Adrian Rogers on Calvinism—Part Four

August 20, 2014

This sermon excerpt on limited atonement is from Reformed Theology by Adrian Rogers. (Archived by Louisiana College) Read the full sermon.

Read part one.  Read part two.  Read part three.

We’re going to tighten the focus a little bit more. Here’s the third thing…and that is LIMITED ATONEMENT… the idea that Jesus died for only some people. I want to give you a verse right now that gives the hyper-Calvinist fits. I want you to turn to 1 John 2:1-2: “My little children, these things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He’s talking about the Lord Jesus who pleads our case before the Father. And now, notice verse 2: “And He is the propitiation for our sins.” Now, that’s a big word that simply means that He is “satisfaction” for our sins that is the Lord Jesus who paid our sin debt and satisfied the righteous demands of the Law. He is the propitiation for our sins. Now watch this…“And not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” I believe that Jesus died for the whole world. I can’t help but believe that. There’s no other way to say what black print means on white paper.

What will a hyper-Calvinist say about this verse? Well, he’ll say “Oh, the whole world of the elect.” And he’ll put a little codicil down there. He’ll write something in that’s not there. “Well, the whole world of the elect.” He’s not talking about the elect when he says the whole world. By the way, any text taken out of its context is a pretext…you know that, don’t you?

Alright, what kind of a “world” is he talking about? Verse 16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world.”

He’s not talking about the world of the elect. He’s talking about an ungodly world. And he’s saying that Jesus died for that ungodly world! And he’s not talking about Jesus dying for the elect only. He says that He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only…not just for the “chosen frozen”…He is the propitiation for the whole world. Now, I could not pick up my Bible and read it…if there were no other verse in the Bible but this one, I could not be a hyper-Calvinist…I could not be a five-point Calvinist, let me put it that way.

Let me give you another verse. Turn to 2 Peter 2:1. Peter here is talking about apostates and if you know anything about apostates you know they’re on their road to hell. They deny the Lord. Look if you will at 2 Peter 2:1: “But there were false prophets also among the people even as there shall be false teachers among you who privately bring in damnable heresies even denying the Lord that bought them,” “The Lord that bought them.” They were bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, they are heretics! They are bringing damnable heresies, going to hell but bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!

How could a person therefore believe in a limited atonement? What’s the first verse you probably learned? John 3:16: “For God so loved the elect?” No? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that if the elect would believe on Him?” begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

No, I don’t believe in limited atonement, and I’ll tell you why. While we’re in 2 Peter, go to chapter 3 verse 9. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” It’s not God’s will that any man go to hell. God’s will is not always done. Did you get the idea that because God is sovereign that God’s will is always done? Do you think rape is God’s will? Do you think sodomy is God’s will? Do you think blasphemy is God’s will? No, God gave man a will. God Himself is not willing that any should perish, but God gave man a will and some do perish but the love of God will follow that man to that hell with tears if he goes.

Now here’s the way hyper-Calvinist explains it. Here’s a farmer, he has a swimming hole on his farm. He puts up a sign that says “NO SWIMMING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – PRIVATE PROPERTY – STAY OUT!” Three boys come in and begin to swim. They get out in the middle and they’re drowning. He drives by on his tractor, looks over there and there are the three boys. Do they deserve to drown? Yes. Is he obligated to save them? No. Did he put up the sign? Yes. Is he unjust if he lets them drown (I’m talking about hyper-Calvinism, now)? No. No, he’s not unjust. He said “Don’t do it.” They did it. They chose. Could he be blamed if they drowned? No, so if he wants to,
he can be perfectly just by riding right past on his tractor.

But suppose he says, “Oh, I’m going to have mercy on the boy in the blue trunks,” so he throws him a line. After all, he doesn’t have to have mercy on any of them. So he just decides that he’s just going to choose “that one.” What if he just chooses “that one” and says to the other two, “You can drown. You deserve to drown. I choose that one,” and he throws that one a line because he is “elect” and he’s the one that is saved.

Someone says, “Now, see, that’s consistent with the nature of God. God’s still perfectly just if He does that.” That’s not consistent with the nature of God because not only is God just…God is love. God is love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish…” Do you think that God, a God of love, would not choose to save all three of those boys?

