Posts Tagged ‘Unlimited 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.
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.
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).
Verse 4. Who will have all men to be saved.
That is, it is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires. The word will cannot be taken here in the absolute sense, denoting a decree like that by which he willed the creation of the world, for then it would certainly be done. But the word is often used to denote a desire, wish, or what is in accordance with the nature of any one. Thus it may be said of God that he “wills” that his creatures may be happy—because it is in accordance with his nature, and because he has made abundant provision for their happiness—though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to make them happy. God wills that sickness should be relieved, and sorrow mitigated, and that the oppressed should go free, because it is agreeable to his nature; though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to produce it. A parent wills the welfare of his child. It is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires; and he makes every needful arrangement for it. If the child is not virtuous and happy, it is his own fault. So God wills that all men should be saved. It would be in accordance with his benevolent nature. He has made ample provision for it. He uses all proper means to secure their salvation. He uses no positive means to prevent it, and if they are not saved it will be their own fault. For places in the New Testament where the word here translated “will” (yelw) means to desire or wish, Lu 8:20; 23:8; Joh 16:19; Ga 4:20; Mr 7:24; 1 Co 7:7; 11:3; 14:5; Mt 15:28.
This passage cannot mean, as many have supposed, that God wills that all kinds of men should be saved, or that some sinners of every rank and class may be saved, because
(1.) the natural and obvious interpretation of the language is opposed to such a sense. The language expresses the desire that “all men” should be saved, and we should not depart from the obvious sense of a passage unless necessity requires it.
(2.) Prayer and thanksgiving 1 Ti 2:1 are directed to be offered, not for some of all ranks and conditions, but for all mankind. No exception is made, and no direction is given that we should exclude any of the race from the expressions of our sympathy, and from an interest in our supplications. The reason given here for that prayer is, that God desires that all men should be saved. But how could this be a reason for praying for all, if it means that God desired only the salvation of some of all ranks?
(3.) In 1 Ti 2:5,6, the apostle gives reasons showing that God wished the salvation of all men, and those reasons are such as to prove that the language here is to be taken in the most unlimited sense. Those reasons are,
(a) that there is one God over all, and one Mediator between God and men—showing that God is the Father of all, and has the same interest in all; and
(b) that Christ gave himself a ransom for all—showing that God desired their salvation.
This verse proves:
(1.) that salvation is provided for all —for if God wished all men to be saved, he would undoubtedly make provision for their salvation; and if he had not made such provision, it could not be said that he desired their salvation, since no one can doubt that he has power to provide for the salvation of all;
(2.) that salvation should be offered to all men—for if God desires it, it is right for his ministers to announce that desire, and if he desires it, it is not proper for them to announce anything contrary to this;
(3.) that men are to blame if they are not saved. If God did not wish their salvation, and if he had made no provision for it, they could not be to blame if they rejected the gospel. If God wishes it, and has made provision for it, and they are not saved, the sin must be their own—and it is a great sin, for there is no greater crime which a man can commit than to destroy his own soul, and to make himself the eternal enemy of his Maker.
And to come unto the knowledge of the truth. The truth which God has revealed: the “truth as it is in Jesus.”
Note: While I would not argue that Charles Finney was an Arminian but a moral government theologian, I do agree with some of Finney’s writings (though not all). Below Finney defines the atonement of Christ and for whom did Jesus die. An Arminian could easily read this and agree with Finney for what he calls a general atonement.
1. God does all things for himself; that is, he consults his own glory and happiness, as the supreme and most influential reason for all his conduct. This is wise and right in him, because his own glory and happiness are infinitely the greatest good in and to the universe. He made the atonement to satisfy himself. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God himself, then, was greatly benefited by the atonement: in other words, his happiness has in a great measure resulted from its contemplation, execution, and results.
2. He made the atonement for the benefit of the universe. All holy beings are, and must be, benefited by it, from its very nature, as it gives them a higher knowledge of God than ever they had before, or ever could have gained in any other way. The atonement is the greatest work that he could have wrought for them, the most blessed and excellent, and benevolent thing he could have done for them. For this reason, angels are described as desiring to look into the atonement. The inhabitants of heaven are represented as being deeply interested in the work of atonement, and those displays of the character of God that are made in it. The atonement is then no doubt one of the greatest blessings that ever God conferred upon the universe of holy beings.
3. The atonement was made for the benefit particularly of the inhabitants of this world, from its very nature, as it is calculated to benefit all the inhabitants of this world; as it is a most stupendous revelation of God to man. (Its nature is adapted to benefit all mankind. All mankind can be pardoned, if they are rightly affected and brought to repentance by it, as well as any part of mankind.)
4. All do certainly receive many blessings on account of it. It is probable that, but for the atonement, none of our race, except the first human pair, would ever have had an existence.
5. All the blessings which mankind enjoy, are conferred on them on account of the atonement of Christ; that is, God could not consistently wait on sinners, and bless, and do all that the nature of the case admits, to save them, were it not for the fact of atonement.
6. That it was made for all mankind, is evident from the fact that it is offered to all indiscriminately.
7. Sinners are universally condemned for not receiving it.
8. If the atonement is not intended for all mankind, it is impossible for us not to regard God as insincere, in making them the offer of salvation through the atonement.
9. If the atonement was made only for a part, no man can know whether he has a right to embrace it, until by a direct revelation God has made known to him that he is one of that part.
