26 August, 2005

My Love For Lydia Does Not Include All Women

Last week I got a phone call from a friend of mine who has been contemplating the doctrine called Limited Atonement. This doctrine states that even though the punishment that Jesus Christ received on the cross was sufficient to save all men, it is only made efficacious to those who are the elect of God. When non-Reformed people first hear of this doctrine, their "heresy detectors" begin to notify them right away that there is a problem. Little does the human mind perceive correctly without the spectacles of faith.

So the question remains, for whom did Jesus Christ die? Did he die for the church? Did he die for those who will spend eternity in hell? These are great questions that need to be answered from the Word of God. Search and you will find.

Below you will find some verses that discuss the atonement and the application thereof. You will also find an excerpt from a treatise by Loraine Boettner on the atonement. It can be found in fullness in a little book entitled The Reformed Faith.

Matthew 1.21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

John 6.35-40 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 10.11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Ephesians 5.25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

These are just a few of the many verses in scripture that deal with limited atonement. (I am working on an annotated bibliography that will be posted in the future.) The atonement had a particular purpose in mind. The death of Christ was not so that men could be saved, but so that men would be saved.

One analogy that I like to use (because scripture does) is that of the bridegroom. The husband is called to love his wife and to give his life for her AS CHRIST did for the church. Did Christ give his life for his bride or did he give himself for many brides? Scripture teaches that the bride was purchased by his blood. Christ is a faithful bridegroom and does not chase after other brides...nor give his life for them.

It was not, then, a general and indiscriminate love of which all men were equally the objects, but a peculiar, mysterious, infinite love for His elect, which caused God to send His Son into the world to suffer and die. Any theory which denies this great and precious truth, and which would explain away this love as merely indiscriminate benevolence or philanthropy which had all men for its objects, many of whom are allowed to perish, must be unScriptural. Christ died not for an unorderly mass, but for His people, His bride, His Church.
A farmer prizes his field. But no one supposes that he cares equally for every plant that grows there, for the tares as well as the wheat.God's field is the world, Matt. 13:38, and he loves it with an exclusive eye to its good seed, the children of the kingdom, and not the children of the wicked one. It is not the whole of mankind that is equally loved of God and promiscuously redeemed by Christ. God is not necessarily communicative of His goodness, as the sun of its light, or a tree of its cooling shade, which does not choose its objects, but serves all indifferently without variation or distinction. This would be to make God of no more understanding than the sun, which shines not where it pleases, but where it must. He is an understanding person, and has a sovereign right to choose His own objects.
In Genesis we read that God put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Now who were meant by the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent? On first thought we might suppose that the seed of the woman meant the entire human race descended from Eve. But in Gal. 3:16 Paul uses this term seed, and applies it to Christ as an individual. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. On further investigation we also find that the seed of the serpent means not literal descendants of the Devil, but those non-elect members of the human race, who partake of his sinful nature. Jesus said of His enemies, Ye are of your father, the Devil; and the lusts of your father it is your will to do, John 8:44. Paul denounced Elymas the sorcerer as a son of the Devil and an enemy of all righteousness. Judas is even called a devil, John 6:70. So the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent are each a part of the human race. In other parts of the Scriptures we find that Christ and His people are one, that He dwells in them and is united with them as the vine and the branches are united. And since at the very beginning God put enmity between these two groups, it is plain that He never loved all alike, nor intended to redeem all alike. Universal redemption and God's sentence on the serpent can never go together.
There is also a parallel to be noticed between the high priest of ancient Israel and Christ who is our high priest; for the former, we are told, was a type of the latter. On the great day of atonement the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the twelve tribes of Israel. He interceded for them and for them only. Likewise, Christ prayed not for the world but for His people. The intercession of the high priest secured for the Israelites blessings from which all other peoples were excluded; and the intercession of Christ, which also is limited but of a much higher order, shall certainly be efficacious in the highest sense, for Him the Father hears always.
Furthermore, it is not necessary that God's mercy shall extend to all men without exception before it can be truly and properly called infinite; for all men taken together would not constitute a multitude strictly and properly infinite. The Scriptures plainly tell us that the Devil and the fallen angels are left outside of His benevolent purposes. But His mercy is infinite in that it rescues the great multitude of His elect from indescribable and eternal sin and misery to indescribable and eternal blessedness.
While the Arminians hold that Christ died equally for all men and that He obtained sufficient grace to enable all men to repent, believe, and persevere, if they will only co-operate with it, they also hold that those who refuse to co-operate shall on that account and through all eternity be punished far more severely than if Christ had never died for them at all. We see that so far in the history of the human race the large proportion of the adult population have failed to co-operate and have thus been allowed to bring upon themselves greater misery than if Christ had never come. Surely a view which permits God's work of redemption to issue in such failure, and which sheds so little glory on the atonement of Christ, cannot be true. Vastly more of God's love and mercy for His people is seen in the Calvinistic doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement than is seen in the Arminian doctrine of conditional election and unlimited atonement.

Discussion Points:

-Christ's love for his people.

-The power of the atonement.

-Our gratitude for salvation.


Mark said...

Very good post, though I've got to admit I spent about a minute staring at the title trying to make sense of it.

I think part of the problem some have with limited atonement is that they worry about making God look snobbish. It is, of course, completely unfair for any to complain about whom God elects to salvation, since we all deserve Hell. And rather than sneer at unbelievers who seem headed that way, we ought both to pray for their salvation and thank God that He by His grace saved us. There's a lot to be said for the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I".

KElizabeth said...

This is the one point of Calvinism I struggled to accept for years. Not only is it scriptural it is also logical. It Christ only predestines a few to be saved, then his death was to only to save the elect. Limited atonement does not show a harsh mean God, but a loving God. We don't deserve this, but for some reason only God knows he sent his son to die for the elect when we could have stayed separated from him and been punished by his wrath.

Nate said...

When I first became a Christian I saw LA as a philosophical outcome of election and reprobation.

I was amazed that as I searched the scriptures this doctrine was more and more opened to my sight.

This doctrine is not merely philospohical, but very biblical.

As I mentioned in the post- this is not even scratching the surface. And I can relate with those that think that this is a "hard saying".

Julio said...

I have often noted, with great delight, that even our Orthodox daily morning prayers have hints of particular redemption:

"Remember, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Thy mercies and compassions which are from the ages, for the sake of which Thou didst become man and didst will to endure crucifixion and death for the salvation of those that rightly believe in Thee..."

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not texts such as John 3:16 that are the greatest difficulty of the of the II Head of Doctrine of the Canons of Dordt, but rather, texts such as I Timothy 4:10.