LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 3

I continue from where I left off by providing more proofs that Christ died for all creation: LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 2.

JOHN’S GOSPEL

John is quite clear that Jesus came into the world that he created for the express purpose of saving all mankind by the revelation of the Gospel:

ALL THINGS (panta) came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that ALL (pantes) might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens EVERY man (panta anthropon). He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” John 1:3-11

 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men (pantas) to Myself.” John 12:31-32

COMMENTS

Here’s John Calvin’s exegesis of 1:9-11:

This passage is commonly explained in two ways. Some restrict the phrase, every man, to those who, having been renewed by the Spirit of God, become partakers of the life-giving light. Augustine employs the comparison of a schoolmaster who, if he happen to be the only person who has a school in the town, will be called the teacher of all, though there be many persons that do not go to his school. They therefore understand the phrase in a comparative sense, that all are enlightened by Christ, because no man can boast of having obtained the light of life in any other way than by his grace. But since the Evangelist employs the general phrase, every man that cometh into the world, I am more inclined to adopt the other meaning, which is, that from this light the rays are diffused over ALL MANKIND, as I have already said. For we know that men have this peculiar excellence which raises them above other animals, that they are endued with reason and intelligence, and that they carry the distinction between right and wrong engraven on their conscience. There is no man, therefore, whom some perception of the eternal light does not reach…

But as there are fanatics who rashly strain and torture this passage, so as to infer from it that the grace of illumination is equally offered to all, let us remember that the only subject here treated is the common light of nature, which is far inferior to faith; for never will any man, by all the acuteness and sagacity of his own mind, penetrate into the kingdom of God. It is the Spirit of God alone who opens the gate of heaven to the elect. Next, let us remember that the light of reason which God implanted in men has been so obscured by sin, that amidst the thick darkness, and shocking ignorance, and gulf of errors, there are hardly a few shining sparks that are not utterly extinguished…

11. He came into his own. Here is displayed the absolutely desperate wickedness and malice of men; here is displayed their execrable impiety, that when the Son of God was manifested in flesh to the Jews, whom God had separated to himself from the other nations to be His own heritage, he was not acknowledged or received. This passage also has received various explanations. For some think that the Evangelist speaks of the whole world indiscriminately; and certainly there is no part of the world which the Son of God may not lawfully claim as his own property. According to them, the meaning is: “When Christ came down into the world, he did not enter into another person’s territories, for the whole human race was his own inheritance.” But I approve more highly of the opinion of those who refer it to the Jews alone; for there is an implied comparison, by which the Evangelist represents the heinous ingratitude of men. The Son of God had solicited an abode for himself in one nation; when he appeared there, he was rejected; and this shows clearly the awfully wicked blindness of men. In making this statement, the sole object of the Evangelist must have been to remove the offense which many would be apt to take in consequence of the unbelief of the Jews. For when he was despised and rejected by that nation to which he had been especially promised, who would reckon him to be the Redeemer of the whole world? We see what extraordinary pains the Apostle Paul takes in handling this subject.

Here both the Verb and the Noun are highly emphatic. He came. The Evangelist says that the Son of God came to that place where he formerly was; and by this expression he must mean a new and extraordinary kind of presence, by which the Son of God was manifested, so that men might have a nearer view of him. Into his own. By this phrase the Evangelist compares the Jews with other nations; because by an extraordinary privilege they had been adopted into the family of God. Christ therefore was first offered to them as his own household, and as belonging to his empire by a peculiar right. To the same purpose is that complaint of God by Isaiah:

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel knoweth me not, (Isaiah 1:3)

for though he has dominion over the whole world, yet he represents himself to be, in peculiar manner, the Lord of Israel, whom he had collected, as it were, into a sacred fold. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, Chapter 1)

MORE FROM JOHN’S GOSPEL

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:29

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18

“‘For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world… This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’ Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’” John 6:33, 50-54

COMMENTS

I’ll let John Calvin explain the meaning of these texts:

Who taketh away the sin of the world. He uses the word sin in the singular number, for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said, that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says, the sin Of The World, he extends this favor indiscriminately TO THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE; that the Jews might not think that he had been sent to them alone. But hence we infer that the whole world is involved in the same condemnation; and that as ALL MEN WITHOUT EXCEPTION are guilty of unrighteousness before God, they need to be reconciled to him. John the Baptist, therefore, by speaking generally of the sin of the world, intended to impress upon us the conviction of our own misery, and to exhort us to seek the remedy. Now our duty is, to embrace the benefit WHICH IS OFFERED TO ALL, that each of us may be convinced that there is nothing to hinder him from obtaining reconciliation in Christ, provided that he comes to him BY THE GUIDANCE OF FAITH. (Calvin’s Commentaries http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol34/htm/vii.vii.htm; bold and capital emphasis mine)

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the UNIVERSAL term whosoever, both to invite ALL indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled TO THE WHOLE WORLD, when he invites ALL MEN WITHOUT EXCEPTION to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith…