Now, suppose the farmer throws a line to all three boys? And two of them say, “No thank you, I think I can make it to shore.” He says, “No, take the line.” They say, “I’m going to do it myself.” And they perish. Now does that mean that his love was not real and ineffectual? Not at all!

Look if you will in John 1:29. John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus Christ coming and he said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the elect.” No! “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” Do you know what motivated the Apostle Paul? Do you know what made Paul the greatest missionary-soul-winner that ever lived? It wasn’t hyper- Calvinism. I’ll tell you what it was. Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:13. Now, they said that Paul was crazy. They said, “Paul, you’re out of your mind. You’re beside yourself.” And he says, “Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constrained us because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead.” How many did Jesus die for? ALL! All the dead! “If One died for all, then were all dead that He that died for all that they which live
should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him that died for them and rose again.” What Paul is saying is “This is what motivates me…I’m not crazy…they were all dead…and Jesus died for ALL.” He died for all. And if you don’t say that Jesus died you might as well say with the same logic that all were not dead. That in Adam all did not die. But the Bible says that in Adam all died, even so in Christ are all made alive. Friend, the hyper-Calvinist will say, “If you say that Jesus’ death was for all and all don’t get saved, then that makes his death ineffectual…it means He’s not sovereign.”

I want to ask you a question. When God fed the children of Israel with manna in the wilderness, do you think all the manna was eaten? Do you think some of it lay on the ground and didn’t get picked up? Of course! Did that mean God didn’t do it or that God was not showing love and mercy just because some manna was not taken? If God offers His love and His love is not received, that doesn’t mean God has failed, that means man has failed. God is love!

I reject their belief of limited atonement because of these Scriptures that are so clear and so plain. He is the propitiation for our sin and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

(Stay tuned for PART FIVE…)

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Michael Vaughan

I wonder what Rogers would define as “Calvinism.” He seems to have a pretty broad view of “hyper-Calvinism,” such that it includes all of Calvinism as it would normally be defined.

After reading his analogy of the drowning boys (which I think is a poor one, but I’ll leave that fire now), I have a question for the Traditionalists here. Why did God give men free will?

    Robert

    Michael asked the question:

    “I have a question for the Traditionalists here. Why did God give men free will?”

    Rick started to answer this question by quoting from Adrian Rodgers:

    “Now friend, coerced love is a contradiction in terms. There’s no such thing as forced love.”

    This is an important observation, that genuine love is not forced (or determined) but is freely chosen. A forced love is a contradiction in terms and is not genuine.

    Perhaps a conversation that I had with someone recently might shed some light here. I was talking to a lady recently and she was bringing up the point that some people do not feel that God is giving them the best (apparently these people are not convinced that God loves them because they do not see the best circumstances in their lives and if God loved them he would be giving them what is best for them). I corrected this lady by pointing out nicely that this thinking is completely muddled and mistaken. God does want to give people what is *best* for them. I explained to this lady that before the creation only God existed and that God experienced a perfect love between the members of the Trinity (the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, etc.). Because God is perfect and experiences perfect love he did not create the universe out of some need for relationship or love (he already was experiencing perfect love). I also pointed out that Jesus made some comments in the NT about us experiencing the perfect love of the Trinity if we are in personal relationship with God. In other words, human beings are created with the capacity for a personal and loving relationship with God. As God is the best person, reality, out there.

    To experience love and relationship with this God is to experience the best that a human person can experience.

    I also pointed out that in this present existence that while we can be in relationship with God our experience of Him is limited and marred by sin and some present day realities. But this condition is not permanent as we are also told that we will experience perfect love with this perfect being for eternity in the eternal state. So in a nutshell, God does want the best for all of us because he wants us to be in personal relationship with Him and that is the best. I also pointed out to her that this love we have for God is something that is freely chosen, it is not a robotic love or forced love.

    What this means is that one purpose of having free will is to give us the capacity for a loving relationship with God (i.e. free will is not the end, it is a means to an end, that end being love of God).

