      You: “I stand amazed at how 5 pointers dont own up to what they truly believe. And, at how they bring up the “mischaracterize” arguement every time someone spells out the hard things that they believe, which they know people will have a hard time swallowing.

      Me: I fully stand up and own the Reformed faith. And why do we “bring up the “mischaracterize” thing? Because people continually mischaracterize our theology, usually because they don’t understand it.

      You: “then, the general call is not an earnest, sincere, honest call in my opinion. Its merely a theological, academic thing.”

      Me: Your disagreement is nit with Calvinists. It is with scripture.

      “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…”

        volfan007

        My problem is not with Scripture. It’s with the “making Scriptures fit into my system” that I have a problem with.

        And, do you believe that God truly, sincerely desires the salvation of every person?

        Do you believe that every person can honestly respond the calling of God? to the light that is shed upon them?

        David

          Les

          David,

          You: It’s with the “making Scriptures fit into my system” that I have a problem with.

          Me: I do as well.

          You: “And, do you believe that God truly, sincerely desires the salvation of every person?”

          Yes. See 1 Tim: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)

          Yes in the sense that God does not desire the death of the wicked, desire being He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I can even favor a sense of God’s love for all mankind. He gives good things to the non-elect. He blesses them with life and pleasures by not immediately obliterating them (and all of us for that matter). So does God have compassion for the non-elect? Yes I think so. Does His compassion and “desire” to save them compel Him to override their stubborn, rebellious, God-hating nature and save them? No.

          You: Do you believe that every person can honestly respond the calling of God? to the light that is shed upon them?

          Me: Yes. “…that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…”
          (Acts 17:27 ESV)

          Bob Hadley

          Les,

          The following statement is indeed intriguing. “So does God have compassion for the non-elect? Yes I think so. Does His compassion and “desire” to save them compel Him to override their stubborn, rebellious, God-hating nature and save them? No.”

          Are you suggesting that in Gods’ compassion and desire to save the elect He does override the stubborn, rebellious, God hating nature of the elect and saves them?

          ><>”

          Les

          Bob,

          You: “Are you suggesting that in Gods’ compassion and desire to save the elect He does override the stubborn, rebellious, God hating nature of the elect and saves them?”

          I was making the point that God does not force the non-elect into the kingdom. I was NOT suggesting that the opposite is true for the elect.

          Rather, He changes their oppositional will so that THEY (the elect) willingly choose Christ. So in neither case does God force anything.

          Bob Hadley

          I understand that was not WHAT you were suggesting, I was pointing out that it is an valid implication, whether you meant it or not.

          ><>”

Mark

Concerning the sufficiency of the atonement The Canons of Dort state [emphasis mine]:

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 3. The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

    volfan007

    Mark,

    So, a) are you saying that the death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of every person that has ever lived, and will ever live on this planet? that His death is sufficient to cover the sins of every person?

    and b) does every 5 pointer believe that? Or, do some teach that the death of Jesus was only for the elect?

    David

      volfan007

      also, what about a sincere, earnest desire to save every person on this planet?

      David

      Les

      David, I’m obviously not speaking for Mark, but here is my take:

      You: “a) are you saying that the death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of every person that has ever lived, and will ever live on this planet? that His death is sufficient to cover the sins of every person?

      Me. Absoultely. Yes.

      and b) does every 5 pointer believe that? Or, do some teach that the death of Jesus was only for the elect?

      Me: You have put in opposition two things that don’t go.

      Better is:

      “and b) does every 5 pointer believe that? Or, do some teach that the death of Jesus was [suffiicent] only for the elect?

      Your “or” question has to to with the efficacious nature of the atonement, not the sufficiency of the atonement.

        Chris Roberts

        And following up to that, I would say most Calvinists hold something like the sufficiency of Jesus’ death for all people, but note the difference between sufficiency and efficiency. For whom did Christ die? Specifically, for the elect. Generally, his death has implications for all people. Quantitatively and qualitatively, his atoning work is sufficient to cover all people, elect and non-elect alike.

          volfan007

          If you believe that the death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of every person, then amen. We agree.

          I have heard other 5 pointers, who do not believe that. They believe that His death was only for the elect.

          David

          Les

          David,

          You:
          “I have heard other 5 pointers, who do not believe that (that the death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of every person). They believe that His death was only for the elect.”

          You again mix two things. We keep saying (we Calvinists) that we do believe that Jesus’ atonement was sufficient to cover the sins of every person who ever or ever would live. AND, we continue to say that His atonement was only for the elect. Sufficient for all, efficient (and intended) for only the elect. Efficient simply means that His atonement did not pay the penalty for any others besides the elect.

          Chris Roberts

          If you think of it as a bank account, the death of Christ put enough money in the bank to cover any bill anyone ever owes. More than enough money is there. An infinite amount of money is there. It is sufficient for all.

          However, Jesus only paid the bills, the debts, the sin, the penalty, for those who are elect.

          Bob Hadley

          Chris,

          I actually like your bank account analogy. I agree that God has placed more than enough money to pay the debt for all men. There is an infinite amount of money there.

          However, Jesus only paid the bills, the debts, the sin, the penalty, for those who believe in His name and repent and by faith come to Him for forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          Bob,

          Then what you hold sounds a lot like the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement.

          Bob Hadley

          “Then what you hold sounds a lot like the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement.”

          With one small TINY detail… that Jesus did NOT die for those who are NOT the elect, whoever they are.

          If you read my original post, I clearly said that anyone who does not believe in universalism believes in Limited Atonement. It is the extent that Calvinism when taken to its natural conclusions takes LA that I object to.

          That is shy I maintain Limiting Atonement. The atonement is sufficient for ALL; its benefits are available to those who repent and by faith are born again and become part of God’s froever family.

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          “The atonement is sufficient for ALL; its benefits are available to those who repent and by faith are born again and become part of God’s froever family.”

          And yet I, within the theological boundaries of limited atonement, can still agree with that statement 100% (though I personally don’t like the cheesy phrase “forever family”) so I’m still not clear on the distinction.

          Bob Hadley

          Chris,

          We are all good.

          ><>”

Joshua

Bob,

It would be helpful for you to distinguish your position(s) in light of the doctrine in the Calvinist and Arminian systems. I understand you believe you are somehow living outside of these two systems but it would be very helpful to understand why I should reject Calvinism and Arminianism for “Conversionism.”

As of now, I am utterly confused as to what you believe.

    Bob Hadley

    Sorry for the confusion. Even if I were to attempt to show the differences between the C/A positions, it would not help since I do believe you said that you are at least Calvinistic in your theology. I am not here “selling anyone anything”. I am presenting a series of thoughts that I have that I believe are Biblically based and appreciate these thoughts being seen in the eyes of those who may or may not agree with me. As we dialogue, it helps me evaluate what others think about what I have written.

    Since you do not seem to want to comment on WHAT I write, I remain as confused as you say you are.

    ><>”

      Joshua

      Bob,

      You said: “Even if I were to attempt to show the differences between the C/A positions, it would not help since I do believe you said that you are at least Calvinistic in your theology.”

      How does this follow? I am asking you to explain how your position differs from both of those systems. My theological perspective has nothing to do with you presenting your position against two established and broadly accepted systems. I’m just asking for clarity.

        Bob Hadley

        Because MOST of what I have written is compared to the calvinist position, which I assumed you were more familiar with.

        ><>”

Scott

These articles have not covered any new ground in this conversation at all. I do not understand why they are being put forward as a possible new paradigm. These formulations can be found in 100 different places.

    Bob Hadley

    Scott,

    Thanks for your comment as well. I have been criticized by a number of folks claiming that my statements are not valid because I have not quoted others as having said them. When I get that complaint, I will forward them to your statement here.

    The new paradigm is really a suggested position that is not based on total depravity as a foundation or limited atonement as this particular article suggests. This C/A argument has been gong on for centuries and is no closer to a resolution than it ever was. I believe that is the case because it is based on a faulty foundation to begin with. It is like being on a set of train tracks that do NOT go through Memphis. i don’t care what kind of conductor you have, what kind of engine you use, how hard you push the engines, how long you drive that train… you will NEVER get to Memphis.

    I personally like the new track, from my perspective.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

Ben Simpson

Bob,

You said, “There is no picture of limited atonement in Jesus’ preaching.” I’m afraid you’ve miss some of Jesus’ preaching contained in the Scripture!

A great place to start would be Jesus’ preaching in John 10. Twice (v11 & v15) Jesus says that He lays down His life for the sheep of His fold (“twn probatwn” in the Greek.) “Lays down His life” is certainly atonement language. The fact that it’s for the sheep of His fold only is language that limits the atonement. One might rebut that everybody is Jesus’ sheep, but in v26, Jesus tells the unbelieving Jews that they do not believe because they are not “twn probatwn,” the sheep of Jesus. So, clearly there are some that are not Jesus’ sheep, and for these Jesus does not lay down His life.

    Bob Hadley

    Here is my response to Les as he has indicated his comment,

    In all fairness, this text can be read BOTH ways… it can speak to His sheep being able to hear BECAUSE they are His sheep but it can also speak to the identity of His sheep as those who do hear and follow Him.

    We all frame this passage with our over-all position on the atonement and election.

    ><>”

      Les

      Bob,

      You said, “We all frame this passage with our over-all position on the atonement and election.”

      Well maybe we do and maybe we don’t. As I have said before, we all have to battle our biases as we come to the text.

      But we SHOULDN’T frame any passage based on our position on any pre-conceived doctrine. We SHOULD seek to see as best we can what the text teaches. I know that is what you and all of us are trying to do. But let’s try to do the reverse of what you just said.

