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Why I Am a Calvinist: Atonement

This is part 4 of a series.
Part 1 :: Why I Am a Calvinist: Introduction
Part 2 :: Why I Am a Calvinist: Depravity
Part 3 :: Why I Am a Calvinist: Election

Update: This post was written too hastily. The author should be chastised for being so lame. Please read the comments below, especially Daniel's, for some necessary explanations.

I am a five-point Calvinist. I believe in the L in the TULIP, which stands for é─˙Limited Atonement.é─¨ You may have noticed that I have not used the TULIP acrostic yet in this series. I havené─˘t used it because the terms involved are misleading, and I havené─˘t cared to preface every post with an explanation of why I doné─˘t like the terms and what terms I prefer. I am making an exception in this case, because I believe the term é─˙Limited Atonementé─¨ is so bad and causes so much misunderstanding that it is worth addressing.

Before I do that, I want to say this: I doné─˘t believe this post, by itself, will convince anyone of the doctrine of Limited Atonement. This is a doctrine that is necessarily deduced from the other four points. To call yourself a é─˙four-point Calvinisté─¨ and exclude this point is just bad math. It doesné─˘t add up. So I believe that, while this post might not stand well on its own, its conclusions should be inevitable in light of the others.

What does é─˙limitedé─¨ mean? First, it does not mean é─˙limited in efficacy.é─¨ That would actually describe the Arminian viewé─ţChristé─˘s death was intended for all, but effective only for some. The Biblical view is that Christé─˘s death effectively atoned for every sin for which he died. If he died for your sins, atonement has been made for your sins. The penalty for your sins has been paid, and you will stand justified before God. Christ became sin for you, and his righteousness will be imputed to you. Many theologians prefer to say é─˙Particular Atonement,é─¨ meaning that Christ died for particular sins, and actually made satisfaction for those sins.

Now, brace yourselves. Ié─˘m going to state bluntly what I have so far only implied: Christ did not die for everyone. He died for the elect only.

é─˙Hold on!é─¨ you scream. é─˙Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world!é─¨ Of course he is; but does é─˙the whole worldé─¨ mean everyone in the world? (Here I invite the scorn of all Arminians.) I think it clearly does not. If Christ was the propitiation for the sins of every sinner, then every sinner would be justified. Every sinner is not justified. In fact, Scripture tells us plainly that most are not and will not be justified. Christ is not the propitiation for their sins.

é─˙Well,é─¨ you might respond, é─˙thaté─˘s convenient, isné─˘t it. Just redefine the terms to fit your theology.é─¨ But thaté─˘s not what Ié─˘m doing here. We could go through the entire Bible and look at every occurrence of words like all, every, none, no one, etc., and demonstrate that they all have a meaning limited by their context. They seldom have universal application. I woné─˘t do that here, but I will challenge you to do this: analyze your own speech. See how often your use of all-inclusive words has universal application.

I always say . . .
Everyone was there.
I eat there all the time.
Ié─˘ve been everywhere, man, Ié─˘ve been everywhere . . .

Ié─˘m sure you can think of your own examples. Interpreting Scripture without regard for contexté─ţimmediate context and the broader context of Scripture (analogia Scriptura)é─ţis not interpreting it literally. Literal hermeneutics require consideration of context and literary genre. Scripture interprets Scripture, so when your interpretation of a passage contradicts the plain teaching of other passages, youé─˘re getting it wrong.

Getting back to the atonement, it is unthinkable to me that anyone for whom Christ died is not or will not be saved. Let me conclude with a few questions: If Christ died for my sins, how can those sins remain unforgiven? When we consider the fact that God has chosen a particular people to save, why is it difficult to believe that Christ died for them in particular? How can anyone for whom Christ died spend eternity in Hell? Did Christé─˘s death on the cross actually atone for actual sins? And what is accomplished by insisting that Christ died for the souls in Hell?

