Friday, February 4, 2011

Limited Atonement 5

Today we close out this 5 part series of posts on the doctrine of Limited Atonement. That doesn't mean, of course, that I have said everything there is to say on this subject, nor that I will not take it up again many more times in the future. But in closing out this series of posts, we have two more related questions to answer. The questions are as follows:

10. Does regeneration precede faith or is it God's response to our faith?
11. If faith isn't a gift of God, but is a self-generated act, do we not therefore have reason to boast in our salvation against our fellow man who was not smart enough to use his will to generate faith unto salvation?

10. Does regeneration precede faith or is it God's response to our faith?
It is extremely important that we answer this question properly. Despite what we might think at first glance, the answer to this question weighs heavily on the doctrine of the Atonement and its extent. The Arminian position it this: When, by the autonomous use of our free-will, we exercise faith in Christ, God responds to this faith by granting regeneration. Lest we go too far afield without clearly understanding our terms, Regeneration is synonymous with the new birth, being born again (John 3:3). The Reformed position is that God regenerates an elect sinner, whom He has chosen in Christ before the world began, and because of this regeneration, the elect sinner exercises faith in Christ unto salvation. His new birth as well as his saving faith are gracious gifts of God, hence he can say with the Apostle that salvation is by grace through faith.

John1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

In all these passages we note something very important: The new birth does not depend upon human will. A person is either a sheep or not. God has marked out some people in the midst of fallen humanity. He has brought them to new birth; that is, He has regenerated them and given them to the Son. Jesus states in unmistakable terms that He lays down His life - not for goats - but for His sheep. Jesus, in His High Priestly prayer actually says, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9). Jesus work of redemption has exclusive reference to the elect, that is, to those whom the Father has given to Christ.

Scripture teaches that God has chosen a specific number, the elect, whom He has given to the Son. Christ's death is for them and them alone. Christ died for a particular people and His death secured their salvation.

John 10:15-18 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
John10:27-29 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.
Romans 5:8-10 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Revelation1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and was and is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

In this relatively small sample of the Biblical evidence, Arminians make a massive grammatical mistake: They ignore the words like "me" and "us." They are limiting pronouns. When Paul or John says that Christ died for "us," they are tying Christ's redemptive and mediatorial work to their audience. Arminians ignore, and indeed, violate some of the most basic rules of grammar. Whenever we use word "us," we limit whatever is being spoken of to the person speaking and his audience. When I tell my wife, "I bought us a new microwave," I do not expect the neighbors to come over and use it. None of us do. That's how the word "us" works. The New Testament authors repeatedly tell us that Christ died for us, that He gave himself for us, that God sent His Son for us, that Christ is a propitiation for us. Where do they find warrant for such language? From Christ Himself, who says that He lays down His life for His sheep, which the Father gave Him, and He mediates in prayer exclusively for them, based on the Father's acceptance of His perfect sacrifice of Himself for them. I don’t know how it could be any plainer.

Having shown, therefore, that the Bible clearly teaches that God has a chosen people out of the mass of fallen humanity whom He has given to the Son, and for whom alone the Son has died and mediates, we are now in a position to answer our last question, nailing the coffin lid shut on the Arminian objections to Limited Atonement.

11. If faith isn't a gift of God, but is a self-generated act, do we not therefore have reason to boast in our salvation against our fellow man who was not smart enough to use his will to generate faith unto salvation?

The Bible makes it clear that God chose His elect and that Christ atoned for them not "because of works done by us in righteousness" (Titus 3:5). Neither was it for foreseen faith that God chose His elect. For Paul says, "When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls - she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:10b-13). Jesus told His disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16a). These statements seem to echo God's declarations to Israel, such as: "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he that he swore to your fathers" (Deut. 7:7-8a). "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2a).

So let's clear the decks. There was no foreseen merit in anyone for which God elected him to salvation. Christ is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Election is not about who is better or worse than anyone else. It is all about God's mercy, which He was not obligated to show to anyone, let alone the multitude which no man could number (Rev. 7:9). If the doctrine of Election does not make you humble, then you haven't understood it aright. Limited Atonement is not an uncharitable doctrine, as Arminians like to think. Ephesians 5:25-27 tells us that Christ died for His Church. He did not die for the world. On the Arminian premise of a universal atonement, we would be forced to teach that men should love all women the same way they love their wives. That is sheer nonsense. Christ's love is not an indiscriminate love that is just cast out into the world to be caught by whomever is clever enough to use his own free-will.

We have already established, a couple of days ago, the blatant Biblical teaching that faith is a gift from God. Arminianism teaches that all men without exception have the free-will to use their will to believe in Christ unto salvation. That is why much of their evangelism is what Calvinist's call "moral suasion." So the question we have to answer is this: If a man believes savingly on Christ, what makes him different from the man who doesn't? If it is because of some inherent quality in the man himself, then we have a bigger problem than Arminianism, because Scripture plainly teaches that all men are sinners and that no one is righteous; no one is inherently good. So why does one man believe and another does not believe? The Arminian, when backed into the corner of his own making, has no alternative but to say that one used his will rightly and the other didn't. But, this is precisely what Scripture says cannot be.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness." For to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

By denying Limited Atonement, the Arminian has to assert that he does have something of which to boast. He has made himself to differ. If faith is a work, and salvation is by faith, then salvation is of works in direct contradiction to the Holy Spirit's declaration through the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2. There is simply no way around that fact. Arminians frequently claim that Calvinists are arrogant. That proves nothing; all sinners are arrogant. But an arrogant Calvinist is a contradiction in terms. It's like a round square or a five-sided triangle. A "Calvinist" who is arrogant, is no real Calvinist at all. Because Calvinism places the entire transaction of salvation in God's hands, where Scripture says it belongs. Man contributes nothing, for he has nothing to contribute. Arminianism, on the other hand, places the entire outcome of man's final destiny into his own free-will. Arminianism makes free-will so crucial for man, that not even the Sovereign God of the universe can cross it. By insisting on a universal atonement, the Arminian arms man with the power to save or damn himself, with no respect to God's power or will. That seems to this writer like the epitome of arrogance.

One final observation should be made. Arminian complain about Limited Atonement, but their system places a greater limitation, indeed a destructive limitation, on the Atonement. Reformed theology says, with complete Scriptural warrant, that the Atonement is limited, by God's very design, to the elect for whom it is savingly efficacious. Arminianism, however, limits the very power of the Atonement. because in their view, it actually saves no one. Theoretically therefore, it is possible that no one would ever use his free-will and accept Christ, thus every single human being, without exception, would be damned in eternal hellfire. If the Atonement does not guarantee the salvation of anyone, then it guarantees nothing. This limitation destroys the Atonement. It makes Christ merely a martyr who dies for what He believed. How is the death of Christ a display of God's love (as per John 3:16), if it doesn't accomplish anything beyond showing that good people often suffer for what they believe?

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