        Bob Hadley

        Les,

        Obviously the people who are guilty of “framing a text” on preconceived notions are always the people who disagree with us.

        That is what you believe I am doing and that is what I believe you are doing… of course we are “trying” not to do that. The problem I was trying to point out is how we see the other person’s perspective… they are always the one who does not get it… it out of touch… is not being objective… bla bla bla.

        ><>”

      Ben Simpson

      Les, great point to Bob! The question is: what does the text teach? The text says, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep,” (John 10:26). The causal relationship is clear. Not being sheep causes one to not believe. If this text supported Bob’s position, Jesus would have had to say “But you are not of My sheep because you do not believe,” which Jesus did not say.

    Ben Simpson

    Bob,

    I’m afraid that Les was making a different point in pointing to John 10:26. Therefore, basically quoting your response to Les won’t do for my comment. You didn’t deal with my point at all.

    My point was that Jesus clearly limits the atonement in John 10:11,15,26, in spite of your assertion that, “There is no picture of limited atonement in Jesus’ preaching.”

Les

Ben, great point. I pointed to the same passage above at 4:57pm. I had not seen your comment here.

Bob Hadley

Help me out here. Who is Jesus speaking to in this passage as He says, in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

Are the Jews God’s elect?

If you would be so kind as to answer that it will help me better understand your position on this text as it relates to limited atonement. Anyone may chime in but I am particularly interested in Ben and Les’ answers.

><>”

Bob Hadley

The fact that Jesus said “I lay down My life for My sheep” does not mean He did not die for them all… so this dialogue is not at all one dealing with Limited Atonement as you suggest. In fact verse 15 is a perfect indication that He has other sheep that are not of this fold and He says that they will also hear His voice and become part of His fold.

Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders of His day and the issue of who is His chosen people. The Jews thought they were exclusively. Jesus’ statement in John 10 was His sheep are those that hear His voice and follow Him.

Here is something that I think you may find interesting. Look at verses 26 and following, ” 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;”

What I found so interesting is the tense of the verb there, I give them eternal life. It is a PRESENT gift… given to whom? those who hear His voice and follow Him.

Perhaps there are other passages that deal more specifically with this issue of Limited Atonement and Jesus JUST dying for the elect, whoever they are.

It is also interesting that even among the calvinist flock, that this one issue is a difficult one to fathom so they are 4-point Calvinists, rejecting Limited Atonement or the notion that Jesus ONLY died for a few.

><>”

    Chris Roberts

    “In fact verse 15 is a perfect indication that He has other sheep that are not of this fold and He says that they will also hear His voice and become part of His fold.”

    But he still died for sheep, not non-sheep, and those not of this fold is a reference to non-Jews.

    “What I found so interesting is the tense of the verb there, I give them eternal life. It is a PRESENT gift… given to whom? those who hear His voice and follow Him.”

    Not sure what your point is there, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus says the reason they don’t believe is because they are not of his sheep.

      Bob Hadley

      “But he still died for sheep, not non-sheep, and those not of this fold is a reference to non-Jews.”

      Were Pharisees “non-Jews”? That is who He is addressing. And the point that He is making as I see it, is that the “real” Jew is not the one who is born physically into the fold, but those who hear His voice and follow Him, seems to be the context of the passage. That is precisely why He adds the statement in verse 15, which is a direct reference to the gentiles who will hear Him and believe.

      The point to verse 28 is what actually identifies His sheep… those who receive the gift of life, which is present tense and follows the condition of hearing and following.

      I thought it was interesting and rather relevant to the conversation.

      ><>”

        Chris Roberts

        I am not aware that he called the Pharisees either sheep or non-sheep; he was speaking in general terms of what he came to do. “this fold” would refer to those around him; there are Jews who are believers. But there are believers who are not Jews, so there are sheep not of “this fold”. I’m surprised this would even be a matter for discussion, that he is making a distinction between Jewish/non-Jewish believers is clear and, I assumed, universally accepted.

        “The point to verse 28 is what actually identifies His sheep… those who receive the gift of life, which is present tense and follows the condition of hearing and following.”

        I am wondering how you conclude that verse 28 tells us how we identify the sheep? Jesus doesn’t say that at all. The point of verse 28 is telling the benefit of being a sheep – he gives his sheep eternal life, security, etc. Which only stresses the point that everything about being a sheep is a gift of God.

          Bob Hadley

          Humor me for a moment. Are you saying that the Jews ARE believers here and the unbelievers are non-Jews? Is that what you are saying because that is what it seems to me that you have said in the last TWO posts?

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          Pretty sure you know my answer to that.

          Bob Hadley

          If I have learned ANYTHING in the last 6 months, it is that I have no real idea what someone may think. Your final answer is…..

          I am only responding to what you have ALREADY written… I just want to make sure i have not misread what you said or meant to say.

          ><>”

Steve Lemke

Mark,
Just to be more holistic of the position of the Canons of Dordt on Limited Atonement, there are some other sections that you did not quote . . .

Section 1, Article 7 — “Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.”

And also in Section 1, “Rejection of Errors, III” — [The Synod rejects those] “Who teach that God’s good pleasure and purpose, which Scripture mentions in its teaching of election, does not involve God’s choosing certain particular people rather than others, but involves God’s choosing, out of all possible conditions (including the works of the law) or out of the whole order of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as worthy of the reward of eternal life.”

Section 2, Article 8 — “For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.”

And also in Section 2, Rejection of Errors, I: [The Synod rejects those] “Who teach that God the Father appointed his Son to death on the cross without a fixed and definite plan to save anyone by name, so that the necessity, usefulness, and worth of what Christ’s death obtained could have stood intact and altogether perfect, complete and whole, even if the redemption that was obtained had never in actual fact been applied to any individual.”

    Bob Hadley

    Thanks Dr. Lemke,

    I had section 2 article 8 ready to post… was going to re-read it before I did.

    ><>”

    Chris Roberts

    Dr. Lemke,

    Can you explain how this modifies Mark’s quote? The point was that Calvinists have long affirmed the sufficient/efficient formula. What you quoted simply expands on what is meant by the efficiency of Christ’s work.

      Bob Hadley

      Chris,

      I saw Mark’s comment as one side of the Calvinist position, indicating the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for the atonement for the sins of the “whole world” as if that was all there was to the position.

      I was planning on posting section 2 article 8 which basically states that the atonement was specifically for the elect and the elect alone. According to this article, Jesus did not make atonement for EVERYONE as a casual reading of Mark’s quote might suggest.

      ><>”

        Chris Roberts

        Jesus did not make atonement for everyone. If he did, everyone would be a Christian. You yourself have made this point, even though it is generally recognized as the Calvinist position.

        But what people too often don’t realize to be the Calvinist position is while the atonement was specifically for, and efficient for, only the elect, the power of the atonement is sufficient for the whole world. Since the sufficiency is what was under discussion, it makes sense that Mark focused in on that.

          Bob Hadley

          “Jesus did not make atonement for everyone. If he did, everyone would be a Christian.” Sorry, that is NOT the point that I made. I said anyone who does not believe in universalism has to accept some concept of Limited Atonement.

          This statement is why my 3d position is Limiting Atonement; I do not accept your conclusion with respect to the atonement, as you stated here. That is the problem I have with the term LA.

          Christ did not die for JUST the elect; Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to pay the price for ALL mankind; the benefits are available to those who repent and believe.

          I can accept the fact that there is a fine line articulated here. The problem comes in when you add to the mix total depravity, unconditional election and irresistible grace… that forces the issue that you allude to in this initial statement.

          Your statement is simply NOT true, “Jesus did not make atonement for everyone. If he did, everyone would be a Christian.”

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          What I see is that you, in many ways, hold the Calvinist position of limited atonement but don’t wish to be associated with the term and, with a general opposition to Calvinism, argue against Calvinist points in one breath while defending them in another.

          “Christ did not die for JUST the elect; Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to pay the price for ALL mankind; the benefits are available to those who repent and believe.”

          There is not a fine line in this, there is a false distinction in this. Or at least, you would agree that Jesus’ atonement – his death – was for those who would be saved, not for those who would not be saved. Whether you want to call them the elect or something else is beside the point.

          Chris Roberts

          “Your statement is simply NOT true, ‘Jesus did not make atonement for everyone. If he did, everyone would be a Christian.'”

          So Jesus can make atonement for someone and they still not be saved? So what then is the distinction between his work for those who ultimately would and those who ultimately would not be saved? Did he die for every person in the same way? Was his work on the cross the same for every person? The atonement is that act of Christ which reconciles man and God; if he made atonement for all, then all are made right with God.

          Bob Hadley

          I think a clarification on the term atonement might be in order. There is the atoning work of Christ on the cross that satisfies God where the sins of humankind are concerned. This sacrifice for sinners is sufficient to save anyone. It is this atoning work that makes reconciliation possible.

          Reconciliation and atonement can be interchangeable but in this discussion, the atonement is what makes reconciliation possible. Reconciliation is brought about through repentance and saving faith in the lost sinner as he responds to the revelatory and reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit.

          So in this sense, Christ did die for everyone in the same way. because He only died one time.

          You wrote, “The atonement is that act of Christ which reconciles man and God; if he made atonement for all, then all are made right with God.”

          I see a difference in the atoning work of Christ on the cross and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit that makes reconciliation possible. The benefits of the atoning work of Christ are available to those who are reconciled to God by the atoning work of Christ.

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          2 Corinthians 5:18-19

          Bob Hadley

          Chris,

          An interesting passage of scripture for this discussion. It is actually one of the foundational statements for the basis of my whole theological position. Even more interesting is your passing on commenting on verse 14.

