Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Limited Atonement

The Master Who Bought Them

In 2 Peter 2:1 we find one of the major passages that teach that Jesus Christ died for those who reject Him.  The Calvinist view is that Jesus died only for the elect of God, His sheep, His people.  Calvinist theologians will often point to passages such as John 10:11 where Jesus says that His death is for His sheep.  Calvinists then point to sheep as proof that Jesus died only for those who His.  They point out that, in their view, the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus died for all men but only all types or kinds of people and thus they come to passages such as John 3:16 and interpret “world” to mean “the elect out of the world” (John Owen) or 1 Timothy 2:4 and believe that the Lord wants to save all types of people from 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Thus true Calvinist evangelists will never say that Jesus died for a person they are preaching the gospel to since we can’t know for certain if Jesus did die for that person.

Augustine went further in his views on election.  He believed that God would even send a false spirit of assurance to a non-elect person to deceive them.  Why?  Who knows but God?  So a person could possibly think that they are elect, that Jesus died for them, that the Spirit of God dwells in them but in fact they are deceived and are destined for eternal destruction.

I argue further that the Calvinist doctrine of atonement does not lead to assurance.  A person reading this may think themselves elect (including the writer) but in fact a year or so from now, we might turn away from the faith and prove that we were never saved (or elected) to begin with (1 John 2:19 in the Calvinist view).  We could be a Judas (John 6:70-71 and notice that Jesus Himself chose Judas just He did all His disciples according to John 15:16).  Let us hold firmly to 1 John 2:24-25.

In 2 Peter 2:1 however we find a passage that Calvinist theologians and apologists struggle with.  The verse reads in the ESV:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

The verse is clearly speaking of false disciples, false teachers.  These are not Christians, true disciples of the Lord Jesus.  These are even heretics.  Yet Peter the Apostle says that Jesus bought them.  He uses the Greek word “Agorazo.”  The word means to buy or to buy a thing (Matthew 13:44, 46; 14:15).  Paul the Apostle uses the same Greek word in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 which both read:

6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

The word “Agorazo” is used in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3-4:

5:9  And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.

14:3-4 And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.

In both cases the ESV translates the word “Agorazo” as “redeemed” but the basic meaning is to purchase or buy.  While Galatians 3:13 doesn’t use “Agorazo” we see that it is Christ who redeems us or purchases us for God.  Christ is our redeemer, the very One who would die for our sins and redeem or buy or purchase us for God.  We are redeemed from sin, from Satan, from the world, from the curse.

And so are those in 2 Peter 2:1.  They are not saved but they were purchased.  This view aligns perfectly within Arminianism where we believe that Jesus shed His blood for all men.  The blood of Jesus though only saves those who appropriate His blood through faith (Romans 3:25).  We are now justified before a holy God through faith in the Lord Jesus who died for our sins (Acts 15:11; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).  This salvation is accomplished by the work of the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  Our faith is in Jesus alone to save us from our sins and to forgive us and to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

And this gospel is for all sinners (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus died for all and all can be saved through the work of Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11).  Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach that simply because Jesus died all men are now saved (Hebrews 5:8-9).  People are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30-31; cf. 2:38-39).  The heart of the Lord is for all (2 Peter 3:9). The Arminian evangelist can cry out that Jesus died for all sinners (John 3:16; 12:32), that whosoever can come and be saved (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17).  The Arminian can point to the Old Testament examples of proof that God was preparing the world for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  That just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and all who looked to it were healed, so the Son of Man was lifted up that all the world might look to Him and be healed (John 3:14-18).

Truly the love of God is great for lost sinners.  Even here in 2 Peter 2:1 we can hear the Holy Spirit calling to these heretics to repent.  The heart of God is not for their destruction (Ezekiel 18:32) but for their repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10; cf. Romans 2:4).  Truly the love of God is great for John writes in 1 John 4:10:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

But lest we forget John adds in 1 John 4:14:

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

This is the same world that John denounces in 1 John 2:15-17 but here he says that the Son of God is the Savior of the world.  This is the same world as in John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2.

