Paul did not tell any unsaved persons
“Christ died for your sins.”

September 21, 2012

A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 3D

Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter “Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions” by David L. Allen


Turning to a discussion of Paul’s evangelistic method and message, Dr. Ascol states, “Certainly Paul did not evangelize this way” [contextually meaning Paul did not tell any unsaved persons “Christ died for your sins”] (276). Ascol appeals to Paul’s preaching in Acts to support this contention. Ascol concludes from this lacuna that Paul never employed such a phrase in evangelistic preaching or witnessing. But is such a conclusion valid? First, as stated above, this is an argument from silence. It does not conclusively prove Paul, Peter, or anyone else did not say it nor is it a valid argument that they did not believe it. Second, all of the sermons in Acts are condensations of the actual sermons given. Third, with respect to Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, how else could he tell his hearers to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 3:19) if he did not somehow connect the death of Christ on the cross as accomplishing the means for their forgiveness and salvation? Are we to think that Peter’s hearers did not understand that what Peter was saying in essence was that since Christ died for their sins, the door is opened for them to repent and believe? Furthermore, if Peter believed in limited atonement, how could he say “it was for you first that God raised up his Servant, and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you [hekastos in Greek meaning “each one, every one” BDAG, 298] from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26)? For any of the non-elect present in his audience, there was no atonement for them, so it would be impossible for them to be saved, even if they wanted to. It would also be disingenuous on Peter’s part to give anyone such false hope.

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

Dr. Ascol’s assertion that there is no direct statement in Acts that Paul preached to unbelievers “Christ died for your sins” is true. His conclusion that Paul therefore did not preach this because he held to or taught limited atonement is false based on 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. What do we mean when we preach to the unsaved, “Christ died for your sins”? Does it not intend to convey that God desires to save all and that God is prepared to save any and all since Christ’s death is actually sufficient to save them? One wonders if a reluctance to say “Christ died for you” implicitly expresses a reluctance to tell unsaved people that God is willing to save them all and is prepared to do so as well if they will repent and believe.

Dr. Ascol refers to how the doctrine of election “motivated” Paul “to bear up under extreme difficulties, even in prison” (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul said: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Ascol interprets the “elect” here to be a reference to all those who are yet to be saved. But this is a contextual error since Paul is talking about enduring hardship for the sake of those who are currently believers. I don’t think the Greek word eklektoi (elect) is used anywhere in Paul’s letters for anything other than those who are the believing elect. This is a conventional word referring to “believing Christians” and should not be read with post-Reformation Calvinist glasses. Even Calvin in his commentary on this passage interpreted the word to refer to current believers. This is the same error Ascol made with respect to John 10 as noted above – the conflation of the category of the believing elect with all the elect in the abstract.

In the final part of the section on Scripture, Dr. Ascol turns to Romans 9-10 to make the case that election does not blunt but rather undergirds evangelism and missions. Only a short word needs to be said concerning this section. Of course, Ascol interprets Romans 9 to teach individual unconditional election as defined by Dort. Though I don’t think this interpretation of Romans 9 is accurate, such an interpretation in and of itself does not by necessity have a dampening effect on missions and evangelism. But as stated above, one cannot avoid the fact that this understanding of election coupled with limited atonement has, on numerous occasions since the Reformation, contributed to evangelistic lethargy on the part of some Calvinists. As I quoted Curt Daniel on page 99 of Whosoever, he noted how Calvin warned “that if one limits the ‘all’ of the atonement, then one limits the revealed salvific will of God, which necessarily infringes on the preaching of the gospel and diminishes the ‘hope of salvation’ of those to whom the Gospel is preached” (Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill,” 603).

Ascol states in Romans 9-10 that “Paul believed that his fellow Jews could be saved because the promise of the gospel is for anyone and everyone who believes. Election in no way diminishes that” (278). He then quotes Romans 9:10-13 and concludes: “This is true without regard to election and is to be received by anyone who submits to the authority of Scripture” (279). But Ascol does not consider that his doctrine of limited atonement nullifies his claim. How can any of the non-elect be saved, especially without regard to election, if there is no sufficient sacrifice for their sins? Limited atonement teaches that Jesus only died for the sins of the elect. The non-elect are left without any remedy for their sins. It is not true that anyone and everyone could be saved according to the limited atonement paradigm because if one of the non-elect should believe, there is no satisfaction for their sins. It is in fact impossible that they could be saved. It does not matter that, according to Calvinism, they will not believe. The point is Ascol is claiming if anyone believes, without regard to election, they can be saved. This is impossible if one believes in limited atonement and this point has been argued cogently by Calvinists who themselves reject limited atonement since at least as early as Dort!