          And for the record there is a difference in the provisions of the atonement and the benefits of the atonement.

          ><>”

          2 Cor 5:14-15
          14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

          Now… I know there is this general notion that “all” does not mean “all” in all passages. The interesting thing about this verse is “all” is used several times and it would be quite extraordinary to attempt to distinguish between the “alls” and attempt to say that they mean different things.

          Here Paul clearly says, He (Jesus) died for ALL.

          Is that what Paul said or did he mean something else here?

Mark

Hi Dr. Lemke,

I’m post down here so the comment does not get lost in the threading. (I recently turned my threading off and turn on the numbering for this reason.) I digress.

I read through those points from Dort and, like Chris, I’m not sure how that changes the efficient/sufficient proposal that I quoted. What I read in the sections you quoted speak to election which is, as you know, a different theological category than the atonement.

Maybe I’m missing something?

    Steve Lemke

    Mark,
    As you know, discussion of Limited Atonement includes discussion of both the sufficiency and efficiency (or extent) of the atonement. As I think Bob already suggested, I was balancing what you cited about the sufficiency of the atonement with material from the Synod about the extent of the atonement. In fact, what I cited in section 2, article 8 significantly qualifies and narrows what you cited from section 2, article 3.

    Concerning your not seeing any relationship between election and the atonement, I know that you’re just pulling my leg, so I’ll not comment further.
    swl

volfan007

okay, Chris and Les, I’m getting the feeling that I’m getting the old runaround here. When I say that the death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, I believe that the death of Jesus was for the sins of all people….not just for all kinds of people around the world; nor just for all kinds of elect people all over the world. And, for someone to believe that the death of Jesus is atonement for every person, but only effective in the lives of those who believe; would make them a non-5 pointer. Because, then Chris states this: “Jesus did not make atonement for everyone.”

What?

    Chris Roberts

    Back to the bank analogy. Having enough money is not the same as paying all the bills. Jesus’ atonement “has enough money” to atone for every sinner. Nonetheless, he does not atone for every believer even though his work is sufficient – provides sufficient merit, power, value, whatever.

      Steve Lemke

      Chris,
      Applying the bank analogy for Reformed thought, however, only people who have the special bank card can draw from the account. So whatever amount is in the bank is immaterial, since there is no possible way that anyone besides those with the special bank card will ever be able to draw from it, no matter how desperately they want it or seek it.
      swl

        Chris Roberts

        I agree with most of what you say, though as you might expect, I would modify the last part:

        “no matter how desperately they want it or seek it.”

        God does not withhold his grace from any who seek it.

          Bob Hadley

          BUT… no one WILL seek it unless God gives him the desire to do so… thus they still need that bank card from God.

          ><>”

    Les

    Davis should have read “David.” Sorry.

Les

Davis at 11:33pm:

What? I’m not sure what you said, but I’ll give it a shot.

You:”And, for someone to believe that the death of Jesus is atonement for every person, but only effective in the lives of those who believe; would make them a non-5 pointer.”

I would agree that if someone said that they would not be a 5 pointer. But I don’t think that’s what i have said nor any other Calvinist her or anywhere I know.

So let me try to be clear, again. Calvinists believe that Jesus death, the atonement, is SUFFICIENT for everyone who ever has lived or will ever live. NOTE: That is NOT the same as saying that Jesus’ atonement was for every person. It is that it was sufficient to pay for the sins of EVERY person in his world.

Second, Calvinists believe that Jesus death, the atonement, is efficient (efficacious) for only the elect. i.e. we believe that though His atonement was sufficient and powerful enough to have actually atoned for every individual, His atonement was never intended to do that. It was only intended to actually atone for the sins of SOME people-the elect.

Those who do not agree with what I just said need to come to grips with the implications of what they believe. If Jesus atoned for the sins of every individual (put away their sins, suffered the judgement of God for every person) then everyone must necessarily be saved. Universalism.

Now I know you non-5 pointers are not universalists. That’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying that is where your thinking on this leads.

But your other option is to conclude that the atonement was not an actual atonement, but rather a possible atonement. i.e. if you admit that atonement put away sins and Jesus suffered judgement in the atonement, you end up with people who Jesus paid for and suffered for..these people ending up in hell. Hence, the atonement was actually not an atonement for those people. Must have been a possible atonement.

Your non-5 pointer view ends up a mess.

Ben Simpson

Bob,

Your conclusion that “this dialogue [in John 10:11-26] is not at all one dealing with Limited Atonement” is utterly preposterous. In fact, John 10 is only missing the T in the historical doctrines of grace (U = Jn10:26,29; L = Jn10:11,15,26; I = Jn10:27-28; P = Jn10:28-29).

Yes, the first fold that Jesus is talking about here is a Jewish fold. And, there are Jews who are not of this fold (Jn 10:26) for whom Jesus does not lay down His life. Their unbelief is proof they are not of Jesus’ fold. The other fold that is mentioned (Jn 10:16) is the Gentile fold. He lays down His life for that fold as well, and there are Gentiles who are not of that fold for whom Jesus does not lay down His life. He only lays down His life for His sheep, period. Their unbelief is proof they are not of Jesus’ fold as well. The two folds that Jesus lays His life down for (the Jewish fold and the Gentile fold) are being brought together into one flock.

volfan007

2 Peter 2:1 says ” But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” That sure does sound like the death of Jesus was sufficient to cover the sins of these false prophets and false teachers, IF they would’ve believed.

Of course, the passage in 1 John about Christ dying not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. I take that to mean not just for Believers, whom John was writing to; but for everyone.

The passage where Jesus wept over Jerualem…saying He would have, but THEY WOULD NOT…not that He would not, or did not really desire them to be saved, but they would not.

1 Timothy 2:4 says “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And, the context was about praying for all of those in authority. All the people in authority are not saved. So, once again, we see the earnest desire of God to save all men, even those who are not saved.

Ezekiel talks about God taking no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they repent, and be saved. So, there are definitely people out there, whom God wants to save, but they wont get saved.

Yes, I believe that the atonement was for everyone on the planet. BUT, only the ones who look to the cross in faith have it’s saving work applied to their lives. Just like the snake on the pole in the wilderness in the day of Moses…all who looked in faith were healed of the deadly bites. And, Les and others, it does not mean that I’m illogical, or that my theology will end up in a mess. It just means that I believe the Bible’s teaching. I am not sold out to some system of theology. I just take the Bible at its Word, and accept by faith the things that we’re not clearly told.

I just dont think that a 5 pointer can sincerely say that God wants to save every person on this planet…when you dont believe the atonement was for every person….when every person REALLY cant be saved, because it depends on whether they’re chosen, or not; and a person has to be regenerated before being saved; thus all people really dont have a choice, at all…dont really have a true opportunity to be saved, no matter how you try to slice it.

Anyway, God bless you, Les, Chris, Ben, Mark, and other 5 pointers reading this thread. I count you Brothers in Christ, and I pray that God will use you to do great things for His glory.

David

    volfan007

    BTW, just for clarity, I do believe in predestination and election, because the Bible teaches it. I believe that God chose to save me before the world began. I believe that God planned to save me before the world began. But, at the same time, I had to make a real, true choice. I believe that everyone had to make a real, true choice…not just some theoritical, academic non choice due to their being unable to respond; and due to them not being chosen to begin with; and due to them not being regenerated before faith so that they can be saved.

    How do all those things go together? How can we jive these seemingly illogical doctrines and Bible truthes? Well, of course, the 5 pointers think they have it all figured out, and the Arminians think they’ve got it figured out. They think that they have to put it all into a system, in order to make everything fit into a nice, neat, little, theological box. But, I just try to believe what the Bible teaches, and accept the fact that my little, finite mind cannot wrap around some of the great, deep truthes of God, which He has not chosen to reveal to us. I’m not saying that yall do not believe the Bible. I’m sure you do, and so the Arminians. But, you try to make it fit into your system. Well, ok. If that helps you sleep at night. But, I just think that that systems fall short, and lead to pride, strife, division, and other things, which hold back people from being all that God wants them to be.

    David

    Les

    David,

    I’ll not try to show my opposite view of the verses you cited. I have already here (other posts) and other blogs, particularly Bob’s site.

    You said, “And, Les and others, it does not mean that I’m illogical, or that my theology will end up in a mess. It just means that I believe the Bible’s teaching. I am not sold out to some system of theology. I just take the Bible at its Word, and accept by faith the things that we’re not clearly told.”

    I apologize for the “mess” comment. I didn’t mean it in a personal way. I shouldn’t have said it. And, though we’ve never met, I’m sure you do take the bible seriously and truly desire to understand its teaching.

    On the “system” thing, I know what you mean. Calvinists are very often seen as tethered to s system of theology. I think in the sense you mean (coming at the bible with our “system” bias in place), most of us would kindly disagree. Or, we should be kind. We, like you, are really trying to understand the bible same as you are.

    That said, we all come with our biases. It is impossible not to. I come with mine and you come with yours. And really, we all have some “system” approach in us. Systematic theology is a wonderful discipline and a sorely needed one at that.

    Anyway, at the end of the day, Arminians (or variations) and Calvinists want to see people come to faith in Christ. We all acknowledge:

    1. There are lost out there.
    2. He has chosen us weak and sinful vessels to take His message of redemption to the lost.
    3. The normative method God has chosen to save people is through the ministry of His word.
    4. It is God who saves, though He uses us.

    Can we all agree with these points?

    David, I count you as a brother as well. Have a Christ filled and blessed Christmas!

