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Limited Atonement

(13 posts)

Caring for the Lost

Wednesday··2008·06·04
The doctrine of Particular Redemption (more commonly known as Limited Atonement) is ought to be a great comfort to believers and strengthen our assurance of salvation. It should also motivate us in evangelism. If it glorifies Jesus that He makes salvation possible for everyone, it glorifies Him even more that He actually saves particular individuals. Christian salvation is universal in its offer but particular in its application. A great example of this comes in the account of how Jesus went out of His way to bring His gospel to the woman at the well and, through her, to an entire village. Here we see Jesus the Evangelist bringing the gospel to those whom He would save. John 4 contains a number of famous statements, but the most glorious may be the one in verse 4. John begins this chapter by telling us that Jesus started gathering followers, who were baptized by the twelve disciples, and then He “left Judea and departed again for Galilee” (John 4:3). John then says: “and he had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). What makes this statement so wonderful is the way in which it was not true. Geographically, Jesus did not have to pass through Samaria, and for many reasons it was inconvenient for Him to do so. But John informs us that Jesus had to go this way; it was necessary for Him. The reason was Jesus’ determination to save his own, among whom was this woman by the well. . . . One way to motivate yourself to care for others is to realize how much Jesus sacrificed to care for your own soul. We see His particular concern for individuals in His journey through Samaria. Had Jesus merely wanted to open a way for salvation for whoever would come, He need never have gone to Samaria. What He soon was to do in Jerusalem—namely, His death on the cross for our sins—was sufficient to make a way to God. Jesus did not have to go to Samaria for this. But Jesus died not only generally for all who would come, but actually to save particular people known to Him, including the woman He knew was coming to draw water from this well. If you are a believer, the same is true of you. Just as Jesus personally brought the gospel to the Samaritan woman, so He personally sought you for salvation. If you have heard the gospel and believed, it was not by chance! Jesus cared for your soul, so He died on the cross for your sins, He sent His witnesses to you, and He commissioned the Holy Spirit to open your heart to believe. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” He said (John 15:1). Realizing His sacrificial care for your soul ought to inspire you to care for the salvation of people you know and love that He might send you as His witness to them. —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 110, 111–112.

How Can You Know?