Let us preach that Jesus is the Savior of the world and this is great news for all men (Luke 2:10-11).

Grace For All Book Review (Chapter 4)

You can find my earlier reviews of this book beginning here.

Chapter 4 of the book Grace for All is a wonderful chapter.  I appreciated it because Dr. Robert Picirilli dives right into the Scriptures to prove his point, that Christ died for all.  Picirilli is clear that Christ shed His blood for all but this salvation is only applied to those who repent and believe the gospel.  Calvinists (at least in part) acknowledge this to be true despite claiming that Christ’s work on the cross actually saves.  Arminians would agree.  The work of Christ was not a failure in that it pleased the Father and brought glory to Him (Philippians 2:5-11).  Yet none are saved simply because Christ died on the cross.  The resurrection after the cross completes the work of redemption for if Jesus is not raised, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 19:30) and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).  One must place their faith in the risen Savior who did shed His blood for our sins.

Calvinists often assert that the Arminian view of the atonement is that Christ died to make men savable but He didn’t save anyone on the cross.  The Calvinist view is that God placed the sins of the elect upon Christ so that when Jesus shed His blood, He shed His blood for the sins of the elect.  Yet carried out to its extreme, this would imply that Calvinists hold to eternal justification (as many hyper-Calvinists do).  I ask the question: when is a person justified before God?  Is it when Christ died on the cross?  Is it before time began?  Is it when a person places their saving faith in Christ?  The obvious answer is the that a sinner is only justified before a holy God when the sinner places their faith in Christ alone to save them from the wrath of God to come (Romans 5:1).  We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works which we do (Titus 3:5-7).  Yet none are saved until they repent and believe the gospel.  The Calvinist can argue all day that their sins were placed on Christ when He died but the reality of their salvation only comes when they repent and believe the gospel.  This would mean that the Calvinist is not born innocent of sin (this is the hyper-Calvinist view) because they actually sinned in time (Romans 3:23) but their salvation only comes when they (the sinner) repent and believe the gospel.  While the Calvinist can argue their monergistic view of regeneration, they cannot argue that the atonement saved them 2000 years ago but rather it saves them when they actually believe in the gospel (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 15:1-4; Galatians 3:1-5).

Picirilli examines the Arminian position by looking at key words of salvation.  He looks at the words redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation.  By looking at the words used in their biblical context, it is easy to see that Christ died for all people.  Along the way Picirilli points out how Calvinists have interpreted the texts.  For example, Picirilli shows how Calvinists have handled 1 Timothy 2:1-6 where Paul uses “all” three times.  Calvinists take the word “all” here not to mean all in all people but only all types of people (though the Bible doesn’t use the term here that way).  Calvinists go out of their way to build a case against all because the use of the word all would imply that Christ died for all and Calvinism says He died only for the elect.

Picirilli also looks at other key “universal” texts such as 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11.  I appreciated Picirilli also looking at the book of 1 John and how John uses the word “world” (kosmos in the Greek).  By looking at how John uses the Greek, we see that the word “world” is not merely “a group out of the world” as Calvinists often insist but rather the entire world.  Jesus shed His blood for the entire world but only those who appropriate their faith in Christ will be saved.

One interesting point is that Picirilli quotes from John Calvin on John 3:16:

Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

In the conclusion, Picirilli dives into the strongest Calvinist argument for limited atonement and that is that the Bible uses word that suggest that the atonement accomplished what God meant for it to accomplish: salvation.  1 John 4:10 says that Christ’s death was for the propitiation of our sins.  2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God has reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ.  Are these meant to suggest universal salvation?  Calvinists point out that Arminians deny universalism but how can they if these Scriptures are true?  The Calvinist answers that Christ shed His blood only for the elect and He has accomplished their redemption by His own blood to the glory of God.  Universalism can be easily rejected, the Calvinist answers, because the Bible is not teaching universalism but instead that Christ died for His elect only that God chose out of the sinful world (Romans 9:22-23).