 

 

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Christian

Of course high calvinist’s can not tell everyone that “Christ died for your sins”. It totally goes against their doctrine. Although we are told not to be upset over calvinism, I believe it is a totally different gospel, in biblical language, another gospel. This is why it divides churches. I live in a small Georgia community, the county has probably 40,000 population. We have one Presbyterian church and one Lutheran church, compared to probably 30 or more Baptist churches. Who do you think is reaching the lost? It is evident I believe. And oh yes, we have one Catholic church also! I can not help but believe the calvinist’s view of unconditional election leads to “elitism”.

    Steve Martin

    We live in a community with many large “non-denominational” churches each with thousands of members.

    We are a small Lutheran church, with maybe 50-60 on any given Sunday.

    Which one is being faithful to God’s Word?

    How can you answer that by looking at numbers alone?

    The Mormon church and Islam are growing by leaps and bounds. Do they have the truth?

    God is able to reach the lost wherever Christ is proclaimed is some way. Even if the gospel is not pure, in those places. We happen to believe that we know the truth. We don’t believe that we are the only ones who know it, but we do believe we know it.

    While Calvinists have an errant doctrine(s), I would never suggest that people are not being reached for Christ in those places. In the same way I believe that people with the errant, unbiblical doctrine of “free-will” are also being reached for Christ. Not because of wrongheaded teaching, but because Christ is after all those being reached.

    Thanks.

    RobertSC

    1 Presby Church, 1 Lutheran, 1 Catholic, and 30+ Baptist Churches in the south normally indicates ungodly fighting, and splitting. Lifeway research shows that as a whole, we are great at making converts and average to poor at making disciples.

    BTW…I am not a 5 point calvinist, but reformed theology leads away not towards elitism. Nothing merits God’s grace and the access He grants through adoption. A view of “internal goodness” can easily lead to elitism or a heirarchical system.

      Steve Martin

      We believe that Lutheran theology leads even further away from the “internal goodness” view.

      We state each Sunday in our liturgy that “we are in bondage to sin and CANNOT free ourselves.”

      And we don’t look inward for proof that we are of the elect, but look to God’s external Word and what He has promised in those acts which HE has commanded that we do (Baptism and Lord’s Supper) for our assurance.

      Now that, to most, is radical. And we agree, it is. But we will not turn inward to our goodness, free-will, or evidences by what we do, say, feel, or think….for the assurance of our salvation.

      Is it any wonder we only have 60 on Sunday morning? Most people want to be handed the list, to mark their “progress”. We believe in going from death (we start there)…to life.

      Thanks for the opportunity.

        Calvin S.

        Amen Steve. Number mean nothing. The love of “Numbers” is perhaps the No. 1 sin in the SBC.

        Tim Rogers

        Steve,

        …we don’t look inward for proof that we are of the elect, but look to God’s external Word and what He has promised in those acts which HE has commanded that we do (Baptism and Lord’s Supper) for our assurance.

        Please, help me understand how this is not assigning a salvific means for and motives to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

          Steve Martin

          It is.

          But it is God’d means…for us. He commanded them. He’s always in what He commands us to do.

          He’s not into empty religious ritual, just for kicks.

          He must have had a purpose in mind. We believe His purpose in those things is to assure us…apart from how we feel, or what we do (our works), or anything that eminates from us.

    Calvin S.

    Christian: The audacity! Don’t you realize that elitism is what just came from your mouth? I am hopeful that there is some actual humility and maturity among Traditionalists and that Christian does not speak for you all.

    Shane Dodson

    Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
    because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
    yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
    (Isaiah 53:12 ESV)

    even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    (Matthew 20:28 ESV)

    for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
    (Matthew 26:28 ESV)

    For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    (Mark 10:45 ESV)

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
    (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

    so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
    (Hebrews 9:28 ESV)

    So is it Biblical, then, to tell people that Jesus died for “many” but not “all?”

    If I am preaching that Jesus died for “many” (which you can clearly see if Biblical), and another guy down the street says that Jesus died for “everybody who has ever lived and who will ever live in the history of the world”, and he claims what he says is Biblical (using John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2)…then I must ask….