      Bob Hadley

      1. There are lost out there.
      2. He has chosen us weak and sinful vessels to take His message of redemption to the lost.
      3. The normative method God has chosen to save people is through the ministry of His word.
      4. It is God who saves, though He uses us.

      Can we all agree with these points?

      ABSOLUTELY!

      It is still nice to discuss these nuances and differences so that in doing so, my prayer is that my eyes will be opened and I will understand what the scriptures say to me. When I debate a particular passage, I am challenging myself to make sure that I am seeing it in the right perspective, as I know you all are.

      Merry Christmas to all as well!

      ><>”

Ben Simpson

David or anyone else,

Have you considered that even though one might believe the Bible to teach conditional election, one could also believe that the Bible teaches limited atonement. To believe the Bible to teach conditional election does not preclude one from believing the Bible to teach limited atonement. I know that LA is the most disputed doctrine, but it shouldn’t be in my opinion. I believe it’s one that both unconditional electionists and conditional electionists should agree upon.

The problem with the way the doctrine of atonement is traditionally argued is that it doesn’t consider God’s prescience (I intentionally use that word to represent the fact that God knows the future because Unconditionalists usually equate foreknew in Romans 8:29 with unconditional election instead of knowing the future). So, the question is this: Did God at the point of the crucifixion at least know who would and would not believe on Jesus? If you believe that God knows the future, you must say “Yes.” God at least knew who would believe on Christ and who would not. Isn’t that how conditional electionists argue? God elected those who would believe on Jesus. Okay, we’re just carrying that argument over to the atonement.

If the atonement is substitution, then it must be actual substitution and not potential substitution. Therefore, Christ died for all who will believe on Him. See how, I’ve argued this from God’s prescience. Jesus Christ already knew who had believed on Him before the cross, and in His prescience, He also knew who was going to believe on Him after the cross. Because atonement is actual substitution, it’s only for believers that Jesus died. Therefore, from this line of argument, the intent, extent, effect, and application have the same group in mind.

Both sides should be able to agree with this sentence: Christ bore the wrath of God for God’s elect alone. Although the two sides might disagree on how the elect became elect, they should agree on this doctrine of atonement.

However, while they should believe the same doctrine of the atonement, they have to come at it from different ways. Those who are Unconditionalists have to come at it from God’s decrees, just like they come at election from God’s decrees. Those who are Conditionalists have to come at it from God’s prescience, just like they come at election from God’s prescience. Either way, not a drop of Jesus’ blood is wasted. He died as sacrificial substitute only for all who will believe on Him, which is the same group as the elect.

A great consensus statement that includes both conditionalists and unconditionalists is: Christ died for all who will believe on Jesus.

    Bob Hadley

    Can you elaborate on your statement, “Because atonement is actual substitution, it’s only for believers that Jesus died. Therefore, from this line of argument, the intent, extent, effect, and application have the same group in mind.”

    Are you saying, When Jesus actually died on the cross, the sins of the elect (however you define them) were paid for at the moment Jesus cried. “It is finished?”

    ><>”

      Chris Roberts

      Maybe not at that moment, but somewhere in that vicinity, yes. Why, did you think the payment for sins only comes after we have done something rather than when Jesus says it is finished?

        Bob Hadley

        The problem that I am NOW having and it has come out as I have read some of the comments on this thread is this… if Jesus’ sacrificial death atoned for the sins of the elect, regardless of who they are and how they become the elect, here is in effect what is being said…

        if my sins were atoned for at Calvary, then reconciliation was completed there… then there is no need for repentance and faith today because it was all taken care of back then.

        Since Jesus only died for the elect, there is no other condition to be completed and so “all the elect” were saved at Calvary and not at conversion.

        This creates a rather precarious scenario to have to defend. In this case, the elect are never a reprobate because their atonement and reconciliation were finished at Calvary.

        This cannot be.

        Before you rip me apart, make sure you take a minute to actually think about WHAT I HAVE SAID…

        i understand WHAT I am saying is abhorrent… but it is a logical conclusion to the atonement and reconciliation taking place at Calvary. My point is, that cannot be.

        ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          There is a difference between accomplishing something and applying something. Redemption was accomplished in full at the cross; redemption is applied at conversion.

          “i understand WHAT I am saying is abhorrent… but it is a logical conclusion to the atonement and reconciliation taking place at Calvary. My point is, that cannot be.”

          Except it isn’t. One of the great challenges when talking with you about these matters is you seem unable to recognize that you might not understand the other position. You have ascribed, here and elsewhere, several beliefs to Calvinism that simply are not so, and you have jumped at implications that do not exist (just a little while ago noticed your Calvinism in the SBC post from the 13th; I was bemused). When you say, “Before you rip me apart, make sure you take a minute to actually think about WHAT I HAVE SAID…” you seem to indicate that you believe the only way I could disagree with you is if I have not thought about what you said. Could it be instead that there are some fundamental parts of Calvinist doctrine that you have glossed over and as a result that which you criticize is nothing by a caricature that does not exist?

          Bob Hadley

          When I said “this ‘sounds’ abhorrent, what I meant by that statement is the implication seems incredible. However, it really isn’t as I see it, when Calvinism is pushed to its logical conclusions.

          By that, I am saying WHEN you take the atonement accomplished at Calvary and assign it specifically to the elect you are in effect saying Jesus died for the sins of specific individuals and in doing so, go on to declare that their salvation was effectually determined. Add to that, regeneration which applies the atonement, where is the need for faith in the finished work of Christ and even the need for repentance?

          Chris, you wrote, ” One of the great challenges when talking with you about these matters is you seem unable to recognize that you might not understand the other position.” It is apparent that one of us appears to be unable to or unwilling to understand the others position…

          Additional your comment, “You have ascribed, here and elsewhere, several beliefs to Calvinism that simply are not so, and you have jumped at implications that do not exist .” It would be helpful if you would indicate WHAT implications you are referring to?

          I cannot respond to these generic statements and when I do respond to specific it seems that there is little to no comment on those responses.
          I also try very hard to be as specific as possible and would appreciate the same.

          Additionally, You wrote, “When you say, “Before you rip me apart, make sure you take a minute to actually think about WHAT I HAVE SAID…” you seem to indicate that you believe the only way I could disagree with you is if I have not thought about what you said.”

          Let me say, that comment was not aimed at YOU but at anyone reading the comment. As I have already mentioned, there seems to be a epidemic problem of selective comments in most blogs I read dealing with this issue.

          Again you wrote, “Could it be instead that there are some fundamental parts of Calvinist doctrine that you have glossed over and as a result that which you criticize is nothing by a caricature that does not exist?”

          Again… these generalized critical statements are useless… and the caricature criticism is a common theme used by Calvinists… this ‘strawman’ argument is really overblown and definitely overused in my opinion!

          Thanks for the travelling wishes… we made it safely and great weather for the drive, which was amazing to me given the weather that I thought we would hit! Not a drop of rain and clear skies; God is in deed awesome!

          Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

          Grateful to be in His Grip!

          ><>”

          Chris Roberts

          “the caricature criticism is a common theme used by Calvinists… this ‘strawman’ argument is really overblown and definitely overused in my opinion!”

          Seeing as how your recent blog post on Calvinism in the SBC was loaded with caricatures and straw men, I can see why you might feel that way.

          Bob Hadley

          Thanks Chris,

          Once again you did exactly what I said I wished that you guys WOULD NOT DO. Generalized statements accomplish nothing of any real significance and you continue to do so. I guess that in and of itself says a lot.

          ><>”

Bob Hadley

What is preposterous is your choice of words that you “cut and paste.” There is a profound difference in these two statements, “so this dialogue is not at all one dealing with Limited Atonement as you suggest.” and your statement, “so this dialogue is not at all one dealing with Limited Atonement.” That is simply inexcusable.

Here is my FULL statement: “The fact that Jesus said “I lay down My life for My sheep” does not mean He did not die for them all… so this dialogue is not at all one dealing with Limited Atonement as you suggest.”

A couple of questions. It seems to me there is this argument made by Calvinists that unconditional election is clearly seen in the OT in God’s choosing Israel as “the elect.” Since Calvinists do not seem to like the idea of corporate election but insist that election is “individual” in the mind of God, how is it that here in John 10 there is this differentiating between “national Israel” and individual Israel?

I am curious and just asking for some clarification here.

Lets take a closer look at John 10.

2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Now… let me ask you a question… when Jesus says, “he leads them out” is it fair to say that He is speaking of the sheep that He put in there in the beginning? There might be 10, 15 flocks of sheep in this pen and He is saying that those He put in there are the ones that will come out. This is what He says in verses 4-6: 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

His point at this point is that the Pharisees to whom He is speaking are not hearing His voice so they are not of His flock, but someone elses.

Let’s continue:
7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Here is Jesus’ statement that qualifies WHO HIS SHEEP ARE. His sheep are those who enter the sheepfold through Him… by the way of the cross, which is what He is about to speak of in verse 11. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus then goes on to talk about the hireling who is not willing to risk his life for the sheep; Jesus cares more for the safety of the sheep than He does His own life.

He continues, “14 I know My sheep (those who have entered through the door), and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” All in the world Jesus has said to this point is that He has sheep who are identified as those who have entered through Him, (who is the door to eternal life) and that He is willing to die for them. That is ALL Jesus has said to this point.

He continues, “16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” He has another fold, the gentiles that will hear His voice and follow Him or enter by Him and He will add them to this fold.

Later, “24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Listen to Jesus’ reply: “25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” Simple enough. the had ears to hear but they did not hear and eyes to see but they refused to see. The works that Jesus did spoke for themselves. They DID NOT believe. We still have that problem today.