Next :: Why I Am a Calvinist: Calling

Posted 2008·03·24 by David Kjos
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#1 || 08·03·24··16:53 || Michael Yates

This is certainly the most debatable one so far IMO. It is really hard to get past the "But-a-loving-God-wouldn't..." mentality. However, you have already dealt well with that. This necessitates much prayer and thought.

#2 || 08·03·24··19:28 || donsands

Very well done.

It's a deep subject for sure.

I do believe the 5 points fit hand in glove, and all must be seen as essential one point to the other.

The truth of Scripture is that Christ died for Abraham, for Abraham was God's friend, and he was chosen by God. Jesus said to His disciples, "I have chosen you, you did not choose Me, and you are My friends, and there's no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend."

So I see God the Father loving us, and this love is personal. I see the Jesus Christ, the Son, loving His Father, and laying down His life for those the Father has given to Him. And also Jesus being sacrificed for us, His children, and friends, because He loved us.

It surely is a particular love and sacrifice. Jesus gave Himself for His people, and for the Church.

Thanks for sharing your heart on this deep teaching.

#3 || 08·03·26··15:33 || Daniel

The reason people mess this up is because they haven't understood exactly what happened on Calvary.

Scripture tells us that Christ bore our sins on Calvary, so that many of us have an image of our disembodied sins sort of being taken out of us, and put on Christ. But that isn't how scripture paints the rest of the picture. Scripture teaches that we were crucified with Christ through our union with Christ. -We- were in Christ on Calvary, and with Him in the grave, and here is the critical part - with Him when God resurrected Him from the dead. We died with Christ, and were raised with Him.

That is important because it teaches us not only why Christ had to die (to be the ark that would carry sinners through God's judgment [i.e. death]), but also who has eternal life - the answer is, only those who were in Christ, only those whom God raised up from the dead already in Christ - only these have eternal life - and that eternal life is in Christ.

Thus, only those who were in Christ were atoned for. If a person was not in Christ, he has not passed through judgment, and will have to face God's judgment on judgment day. If a person was (is) in Christ there is no more condemnation for Him - because he has passed through judgment already.

Jesus didn't make atonement for everyone, as though his death were a balm applied to sin - he was an ark - and those who were in Him passed through wrath, and those who were not did not.

When the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to make atonement for all God's children - the High Priest was not making atonement for all the Gentiles too - he was only making atonement for the Jews.

In our age a Gentile can be grafted into the promise through faith in Christ - that is, grafted into the atoning work of Christ by faith - but unless a person is so grafted, the One True High Priest will by no means make atonement for them, for they are not His people, and He did not die for them.

#4 || 08·03·26··18:28 || David

Very well said, Daniel. Only the elect é─ţ those chosen é─˙in him before the foundation of the worldé─¨ é─ţ were é─˙crucified with Christ.é─¨

#5 || 08·03·26··21:03 || Daniel

I -did- a spurious "Atonement" all isolated by over there at the end of the fifth paragraph. I don't know where I was going, but apparently I stopped abruptly. ;-)

      I noticed that.
      I've fixed it for you.

#6 || 08·03·27··08:19 || Chris

If Christ was the propitiation for the sins of every sinner, then every sinner would be justified.

Why? Why do you hold that this is true? (I am NOT trying to start a debate) but an honest/open question. Why is this point true?

Every sinner is not justified. In fact, Scripture tells us plainly that most are not and will not be justified. Christ is not the propitiation for their sins.

#7 || 08·03·27··08:19 || Daniel

Thanks for the fixer-upper David! You sir remain a constant blessing and encouragement to me.

#8 || 08·03·27··08:42 || Daniel

Chris - the word "propitiation" is a translation of the Greek word hilasterion, which itself is derived from hilaskomai, meaning to atone for sin.

Atonement is not a thing that can be applied outside of union with Christ - Jesus -is- the atonement, and only those who are united to Christ are atoned for. It isn't like Jesus has a bag of "atonement" which he reaches in and gives a portion of to all who ask - atonement does not work like that - it isn't a commodity and it cannot be dished out. It is a person, and we take hold of it when and if we take hold of that person.