Wednesday··2008·10·01 · 3 Comments
After spending some time on the doctrine of limited, or particular, atonement, explaining that Christ’s death did not merely make salvation possible, but actually secured it for a particular people, R. C. Sproul answers the question, “How can you know if you’re one of the elect?” If you are one of the flock of Christ, one of His lambs, then you can know with certainty that an atonement has been made for your sins. You may wonder how you can know you’re numbered among the elect. I cannot read your heart or the secrets of the Lambs Book of Life, but Jesus said: “‘My sheep hear My voice’” (John 10:27a). If you want Christ’s atonement to avail for you, and if you put your trust in that atonement and rely on it to reconcile you to almighty God, in a practical sense, you don’t need to worry about the abstract question of election. If you put your trust in Christ’s death for your redemption and you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then you can be sure that the atonement was made for you. That, more than anything else, will settle for you the mystery of God’s election. Unless you’re elect, you won’t believe on Christ; you won’t embrace the atonement or rest on his shed blood for your salvation. If you want it, you can have it. It is offered to you if you believe and trust. One of the sweetest statements from the lips of Jesus in the New Testament is this: “‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world‘” (Matt. 25:34b). There is a plan of God designed for your salvation. It is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather, from all eternity, God determined that He would redeem for Himself a people, and that which He determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, His atonement on the cross. Your salvation has been accomplished by a Savior Who is not merely a potential Savior, but an actual Savior, One Who did for you what the Father determined He should do. He is your Surety, your Mediator, your Substitute, your Redeemer. He atoned for your sins on the cross. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 151–153.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:28–39 When Jesus Died on the cross, he did not merely make our salvation possible; he actually secured that salvation—and all that it entails—for each of his elect. J. I. Packer expounds this truth from Romans 8: The thought expressed by Paul’s [question in v. 32] is that no good thing will finally be withheld from us. He conveys this thought by pointing to the adequacy of God as our sovereign benefactor and to the decisiveness of his redeeming work for us. Three comments will bring out the force of Paul’s argument. Note, first, what Paul implies about the costliness of our redemption. “He did not spare his own Son.” In saving us, God went to the limit. . . . We cannot know what Calvary cost the Father, any more than we can know Jesus felt as he tasted the penalty due to our sins. . . . Yet we can say this: that if the measure of love is what it gives, then there never was such love as God showed to sinners at Calvary, nor will any subsequent love-gift to us cost God so much. So if God has already commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (5:8), it is believable, to say the least, that he will go on to give us “all things” besides. . . . But this is not all. Note, second, what Paul implies about the effectiveness of our redemption. “God,” he says, “gave him up for us all”—and this fact is itself the guarantee that “all things” will be given us, because they all come to us as the direct fruit of Christ’s death. We have just said that the greatness of God’s giving on the cross makes his further giving (if the words may be allowed) natural and likely, but what we must note now is that the unity of God’s saving purpose makes such further giving necessary, and therefore certain. At this point the New Testament view of the cross involves more than is sometimes realized. That the apostolic writers present the death of Christ as the ground and warrant of God’s offer of forgiveness, and that we enter into forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, will not be disputed. But does this mean that, as a loaded gun is only potentially explosive, and an act of pulling the trigger is needed to make it go off, so Christ’s death achieved only a possibility of salvation, needing an exercise of faith on our part to trigger it off and make it actual? If so, then it is not strictly Christ’s death that saves us at all, any more than it is loading the gun that makes it fire: strictly speaking, we save ourselves by our faith, and for all we know, Christ’s death might not have saved anyone, since it might have been the case that nobody believed the gospel. But that is not how the New Testament sees it. The New Testament view is that the death of Christ has actually saved “us all”—all, that is to say, whom God foreknew, and has called and justified, and will in due course glorify. For our faith, which from the human point of view is the means of salvation, is from God’s point of view part of salvation, and is as directly and completely God’s gift to us as is the pardon and peace of which faith lays hold. Psychologically, faith is our own act, but the theological truth about it is that it is God’s work in us: our faith, and our new relationship with God as believers, and all the divine gifts that are enjoyed within this relationship, were all alike secured for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. For the cross was not an isolated event; it was, rather, the focal point in God’s eternal plan to save his elect, and it ensured and guaranteed first the calling (the bringing to faith, through the gospel in the mind and the Holy Spirit in the heart), and then the justification, and finally the glorification, of all for whom, specifically and personally, Christ died. Now we see why the Greek of this verse says literally (and so the KJV renders it), how shall he not with him also give us all things? It is simply impossible for him not to do this, for Christ and “all things” go together as ingredients in the single gift of eternal life and glory, and the giving of Christ for us, to remove the “sin barrier” by substitutionary atonement, has effectively opened the door to our being given all the rest. . . . Note, third, what Paul implies about the consequences of redemption. God, he says, will with Christ give us “all things.” What does that cover? Calling, justification, glorification (which in v. 30 includes everything from the new birth to the resurrection of the body) have already been mentioned, and so throughout Romans 8 has the many sided ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here is wealth indeed, and from other Scriptures we could add to it. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 264–266
An Arminian asks: So, you nasty Calvinist, you believe in “Limited Atonement.” When sharing the gospel, not knowing who is elect, you can’t really say “Jesus died for you,” can you? Good question. You’re right, I can’t say “Jesus died for you” or “Jesus died for your sins.” While even some Calvinists might consider this picayune, the truth is that if I don’t know who is elect and who isn’t, then I don’t know that Christ died for the individual in question; so I can’t say otherwise. Does that mean I can’t offer them the hope of salvation? Certainly not. I can offer Christ as the propitiation for sins in this way: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), “like you, and like me.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30–31).

Real, or Potential?