    Now I did not get into it with the Lady but you could also point out that in order to be a genuine person you have to have your own mind your own will and you at least sometimes have and make your own choices. You could also point out that loving relationships with other people and even animals is made possible by free will. So besides free will making a personal and loving relationship with the best/God possible. It also makes it possible for us to be genuine persons who can experience genuine love.

    And when we look at how God created man we see these elements from the beginning of man’s existence: man is created with the capacity for having a loving relationship with God and others, man is created as a genuine person not merely a thing. In addition we could also point out that free will makes language possible (ordinary language use involves all sorts of choices, cf. when Adam chooses the names of the animals). In Genesis man is given delegated responsibility to govern the world, something that requires free will. Other points could be made, but the main point is that free will is not an end in and of itself but a means to an end. It is not free will in itself alone that makes it important, but what it makes possible.

    I am quite happy that a perfect being who experiences perfect love decided to create creatures with the capacity for a personal and loving relationship with Him and that He invites all people to experience the best/Himself.

    Robert

    Robert

    Michael asked the question:

    “I have a question for the Traditionalists here. Why did God give men free will?”

    Rick started to answer this question by quoting from Adrian Rodgers:

    “Now friend, coerced love is a contradiction in terms. There’s no such thing as forced love.”

    This is an important observation, that genuine love is not forced (or determined) but is freely chosen. A forced love is a contradiction in terms and is not genuine.

    Perhaps a conversation that I had with someone recently might shed some light here. I was talking to a lady recently and she was bringing up the point that some people do not feel that God is giving them the best (apparently these people are not convinced that God loves them because they do not see the best circumstances in their lives and if God loved them he would be giving them what is best for them). I corrected this lady by pointing out nicely that this thinking is completely muddled and mistaken. God does want to give people what is *best* for them. I explained to this lady that before the creation only God existed and that God experienced a perfect love between the members of the Trinity (the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, etc.). Because God is perfect and experiences perfect love he did not create the universe out of some need for relationship or love (he already was experiencing perfect love). I also pointed out that Jesus made some comments in the NT about us experiencing the perfect love of the Trinity if we are in personal relationship with God. In other words, human beings are created with the capacity for a personal and loving relationship with God. As God is the best person, reality, out there.

    To experience love and relationship with this God is to experience the best that a human person can experience.

    I also pointed out that in this present existence that while we can be in relationship with God our experience of Him is limited and marred by sin and some present day realities. But this condition is not permanent as we are also told that we will experience perfect love with this perfect being for eternity in the eternal state. So in a nutshell, God does want the best for all of us because he wants us to be in personal relationship with Him and that is the best. I also pointed out to her that this love we have for God is something that is freely chosen, it is not a robotic love or forced love.

    What this means is that one purpose of having free will is to give us the capacity for a loving relationship with God (i.e. free will is not the end, it is a means to an end, that end being love of God).

    Now I did not get into it with the Lady but you could also point out that in order to be a genuine person you have to have your own mind your own will and you at least sometimes have and make your own choices. You could also point out that loving relationships with other people and even animals is made possible by free will. So besides free will making a personal and loving relationship with the best/God possible. It also makes it possible for us to be genuine persons who can experience genuine love.

    And when we look at how God created man we see these elements from the beginning of man’s existence: man is created with the capacity for having a loving relationship with God and others, man is created as a genuine person not merely a thing. In addition we could also point out that free will makes language possible (ordinary language use involves all sorts of choices, cf. when Adam chooses the names of the animals). In Genesis man is given delegated responsibility to govern the world, something that requires free will. Other points could be made, but the main point is that free will is not an end in and of itself but a means to an end. It is not free will in itself alone that makes it important, but what it makes possible.

    I am quite happy that a perfect being who experiences perfect love decided to create creatures with the capacity for a personal and loving relationship with Him and that He invites all people to experience the best/Himself.

    Robert

Rick Patrick

Michael,

Rogers actually answers your question in the installment that will post tomorrow. Here’s a preview: “Now friend, coerced love is a contradiction in terms. There’s no such thing as forced love. The idea that God has some irresistible grace…something that when you say, “I don’t want to be saved!” and He says, “Well, you’re going to be saved! I am going to make you love me!” No, that’s ridiculous. That’s not love at all! You become a robot! God gives us the privilege of saying “no” so that we can have the delight of saying “yes.”