26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” Who are His sheep? His sheep are those who entered “through Him, the door (V9)” His sheep are those who believe in Him and the works that He does that speak for themselves.

27 My sheep (which are those that have entered the door, which is Jesus) hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

Now. Seems to me that while there are overtures to the atonement in this passage, they may not be as BIG as you suggest. And those other references you cited, will need a LOT more explaining than your simple cut and paste provides.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Chris Roberts

Bob,

“Even more interesting is your passing on commenting on verse 14.”

I probably should have explained why I referenced 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. You emphasized the Spirit’s role in bringing about reconciliation following the atoning work of Christ, yet Paul says reconciliation comes through the atoning work of Christ, with no reference made to the Spirit’s work. Verse 14 may be significant in the overall discussion on limited atonement, but that’s not what I was talking about.

“Here Paul clearly says, He (Jesus) died for ALL.”

The question is not, “Did Jesus die for all?” but “did Jesus die for everyone in the same way, and did his death hold the same meaning, implication, power, efficacy for all people?” The answer to the first question is yes, Jesus died for all. The answer to the second question is no, his death had particular significance for the elect, significance not extended to those who are not elect.

    Bob Hadley

    Chris,

    You wrote the following statement: “I probably should have explained why I referenced 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. You emphasized the Spirit’s role in bringing about reconciliation following the atoning work of Christ, yet Paul says reconciliation comes through the atoning work of Christ, with no reference made to the Spirit’s work.”

    Hopefully I am NOT reading your words to say, that the Holy Spirit plays NO role in reconciliation?

    I asked Ben the following question concerning Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross… and I will ask you, “When Jesus actually died on the cross, were the sins of the elect (however you define them) paid for at the moment Jesus cried. “It is finished?” or are they paid for at some later date?

    Given the statement that I referenced, I am wanting to read between the lines on this issue of WHEN the atonement actually takes place. I do not want to do that.

    ><>”

      Les

      Bob,

      I can’t speak for Chris. But I suspect he did not mean to imply that the Spirit has no role in reconciliation. All persons of the trinity are involved in the salvation process. I think he was interacting with your previous statement:

      “I see a difference in the atoning work of Christ on the cross and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit that makes reconciliation possible.”

      …when what the scriptures attribute reconciliation to is Jesus’ death on the cross:

      “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10 ESV)

      Reconciliation was not just “possible,” but according to Romans 5:10 was accomplished with Jesus’ death on the cross. 2 Cor. agrees, of course.

      John Murray says well,

      The reconciliation of which the Scripture speaks, as accomplished by the death of Christ, contemplates, therefore, the relation of God to us. It presupposes a relation of alienation and it effects a relation of favour and peace. This new relation is constituted by the removal of the ground for the alienation. The ground is sin and guilt. The removal is wrought in the vicarious work of Christ, when he was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Christ took upon himself the sin and guilt, the condemnation and the curse of those on whose behalf he died. This is the epitome of divine grace and love. It is God’s own provision and it is his accomplishment. God himself in his own Son has removed the ground of offence and we receive the reconciliation. It is the message of this divine performance, perfected and complete, that is addressed to us in the gospel, and the demand of faith is crystallized in the plea that is uttered on behalf of Christ and as of God, “be ye reconciled to God.” Believe that the message is one of fact and enter into the joy and blessing of what God has wrought. Receive the reconciliation.

      Chris Roberts

      Bob,

      Les’s comment pretty well summarizes my position. Yes, the Spirit plays a role, as does the fullness of the Trinity. But the specific work of reconciliation is described as being the work of Christ. The Spirit works in applying reconciliation, as he applies redemption, but reconciliation has been accomplished by Christ in his work at the cross.

      As for when our sins are paid for, I commented where you brought it up before.

        Bob Hadley

        The Holy Spirit works in “applying reconciliation, as he applies redemption, but reconciliation has been accomplished by Christ in his work at the cross.”

        That is an interesting concept. Any Scriptural references to the Spirit “applying reconciliation” or is that a deductive conclusion?

        ><>”

Les

All,

Whatever side of LA you find yourself on, check out the Getty’s Irish Christmas preview on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed!

Bob Hadley

I am travelling to Virginia tomorrow so I will not be online. I will be able to check in Saturday briefly.

I appreciate all the dialogue and want to wish EVERYONE a very Merry Christmas! May God bless you, your families and your ministries!

><>”

Bob Hadley

Gentlemen,

Blogging affords us all some wonderful opportunities and for that I am and will continual to be grateful. However, it is frustrating to read comments that fail to deal with the differences in what we REALLY believe. As I indicated in my original post, I believe in Limited Atonement. The provisions were secured at Calvary by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. The benefits or application of the atonement are available to those who believe. Chris comments, that sounds like Calvinism to me. I am the one who has been criticized as “not understanding Calvinism” or “falsely misrepresenting Calvinism.” (in other posts… don’t think that has been said in so many words in this one.)

It is a luxury in blogging to be able to pick your battles unless you are the one responsible for the original post. In this discussion related to Limited Atonement, there is a serious issue that is either being intentionally or ignorantly ignored and both are inexcusable in my opinion. The issue is “for whom the atonement was made.”
Calvinists, as I see it, maintain Jesus died for Jim and not John and as such, Jim will believe and John will not. I believe Jesus died for Jim and John and the benefits of the atonement are appropriated to the one who believes. Now, the claim has been made that is Calvinism. Who is being clear about Calvinism with that statement? It is intentionally misleading since the minor/major caveat is WHO is responsible for the one who believes. LA for the Calvinist makes God solely responsible for BOTH the benefits and the application and LA for me makes God solely responsible for the provisions and man solely responsible for the benefits, given the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and man’s responsibility to respond.

It might be fair to say that we all believe in the provisional side of the atonement and the beneficial side. Calvinists it would seem place the majority of the emphasis on the provisional side and a lesser emphasis on the beneficial or application side while I place a more balanced emphasis on both. The irresponsible aspect of this debate is to focus a majority of the comments on everything BUT these differences. We all KNOW or SHOULD know what those differences are and that they DO exist and we all have definite opinions as to how those differences differentiate us but it is as if in the blogosphere some are oblivious to those differences and their implications and intentionally choose to ignore them and are then critical of the opposing posts.

Is there something wrong with this picture or am I missing something here???

Grateful to be in His Grip;

><>”

    Chris Roberts

    “I believe Jesus died for Jim and John and the benefits of the atonement are appropriated to the one who believes. Now, the claim has been made that is Calvinism.”

    The question, “For whom did Christ die?” does not typically mean “Does Jesus’ death hold some meaning for everyone?” but, more specifically, “For whom did Christ perform his atoning work?” In other words – what is the extent of the atonement? What you seem to say is that the atoning work of Christ was done not for everyone but for those who believe. That makes your position on the atonement similar to the Calvinist position. That is not all of Calvinism, not the fullness of Calvinist theology, but on that one point you are saying something very similar to the Calvinist position on the atonement.

    So to lay it out again:
    Jesus’ death has implications for everyone. In that sense, Jesus died for everyone, including both Jim and John. But his specific work of atonement was not carried out for everyone but only for those who would be saved. For whom did Christ die? Everyone. For whom did Christ atone? The elect – those who would be saved.

    “the minor/major caveat is WHO is responsible for the one who believes. LA for the Calvinist makes God solely responsible for BOTH the benefits and the application”

    No. All of Calvinism is not contained in one point (and even the five points are not themselves sufficient but only provide a general summary). Limited atonement speaks only to the question, “For whom did Christ carry out his atoning work?” It does not address how a person is able to respond by faith. It does not address what God will later do to apply the atoning work to the individual. It only addresses the question of the extent of the work of the atonement.

    “The irresponsible aspect of this debate is to focus a majority of the comments on everything BUT these differences.”

    But you are trying to focus on differences that are not related. Absolutely we disagree on how a person comes to the point of exercising faith, we disagree on who will believe, etc etc. But these matters have nothing to do with limited atonement, per se.

      Bob Hadley

      Chris,

      Look at what you wrote… “No. All of Calvinism is not contained in one point (and even the five points are not themselves sufficient but only provide a general summary).

      I know you are not suggesting that I insinuated that Calvinism could be reduced to one simple statement… I was speaking of the atoning work of Christ on the cross in a Calvinist mindset.

      Limited atonement speaks only to the question, “For whom did Christ carry out his atoning work?” It does not address how a person is able to respond by faith. It does not address what God will later do to apply the atoning work to the individual. It only addresses the question of the extent of the work of the atonement.”

      I agree with your statement. As I look at it, that is exactly what I see. However, when Calvinists seek to limit the atonement to Jesus dying on the cross for the elect, that in and of itself forms a foundation where the other elements automatically come into play. If Jesus died for the elect as the Calvinist contends, THEN irresistible grace is a given because Jesus paid the penalty for him and the sacrifice does not go undone.

      So, my point was, when you approach the atonement from that perspective, it moves that in practicality, repentance and faith are a given and brought about by God as opposed to the individual.

      Here is Les’ response to the need for repentance and faith, “Where is the need for for faith and repentance? The need is b/c God commands all men to repent and believe, and He opens the eyes of the elect so they will repent and believe (both repentance and faith are gifts from God).

      Two remarks to your response… first of all, I agree that God requires men to repent and to exercise faith… I adamantly disagree that repentance and faith are gifts of God.

      And… your question to Les with respect to the universal and particular work of Christ on the cross are simply efforts to explain the Calvinist theology as opposed to conclusions that come from reading the Scriptures themselves. Particular atonement is a deductive term that Calvinists have used to define their theological position. In that sense it is an accurate description.

