Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Limited Atonement 3

Today we wish to continue our subject of the doctrine of Limited Atonement by asking and, God willing, answering two more questions that must be dealt with. The next set of questions is:

6. Did Jesus die for the men already in Hell before He was born?
7. Does expiation mean that Christ removes sin and guilt, or merely make it possible?

6. Did Jesus die for the men already in Hell before He was born?
At first blush, this may seem like an extremely crazy question to ask. However, the Arminian position regarding the atonement leaves us no option but to probe this issue. If, as Arminians insist, Christ died for each and every sinner alike, that is, for ALL men without exception, then He must've died for all the sinners who had been born, lived, died, and went to Hell before He was ever even born. To deny this premise, as asinine as it is, is to put the fatal bullet into the head of Arminianism. Christ either died for ALL men or not. If He indeed died for all men without exception, then He died for the people already in Hell before He was born. If an Arminian wishes to somehow deny this, then he has ceded the argument. Calvinism claims, Scripturally, that the atonement is limited in scope. We might add that Arminianism limits the atonement in power, which is a deadly limitation.

Back to our question. What is the sense in Jesus dying for the sins of men who are never going to have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and repent? Those in Hell are past the opportunity of receiving the Gospel. So can we say that Christ somehow died for their sins too? This notion is so absurd and blasphemous and injurious to the Gospel that it should pain the child of God to even consider it. If you are not prepared to say that Christ died for the sins of monsters like the antediluvians, Nimrod and Pharaoh, then you cannot claim that Christ died for all men without exception.

This raises a serious issue, namely, what does it mean to say that Christ died for anyone's sins? If Christ's death secured the forgiveness of these sins, or paid to remove the guilt, and therefore the penalty and punishment, then why is anyone in Hell? Even in our fallen, corrupt, sinful world our justice systems abhor the idea of double jeopardy, and we have laws in place to prevent it. If Christ took the punishment and paid the debt incurred by Nimrod's sins, then why is he burning in Hell today for those sins? If Christ satisfied God's justice, why should anyone go to Hell? There is no way around this. This naturally leads us right in to the next question.

7. Does expiation mean that Christ removes sin and guilt, or merely make it possible?
Arminians love to dabble in possibilities. Scripture does no such thing.

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.
Romans 11:27 And this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.
Colossians 2:13-14 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Hebrews 9:26 For then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

These Scriptures, as well as a host of many more similar ones, tell us unequivocally that Christ's death was an expiatory sacrifice which removed the sin and guilt of those for whom it was offered. To an Arminian this might seem like a hair-splitting distinction, but it is actually a very crucial question. If Christ's death merely makes it possible for sin and guilt to be removed, what is the catalyst? In other words: If Christ death doesn't actually do it, what does? Hebrews 9:11-28 is a devastating critique of the Arminian notion of a possible expiation. If Christ's death did not actually remove someone's sins, then, as verse 26 says, he would have needed to die repeatedly. This is why goats, bulls and sheep were constantly being sacrificed: their blood did not actually remove sin and guilt. If Christ's death does remove sin and guilt, it removes it from either all men or some men. If it removes the sins of all men, then God is most unjust to send anyone to Hell for sins which are already paid for. If it removes all of the sins of some men, then those men will undoubtedly be saved.

From the mouth of none other than the Lord Jesus himself, we hear the following: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father...So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:11-18, 24-30)

Regarding our topic, Limited Atonement, this passage is definitive, clear, concise and argument-ending. No less than Jesus Christ Himself declares outright that some people are sheep and some are goats. He claims to die exclusively for the sheep and not for the goats. He even goes so far as to make two startling claims: (1) He asserts that His death is not for the goats with which He is arguing. (2) His followers are so because they are already sheep. They are not sheep because the follow Him. I read a statement recently to the effect that a baby cries because it is born; it is not born because it cries.

Furthermore, as noted above, Christ ever lives to intercede for us. An example of His intercession is His High Priestly prayer in John 17. In this prayer we note two important facts (a) Christ refuses to pray for the world and, (b) He prays only for His elect (John 17:9). Anyone who can read that and still insist that the scope of the atonement is universal, is incorrigibly precommitted to his own opinion and is lying through his teeth when he claims to care what Scripture says.

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