Picirilli answers this claim by first pointing out that when a doctor makes a diagnosis of a person, that diagnosis does not save the person’s life but we often use language to say that it did.  No one would say that the doctor finding a cancer in a person saved them at that moment.  It takes the work of the doctor to save the person who humbly submits to the doctor’s diagnosis and allows the doctor to cut out the cancer from their body.  At that point, the person is now saved.

Likewise, even Calvinists such as Shedd point out that only those who place their faith in the atonement are saved.  The atonement, by itself, saves no one.  Consider 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.

Notice that the atonement is not said to save but only those who appropriate the work of Christ are said to be saved.  Salvation is received by grace through faith.  Even Calvinists preach this.  We must humble ourselves before the diagnosis of our sinfulness (Romans 3:19-20) and confess that Jesus alone is able to save us from our sins (John 8:24; 14:6; Romans 10:9-13).  We must not only preach the universal call to salvation (which I rejoice that Calvinists do) but we must preach that all who place their saving faith in Jesus can be saved.  The call is to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

These gives the Arminian three key points we should ponder.  First, we must pray for all to hear the gospel by praying for God to send out laborers to work His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).  Secondly, we should pray for all to hear the gospel and be saved by grace through faith (1 Timothy 2:1-6).  Thirdly, we should pray for God to use us in evangelism of the lost (Acts 1:8).  The will of God is not for sinners to perish (Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9) but for sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31).

Why Do Calvinists Despise Unlimited Limited Atonement?

I have a friend who posted from A.W. Pink, Pink’s infamous (from my viewpoint) talk on John 3:16 in which (like John Owen before him) Pink insists that John 3:16 does not teach that Jesus died for the world but rather the world here must be mean the elect that God has chosen out of the world.  If John 3:16 means that Jesus died for all men then all would be saved (this is their reasoning) and since all are not saved then it follows that Jesus did not die for all men and thus John 3:16 is not saying that Jesus died for the whole world but rather that He died only for the elect that God has chosen out of the sinful world.

And Calvinists rejoice in this view!

But why?  Why do Calvinists rejoice that John 3:16 doesn’t teach that Jesus shed His blood for all people?  What hope can they give lost sinners that they can be saved?  What comfort does it bring Calvinists to read John 3:16 and say to themselves, “This is not referring to all but only to the elect.”  Do they ever wonder then if Jesus perhaps did not die for them?  Remember that both Augustine and Calvin taught that God sometimes gives sinners a false assurance that they are saved but in reality He will condemn them to eternal hell because He simply did not choose them.

However, one could argue that Calvinists despise unlimited limited atonement for several reasons.  Some are obviously better than others. Let me offer just a few.

1.  It’s Not Biblical.

This would be the standard answer from your more intelligent Calvinists.  They honestly believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus shed His blood only for the elect and unlimited passages such as John 1:29 or John 3:16-18; Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 19; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2.  They believe that if this doctrine were true, Jesus shed His blood in vain since most people are not saved.

Calvinists often will reply as well that when Jesus died on the cross, He truly saved people on the cross.  They believe that all the Old Testament saints were now saved through Christ’s work as well as the New Testament saints yet to come.  The doctrine of definite atonement (or particular redemption or limited atonement) is said to have been completed on the cross.  However, nearly all Calvinists believe that the atonement must be appropriated by faith.  In other words, while they teach that the elect were justified in Christ at the cross, the elect only become the elect through faith.  Ask any normal Calvinist when they were saved and they will reply the same as the Arminian, “At this point in time when I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Christ.”  Yet this is a denial of the Calvinist doctrine if in fact the elect are not eternally justified in the mind of God.  If Christ shed His blood for the elect and Calvinism teaches that the elect are saved in Christ at the cross then the elect are never born with sin.  They are eternally justified before God because of Christ.  The elect were saved at the cross and thus none need to repent in time.  This is the logic of Calvinism if you carry it out.

