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Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (3)


Augustine on the intent and extent of the atonement:

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Augustine observed that Scripture presents more than one theme for the atonement, though the idea of substitution is predominant in his writings. With all the richness of the full counsel of God, Augustine addressed the sacrifice of Christ as a sin-bearing, punishment-canceling death. Admittedly, Augustine did not give as much attention to the extent of the atonement as he did to its accomplishment, and scholars disagree whether he ultimately taught limited or universal atonement. However, he did occasionally speak of the cross as having particular intent.

Christ purchased the flock of God with the price of His blood (John 10:11, 15), Augustine said. He writes that the portion of the universal church composed of saved men “has been redeemed from all sin by the blood of the sinless Mediator.” Conversely, Augustine affirms that those whom Christ said were not His sheep were not purchased by His atonement: “He saw them predestined to everlasting destruction, not purchased by the price of His blood unto eternal life.” Only the elect were purchased by Christ; none for whom He died will suffer destruction.

Augustine also stated that Christ died for those who are foreknown, predestined, and elected before the foundation of the world. Noting that Christ’s work on the cross delivered believers from eternal death, he says, “Those who belong to the grace of Christ, foreknown and predestined and chosen before the foundation of the world, . . . simply die as Christ Himself had died for them, that is to say with the death of the flesh alone and not of the spirit.” Because Christ died for those chosen and given to Him by the Father, they do not die a spiritual death.

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In perhaps his clearest comment on this doctrine, Augustine said that Scripture does not teach a universal salvation, but that Christ’s atonement was limited. Augustine argued that when Jesus says in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” He is not saying that all of mankind will be drawn to Him; rather, He is saying that all kinds of men will be drawn. Augustine writes: “All is limited by the context to mean ‘all sorts of people, all the predestinate. . . . All men either means men of all sorts or is to be taken with an implied limitation in justification.” These and similar texts of Scripture, Augustine affirmed, speak of a limited atonement designed for the salvation of God’s elect.

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 240–241.



Posted 2018·09·10 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Augustine · Church History · Limited Atonement · Pillars of Grace · Steve Weaver

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