No one can receive propitiation (hilasterion) unless they receive Christ - that is, unless they are united together with Christ through a Spiritual union that Romans six describes as "baptism" - not that we are immersed into water, but immersed into Christ. As many as have been immersed into Christ were with Him on Calvary, died with Him, were placed into the grave with him, and eventually raised with him.

It isn't that Christ sprinkles atonement dust on them, it is that they become partakers of Christ who is the atonement.

Since Christ cannot make propitiation for a sinner unless that sinner is united to Him in death, burial, and resurrection - it is wrong to imagine that Christ makes propitiation for everyone - if that were so, then everyone would go to heaven, since everyone would have been united together with Christ on Calvary, and passed through the second death already in Christ.

If you begin to understand that our sins are atoned for (expiation/propitiation is made for us) through our union with Christ, and in no other way - you will see that what David is saying is quite accurate. If you fail to see that propitiation/expiation comes to us through a spiritual union with Christ, it is likely because you are still thinking of atonement and propitiation as commodities that can be taken out of Christ and parceled out as though they could be made separate from Christ.

#9 || 08·03·27··08:50 || David

That Christ is the propitiation for sin means that he has made satisfaction for them, i.e., he has satisfied the just wrath of God toward sin. Therefore, if Christ is the propitiation for my sin, I am justified. Propitiation and justification cannot be separated.

#10 || 08·03·27··08:56 || David

What Daniel said, too.

#11 || 08·03·30··10:19 || Jonathan Moorhead

Great discussion, David. I've always found James White's discussion on this to be helpful (The Potter's Freedom I think it is).

#12 || 08·03·30··13:29 || David

The Potter's Freedom is one I need to get. Too many books, too little cash.

#13 || 08·05·05··21:07 || Andy Miller

In 1974 I had taken a test and wrote on the bottom, I didn't believe a word of it. (By the way I did score 100 on that test.) The professor wanted to push his idea further that he was (somebody) because God had chosen him and not some others. I then ask him about
II Peter 3:9 his answer was obviously it doesné─˘t mean what it says. I than closed my Bible, left the class and never returned. The Last I saw him he was profiled on Americas most wanted and was caught in Canada the following week; I think he is still in prison.

Acts 13:39: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

2 Corinthians 5:14
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

2 Corinthians 5:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

It looks like to me he died for ALLLLLLLL that means you and me and the whole world!!!!!!
Romans 5:12 (Whole Chapter)
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. 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.


#14 || 08·05·05··22:43 || David

Wow, Andy, thaté─˘s shocking. I suppose ité─˘s only a matter of time before I end up in prison, too.

The idea that God chose anyone because they were é─˙somebodyé─¨ is not Calvinist. Calvinism simply repeats what the Scriptures say, which is quite the opposite:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. é─ţEphesians 1:3é─ý6

And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. é─ţRomans 9:10é─ý13

Arminianism, on the other hand, posits that he chose us because we chose — or would choose — to believe. Which is the most man-exalting view?

Acts 13:39; Romans 5:12, 15; Galatians 2:16
Yes, and what's your point?

2 Corinthians 5:14–15
Notice the phrase, é─˙if Christ died for all, then were all dead.é─¨ Paul is clearly speaking of all who died in Christ (e.g., Galatians 2:20). If you interpret this passage in defense of universal atonement, you must, of necessity, conclude with universal redemption (Universalism).

Romans 5:18
You didné─˘t mention this verse specifically, but you should have, since ité─˘s the only verse in the chapter that uses the word é─˙allé─¨ and could be s t r e t c h e d to apply to this discussion — and stretch you must, because this verse is talking about the imputation of Christé─˘s righteousness, not his atoning death. As in the passage above, it follows that an interpretation in favor of universal atonement requires universal redemption, as well. é─˙. . . by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.é─¨ Are all men justified? No? Then Christé─˘s righteousness is not imputed to all men, but only to all who believe.

Indeed; but why are you yelling? I wouldné─˘t think of doing any less. é─˙Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.é─¨

Comments on this post are closed. If you have a question or comment concerning this post, feel free to email me.