    Who is right?

David R. Brumbelow

Shane,
You asked,
“If I am preaching that Jesus died for “many” (which you can clearly see if Biblical), and another guy down the street says that Jesus died for “everybody who has ever lived and who will ever live in the history of the world”, and he claims what he says is Biblical (using John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2)…then I must ask….Who is right?”

My answer is, you are both right. Scripture teaches Jesus died for many,
and Scripture teaches Jesus died for all and tasted death for every man.
David R. Brumbelow

    Shane Dodson

    “My answer is, you are both right.”

    What a confused and inconsistent message. Either Jesus died for many–which by definition is not all–or He died for ALL–which by definition is not many.

    Instead of determining what “many” and “all” actually mean in the Biblical account, you choose to embrace your own understanding of both.

bruce mercer

the nation was founded by calvinists. the separatists, puritans, anglicans, and the baptists were all calvinists. the exception was the quaker colony of pennsylvania. from thence the great awakening and the greatest missionary endeavors arose. Jesus was a calvinist (see john 6). God bless you and renew all our minds to His truth.

    volfan007

    Bruce,

    “Jesus was a Calvinist.” That would be hilarious, if it wasnt so sad.

    David

      Debbie Kaufman

      David: The alternative is God helps those who help themselves, agreeing with Ben Franklin. Read John 6 as Bruce suggested.

      Calvin S.

      It sounds crazy to say Jesus was a Calvinist…that is if you think Calvinists follow John Calvin, which we do NOT.

      But if you understand it to mean that Jesus believed that God saves those whom he chooses to save; and whom He chooses to give to the Son, as John 6 teaches, then yes, Jesus was a Calvinist.

      I’ve heard at this site the good news explained a few times with a Billy Graham quote that “If you were the only person in the world, Jesus would have died for you.” And yet, if we turn it around and look at it biblically, if Jesus would have merely prayed differently (rather than saying to the Father: If there is any other way, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, Your will be done.) Jesus would not have died for anyone. Let me make a statement that is biblically based but never came from the mouth of Billy Graham:

      “Jesus’ answered prayer is more important to the Father than the salvation of every human being.”

      Why do I say this? Because of these words from Jesus:

      “Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matt. 26:52-54)

      What Jesus says here is that if He asked the Father to rescue Him, He will rescue Him and keep Jesus from any suffering. But if that happened, Jesus would not have died for our sins and every human being would be lost!

      Billy says, Jesus would die if you were the only person. But Jesus says, that all He has to do is ask the Father and He won’t have to die for anyone! Which means JESUS’ ANSWERED PRAYER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR SALVATION, AND MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY SALVATION AND MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE WHOLE WORLDS’ SALVATION.

      And if this be so, don’t be surprised that the reason people are being saved through out the nations, as Paul says is “For His name”. (Rom. 1:5). For Jesus’ sake people are being saved. For His glory sake. For His praise. You put too much emphasis on God’s love for man and not nearly enough emphasis on God’s love for His only begotten Son.

        Calvin S.

        Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice:

        “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive… glory”!

        (Revelation 5:11-12)

    Lydia

    “the nation was founded by calvinists. the separatists, puritans, anglicans, and the baptists were all calvinists. the exception was the quaker colony of pennsylvania. from thence the great awakening and the greatest missionary endeavors arose. Jesus was a calvinist (see john 6). God bless you and renew all our minds to His truth.”

    That would make Roger Williams heretical for believing in “Soul Libertie” as the Puritans insisted he was? He was banished instead of killed because he was too popular and Winthrop liked him and eventually warned him they were sending magistrates to force him back to England where he would be hanged.

    I am really not sure what being “founded” by Puritans has to do with anything today. Had we STAYED Puritan, there would not have been a revolution. And what is even more curious is that many of the descendents of the “New Jerusalem”Puritan colonies evolved into Unitarians.

    The only group mentioned above that were not state church affiliated were the Quakers. And don’t forget the Puritans did all they could to persecute them because that is what Calvinists do with those who disagree with them. With one exception, the banished. Roger Williams, who just wanted to “debate” them and canoed 20 miles at age 70 for a debate.

    I think what many of the NC miss today is that Calvinism is much more than a theological system. It is also a political system with it’s top down Neo Plantonic system of structure. That is why it eventually goes liberal (see history), dies out or goes the way of those like Doug Wilson into a patriarchal closed system.