Friday··2013·11·29
Did Jesus actually atone for sins on the cross, or did he only achieve a potential atonement? When he said, “It is finished,” was anything really finished, or was the finishing just made possible? Are the sins of lost souls in hell forgiven? These are the questions that must be answered by teachers of universal atonement. John Owen, in his seminal treatment of limited atonement, points out the sequence of Arminian reasoning. First, “Christ died for all and every one, elect and reprobate.” But second, “Most of them for whom Christ died are damned.” According to this view, most of the people for whom Christ offered atonement do not have their sins atoned for. If God intended the salvation of all, His intention clearly failed. John Murray observes: The very nature of Christ’s mission and accomplishment is involved in this question. Did Christ come to make the salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation, and merely to make provision for salvation? Or did he come to save his people? . . . Did he come to make men redeemable? Or did he come effectually and infallibly to redeem? The doctrine of the atonement must be radically revised if, as atonement, it applies to those who finally perish as well as to those who are the heirs of eternal life. In that event we should have to dilute the grand categories in terms of which the Scripture defines the atonement and deprive them of their most precious import and glory. —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 54–55.
As I’ve been writing on the five points as presented in The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, and referred to the TULIP acrostic/acronym, it occurs to me that I haven’t actually listed them. I suppose it’s safe to assume that most of my readers are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, here is a brief summary (for longer explanations, click the links at the end of each): Total Depravity: When Adam fell, all mankind fell with him, and inherited his sin (Romans 5:12). This sin has so corrupted all men that, without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, we are unable to respond in faith to the gospel. The word “total” does not mean that we are as depraved as we could be. All people do not descend to the most extreme depths of evil (we are not all Hitler, Stalin, or abortion rights activists). “Total” means that sin has corrupted the totality of our beings—there is no part of us that is not touched by sin. In the Arminian versus Calvinist context, applying this truth to the notion of free will, we realize that though our will may be free, it is a corrupt, sinful will, “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). The late R. C. Sproul preferred to call it Radical Corruption. Unconditional Election: God has chosen a people for himself, not based on any quality they possess or any good they may do (Romans 9:11), but “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Sproul preferred Sovereign Election. Limited Atonement: Christ died specifically to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Who are “his people”? See above. Because of the misleading nature of this term, Sproul preferred Definite Atonement. Irresistible Grace: Those who the Father has chosen will infallibly respond in faith to the gospel call (John 6:37). This is not intended to mean that the Holy Spirit forces people against their wills to come to Christ, but that, in regeneration, he changes their wills so that they come gladly. For this reason, Sproul preferred Effectual Grace. Perseverance of the Saints: All who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit will be infallibly kept in the faith (John 6:39–40). Again, because “perseverance” sounds like something we do (contra Philippians 2:13), Sproul made his own improvement: Preservation of the Saints. Thus far, you’ve only seen the doctrine and its history presented, with very little support. Stay tuned . . .

Limited Atonement in Scripture

Wednesday··2018·01·17
In the Arminian/Calvinist debate, Limited Atonement, the “L” in the TULIP, is almost certainly the most common point of contention. Many Arminians have embraced the other four points while still rejecting this one. These often call themselves “four point Calvinists.” It is not too difficult to understand why many, even having accepted the other four points, have trouble with this one. Who wants to believe in a “limited” atonement? Doesn't that belittle the work of Christ, implying it wasn't quite enough in some way? Good question, I say, and that is the reason many theologians prefer alternate, less confusing terms such as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption.” I agree with them, though I'm sticking with the L for the sake of the TULIP. Although I understand the objections, I never—once I understood the bigger picture—had any trouble believing this, that is, that Christ died specifically for the elect. After all, it's simple math, isn't it? If the Father chose particular people to save, and gave them to the Son, who promised to redeem them, keep them, and see them safely into heaven (John 6:37–40), it stands to reason that those are the people for whom he died. Furthermore, how could I believe that hell is populated by souls for whom Christ died? The only way that could make any sense is if I believed, as Arminians do, that Christ did not actually save any, but only made salvation possible for those who will make the right decision. It is evident that everyone (who is not a universalist) believes in a limited atonement. One party (Arminian) limits its effect; the other (Calvinist) limits its intent. The former says God tried; the latter says he succeeded. Since not all men will be saved as a result of Christ's redeeming work, a limitation must be admitted. Either the atonement was limited in that it was designed to secure salvation for certain sinners, but not for others, or it was limited in that it was not intended to secure salvation for any, but was designed only to make it possible for God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe. In other words, one mist limit the design either in extent (it was not intended for all) or in effectiveness (it did not secure salvation for any). As Boettner so aptly observes, for the Calvinist, the atonement “is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian, it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across.” —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 40–41. The crux of the matter, for the Calvinist, is that Jesus saves—actually, not merely potentially. This is always the language of Scripture. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. —Matthew 1:21 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us . . . —Galatians 3:13 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. —Titus 2:14 (A point not made in this book, but that is very important, is that the epistles were written to believers. Therefore, when Paul writes “to us” and “for us,” he is not addressing all humanity, but the elect only.) Repentance and faith, indispensible to salvation, which Arminians believe we must bring to the table, are gifts we receive through Christ. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. —Acts 5:31 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake —Philippians 1:29 Jesus himself specified a particular people for whom he would die. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. —John 10:11, 14–18 Jesus, in his “high priestly prayer,” prayed specifically for the elect, to the expressed exclusion of all others. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. —John 17:6–10 Now, the question that must be answered is, what of those passages that speak of Jesus being the savior of the world (John 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2; 4:14) or of all men (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14–15; 1 Timothy 2:4–6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9)? One reason for the use of these expressions was to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews alone. . . . these expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (i.e., He died for Jews and Gentiles alike), but they are not intended to indicate that Christ died for all men without exception (i.e., He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner). —The Five Points of Calvinism, 50. As we have seen, the preponderance of scriptural evidence plainly indicates a particular redemption. Christ died for “his people,” “the sheep,” “those whom you have given me.” The passages listed above must be understood in that context, or we must embrace a universal atonement that saves everyone. Both Scripture and experience render that conclusion indefensible. Jesus died for one purpose: to save his people from their sin. The bulk of this post is drawn from The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 39–52.

