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Dialog on Limited Atonement


Dialog on Limited Atonement

 Mat 1:21b … for He shall save His people from their sins.

Lately there has been a lot of talk and blogging concerning Limited Atonement.  Limited Atonement can take on more than a few different twists but it basically states that the atonement that Jesus made at the Cross was limited in the scope of efficacy and/or application.  Simply stated, the atonement of Jesus Christ is limited to the people who it is actually applied to.  Some would say that the atonement was limited in its efficacy, meaning how broad the possibility of salvation of men and limited in its application as to the salvation of men.  Others would claim that it is not limited in its efficacy, that the blood of Christ is enough to save the entire world, if in fact the entire world would repent and believe, but that the atonement is, however, limited in its scope of application to only those who will repent and believe, which are the elect.  These two thought patterns have been pigeon-holed in what is known as the Calvinistic thought pattern.  Another thought pattern concerning the atonement of Christ is that it is not limited in effect or in application.  This thought pattern belongs in the Arminian camp or free will.  Now some would say they are not Arminian but the thought pattern on this subject belongs there.  This pattern of thought on the atonement is known as unlimited atonement.  All I will say here on unlimited atonement is that this seems to fly in the face of known truth that the atonement has not been applied to everyone because we know that hell does have occupants.  That Jesus seemed clear He came for a specific people and a specific number known only to the Godhead and in the hearts and mind of God this number is and was fixed.  Of course, we have to bear in mind that this is based on the omniscience of a holy and just God whose ways are higher than ours and whose thoughts are much too deep for us.  Now on to the doctrine that seems to be so dear to many of our historic Baptist fathers, the doctrine of limited atonement.

Many moons ago, General Baptist Dan Taylor had argued with Particular Baptist Andrew Fuller that “the position that the only proper ground for universal invitations for sinners to believe the gospel was in a universal provision in Christ’s death.”  I assume the point for using this statement was that one should not make a universal call for all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel unless one believes that all men everywhere will be saved?  Or can be saved?

Even the statement is based on supposed hypothetical results.  We know for a fact that ALL men are not saved.  Hell has a large congregation already.  To write and talk of this subject and put forth the idea that all men will respond is really not logical, for we are told already all men will not respond and actually Jesus uses the word “few” that find that narrow path; Mat 7:14  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The atonement of Christ is limited in some fashion, no matter what outlook one takes in the Scriptural realm, unless one falls into the heresy of universalism. For those who say the atonement is not limited in neither its efficacy nor its application is to ignore or to re-interpret some Scriptures.  In the first chapter of Romans we read that God turns some sinners’ hearts to a reprobate heart.  This would mean plainly that they will never respond to the gospel with repentance and faith.  We also read in the Old Testament that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and in the New Testament of Judas’s heart being hardened.  Now we know these guys still lived for some time after their hearts were hardened or made reprobate.  This would be evidence that there are living people who will never, under any circumstance, respond to the gospel in a positive way; thus God is limiting His atonement in these instances.  Some may retort, ‘but we do not know who those people are’.  True and we do not know who the elect and non-elect are so we plead with all men, everywhere, to come to Christ.  The question has been put to me lately, ‘if you truly believe the number is limited as to who will respond to the gospel, how can you issue a broad call of salvation?’  This is no more of a problem for the Calvinistic pastor than the Arminian pastor.  The Calvinistic pastor, according to his view of soteriology, doesn’t know who the elect/non-elect are and the Arminian pastor has no idea if he has some reprobates or hardened hearts in his congregation.  It is no more disingenuous for the Calvinistic pastor knowing the number is limited by God’s election than it would be for the Arminian pastor knowing the number is limited based on bound-will or free-will.  Both have a limited view of the atonement.

I, for one, as more of a Spurgeonist can issue a call for all men, everywhere, to repent and believe the gospel for:

    1. I am commanded to do so.  This is the most important, to obey God.
    2. Because I firmly believe that God’s elect will respond to that call (for whatever reason you want to ascribe to that, I have my own).
    3. We are commanded (there is that command thing again) to Love the Lord our God first and love our neighbor as ourselves (Jesus set the neighbor standard),  if I truly love my fellow man I will issue a call to repent and believe the gospel to all even though I know all will not respond.
    4. Because I believe that the blood of Christ is powerful enough to save whosoever will repent and believe though some will not.  Their response is not up to me, just the message.  If one says it is disingenuous to offer a call to all men, everywhere, to repent and believe the gospel if one doesn’t believe that all men will (or can?) respond then it would (seem to me) to stand to reason that to issue the same call knowing all will not respond for whatever reason (even free will) is just as disingenuous.  However, I do not believe that either is disingenuous but both are following God’s command to issue the call while seeing the end results worked somewhat differently.

To illustrate: Many on here are pastors and preached this past Sunday morning (at least) and I am quite sure we all issued a call to repent and believe the gospel based on the gospel we just preached (or I hope so!).  How many of us saw every last sinner in the building come to faith in Christ?  None of us… (though there can be a setting where this happens, but not every time).  Now, was it disingenuous for the Calvinistic pastor to issue that call with his belief that some will not respond based on his view of election?  Was it not just as disingenuous for the non-Calvinistic pastor to issue the same call, knowing full well Jesus has told us that not all will respond?  I personally see neither as disingenuous and will continue to issue the call with a clear Christian conscience and stand back and watch God work through His Word and Spirit saving the elect.  Mat 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.”

Sola Scriptura,
Pastor Alan Davis
September 29, 2012

From → Theology

  1. When the bible uses words like, “whosoever,” “all,” and, “everyone,” in the same context as the atoning work of Christ, some will take it out of context and say that it means that everyone will or could receive salvation. The former (the belief that everyone will be saved) is a belief in universal atonement, meaning everyone who has or will live will receive salvation. This is quite the presumption-especially considering the quantity of Scripture concerning hell, the wrath of God towards unrepentant sinners, etc. This belief would be considered heretical. The latter (the belief that everyone could receive salvation) seems to fail to bank on, or put complete trust in Christ. This belief means that Christ did not actually accomplish what He came to do. If it’s only possible for a man to be saved because of Christ’s work, I would say the work of Christ is quite weak. However, i believe that the atoning work of Christ was definite. Christ saved ALL His people 2000 years ago on the cross. The Scripture says that all who BELIEVE in Him will be (not might be) saved. Scripture is absolutely true, and Scripture teaches that all people who believe in Christ, coming to Him repenting of their sins, will be and has definitely been saved. The atonement is a definite, sufficient, and effective atonement–it is not a cheap, insufficient, ineffective atonement. Since this saving power is the power of God, it is not up to me who to share it with or who not to share it with. I am commanded to spread the gospel everywhere, even if they do not come to Christ. Christ is either a stumbling block and a rock of offense for people, or He is the savior. For those whom He is the Savior, they are the elect, or remnant. God has made all people in His image and for His glory, but only that remnant or elect people will be saved. This is clearly taught throughout Scripture, even the old testament (Most often seen in the prophetic books of the OT).

  2. Many are called but few are chosen. That is GODs call not ours. Look to the one and only for your salvation. Not what others say. How on earth can someone know someone else salvation. Read the Bible. Sue

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