The Arminian answer is simple: Christ shed His blood for all people and all can come and be saved.  However, only those who repent of their sins and place their saving faith in Christ Jesus are saved and thus the elect (1 Timothy 4:10).  The Bible even mentions that some are lost despite Jesus shedding His blood for them (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1-2).  Calvinists often say that all whom the Lord loves (or chosen) will be saved yet Jesus loved the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 yet he was not saved.  Salvation is by faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.

2.  Comfort in God’s Choosing.

Some Calvinists find comfort that the Bible teaches that Christ shed His blood only for the elect and they consider themselves His elect.  Calvin wrote about false assurance that God gives to the non-elect so the non-elect actually believe they are elect but in reality are not:

“Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.

For more on this subject view this blogpost.

Calvin taught that God does not give us reasons why He allows people to believe they are the elect when they are not.  In the end, as always with the Calvinist doctrine of election, the choice is purely arbitrary.  While I don’t believe that the Calvinist view of election is the same as in Islam, both views end with a sovereign God choosing merely based on His own choice whom He will save and in both Calvinism and Islam, God does allow people to falsely believe they are the elect.  I have been told many times that I am not part of the elect because of my rejection of Calvinism (since Calvinism is seen as the gospel among some Calvinists).  I have been told that I have a false assurance and that I am lost.

For some Calvinists, the doctrine of election brings comfort to them since they believe that God looked throughout time and chose them.  From my vantage point, it seems God has favored Europeans and Westerners for most of the history of the Church.  Thankfully, God must now be finally choosing to save non-whites as He is saving people all across Africa and Asia.  Yet perhaps He is not and just giving these poor sinners a false assurance of their election.

The Arminian answer is simple: you can have assurance that you are part of the elect through faith in Christ (John 6:37) and in perseverance in faith (2 Peter 1:10-11).  The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).  The Word of God also bears witness to our adoption (1 John 5:13).  We can know that we are saved because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 9:14) and not our works.  If you are trusting in Christ alone to save you from the wrath to come, you are part of the elect of God!  You can have the assurance that Jesus shed His blood for you because of the doctrine of unlimited limited atonement.  The reason that we are seeing so many souls come to faith in Christ in Africa and Asia is because of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) and the lack of faith in Europe and the West is because of the rejection of the true gospel.  Where the gospel is preached, God is faithful to save (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 2:38-39).

Conclusion

I want to close by writing about how we should now preach.  Calvinist evangelists preach just like Arminians do when calling sinners to repentance.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist truly preach Calvinism to the lost.  I have found that Calvinism is often taught after one repents and not before.  When Calvinism is preached, it can lead to despair (see the case of Joseph Hawley, the uncle of Jonathan Edwards).

In reality, the Bible is clear that God wills the salvation of all (1 Timothy 2:4).  His will is for people to repent (2 Peter 3:9).  The Bible says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked but that they should turn and live (Ezekiel 18:32).  Jesus shed His blood for all sinners but only those who place their faith in His saving work are the elect of God.  All others go to hell because of their own sins and their own unwillingness to repent of their sins.

Romans 3:23-25 is clear:

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.

We receive salvation by grace through faith.  Let us preach this truth to all creation (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

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).

Double Jeopardy and the Atonement

This morning I was listening to some Reformed brothers speak in a panel discussion on the vicarious atonement of Christ.  One of the brothers began to talk about what he called “the Pelagian view” and he placed Arminianism in here as well saying that the Bible clearly teaches that Christ died a vicarious atonement in the sinner’s place and thus Christ paid a definite atonement for the sins of the elect.  Thus when Christ died, He paid the actual sin debt of the elect predestined by God before time began.  He attacked what he called “the false teaching that the atonement makes mankind savable but doesn’t actually save anyone.”  He said that such a view would be double jeopardy and would mean that Christ died for the sins of the world but people go to hell for the sins that Christ paid their price for.