No Abstract Atonement

Thursday··2018·05·17
In our theology of the atonement, we use the language of substitution, and this is appropriate—Christ truly fulfilled the law and bore the penalty of sin in the place of sinners, providing a righteousness that we did not possess, and satisfying the wrath of God against sin. But substitution does not tell the whole story. It was not only for sin in a vague, abstract, indeterminate sense that He was delivered up, but in the room of the sinners given to Him, and whose place He representatively occupied. It was only in their room and stead that Jesus was placed at the bar as a criminal. And this was a real transaction before the tribunal of God, not a semblance of a trial. The sinner was there, but Jesus took his place. And only in this way can we explain either the prophetical sayings which describe Him as wounded for our transgressions (Isa. liii. 5), or those apostolic sayings which represent believers as co-crucified (Gal. ii. 20), as co-dying (Rom. vi. 8), and as suffering in the flesh (1 Peter iv. 1), when in point of fact the Lord appears to human view single and alone in the historic narrative of the evangelists. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 171. Therefore, believers can know not only that Jesus died specifically for us, but that we died in him, so that “I am crucified with Christ” is not a hypothetical proposition that became reality when we believed, but an historical event that actually took place on the cross. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, I was.

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (1)

Thursday··2018·06·07
There is a considerable number of the sayings of Jesus which bring out, with unmistakeable precision, the efficacious character of the atonement, or that the death of Christ had a special reference to a people given to Him. The redemptive efficacy of His death is described as taking effect within a given circle, and as bearing upon a given company of persons. What is that circle, or who are the parties described as participating in the fruits of Christ’s death? The Lord’s sayings on this point are so express, that we are not left in any doubt whether the atonement was offered specially for the persons who receive the benefit of His death. He indicates that they for whom it was offered and accepted, were the persons who had been given to Him, and to whom He had united Himself in the eternal covenant. All who have a biblical scheme of doctrine, understand, by Christ’s dying for His people, a dying in their room and stead. They attach no lower sense than this to the expression. They hold that Christ underwent the penal suffering which was their due, that He occupied their place as the sin-bearer and curse-bearer, and that He rendered the full obedience which was required; and they hold that it was a real and valid transaction . . . The proper nature of the atonement must first be ascertained before we can advance, with any precision, to define its extent; and when that point is settled, there is but one step to an accurate definition of its extent. . . . the atonement, as a fact in history, is as replete with saving results and consequences, as the fall of man, with which it must ever be contrasted, is replete with the opposite. Its extent coincides with its effects. In the Scripture mode of representing it, we find it placed in causal connection with man’s salvation, as a fact not less real than the fall, and not less fraught with consequences (Rom. v. 12–20). The words intimate, that if the fall was fruitful of results for man’s condemnation and death, the atonement is not less so for man’s restoration. . . . If a causal connection obtains between one man’s disobedience and the sin, judgment, and death in which the world is now involved, a causal connection obtains, too, between the second man’s obedience and the saving benefits in which all Christians participate. If the fall was pregnant with consequences which cannot be gainsaid, and which ramify so widely, that they are everywhere apparent; the atonement of Christ in like manner produces, and will continue to produce, results which are as real, and shall ramify as widely, through time and through eternity. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 366–367.

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (2)

Friday··2018·06·08
I have only to advert to the unity of the Surety and of those whom He represented, to prove the extent of the atonement. It is a unity or oneness so close, that we may affirm of the second man, as well as of the first, “we were all that one man.” The thought that lies at the foundation of our participation of the federal blessings, is union, or oneness. We may thus call in the idea of organic union, as well as the idea of a covenant, for they are not exclusive of each other, but rather supplementary. The idea of unity may be said to run through the whole declarations on the subject of Christ’s saving work, whether they were given forth by the Lord Himself or by His servants. On this principle, then, that Christ and His seed are viewed as one, just as Adam and his family were one, the redemption work by which we are saved was incontrovertibly finished by His obedience, and must be held to have been at once offered and accepted in the room of all for whom He acted the part of a surety (John vi. 39). This, however, decides on the scope and extent of the atonement. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 376.