17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world. It is a confirmation of the preceding statement; for it was not in vain that God sent his own Son to us. He came not to destroy; and therefore it follows, that it is the peculiar office of the Son of God, that all who believe may obtain salvation by him. There is now no reason why any man should be in a state of hesitation, or of distressing anxiety, as to the manner in which he may escape death, when we believe that it was the purpose of God that Christ should deliver us from it. The word world is again repeated, THAT NO MAN MAY THINK HIMSELF WHOLLY EXCLUDED, if he only keep the road of faith. (Ibid., http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol34/htm/ix.iii.htm; bold and capital emphasis mine)

JUDE AND 2 PETER

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for ANY to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

COMMENTS

Here’s what John Calvin wrote in respect to these two texts:

The only Lord God, or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, “Christ, who alone is God and Lord.” And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. (194) But He means that Christ is deniedwhen they WHO HAD BEEN REDEEMED BY HIS BLOOD, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus RENDER VOID as far as they can THAT INCOMPARABLE PRICE. That Christ, then, may retain us as his peculiar treasure, we must remember that he died and rose again for us, that he might have dominion over our life and death. (Ibid. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/jude-1.html; bold and capital emphasis mine)

9. But the Lord is not slack, or, delays not. He checks extreme and unreasonable haste by another reason, that is, that the Lord defers his coming that he might invite ALL MANKIND to repentance. For our minds are always prurient, and a doubt often creeps in, why he does not come sooner. But when we hear that the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us, there is no reason why we should any longer complain of tardiness. He is tardy who allows an occasion to pass by through slothfulness: there is nothing like this in God, who in the best manner regulates time to promote our salvation. And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give TO ALL time to repent.

This is a very necessary admonition, so that we may learn to employ time aright, as we shall otherwise suffer a just punishment for our idleness.

Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them ALL TO BE SAVED, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive ALL TO REPENTANCE, so that NONE may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way.

But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only OF HIS WILL as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand WITHOUT A DIFFERENCE TO ALL, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

But as the verb χωρὢσαι is often taken passively by the Greeks, no less suitable to this passage is the verb which I have put in the margin, that God would have all, who had been before wandering and scattered, to be gathered or come together to repentance. (Ibid. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45.vii.iv.iii.htmlhttp://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol45/htm/vii.iv.iii.htm; bold and capital emphasis mine)

MATTHEW 23:37

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and YE would not!” Authorized King James Version (AV)

Calvin admitted that this text refers to God’s desire to save all men indiscriminately, but then appealed to the two wills of God in order to make this text fit in with is view of election:

Again, when the sophists seize on this passage, to prove free will, and to set aside the secret predestination of God, the answer is easy. “God wills to gather all men,” say they; “and therefore all are at liberty to come, and their will does not depend on the election of God.” I reply: The will of God, which is here mentioned, must be judged from the result. For since by his word he calls ALL MEN indiscriminately to salvation, and since the end of preaching is, that all should betake themselves to his guardianship and protection, it may justly be said that he wills to gather ALL TO HIMSELF. It is not, therefore, the secret purpose of God, but his will, which is manifested by the nature of the word, that is here described; for, undoubtedly, whomsoever he efficaciously wills to gather, he inwardly draws by his Spirit, and does not merely invite by the outward voice of man.

If it be objected, that it is absurd to suppose the existence of two wills in God, I reply, we fully believe that his will is simple and one; but as our minds do not fathom the deep abyss of secret election, in accommodation to the capacity of our weakness, the will of God is exhibited to us in two ways. And I am astonished at the obstinacy of some people, who, when in many passages of Scripture they meet with that figure of speech (116) ( ἀνθρωποπάθεια) which attributes to God human feelings, take no offense, but in this case alone refuse to admit it. But as I have elsewhere treated this subject fully, that I may not be unnecessarily tedious, I only state briefly that, whenever the doctrine, which is the standard of union, (117) is brought forward, God wills to gather all, that all who do not come may be inexcusable. (Ibid., Chapter 23; bold, capital and underline emphasis mine)

1 TIMOTHY

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7

“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:9-10

COMMENTS

Reformed Baptist and Calvinist minister John MacArthur responds to those who seek deny that all men means everyone:

“Some have argued that this passage teaches universalism. If God desires the salvation of all men, they argue, then all will be saved, or God won’t get what He wants. Others argue that what God wills comes to pass, because all men means all classes of men, not every individual. NEITHER OF THOSE POSITIONS IS NECESSARY, HOWEVER. We must distinguish between God’s will of decree (His eternal purpose), and His will expressed as desire. Desire is not from boulomai, which would be more likely to express God’s will of decree, but from thelo, which can refer to God’s will of desire. This is precisely the distinction theologians often make between God’s secret will and His revealed will.

“God desires many things that He does not decree. It was never God’s desire that sin exist, yet the undeniable existence of sin proves that even sin fulfills His eternal purposes (Isa. 46:10)-though in no sense is He the author of sin (James 1:13).

“Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers  her chicks under her wings, and you were willing’ (Matt. 23:37). John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse wrote, ‘We have found that God himself expressed an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass’ (The Free Offer of the Gospel [Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presb. & Ref., 1979], 26). God desires all men to be saved. It is their willful rejection of Him that sends them to hell. The biblical truths of election and predestination do not cancel man’s moral responsibility.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy [Moody Publishers, Chicago, Il. 1995], pp. 70-71; capital and underline emphasis mine)

2 thoughts on “LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 3

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