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Definite Atonement in 1 Corinthians

Grammar matters. Personal pronouns demand that we answer the question, “To whom does this refer?” Our doctrines depend on answering correctly.


Christ died upon the cross for the sins of all believers. His substitutionary death secured eternal salvation for all who put their trust in Him:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. —1 Corinthians 15:3–4

As a matter of “first importance,” Paul’s preaching focused upon the vicarious death of Christ for “our sins.” imgJohn Murray writes, “On whose behalf did Christ offer Himself a sacrifice? . . . In whose stead and on whose behalf was He obedient unto death, even the death of the cross? These are precisely the questions that have to be asked and frankly faced if the matter of the extent of the atonement is to be placed in proper focus. . . . The question is precisely the reference of the death of Christ when this death is viewed as vicarious death, that is to say, as vicarious obedience, as substitutionary sacrifice, and expiation, as effective propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. In a word, it is the strict and proper connotation of the expression ‘died for’ that must be kept in mind. When Paul says . . . ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:3), he does not have in mind some blessing that may accrue from the death of Christ but of which we may be deprived in due time and which may thus be forfeited. He is thinking of the stupendous truth that Christ loved him and gave Himself up for him (Gal. 2:20) . . . and that therefore we have redemption through the blood of Christ.” He died for “our” sins—those of the elect.

—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 388.

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Posted  in: 1 Corinthians · Foundations of Grace · John Murray · Steve Lawson
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#1 || 12·12·05··16:53 || Johnny Helms

We were taught at Columbia Bible College back in the day that "context is king." Grammatical context is grossly ignored by most of Christendom. Verb tenses, voice and moods, gender, noun cases and so forth can help the student of the Bible rightly divide the word of truth. Context has opened many eyes to what a text is saying.

#2 || 12·12·05··21:37 || David Kjos

Exactly so. Many seemingly-obscure passages become quite plain after the time is taken to understand the context.

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