    Don Johnson

    Rick,

    Amen!

Michael Vaughan

So God, out of his love for people, chooses to not save everyone? Is that what you’re saying? ; )

I’m kidding, but at the same time I would be interested in examining this concept with a few of the Traditionalists here. In the Traditionalist conception of things, God is choosing to allow people to choose hell. Is that any different at its core than God choosing to save some via election?

    Don Johnson

    Michael,

    Actually, God chooses to save everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to get saved.

      Norm Miller

      I like that, Don. Thx.
      It harks to something former Calvinist and occasional blogger (here) Doug Sayers has said, and I paraphrase: If Adam, in his perfect nature, could choose to sin, does it not follow that all of Adam’s fallen progeny could choose not to sin?
      Your point also leads to the major issue separating Calvinists and Traditionalists. Cals believe that, if the Holy Spirit will reach out in an effort to “save” someone, then BANG, that’s it, that certain someone will be saved. Trads surely believe that all salvation experiences are initiated by God and not man (despite repeated accusations to the contrary), but Trads also hold that not all that is initiated by the Holy Spirit with regard to individuals’ salvation experiences will result in salvation for those who are touched by the Spirit because God has given humans the “power of contrary choice” (as I think Sayers puts it) or what we call free will.

    Rick Patrick

    Michael,

    I believe it is clearly different. Yes, our God of love has chosen not to save those who freely hate and reject Him—breaking His heart by refusing His offer of salvation to all. God’s sovereign decision to allow people the choice of heaven or hell is bound up in the very nature of love, as Rogers describes in the excerpt I quoted. In order for love to be genuine, it must not be forced or robotic, determined by God. It must be absolutely free.

    You are correct that in both of our understandings, many people do wind up in hell for all eternity. Thankfully, neither of us are universalists. Thus, we do both face the challenge of coming to grips with a Sovereign God who allows the existence of hell.

    But the difference “at its core” between (a) God choosing to save only some men, and (b) only some men choosing to accept God’s salvation offered to all, is a truly profound one—if not in its result, at least in the process that yields this result. In the former case, God’s genuine love for the unchosen is suspect, to say the least. In the latter case, He clearly loves the lost and wants them saved, but does not get what He wants, bound as He is by His own plan to save a people who have freely placed their faith in Him.

    I believe it is more faithful to the biblical understanding of God’s love to believe that hell is populated not because God determines certain souls to go there, but because those souls have determined themselves to reject His lovingkindness.

      Michael Vaughan

      Thanks for the replies, Rick and Don. I’m enjoying the back and forth, and I appreciate the lengthy response.

      (I feel really dumb when I type a response and forget to enter my email address, and then have to retype everything. Pretend that my first reply was exceedingly eloquent and well-reasoned.)

      If I may play devil’s advocate here, why do you suppose that he’s “bound as He is by His own plan to save a people who have freely placed their faith in Him”? You say that he “doesn’t get what he wants” but doesn’t he get exactly what he wants, since he can make anything happen and is the “prime mover” in the universe? In the Traditionalist conception, he wants people to freely choose him, and so he gets freely chosen followers, exactly as planned. He knows that if some freely choose, not everyone will follow. I get that free will = true love not robots (and I’ll address that below), but what prevents a man condemned to hell from saying to God, “Why didn’t you force me into the kingdom? Why didn’t you cause me to love you? You could have done so, but you chose not to. You chose to condemn me to hell because of your purported love for me and desire that my love for you be genuine. Or, if not force me, why didn’t you at least give me more opportunities? Why did you bless that man with a Billy Graham conference, but not bring any missionaries to my village in Africa?”

      Clearly God moves in some way to draw people to himself, otherwise it strikes me as pointless to pray for the salvation of people. If you pray to God, and God doesn’t “force” them to love him, then what do your prayers accomplish? And if we make decisions based on our experiences in life, could a man argue that God just didn’t bring together the right series of experiences in his life to cause him to freely choose him? I know that I wouldn’t have “chosen God” if not presented with the Gospel message in the first place; most people on this planet never hear that message.