      I do not believe that Jesus’ death was different “for everyone but does not hold the same significance, meaning, work, efficacy as his death, his atoning work, for the elect.”

      Faith in God, believing that He is everything that He says He is and He will do everything He says He will do is a great definition of faith, (see Hebrews 11:6b); faith is our response to God’s work of revelation and reconciliation.

      ><>”

        Chris Roberts

        “If Jesus died for the elect as the Calvinist contends, THEN irresistible grace is a given because Jesus paid the penalty for him and the sacrifice does not go undone.”

        When I first started learning the finer points of the Calvinist/non-Calvinist debate, it really surprised me that limited atonement was such a hot topic. It seemed clear to me that Jesus’ work could not have atoned for the sins of all people or all people would be in Heaven. That still seems clear to me. And if I were a non-Calvinist, what I would say (and what I thought you said) is that Jesus’ atonement was extended only to those who would believe. Whether they believe because of God or because of themselves is almost beside the point – either way, we can say that Jesus only atoned for the sins of those who would be saved. It is not necessary to go from there to election (though I think, of course, that one should).

        “I adamantly disagree that repentance and faith are gifts of God.”

        While I realize you will not interpret these passages the same way as me, Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25, and Ephesians 2:8-9 immediately come to mind.

        “simply efforts to explain the Calvinist theology as opposed to conclusions that come from reading the Scriptures themselves.”

        Except what is always interesting in these debates, and what finally lured me fully into the Calvinist side, is it is the Calvinists who most consistently use Scripture and most consistently draw forth the plain meaning of the text. If your posts have demonstrated anything, it is the remarkable efforts non-Calvinists will make to conform Scripture to their theology. There, now we have accused each other of the same thing.

        “Particular atonement is a deductive term that Calvinists have used to define their theological position.”

        Somewhat like the word Trinity.

        “Faith in God, believing that He is everything that He says He is and He will do everything He says He will do is a great definition of faith, (see Hebrews 11:6b); faith is our response to God’s work of revelation and reconciliation.”

        Except we were not talking about faith. We were not talking about our response to God’s grace (however that response is made possible). We were talking about what Jesus did on the cross, specifically in terms of his atoning work, and who that atoning work covers. If he atoned for the sins of everyone, then everyone goes to Heaven. If he did not atone for the sins of everyone, then the atonement is limited.

Les

Bob,

Glad you made it safely.

You: “Jesus died for Jim and not John and as such, Jim will believe and John will not. I believe Jesus died for Jim and John and the benefits of the atonement are appropriated to the one who believes.”

As a Calvinist, I cannot agree with that statement. Here is how I would say it:

“”Jesus died for Jim and not John, because Jim is elect and John is not (though none of us, including Jim and John, knows who is elect and who isn’t). We are talking here about the secret counsel of God. Jim will repent and believe and John will not. I believe Jesus died for Jim, though not for John in a salvific way and the benefits of the atonement are appropriated to the one who repents and believes.”

Above in another comment you say,

“I am saying WHEN you take the atonement accomplished at Calvary and assign it specifically to the elect you are in effect saying Jesus died for the sins of specific individuals and in doing so, go on to declare that their salvation was effectually determined. Add to that, regeneration which applies the atonement, where is the need for faith in the finished work of Christ and even the need for repentance?”

Right. Where is the need for for faith and repentance? The need is b/c God commands all men to repent and believe, and He opens the eyes of the elect so they will repent and believe (both repentance and faith are gifts from God).

Underlying all this, in the Calvinist view, is that NO MAN, NO ONE, deserves tobe chosen and have their eyes opened. So those who are not elect and therefore do not have their eyes opened, are not shortchanged at all. For if one thinks they are being mistreated by not being chosen and by not being regenerated, one then has gutted grace. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and since no one deserves it, the non-elect are left in their natural born sinful state, justly deserving God’s judgment. They are not getting shorted. They are actually getting their just desserts.

No, one will say, that seems unfair that God would ever even create some who are not elect. Paul answers the objection in Romans 9, and at the end of the day we have to declare that there are aspects of God’s actions beyond our privilege to know.

Les

    Chris Roberts

    Les,

    Would it be fair to say there is a distinction between the universal work of Christ on the cross and the particular work of Christ on the cross, so we can say Jesus died for Jim and John as he died for all people, but his death for everyone does not hold the same significance, meaning, work, efficacy as his death, his atoning work, for the elect?

      Les

      Chris, I agree there is a sense in which Jesus’ death on the cross was universal. So yes, I agree with what you are saying. I can agree with Piper,

      Therefore I affirm with John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 that God loves the world with a deep compassion that desires the salvation of all men. Yet I also affirm that God has chosen from before the foundation of the world whom he will save from sin. Since not all people are saved we must choose whether we believe (with the Arminians) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to human self-determination or whether we believe (with the Calvinists) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to the glorification of his sovereign grace (Ephesians 1:6,12,14; Romans 9:22-23).

      This decision should not be made on the basis of metaphysical assumptions about what we think human accountability requires. It should be made on the basis of what the scriptures teach. I do not find in the Bible that human beings have the ultimate power of self-determination. As far as I can tell it is a philosophical inference based on metaphysical presuppositions.

      More at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god

        Bob Hadley

        Take a look at Piper’s first paragraph related to choosing “whether we believe (with the Arminians) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to human self-determination or whether we believe (with the Calvinists) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to the glorification of his sovereign grace (Ephesians 1:6,12,14; Romans 9:22-23).”

        It appears to me that this choice that he has just presented is itself a “a philosophical inference based on metaphysical presuppositions.”

        Interesting indeed.

        ><>”

Les

Bob,

You: “I adamantly disagree that repentance and faith are gifts of God.”

You must reckon with not only the Eph. passage, but his:

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:29 ESV)

Here faith AND suffering are gifts from God.

Cognate: 5483 xarízomai (from 5485 /xáris, “grace, extending favor”) – properly, to extend favor (“grace”), freely give favor to grant forgiveness (pardon).

5483 /xarízomai (“favor that cancels”) is used of God giving His grace to pardon. This is freely done and therefore not based on any merit of the one receiving forgiveness.

[5483 (xarízomai) literally means, “to exercise grace, freely show favor,” i.e. willingly (“graciously”) bestow.]

How can this mean anything other than a grace gift?

And repentance?

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

Whatever one thinks about the salvation process and order and such, it is really undeniable hat both faith and repentance are gifts from God.

    Bob Hadley

    Les,

    In looking at the passage in 2 Tim 2:23-26

    It seems to me that Paul is speaking to Christians about their witness and testimony to the lost… and how they ought to conduct themselves…

    and in exercising humility “God might grant repentance leading to a knowledge of truth, so that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil.” I do not believe Paul is saying, God “will give repentance” to those who need it as you are applying it. The tense is second aorist active subjunctive which indicates possible action… not definite action.

    All Paul is saying is, our attitude as Christians has an influence on those around us which makes the granting of repentance a possibility.

    Lets go back to the Philippians passage. Again, Paul is speaking to Christians about the privilege they have to serve God in the Great Commission.

    Paul says, let your conduct be worthy of the gospel… consistent in proclaiming and (I believe living is implied here) not fearing your adversaries (those who persecute you) “for you have been given the privilege to believe and suffer for Christ’s sake, that you have seen me endure.

    I simply do not see this issue of “faith”, “repentance” and “believing” as GIFTS that God gives to the elect in regeneration. These are essential to conversion; they are human responses to God’s salvific initiatives.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

      Les

      Thanks Bob. I’ll not belabor my point any more.

      God bless.

Steve Lemke

If I could make an overall observation here, this discussion boils down to the doctrine of God, not soteriology. In Limited Atonement, the fundamental doctrine is that must be absolutely sovereign — that God have complete micromanaging level control over every detail in the universe. If He doesn’t have that level of control, He’s not God any more. The atonement is for all those whom God has elected and given enabling grace; all others deserve what they get anyway (even though there was no way even before they were born that they could have possibly avoided eternal torment in hell, because of the sin of someone thousands of years ago). So the idea that the atonement is in any way dependent on human responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit is unthinkable; it would make God not sovereign any more, and hence not glorious.

From what Bob is calling the Limiting Atonement perspective, the fundamental doctrine is that God is love, expressed most clearly in His sovereign choice of sending Jesus to save all those who would believe (John 3:16). So the reason people are not saved, despite His sufficient atonement, is that they do not respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repenting of their sins and trusting Christ as their Savior and Lord (on the basis of which through His perfect foreknowledge He elected and predestined them from the foundation of the world — Romans 8:29-30). If they do not respond, God has done all He could reasonably do for them by making a way possible for their salvation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and thus it is their fault, not His, that they are tormented in hell. But for God to arbitrarily choose some for heaven but not give the overwhelming majority of humankind the enabling grace to be saved, and thus to condemn them to an eternity of torment (since He is absolutely in control of everything), is unthinkable. He is not God any more because He is not perfectly loving, but in fact is a moral monster. It would make God not loving any more, and hence not glorious (or good).

So, again, it all boils down to which of those depictions of God — God as sovereign or God as love (both of them scriptural) that you find to be most fundamental. Once you decide that, you can quote a boatload of Scriptures to substantiate your theological position.

    Chris Roberts

    “In Limited Atonement, the fundamental doctrine is that must be absolutely sovereign — that God have complete micromanaging level control over every detail in the universe.”

    Dr. Lemke, you should know better than that. The points you make are significant matters of consideration in Calvinism/Arminianism/whatever, but are not particular to the discussion for limited atonement. Did Jesus pay for everyone’s sins? That is the question addressed by limited atonement.