10. If ministers do not believe that it was made for all men, they cannot heartily and honestly press its acceptance upon any individual, or congregation in the world; for they cannot assure any individual, or congregation, that there is any atonement for him or them, any more than there is for Satan.
Editors Note: Wise words from Dr. Richard Watson, one of the greatest Arminian theologians ever, about the extent of the atonement of Christ.
The question before us, put into its most simple form, is, whether our Lord Jesus Christ did so die for all men, as to make salvation attainable by all men; and the affirmative of this question is, we think, the doctrine of Scripture.
We assume that this is plainly expressed,
1. In all those passages which declare that Christ died for all men, and speak of his death as an atonement for the sins of the whole world.
We have already seen, in treating of our Lords atonement, in what sense the phrase, to die for us, must be understood; that it signifies to die in the place and stead of man, as a sacrificial oblation, by which satisfaction is made for the sins of the individual, so that they become remissible upon the terms of the evangelical covenant. When, therefore, it is said, that Christ by the grace of GOD tasted death for every man; and that he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world; it can only, we think be fairly concluded from such declarations, and from many other familiar texts, in which the same phraseology is employed, that, by the death of Christ, the sins of every man are rendered remissible, and that salvation is consequently attainable by every man. Again, our Lord called himself the Saviour of the world; and is, by St. Paul, called the Saviour of all men. John the Baptist points him out as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; and our Lord himself declares, God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: for GOD sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that time world through him might be saved. So, also the Apostle Paul, GOD was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.
2. In those passages which attribute an equal extent to the effect! of the death of Christ as to the effects of the fall of our first parents For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
As the unlimited extent of Christs atonement to all mankind, is plainly expressed in the above-cited passages, so is it, we also assume, necessarily implied,
1. In those which declare that Christ died not only for those that are saved, but for those who do, or may perish; so that it cannot be argued, from the actual condemnation of men, that they were excepted from many actual, and from all the offered, benefits of his death. And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. False teachers, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. So also in the case of the apostates mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith h was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace It any dispute should here arise as to the phrase, wherewith lie was sanctified, reference may be made to chap. vi, of the same epistle, where the same class of persons, whose doom is pronounced to be inevitable, are said to have been once enlightened; to have tasted of the heavenly gift; to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost; to have tasted the good word of GOD, and the powers of the world to come : all which expressions show that they were placed on the same ground with other Christians as to their interest in the new covenant,a point to which we shall again recur.
2. In all those passages which make it the duty of men to believe the Gospel; and place them under guilt, and the penalty of death, for rejecting it. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he bath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The plain argument from all such passages is, that the Gospel is commanded to be preached to all men; that it is preached to them that they may believe in Christ, its Author; that this faith is required of them, in order to their salvation, that believing ye may have life through his name ; that they have power thus to believe to their salvation; (from whatever source, or by whatever means this power is derived to them, need not now be examined: it is plainly sup. posed; for not to believe, is reckoned to them as a capital crime, for which they are condemned already, and reserved to final condemnation;) and that having power to believe, they have the power to obtain salvation, which, as it can be bestowed only through the merits of Christs sacrifice, proves that it extends to them. The same conclusion, also, follows from time nature of that faith, which is required by the Gospel, in order to salvation. This, we have already seen, is not mere assent to the doctrine of Christs sacrificial death, but personal trust in it as our atonement; which those, surely, could not be required by a God of truth to exercise, if that atonement did not embrace them. Nor could they be guilty for refusing to trust in that which was never intended to be the object of their trust; for if God so designed to exclude them from Christ, he could not command them to trust in Christ; and if they are not commanded thus to trust in Christ, they do not violate any command by not believing; and, in this respect, are innocent.
3. In all those passages in which mens failure to obtain salvation is placed to the account of their own opposing wills, and made wholly their own fault. How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! And ye will not come to me that ye may have life. Bringing upon themselves swift destruction. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. It is useless here to multiply quotations, since the New Testament so constantly exhorts men to come to Christ, reproves them for neglect, and threatens them with the penal consequences of their own folly: thus uniformly placing the bar to their salvation, just where Christ places it, in his parable of the supper, in the perverseness of those, who having been bidden to the feast, would not come. From these premises, then, it follows, that since the Scriptures always attribute the ruin of mens souls to their own will, and not to the will of God; we ought to seek for no other cause of their condemnation. We can know nothing on this subject but what God has revealed. He has declared that it is not his will that men should perish: on the contrary, He willeth all men to be saved; and therefore commands us to pray for all men; he has declared, that the reason they are not saved, is not that Christ did not die for them, but that they will not come to him for the life which he died to procure for the world; and it must therefore be concluded, that the sole bar to the salvation of all who are lost is in themselves, and not in any such limitation of Christs redemption, as supposes that they were not comprehended in its efficacy and intention.
It will now be necessary for us to consider what those who have adopted a different opinion have to urge against these plain and literal declarations of Scripture. It is their burthen, that they are compelled to explain these passages in a more limited and qualified sense, than the letter of them and its obvious meaning teaches: and that they must do this by inference merely; for it is not even pretended that there is any text whatever to be adduced, which declares as literally, that Christ did not die for the salvation of all, as those which declare that he did so die. We have no passages, therefore, to examine, which, in their clear literal meaning, stand opposed to those which we have quoted, so as to present apparent contradictions which require to be reconciled by concession on one side or the other. This is at least, prima facie, strongly in favour of those who hold that, in the same sense, and with the same design, Jesus Christ tasted death for every man.