Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Defining L in Tulip

Limited Atonement answers the question, "For whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom the Father gave Him to save. Christ died for the elect, which refers to all who will be born again. Belief in the doctrine of a definite redemption provides an incentive for evangelistic zeal and under-girds the presentation of the gospel. With confidence the soul winner can share the Scripture that promises that Christ will not lose any that the Father has given to Him. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." The death of Christ was not one of potential atonement for all people. Rather, Christ died to accomplish a real redemption for His people. The night Christ was born, the angels declared that Jesus had come to "save His people from their sins." Christ’s atoning work was not designed to make men savable but to actually purchase their salvation by His own precious blood. The work of the Cross is effectual only for the elect.

This is perhaps the least favorite of the five points by the detractors of Reformed soteriology. Arminians and their theological first cousins, Roman Catholic, bristle at the notion of an atonement intended for some men and not for everyone. This doctrine is hated because it is portrayed as unfair or unjust. Actually though, fairness or justice have little to do with. Simply consider this: All men are equally guilty before God and thus hell-deserving. If we were to appeal logically to justice and fairness, God should damn everyone to Hell. The fact that He has chosen anyone speaks of kindness and mercy.

I always feel confidently secure that my theology is correct in this regard when an Arminian assails me with the same arguments Paul's opponents brought against him. You'd think they had never read Romans 9:18-24: "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump on vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory - even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?" When an Arminian assaults us with the same arguments that Paul's opponents used, that seems to indicate that we are on the right track theologically. Furthermore, when Paul says that God "has not destined us for wrath," doesn't that logically imply that some men are destined for wrath?

If the Atonement is not limited to the elect, but God is earnestly trying to save all men without exception, what do we do with these Scriptural statements?

Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.

1 Samuel 3:25b But they would not listen to the voice of their father for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.

John 10:11, 26 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...but you do not believe me because you are not part of my flock.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.

Jude 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Let's set the record straight: Neither I nor any advocate of Reformed theology, derive any morbid pleasure from the idea that some men have gone and still will go to Hell. We derive no morbid satisfaction, nor any self-flattering enjoyment from the notion that Christ's atoning sacrifice was efficacious for some and not others. But that is beside the point. We may not, without imperiling our immortal souls, toy with God's Word simply because we place less stock in it than we do in our own fallen sense of justice and equality.

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