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Posts Tagged ‘Atonement of Jesus Christ

Arminianism and the Penal Substitutionary View of the Atonement

Here is a great article written by Dr. James Leonard on the subject of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the penal substitutionary view.  Some Calvinists contend that not only is the penal view the only view of the atonement that is truly biblically based but also one cannot hold to the penal view and not hold to definite atonement (or limited atonement).  I know this has confused some Arminians to the point that they now reject the penal view in favor of the moral governmental view.

Dr. Leonard’s piece is well written and draws upon Arminianism to show that an Arminian can safely hold to the penal view while rejecting limited atonement.

John Owen & Double Payment in the Atonement

Here is a short but excellent article on the subject of John Owen and the idea of double payment in the atonement.  The writer points out the flaws of Owen’s logic on the double payment theory.  

You can find the article here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/16/2013 at 10:57 AM

Limited Unlimited Atonement

One of the arguments against the Arminian view regarding the atonement is that both Arminians and Calvinists limit the atonement.  The Calvinist limits the atonement to the elect whereas Arminians limit the atonement to those who believe the gospel and become the elect but both limit the atonement in some way.  Only the universalist can claim that they hold to an unlimited atonement since in fact they see nothing to limit the atonement of Christ.

I would agree with this.  In fact, I agree that we Arminians limit the atonement.  We reject the idea that Jesus saves everyone by virtue of His death on the cross.  But I would disagree with the Calvinist by asserting that Jesus’ death saves no one on the cross.  It is faith in the finished work of Christ that saves us.  This is point of Romans 3:23-26:

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

That Jesus died does not save.  That Jesus shed His blood for the sins of the world does not save (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). The gospel must be preached and believed on by faith in order to save the sinner (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-39; 17:30-31; Romans 10:11-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13-14).  The person who merely hears the gospel but rejects the gospel is not saved.  They can claim all day to believe in Jesus or that Jesus died for them but if they have not been truly born again (John 3:1-7; 1 Peter 1:18-25; 1 John 5:1-2), they are not saved (James 2:19).  If faith does not save us then Romans 5:1 should read that we are justified unto faith but instead it says that we are justified through faith.  Ephesians 2:8 is likewise clear that it is faith that saves us.  To merely say that Jesus died without calling people to faith and repentance does not save.

The atonement is then unlimited in its power to save (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) but it is only appropriated by faith (1 Timothy 4:10).  Thus the question that arises, “Did Jesus die for people in hell” is pointless since only those who appropriate His shed blood are saved.  Those who are in hell are there because of their willful rebellion against God and refusal of His Son (Romans 2:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10) and not because of arbitrary choosing on God’s part.  We can thus preach to the world that Jesus shed His blood for our sins (Matthew 26:28) but only those who repent are saved from the power of sin (Luke 13:1-5; 24:47; John 6:40; Romans 5:8-9).  All can come and be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:14-18, 36) but only those who repent of their sins are truly baptized into His death and His resurrection (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21-22).

The Calvinist approach is one of completely limited atonement.  Jesus shed His blood only for the elect (who still must believe the gospel to have the blood of Jesus wash their sins away unless one teaches eternal justification or the idea that the elect were justified in Christ before time began and in the sovereign mind of God, the elect have always been the elect and have always been His children) and only the elect can be saved (and will be saved).  The atonement is not to be preached as vicarious for all people but only for the elect otherwise one is not being consistent with their soteriology views.

I can safely preach to the lost that Jesus shed His blood that they might repent and be saved because of my firm conviction that Jesus did in fact shed His blood for all people (1 Timothy 2:4).  I can preach that Jesus is calling the person to repentance and forgiveness of their sins because of my firm conviction from Scripture that He is (Luke 19:10; Acts 13:38-39).  I can preach that God has demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NIV).  I can preach that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 2:21).  I do this all because I believe that Jesus Christ shed His blood and was raised to life for our salvation (Romans 4:24-25) and all who have saving faith in Him can be saved (John 20:31; 1 John 4:14-15).

The Logic of Unbelief

Calvinism teaches that Christ died for the elect, that the atonement of Christ purchased the elect’s salvation and so the atonement of Christ, at least according to Calvinists, actually saves.  Calvinists contend that Jesus shed His blood for the saving of the elect and thus He did not die for the sins of the whole world lest we hold to universalism which clearly the Scriptures do not teach (Matthew 7:13-14).

At the cross, the wrath of God for the sins of the elect was paid in full.  Jesus suffered and died and rose again for the sake of the elect only.  The rest of humanity is destined by God for eternal hell.  Our fates have been chosen.