    “the idea that the atonement is in any way dependent on human responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit is unthinkable”

    As I say to Bob, this issue is almost beside the point. Whether we define the elect as “those sovereignly preordained by God for salvation” or as “those God knew would one day receive Jesus by faith”, the question remains – did Jesus’ atoning work extend to every single human being, did he pay for every single human sin, did he bear the wrath, pay the penalty, for all people, or not? My answer – and the answer of limited atonement – is emphatically no, he did not, or all people would go to Heaven for God will not demand double payment for sin. I believe even non-Calvinists can (and should) hold to limited atonement without even a hint of agreement on matters such as sovereign, unconditional election and irresistible grace.

      Bob Hadley

      Chris,

      I can agree with your statement, “the question remains – did Jesus’ atoning work extend to every single human being, did he pay for every single human sin, did he bear the wrath, pay the penalty, for all people, or not?” Obviously there is an answer to your question… and it almost has to be yes or no.

      You wrote, “My answer – and the answer of limited atonement – is emphatically no, he did not, or all people would go to Heaven for God will not demand double payment for sin.”

      This is the reason I do not accept the terminology “Limited Atonement.” I do not agree with your conclusion.

      I also think a definition of atonement may also be in order. Atonement is to me like salvation; it involves differing components. If we see the atonement as a finished product so to speak, then your conclusions may be necessarily demanded.

      If we look at the atonement as a process that begins with the cross and includes conversion THEN the conclusions you draw are not an “either or” proposition. In this scenario, the provisions wrought on the cross do not limit the scope of the atonement, but rather the limiting aspect of the atonement can be seen in the conversion process. This is my position.

      Everything kind of goes back to the bank account illustration.

      You wrote, “If you think of it as a bank account, the death of Christ put enough money in the bank to cover any bill anyone ever owes. More than enough money is there. An infinite amount of money is there. It is sufficient for all.

      However, Jesus only paid the bills, the debts, the sin, the penalty, for those who are elect.”

      I see the provisions of the atonement as “the death of Christ putting more than enough money in the bank to cover any bill every owed.” In this case, I believe Jesus died for the ALL the sins of ALL men.

      The conditions are seen in your statement, “However, Jesus only paid the bills, the debts, the sin, the penalty, for those who are elect.”

      I expand my discussion of Limiting Atonement to one that includes the conditions of the atonement for the believer.

      In this illustration and discussion of the atonement, can you see HOW I can speak of the provisions of the atonement on the cross as Jesus dying for the sin of ALL men… and the aspect that keeps this from demanding a conclusion of universalism is not in the provisions but in the conditions or the application of the atonement?

      Grateful to be in His Grip!

      ><>”

        Les

        Bobe, et al:

        JI Packer on the atonement.

        God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:25).
        Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for
        wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted
        relationship.
        Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power
        and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate
        sin (Jer. 44:4; Hab. 1:13) and to punish it (Ps. 5:4-6; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or
        fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is
        sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase
        our guilt or worsen our situation. This makes it ruinous folly to seek to establish one’s own
        righteousness before God (Job 15:14-16; Rom. 10:2-3); it simply cannot be done.
        But against this background of human hopelessness, Scripture sets forth the love, grace,
        mercy, pity, kindness, and compassion of God, the offended Creator, in himself providing
        the atonement that our sin has made necessary. This amazing grace is the focal center of
        New Testament faith, hope, worship, ethics, and spiritual life; from Matthew to Revelation
        it shines out with breathtaking glory.
        When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he set up as part of the covenant relationship a
        system of sacrifices that had at its heart the shedding and offering of the blood of unflawed
        animals “to make atonement for yourselves” (Lev. 17:11). These sacrifices were typical
        (that is, as types, they pointed forward to something else). Though sins were in fact “left . . .
        unpunished” (Rom. 3:25) when sacrifices were faithfully offered, what actually blotted
        them out was not the animals’ blood (Heb. 10:11) but the blood of the antitype, the sinless
        Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross atoned for all sins that were remitted
        before the event as well as sins committed after it (Rom. 3:25-26; 4:3-8; Heb. 9:11-15).
        New Testament references to the blood of Christ are regularly sacrificial (e.g., Rom. 3:25;
        5:9; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5). As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Rom. 8:3; Eph. 5:2; 1 Pet. 1:18-19),
        Christ’s death was our redemption (i.e., our rescue by ransom: the paying of a price that
        freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath; Rom.
        3:24; Gal. 4:4-5; Col. 1:14). Christ’s death was God’s act of reconciling us to himself,
        overcoming his own hostility to us that our sins provoked (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col.
        1:20-22). The Cross propitiated God (i.e., quenched his wrath against us by expiating our
        sins and so removing them from his sight). Key texts here are Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17;
        1 John 2:2 and 4:10, in each of which the Greek expresses propitiation explicitly. The cross
        had this propitiatory effect because in his suffering Christ assumed our identity, as it were,
        and endured the retributive judgment due to us (“the curse of the law,” Gal. 3:13) as our
        substitute, in our place, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to his
        cross as the tally of crimes for which he was now dying (Col. 2:14; cf. Matt. 27:37; Isa. 53:4-
        6; Luke 22:37).Christ’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of the new covenant, in which access to God
        under all circumstances is guaranteed by Christ’s one sacrifice that covers all
        transgressions (Matt. 26:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through
        faith in Christ have “received reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11) “in him . . . become the
        righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, they are justified and receive the status
        of adopted children in God’s family (Gal. 4:5). Thereafter they live under the motivating
        constraint and control of the love of Christ for them as made known and measured by the
        cross (2 Cor. 5:14).

        The very nature of the OT idea of atonement necessitates sins being paid for…at the cross. That leaves a problem for non-particular atonement folks for those who don’t get to heaven. So, either sins were NOT actually judged on the cross, no substitute sacrifice…or they were. If the former, that is a problem since the bible elsewhere says a sacrifice DID take place. If the latter, then it’s either for particular people (elect) or everyone (universalism).

        The only reason I can think of to reject particular atonement is on a fairness basis. The OT thru Rev. teaches substitutionary atonement. So either substitution was made or it wasn’t. The Reformed faith says it was made.

        Oh, and I think Chris is right on, “I believe even non-Calvinists can (and should) hold to limited atonement without even a hint of agreement on matters such as sovereign, unconditional election and irresistible grace.”

          Bob Hadley

          Let me ask you a couple questions.

          Do you see the atonement as an event or a series of events or a process?

          If it is a single event… is the event culminated at Calvary or at conversion?

          If it is a process, is it fair to see the cross as the provisional side of the process of atonement and conversion that application side of the atonement?

          It seems to me there is this tendency to lump everything together in a way that there is so much ambiguity in what is being said that there is no clarity.

          ><>”

    Bob Hadley

    Dr. Lemke,

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and once again, thank you for making this venue available for this discussion. I am indeed humbled for the opportunity to share my heart and my convictions related to the presentation of the great gospel message in the Scriptures.

    As I see it, all theological positions are going to be based on one’s doctrine of God. He is sovereign and He is Loving as well as some other very significant aspects to His Character, Glory and Being. While I know this is NOT what you suggest, I will say that God’s sovereignty and His Love are not mutually exclusive but completely inclusive. He is BOTH sovereign and loving.

    I would say Limiting Atonement (which differs from Limited Atonement) rests on God’s sovereignty as well as His great love for all He has created. His perfect will is that none perish and that all come to repentance. Interesting to me is the statement that Paul says that God is “patient or longsuffering”; now there is an interesting aspect related to the issue of the atonement.

    God is indeed “love, expressed most clearly in His sovereign choice of sending Jesus to save all those who would believe (John 3:16). This is where His longsuffering comes in. Conversion is an individual’s “response to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the repenting of his sins and trusting or believing in the promises and provisions of Christ as their Savior and Lord.”

    You are absolutely correct in your assertion, “If they do not respond, God has done all He could reasonably do for them by making a way possible for their salvation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and thus it is their fault, not His, that they are tormented in hell.” Man is responsible for his sin. God is responsible for the provisions to redeem man. Man is responsible for coming to God in faith so that the benefits of the provisions of the atonement may be appropriated in his heart and life.

    It is unthinkable that anyone would charge God as “arbitrarily choosing some for heaven but not give the overwhelming majority of humankind the enabling grace to be saved, and thus to condemn them to an eternity of torment.” This to me is so foreign to the picture of the Love of God and the ultimate expression of that love demonstrated at Calvary.

    Does this picture of God’s love detract from His sovereignty? No. Does it dilute the provisions of the atonement? No. Does this picture of God’s love take away from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion process? Again, No.

    Does it differ from the picture of Limited Atonement? Absolutely. That is why Conversionism is not concerned with Limited Atonement. Limiting Atonement is a form of Limited Atonement in the sense that the atonement is not universal; but that is the extent of their association. It must be understood that arguments that are relative to the Calvinist depiction of LA do not apply to my presentation of Limiting Atonement.

    Limiting Atonement is a process that involves the provisions of the atonement at Calvary and the benefits of the atonement made available to the believer at conversion. It is at this point that the atonement is complete and God has effectively reconciled a sinful individual unto Himself.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    >lt;>”

Chris Roberts

Dropping in a last (from me) comment to say thanks for the discussion. I’ll continue to look at the posts from Bob and will check back to this post to see if there are any new comments, but I’ll not join in future discussion on this series. I don’t know that much more can be said than has already been said (well, lots more *could*) but I do know that the discussions are getting more frustrating and less friendly.