    I am starting to think this “Jesus “was” a Calvinist” mantra is blasphemy. Think of how it elevates a mere man over God in the flesh. It would help your PR a lot to stop using Calvin’s name in such ways.

      Calvin S.

      Well, Lydia, Jesus certainly wasn’t a baptist. He isn’t holy enough to qualify. After all, he drank wine, which would disqualify Jesus from pastoring in any Traditionalist pulpit or being a missionary in the SBC. It is sad that our Savior is not worthy enough or holy enough to pastor a Baptist Church! Says something about those traditions that the Traditionalist have come up with, doesn’t it?

        Lydia

        Calvin,

        I am really confused now. Mohler has been telling us and teaching young men that Baptists ARE Calvinists.

          Calvin S.

          Some Baptists are Calvinists–the founders were; the original “Traditionalists” were Calvinists. And those who can have a tipple of single malt scotch without feeling that they have sinned are probably Calvinist-Baptists.

          Cheers!

Lydia

“It sounds crazy to say Jesus was a Calvinist…that is if you think Calvinists follow John Calvin, which we do NOT.

Calvin, this debate has been going on for years as to how to be a Calvinist without using that name. The problem is, it always comes back to using it!~Many other monikers have been tried. You cannot escape it. That is the irony. It IS the definition. Your beliefs are from a man who systemized them for you using his interpretive grid even though they have evolved over the years. Calvin still gets the credit. So the position devolves into “Jesus was a Calvinist”. It is really sad.

I think it is a huge mistake to allow Calvin OR Ben Franklin to interpret scripture for us. We have the Holy Spirit, the BEST teacher. Both were reprobate in their own way. Calvin as a persecuting tyrant and Franklin as immoral.

    Calvin S.

    Lydia,

    Speaking of politicis: Don’t you mean, John Calvin, the founder of democracy? He is where it originated, after all, for all the true-blue Americans here.

      Lydia

      Calvin, I can only surmise that, once again as in most discussions with Calvinists, we are operating under different definitions of “democracy”. (small d)

      When the magistrate can punish you for not attending church, having too many courses at a meal, baptizing your baby (a drowning in the Limmat) or put you in the tower prison for daring to disagree with leaders…… we are a far cry from the common definition of “democracy”.

      I am becoming less and less surprised at what is coming out of the NC movement. Scary stuff.

Rick Mang

I notice that when discussing 1 Cor. 15.3-11, Dr. Allen changes from Christ dying for “our” sins, to Christ dying for “your” sins. By doing this, the referent changes.

    holdon

    “Dr. Allen changes from Christ dying for “our” sins, to Christ dying for “your” sins. By doing this, the referent changes.”

    No, he correctly gives the text: “for our sins” and that repeatedly. Moreover, he also says that the expression “Christ died for your sins” does not occur in Scripture. So, Dr. Allen doesn’t change anything at all. You need to read better.

    In 1 Cor 15:1 Paul says that he evangelizes the evangel (verb and noun are the same word), and that is what the Corinthians had accepted, when they came to faith.
    Paul then goes on to sum up what that “evangel” was: Christ died for our sins but that he was resurrected, all according to the Scriptures and that he had been the last in a series of witnesses of that resurrection.

Rick Mang

Holdon:

Thank you for the correction! You made me see that I was assuming that Dr. Allen was NOT including the Corinthians, but the apostles of verse 10 in the group of those for whom Christ died. This leaves me in confusion though, as to why he felt it necessary to make a distinction as to whether Paul was preaching to them pre- or post- conversion.

But again, much thanks for the input.
Rick

dr. james willingham

Jesus spoke so the woman of Canaan, Mt.15:21-28, could hear that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and she was not a member of the Jews. She treated His words as a paradox of invitation to give glory by worship. In the 1700s in NC the General Baptists who held to a general atonement or universal atonement were neither very evangelistic nor missionary, but the Regular and Separate Baptists who held to a Christ dying for the elect, for His church, were both. Dr. Allen ignores both the Bible and his own Baptist History. Strange, that a scholar should make such a failure. We are also reminded that a Particular Redemptionist, Jonathan Edwards, in his Humble Attempt inspired the Particular Baptists, Fuller and Carey, to begin the praying that would lead to the Great Century of Missions. One really wonders why scholars do not make a more careful research of the facts in their denomination’s own history.

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