Now here is one issue (among others) that I have with the Calvinist understanding of the atonement.  If Christ died to secure the salvation of the elect and when Jesus died on the cross, God placed the sins of the elect upon His Son, are the elect thus born sinless since Christ suffered for them before they were born and He gave His life for their salvation 2000 years ago at Calvary?  What sin keeps the elect from being born saved?  If one says that unbelief keeps the person from salvation and they must believe the gospel to be saved and their salvation has been predestined by God Himself and secured by God Himself at the cross through His Son then why is the sin of unbelief not also paid for by Christ?

I agree that unbelief keeps a person from salvation.  John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (NASB).  John 3:36 adds, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (NASB).  Belief takes us from being dead in our sins without the life of God to being born again in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9).  The work of God for salvation is to believe in His Son (John 6:29).  This is the very purpose of the Bible in fact, to bring us to saving faith in Jesus Christ (John 20:31).  Paul the Apostle told the Philippian jailer that he had to believe to be saved (Acts 16:30-31).  Belief (or faith) secures salvation but unbelief leads only to destruction (Hebrews 3:6-19).

Yet how can any true Calvinist say that they were once in their sins until they placed their saving faith in Jesus since Jesus died for their sins (all that sins?) 2000 years ago?  If Jesus died and His atonement secured the saving of the elect then it logically follows that the sins of the elect were all placed on Christ and all the elect of God were saved at the cross.  Thus the elect, all known by God from the foundation of the world, are viewed as saved at the cross.  But why then call people to repent?  Why call people to turn from their sins that Jesus already paid for and already secured their eternal salvation?  How can we require a double payment for sins and can it rightfully be called sin if in fact the person has already been forgiven of all their sins at the cross?

The Arminian’s logic is this:  Jesus died for the sins of the world but only those who place their faith in His saving work become the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10).  Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and not once in Scripture do we read that Jesus died only for the elect.  We read that Jesus died for the sheep (John 10:11), that He died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), that He died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20), that He died for us (Galatians 1:4) and that He died for the world (1 John 2:2) but we never read that He died for the elect alone.  This must be deduced by re-reading other passages. Furthermore, only those who place their faith in Jesus and His blood are saved.  Those who reject His blood are lost (John 5:24-25).  Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works (Titus 3:5-7).  We must confess our sins to be forgiven (1 John 1:9) and this makes no sense if in fact Jesus died for all our sins when He died on the cross.  How can God forgive us of our sins if in fact He already has forgiven us of our sins when Jesus died for us 2000 years ago by the sovereign will of God?

The Wrath of God and the Appropriation of the Atonement

I was reading a book written by a moral government brother and he stated that he did not believe that the atonement of Christ did away with the wrath of God since the New Testament states that God’s wrath remains even after the atonement of Christ. He cites the following passages:

Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. – Luke 21:23

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. – Acts 12:23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:5

On account of these the wrath of God is coming. – Colossians 3:6

For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? – Revelation 6:17

He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. – Revelation 14:10

The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:19

He goes on to write:

We are not saved from the wrath of God at Calvary, but we are saved from the wrath of God, because of Calvary, at conversion.  Though our penalty can be withheld, God will only turn from His wrath when sinners turn from their sins.  Those who stay in their sins are those who stay under God’s wrath despite the atonement  that was made for them.  Those whom Jesus died are still under the wrath of God and are going to receive the penalty of hell, unless they repent of their sins and believe the gospel.

Obviously there is much truth to what he states in the above.  I do not deny that the wrath of God still abides on those who do not repent of their sins.  Some Calvinists hold that the wrath of God was appeased at the cross for the elect of God only and thus a penal substitutionary is seen as satisfying God’s wrath for His elect at the cross.  The problem I have with both views is that the wrath of God is appeased in Christ’s atonement only when it is received by faith.  This is the key (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Notice one of my favorite Bible passages in Romans 3:21-26:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

You will notice the passages I underlined.  The atonement, our propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10) through the shed blood of Jesus (v.24) are made only for those who appropriate the work of Christ.  John Wesley preached,

Whosoever thou art, O man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on thee: Unto thee saith the Lord, not, “Do this,” — perfectly obey all my commands, — “and live;” but, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”The word of faith is nigh unto thee:” Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”

A sinner must appropriate, by faith, the atonement of Christ in order to be saved and to remain saved.  Our salvation, from first to last, is entirely dependent upon the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.  Our salvation is not our faith, our works, our righteousness but rather our salvation is complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 3:18).  Scripture clearly presents the atonement of Christ as a vicarious atonement in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 26:28; Galatians 1:4; etc.).