Consider it a Christmas present – one thorn out of the side of these discussions! :) And speaking of that, Merry Christmas, and may the peace of Christ fill us all.

Andrew Patrick

I must disagree with one premise of the original article as it is thus defined:

Anyone who rejects the idea of Universalism by default accepts the concept of Limited Atonement. In its most basic application, limited atonement simply says Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary is by necessity limited to a certain group of people.”

That sounds more like a propaganda line, or even a warning to others, that if one does not accept “Limited Atonement” then that person will be accused of Universalism.

1) Given that I reject Universalism on scriptural grounds,
2) And considering that I reject the concept of Limited Atonement for like reasons,
3) Therefore I am an example that the stated premise cannot be correct.

Plainly speaking, it does not logically follow that one must accept the concept of Limited Atonement or accept Universalism. Christ’s atoning sacrifice is not by necessity limited to a certain group of people.

Zero: Our Foundation of the Figure of the Atonement Sacrifice

When we consider the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, the group sacrifices were made for all of Israel. And especially when we consider the atonement, we should look to its shadow of things to come when Aaron (as the high priest) was to come before the mercy seat. The goat of the LORD was offered for the entire congregation. See Leviticus 16:15-16.

Lev 16:15-16 KJV
(15) Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
(16) And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

That was even called the atonement that Aaron was to make once a year. This old covenant was symbolic of the new (Hebrews 10:1) and Jesus is not only our lamb but also our high priest that is our mediator. That one sacrifice covered all.

I have several times seen an emotional argument raised on this forum with a concern that “not one drop of Christ’s blood may be wasted.” Where is this idea coming from? It’s certainly not biblical. The importance of the shedding of blood is the fact that it was shed and that the life is sacrificed, not about where every drop of blood might happen to fall. The lamb is still slain no matter what happens to the blood.

I do not think that this subject can receive complete review if “Perseverance of the Saints” or “Once Saved Always Saved” is allowed a special protected status, because the resolution of this issue lies in not whether the sacrifice was for all, but whether men may reject the sacrifice.

I believe scripture certainly does say that Christ’s sacrifice which has been made can be specifically rejected. Volfan007 started to introduce this topic above, so I will reintroduce his argument and add more onto it besides.

One: “…denying the Lord that bought them…”

2Pe 2:1 KJV
(1) 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.

I didn’t see anyone reply to this scripture which was quoted earlier. I think this is very clear that someone can be bought and then bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Two: “made partakers of the Holy Ghost … crucify the Son of God afresh…”

Heb 6:4-8 KJV
(4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
(5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
(6) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
(7) For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
(8) But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Paul speaks of certain people, or at least a certain potential of people, to taste of the Holy Ghost and be enlightened, and to have repented… and because of the specific language, it cannot be argued that the crucifixion did not apply the first time, or else why would he speak of crucifying the Son of God afresh? Their end is to be burned.

Three: Counting the blood … with which you were sanctified … an unholy thing…

Heb 10:26-29 KJV
(26) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
(27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
(28) He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
(29) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Again, speaking against the background of fiery indignation devouring the enemies of God, it is spoken of those who have been sanctified by the blood of the covenant, who then turn and count it as an unholy thing. I don’t understand how anyone could claim that this would not be applicable (by including) the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

All of this is applicable to the original stated premise of “Limited Atonement” because it flies in the face of its emotional premise that Jesus would not offer his blood for anyone who could possibly reject it.

In addition to those three scriptural passages, I would add another three additional passages of scriptures from the parables of Jesus.

Four: The parable of the sower

Jesus even asked that if you cannot understand this parable, then how can you understand any parable at all? (Mark 4:13)

Luk 8:11-15 KJV
(11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
(12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
(13) They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
(14) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
(15) But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Does the Calvinist allow for someone to hear the word and believe and then to fall away in times of temptation? Perhaps “Once Saved Always Saved” might allow for these plants with no root to go on to eternal life, but that doesn’t seem compatible with TULIP theology.

Five: The Parable of the Wedding Feast

While it is true that the original guests of this parable might represent the Jews and the new guests might be the gentiles, it is worthy to note that everyone was called in that they could find, both “bad and good.”

Mat 22:8-12 KJV
(8) Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
(9) Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
(10) So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
(11) And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
(12) And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

The problem was not that the feast was not made ready, and it wasn’t that the guest was not invited. The problem was that the guest was not willing to put on a wedding garment. These were not party crashers, they were invited guests.

The TULIP has another difficulty besides that those who were bidden would not come, but my focus is that the feast was prepared for all.

Six: The Parable of the Forgiveness of Debts

Mat 18:23-27 KJV
(23) Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
(24) And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
(25) 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.
(26) The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
(27) Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

This parable is related to our discussion of “Limiting” Atonement. This first man owed a very great debt and he and all he had would have been sold, and the lord had all the ability to absorb the hurt of the debt to himself. When the man begged for mercy, this lord himself paid the penalty for this man’s debt, even though it was to himself.

Thus, the lord of this parable is the Lord of our atonement. The concept is the same. It was available upon repentance. But this is the key: for those who have been defending “Limited Atonement” by claiming that not one drop of Christ’s blood will be wasted, and that the atonement is never made for anyone who will not be saved… read the rest of the parable.

The atonement was made for this man and his debts were forgiven. However, when he trod the blood of that covenant underfoot and refused to show mercy to his fellow man, that atonement was revoked. The mercy had been shown, the debt was forgiven, and the debt was reinstated once again.

This is what I meant when I said that Limited Atonement cannot be fairly addressed if “Eternal Security” is declared off limits and is not allowed to be challenged. Atonement is made for those who will reject it, so the “wasted blood” theory is misplaced.

Perhaps we could find more parables that reflect on our topic, but I would like to close by reminding us that scripture certainly does speak in ways that deny Limited Atonement:

Seven: Jesus Tasted Death for Every Man

Heb 2:9 KJV
(9) 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.

I know that Calvinists will argue that every man is not every man, but I still ask that if our author was a Calvinist, why would he ever speak in this fashion in the first place?

Eight: Romans 5, the gift of God is abounded to many

Rom 5:15 KJV
(15) But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

I would quote much of the whole chapter for context but I fear taking up too much space. If one hasn’t been affected by the previous examples they will not likely be affected here either, but read the whole passage. Paul uses “many” in the same sense for both those that be dead and those by whom the gift of grace is abounded.

This does not mean that the gift will be accepted by everyone, but the gift is offered to all. The sacrifice was made for all, all are called into the feast, and even those that have been sanctified, repented, and believed can fall away and count the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing.

When Christ was slain, the temple veil was ripped from top to bottom. That was not a symbol of exclusion, and I have difficulty understanding how this act could be construed as limiting His atonement. That holiest that was now revealed to all was even the very place that was entered into once a year for the atonement, when the goat of the LORD was offered for the sins of all the people.

Circling back to the founding premise that I addressed,

“Anyone who rejects the idea of Universalism by default accepts the concept of Limited Atonement. In its most basic application, limited atonement simply says Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary is by necessity limited to a certain group of people.”

I am not a Universalist and I reject Limited Atonement in its most basic application. Lest I be misunderstood, I do agree with the meaning of Bob’s conclusion, that being that

“…the benefits of the atonement, which are limitless to save, are seen as being limited to those who believe.”

Yet I maintain that the atoning sacrifice was not limited to any group of people, but made for all. The question is whether we will accept that sacrifice that has been made for us.

Conclusion: Why This Matters

We should remember those parables and their conclusions. Did not the Lord condemn that servant that was already forgiven much because he would not extend that Lord’s forgiveness as well? By forgiving the first debtor much, should that not have enabled the debtor to forgive his fellow man as well? The lesson was that the Lord intended mercy to be offered to all who would ask for mercy.

1Jn 3:17 KJV
(17) But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

I could explain this further, drawing on my previous examples and more besides, but my hope is that this might be seen for itself. The whole underlying concept of Limiting Atonement limits the love of God and affects our hearts as well.

    Andrew Patrick

    Oops – just to clarify, that last phrase meant to say “Limited Atonement” rather than “Limiting Atonement” but with all of these similar words it may be difficult for the average person to distinguish between such similar terms.

    I do not disagree with Bob’s proposed Limiting Atonement in concept, although it seems that I now have reason to dislike the label. I would rather speak of Atonement For All, something that won’t cause confusion, because it’s completely different in intent. I have no interest in gilding the TULIP.

    One more thing that I may have neglected to emphasize, in the passage of Hebrews where it speaks of tasting of the Holy Spirit and falling away, it continues on to use the analogy of rain that falls upon the field and the thorns. Those thorns receive the rain just the same as everything else, but they will still be gathered and burned (Hebrews 6:4-8).

    Bob Hadley

    You misunderstood the point that I intended to make in the following statement, “Anyone who rejects the idea of Universalism by default accepts the concept of Limited Atonement. In its most basic application, limited atonement simply says Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary is by necessity limited to a certain group of people.”

    Perhaps it might have been better stated by using “a” as opposed to “the” in the statement… with reference to “a concept of limited atonement.” (Not the concept of Limited Atonement proposed by Calvinists.)

    All I was saying is essence if this: If an individual does not believe in universalism, he MUST accept some concept of a limiting atonement because while the atonement is made for everyone, it is not appropriated to everyone and that appropriation is in and of itself limiting.

    I was not saying that the atonement was limited to a certain group of people, aka the elect.

    Hope this clears up your confusion. I used some similar language to illustrate my positions relative to that of Calvinists so that the discussion might follow some familiar paths.

    Personally, I would have preferred to frame my position in another manner but this one at least gives me a reference point to explain my positions.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

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