Now there are many problems with this brother’s view.  I would to first state that this brother is a brother who is passionate for evangelism, passionate to preach the gospel to the lost and I respect him for his zeal for the glory of God.  That said, I believe he is in error regarding what it is that Arminians believe about the atonement of the Lord Jesus.  Calvinist scholars Kim Riddlebarger and Edwin Palmer both wrote, “The death of Christ  does not actually save sinners but merely renders people savable if they exercise their freedom to choose to follow Christ” and “Because the Arminian believes in an atonement that is unlimited in its extent, it is necessarily a vague, indefinite, poverty stricken atonement that does not actually save anyone” (Arminian Theologyp.222).

A couple of points here.  First, we Arminians hold to an unlimited atonement because we see that in Scripture.  Passages such as Luke 19:10; John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 12:32; Romans 5:18; 11:32; Galatians 1:4; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; Hebrews 2:9, 14-15; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; Revelation 22:17.  We believe that, when read in their proper contexts, it is clear that Jesus shed His blood for all to be saved.  Not to mention the universal passages regarding the call to salvation (which my Reformed brothers do accept by the way) such as in Isaiah 45:22 (the passage that led to Spurgeon’s conversion to Christ); 55:1-2 or the great commission itself in Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:31; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.  Certainly I would agree that God foreknows those who are His own and thus election is a biblical truth but I would add, as do my Reformed brethren, that we are commanded by God to preach the gospel to all and the Lord saves those who believe the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  We Arminians simply accept the biblical teaching of a universal aspect to the saving work of Christ.  We don’t deny that Christ died for His sheep (John 10:14) or for Paul (Galatians 2:20) or for His Church (Ephesians 5:25-26) but we also assert that He gave His life for all so that all can come and be saved by grace through faith (Romans 10:13).

Secondly, even my Reformed brethren admit that we are saved by grace through faith.  This is a Reformation teaching.  We reformed Arminians stand gladly with our reformed Calvinist friends and preach that Jesus alone saves sinners by grace through faith apart from works (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Good works flow from our salvation (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26) but not in order to obtain salvation (Romans 4:5).  Faith is contrasted with works in Romans 4 and it is clear that faith is not a work for salvation.  Faith is the mere acceptance of the finished work of Christ for our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  No biblical Arminians would teach that Jesus saves us but we keep us.  It is clear in Scripture that Jesus saves us and He keeps us by His own power and grace (John 10:27-30; Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 1:5) but we do stress that we are saved by faith and kept by faith (2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4).  None can be saved apart from faith.  So when did my Reformed brothers get saved?  Was it on the cross?  If so, were they born sinless or are they born justified before God?  What about eternity past?  Were they eternally justified in the omniscient mind of God (Revelation 13:8)?  I believe the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (John 3:16; Acts 15:11; 16:30-34; 17:30-31; Romans 3:21-31; 4:24-5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).  So are we justified unto faith or by faith (Romans 5:1)?

Thirdly, there are passages that seem to teach that Christ died for those who deny His work.  For instance, Romans 14:15 which says in the NASB, “For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.”  That seems very close to teaching that this brother could be offended by the eating of certain foods and turn away from the faith and be destroyed but Paul the Apostle says that Christ died for him.

Another passage to study is 2 Peter 2:1 where Peter the Apostle seems to teach that Christ died for false teachers.  Both are interesting passages to debate.

I would close by saying that Arminians don’t believe that the atonement saves all.  We simply believe that all can come and be saved the same way that our Reformed brethren preach in the open air, and that is to all, knowing that not all will be saved but those who come through the drawing of the Spirit (John 6:44) will become the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Peter 1:2).  We deny that all are saved simply because Jesus died but we affirm with our Reformed brethren that only those who believe the gospel are saved (1 Corinthians 1:21).  Those who reject the sacrifice of Christ are lost.  They remain in their state of rebellion against God (Romans 1:18-32; Ephesians 2:3).  Only those who believe the gospel can it be truly said that Jesus shed His blood for them (Romans 5:8-9).

Our duty is to preach the gospel to all and the Lord saves sinners (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  We stand with our Reformed brethren and preach that Christ alone is our salvation and He alone saves (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/08/2013 at 10:00 AM

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