Arminius wrote this about the satisfaction of God’s wrath at the atonement for the sinner:

[God] rendered satisfaction to his love for justice and to his hatred against sin, when he imposed on his Son the office of Mediator by the shedding of his blood and by the suffering of death; and he was unwilling to admit him as the Intercessor for sinners except when sprinkled with his own blood in which he might be made the propitiation for sins…In this respect also it may with propriety be said, that God rendered satisfaction to himself, and appeased himself in “the Son of his love.”

As Vic Reasoner writes,

The biblical doctrine of propitiation is based on the premise that we can do nothing to compensate for our sins or turn away God’s anger.  Therefore, God takes the initiative and Himself provides the propitiation in the person of His Son.

Reasoner then quotes Wesley,

The purpose of the propitiation was to appease an offended God.  But if, as some teach, God never was offended, there was no need of this propitiation.  And if so, Christ died in vain.

Christ faithfully died for God and He satisfied the wrath of God against sin.  He shed His blood to atone for our sins and He was condemned for our sins against the law of God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 3:13-14).  Christ died for God and with a view on pleasing the Father.  Jesus willingly laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11) which would be all those whom would be saved through faith in His blood (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:1-2).  All can come and be saved in Christ (John 1:12-13; 3:16).

My point in all this is to simply show that Arminianism correctly teaches the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.  In my estimation, the penal view teaches that Christ died for God and not merely for our sins.  The focus of the cross was upon God and not humans.  The purpose of the atonement was the satisfy the just wrath of God against sin.  However, I believe that the atonement is only sufficient for those who appropriate His work.  The cross saves no one apart from faith (Romans 5:1).  Those who reject the cross by their unbelief remain under God’s wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18-32).  God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who reject Christ and they will be eternally condemned (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).  The fact that Jesus died on the cross saves no one.  The work of Christ only saves those who place their faith in His saving work (Romans 10:14-17).

Richard Watson on Answering the Socinians On the Atonement

A general objection of the Socinians to this doctrine of reconciliation may be easily answered. When we speak of the necessity of Christ’s atonement, in order to man’s forgiveness, we are told that we represent the Deity as implacable; when we rebut that by showing that it was his very placability, his boundless and ineffable love to men, which sent his Son into the world to die for the sins of mankind, they rejoin with their leaders, Socinus and Crellius, that then “God was reconciled before he sent his Son, and that, therefore, Christ did not die to reconcile GOD to us.” The answer plainly is, that in this objection, they either mean that God had, from the placability and compassion of his nature, determined to be reconciled to offenders upon the sending his Son, or that he was actually reconciled when our Lord was sent. The first is What we contend for, and is in no wise inconsistent with the submission of our Lord to death, since that was in pursuance of the merciful appointment and decree of the Father; and the necessary medium by Which this placability of God could honourably and consistently show itself in actual reconciliation, or the pardon of sin. That God was not actually reconciled to man, that is, that he did not forgive our offences, independent of the death of Christ, is clear, for then sin would have been forgiven before it was committed, and remission of sins could riot have been pm-cached in the name of Christ, nor could a ministry of reconciliation have been committed to the apostles. The reconciliation of God to man is, throughout, a conditional one, and, as in all concessional processes of this kind, it has three stages. The first is when the party offended is disposed to admit of terms of agreement, which, in God, is matter of pure grace and favour; the second is when he declares his acceptance of the mediation of a third person, and that he is so satisfied with what he hath done in order to it, that he appoints it to be announced to the offender, that if the breach continues, the fault lies wholly upon himself; the third is when the offender accepts of the terms of agreement which are offered to him, submits, and is received into favour. “Thus,” says Bishop Stillingfleet, “upon the death and sufferings of Christ, God declares that he is so satisfied with what Christ hath done and suffered in order to the reconciliation between himself and us, that he now publishes remission of sins to the world, upon those terms which the Mediator hath declared by his own doctrine and the apostles he sent to preach it. But because remission of sins doth not immediately follow upon the death of Christ, without any supposition of any act on our part, therefore the state of favour doth commence from the performance of the conditions which are required of us.” (Discourse on the Sufferings of Christ. See also Grotius De Satisfactione, cap. vii.) Whoever considers these obvious distinctions will have an ample answer to the Sociniain objection.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/27/2013 at 5:47 PM

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