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (3)

Monday··2018·06·11
The purchase of redemption and its application are coextensive. The salvation is not won for any to whom it is not applied: the Christ will not lose one for whom He died. All our Lord's sayings assume this, and take it for granted (John x. 15). To suppose the opposite, would imply that a costly price had been paid, and that those for whom it was paid derived no advantage from it; which could only be on the ground that He wanted either love or power. Not only so: a concurrent action and perfect harmony must be supposed to obtain among the three persons of the Godhead. There can be no disharmony between the election of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the application of the Spirit. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 376–377.

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (4)

Tuesday··2018·06·12
Christ’s intercession is based on the atonement, and could have no validity or ground but as it referred to that finished work of expiation, which needs no repetition. Now, we see from the explicit statement of the Lord, that the intercession is not for the world, but for those whom the Father gave Him: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine” (John xvii. 9). This decides upon the scope and destination of the atonement for any available purpose; for it will not be argued by any divine biblically acquainted with the nature of our Lord’s priesthood and intercession, that any one ever was or ever will be effectually called but on the ground of that all-prevailing interposition (John xvii. 20). —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 377.

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (5)

Wednesday··2018·06·13
To those who allege, in the spirit of the Arminian school, that the love of Jesus consists only in applying the redemption, but not in procuring it, it is enough to say, that love, in the proper meaning of the term, is anterior to both. It would not be love if it were dissociated from the purpose and design of conferring on its objects every conceivable good which can either be procured or applied. And whenever Scripture speaks of the divine love, either in connection with the Father or with the Son, this is the import of the term. This fact, that love is only love to persons, and that the divine love finds out its objects over all impediments, enables us to obviate the two-fold love, which the Arminian writers suppose, and for which they argue in the interest of their views,—one preceding faith, and another following it. The former, they allege, is to all alike, and therefore cannot be regarded as in itself efficacious to any; the latter they describe as an increasing quantity, and as a sort of complacential approbation of a state of mind or mental act which is acceptable to God. But the redeeming love of Christ, as the source of all saving benefits, does not, properly speaking, receive additions or increase, though there may be, and doubtless are, ampler manifestations of it, as well as a keener sense of it on the mind. This is emphatically brought out by Paul, when he sets forth the immutable constancy and omnipotent efficacy of the divine love in a remarkable argument à fortiori (Rom. v. 5–11). He argues, that if God could set His love on the saints when we were yet sinners and enemies, without strength and ungodly, much more shall that love be continued to them when they are justified. The argument is, that if God’s love found an outlet to us when we were aliens and enemies, much more will it be continued now that we are friends. But the foundation of the whole argument is, that His love is special and redeeming love, and directed to individuals, whom God will never abandon or let go. The text on which we already commented demonstrates the special love of Christ (John xv. 13). They for whom He died were the objects of supreme and special love, which of necessity secured their ultimate salvation. For them He must be considered as acting at every step; their names being on His heart in the same way as the names of the tribes of Israel were on the high priest’s breastplate. And the same special reference confronts us in every form. Thus He is described as loving His own that were in the world (John xiii. 1), which cannot be affirmed of all and every man, without distinction, and in precisely the same form. We have only to recall such phrases as co-suffering (1 Pet. iv. 1), cocrucifixion (Gal. ii. 20), co-dying (Rom. vi. 8), co-burying with Christ (Rom. vi. 4), to perceive that He bore the person of a chosen company, who are spoken of as doing what He did at every important turn of His history. It was for His own that He was incarnate (Heb. ii. 14); and He must be regarded, all through His history, as uniting Himself to His own, or as loving His own that were in the world, and loving them to the end (John xiii. 1). This special love, according to which He acted in the name of a chosen company, and laid down His life for them, is a love that finds them out over every impediment or hindrance. And it were to think unworthily of Christ, to suppose such a conjunction established between Him and the objects of redemption, as is presupposed in the very nature of this transaction, without the certain effect that salvation is secured to many by His death. It were as absurd as to suppose a king without subjects, a bridegroom, without a bride, a vine without branches, a head without the members. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 377–379.

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