      Finally, and this is probably my main point, Rogers argues that forced love is a contradiction in terms. I get that. I used to believe that, too. But God defines what love is in the first place. God did not *choose* to love the members of the Trinity–it’s the very nature of the Father to love the Son, etc. Is that “forced” because he had no choice in the matter, and if so, is it invalid? God can’t choose to do evil, does that make his invalidate his goodness? He could have created men with a nature to love him only, but he didn’t. The argument I’ve heard most consistently is that it brings more glory to God to have freely willing worshipers, but doesn’t that mean that at the heart of the matter, God choses to save some but not others for the sake of his glory? It strikes me that Traditionalists might suffer from the same accusations lobbed at us Calvinists.

      I know that’s a bit meandering, but I’d like to hear your thoughts?

        Don Johnson

        Michael,

        I don’t believe we are ever told to pray for God to save someone. Though Calvinist and non-Calvinist do exactly that. One might say something to the effect Lord save uncle Joe before it’s to late. . . I’ve been guilty of doing it myself, but I don’t do it anymore because Scripture does not teach it. We are never asked to pray for God to change one’s heart so they will believe. If the Bible did teach that, then Calvinism would be correct, but it does not. The reason it doesn’t is because God has given man a free will. God does not change a man’s heart until he believes or has faith. I know Calvinism teaches just the opposite. However, it’s not found in Scripture.

        Are we to pray for people to get saved? Absolutely! We are to pray what Christ asked us to pray in Matt. 9:37-38 ” . . . The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” Simply put, the more laborers there are the bigger the harvest. So instead of praying for God to change uncle Joe’s heart so he might get saved. We should be praying that laborers would be able to get the Gospel available for uncle Joe to hear. Hopefully be able to hear it again and again. The more times he can hear the Gospel the better. If he continually rejects the Gospel then he is most certainly without excuse. Pray as Christ said for laborers, because no one can be saved without some sort of laborer.

        “God chooses to save some but not others for the sake of his glory”? No! I repeat God chooses to save all. Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to be saved. God can’t save the unrepentant. Nor does He force someone to become repentant.

          Michael Vaughan

          Thanks for the reply, Don.

          Why doesn’t he force someone to become repentant, then? And what about a person causes them to become repentant?

            Don Johnson

            Michael,

            If you have a child, does it make you happy if you forced the child to do something he or she didn’t want to do? Would you be pleased if you had to drug or hypnotize your wife in order for her to love you?

              Miichael Vaughan

              Don,
              It’s in the very nature of the Father to love the Son. He can’t do otherwise. Does that make his love invalid because he doesn’t have a choice in the matter? Is the Son a “robot” or “zombie” when he loves the Father? Has the Spirit “hypnotized” them both?

              Michael Vaughan

              Don, I wrote a reply, but I either posted it incorrectly or it was deleted. Let’s consolidate our discussion to part 5.

            Lydia

            Michael, Why don’t we ask why God does not keep a child from being molested? Even at church? Why doesn’t He use “force” in that situation. Once you take man’s responsibility, volition, accountability out of the equation there is only a few places to go: Atheism, Calvinism or Universalism. You have trained your mind to interpret everything through a determinist filter.

    Norm Miller

    Dr. Patterson expresses his views on Election here. http://bit.ly/1ksjDvs
    This blog post was very well rec’d by many who frequent this blog. It is not the be-and-end-all of Election’s explanations, but we think it suffices very well for any discussion on the topic, and thus, provides answers for most of the questions that some may raise about Election. Perhaps you will want to read it. — Norm

      Michael Vaughan

      I see that I’m back “under moderation” and that we’re back to deleting my posts. I guess that means you have no interest in addressing my original question or even acknowledging it at this point. I have no idea what that means in regards to whether you even believe me to be a Christian. I’m still tacitly avoiding leaping to judgment, but it looks grimmer by the day.

      I’m fairly angry right now, so I’m going to walk away for a while before I say something in sin. Peace to you, Norm.

Michael Vaughan

Sorry for the double post, but I agree with you 100% when you say “I believe it is more faithful to the biblical understanding of God’s love to believe that hell is populated not because God determines certain souls to go there, but because those souls have determined themselves to reject His lovingkindness.”

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