Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD BIBLE STUDIES STUDY FIVE

BY COLIN MAXWELL

LIMITED ATONEMENT OR PARTICULAR REDEMPTION

READING: JOHN 10:1-18

Like unconditional election, this point in the "Five Points of Calvinism" attracts great controversy. Many of those who describe themselves as "Four Point Calvinists" point to this particular doctrine as the grounds of their dissension. Yet, it is but a logical and scriptural point, especially when you start with God and His eternal purposes. Read on:

  1. ALTHOUGH ELECT - THE SIN PROBLEM HAD STILL TO BE DEALT WITH:

It is not enough simply that God in His sovereignty should elect some out of the mass of lost humanity and predestine them for salvation. Such a move in itself does not remove the guilt of their sin. The divine law still required the following: Leviticus 17:11/ Hebrews 9:22

 2) CHRIST'S DEATH HAD TO FIT INTO GOD'S SALVATION PLAN:

We have already seen that Christ's death was according to the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) It is the purpose of God that there be a chosen number - comparatively few (Matthew 20:16) - be saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. When Christ died on Calvary, He had these people in mind. Their sins must be atoned for - their sins must be blotted out etc., We cannot have two plans on the go.

3) CHRIST'S DEATH HAD A DISTINCT PURPOSE:

A) We must consider here two distinct propositions:

[1] Christ died merely to make salvation possible:

This makes salvation but potential. Not even probable and certainly not definite. Just potential.

Can you reconcile this with the thought of a plan that is "ordered in all things and sure?" (2 Sam 23:5)

[2] Christ died to actually secure salvation. This makes salvation definite - not merely potential or probable…but definite.

B/ Pick out in the following verses, the definite language which the Bible employs re: the coming of Christ into the world to die on the Cross:

[1] 1 Timothy 1:15

[2] Luke 19:10

[3] Matthew 20:28

[4] Matthew 1:21

C) Who do the following verses tell us Christ died for in particular?

[1] Ephesians 5:25

[2] John 10:11/15

[3] Matthew 20:28

Although we use the term "Limited Atonement" to denote the Calvinistic idea that Christ died only to definitely save the elect…the fact is that both sides limit the atonement in one way or another.

If Calvinists limit the scope of the atonement (He died only for His elect) then Arminians effectively limit the power of the atonement (Christ only made salvation possible or potential) We may use the illustration of two bridges. Arminianism can be likened to a bridge that, although wide to admit every single sinner, does not go the whole way across. It cannot for it, depends for its success on the acceptance of the sinner who can reject it and so make it null and void. The second bridge, although much narrower, goes the whole way across for it depends on the decree of God which cannot know frustration, for He who decreed the Cross has said: My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my good pleasure. (Isaiah 46:10)

 Although the Bible sometimes uses words like if or perhaps etc., yet such language is never used concerning the work of Christ…

4) CHRIST'S DEATH COULD NOT KNOW FAILURE:

A/ We need to stress that there is nothing limited in the value of Christ's death. Why not? (Acts 20:28)

  Had God decreed to add one more soul to the number of the elect, it would not mean that Christ would be required to suffer more pain. Had it been the decree of God…then the suffering of Christ would have atoned for the sins of the whole world. We know that this was not the decree of God.

 B/ What does Isaiah 53:11 tell us about Christ's satisfaction for His sufferings? Would this be possible if He suffered for the many who are on the broad road to Hell and who will reject the offer of salvation as Matthew 20:16 more than implies?

 5) THE JUSTICE OF GOD DEMANDS WE BELIEVE IN PARTICULAR REDEMPTION:

Some folk argue against our doctrine saying that it would be unjust of God to send a soul to hell without Christ at least having died to save it. But if we go back to the last study, we will recall how God was not obliged to save any body and therefore not obliged to save everybody. God is just to send souls to hell on account of their sin.

We can point out that it would be unjust for God to send any soul to Hell if Christ died to atone for that particular soul. Take the Rich Man in Hell (Luke 16:19-31) A damned soul who will never escape perdition.

[1] Did Christ die for Him? (Argument sake: Yes)

[2] Just the same as He died for poor Lazarus who went to glory? (Argument sake: Yes)

[3] No difference? (Argument sake: No)

[4] Did Christ make definite atonement for the sin of Lazarus? i.e. Did He actually blot out his sins as a thick cloud…cleanse them…purge them etc., (Argument sake: Yes)

[5] Is God's Law satisfied with what Jesus did on Lazarus' behalf? (Argument sake: Yes)

[6] Can Lazarus suffer in Hell on account of His sins?

(Argument sake: No)

[7] Why not? (Jesus has already suffered/satisfied the law)

[8] If Jesus has done the exact same for Lazarus as for the Rich Man…can the Rich Man suffer in hell?

(Argument sake: No)

[9] Why not? [(Argument sake: Because Christ has already paid the price of the Rich Man's sin]

[10] Why then is the Rich Man in Hell?

Payment God will not twice demand

First at my Bleeding Sureties hand

And then again at mine.

Some answer:

The Rich Man is in Hell because although Christ died for all His sins yet the Rich Man would not accept the work on his behalf. He refused the gift and so is lost.

We reply: Did Christ die for that sin of unbelief i.e. make atonement for it?

(Argument sake: Yes)

Then why should it hinder/damn him more than any other sin? Is God exacting payment twice (Unjust)

(Argument sake: No)

Then Christ did not die for all his sins (Limited Atonement)

 Christ did something definite on the Cross. At a historical point in time, He actually made full atonement for sins. This work cannot be reversed, or undone. Men go to hell, not only because they reject God's offer of salvation (Proverbs 1:24-29/Hebrews 2:3) but because they are fornicators, liars. thieves etc., (Revelation 21:8) God exacts from them the price due for these sins. Which shows that He has not done so before i.e. at Calvary.

6) POTENTIAL PROBLEM TEXTS/ARGUMENTS AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE ANSWERED:

We accept that there are verses of scripture which would appear to teach that Christ died for the whole human race. These are texts like: Isaiah 53:6/ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 where the death of Christ is linked to "all" or John 1:29/1 John 2:2 where it is linked to the "world" and in both these sets of verses, the word "all and "world" is taken to mean every single soul ever born - elect, or reprobate.

It is worth pointing out that the word "all" whilst it does refer at times to every single human being ever born (Romans 3:23) yet there are times when it is more limited in its scope: Likewise, the word "world" sometime has the widest possible scope attached to it (John 3:16) and other times it means the Gentile as well as the Jew. See: John 12:19-20

Consider the words of Luke 2:1 (both "all" and "world" and see if it will stand up to the view that "all" and "world" must mean every single human being ever born or yet to be born.

STUDY SIX: IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

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