Calvinism: From God or Man? #7 Examining 'Limited Atonement'
If you have been following the past few articles, you will know that we have been studying about the theory of Calvinism. Calvinism teaches mainly that Man has no free will. Man cannot make any choices as pertaining his salvation.
The Calvinist believes that because of Adam’s sin in the garden, we each inherit the sins of our fathers, and so each person bears the iniquity of the person who has gone before us. Well, we showed clearly that the Bible teaches exactly the opposite of that in Ezekiel 18.
They also believe in something called unconditional election. Which states that before the foundation of the world God and Jesus determined all the people who would go to heaven and all who will go to hell. That there is not one thing anybody can do about their destination, and so God is to be praised for saving those who he would save, but God is also to blame for those who would go to Hell. Now, Calvinists don’t like to admit that, but it is the logical conclusion to their theory.
But we proved last time, how that even that theory is false. That God did not elect only certain ones. In fact he never elected any ONE individual to salvation at all. So if you have missed those articles, please go back and read them first.
Today, we will discuss the third petal on the Calvinistic Tulip and that is the L. Limited Atonement.
Limited Atonement is the idea according to the Calvinist, since God only selected certain individuals to be saved. That when Christ came to die on the cross, he did not die for the sins of the whole world, only the sins of those who were saved from the beginning of the world.
So he did not actually come to save sinners, but to call the righteous to repentance. That all those passages that talk about Jesus coming to save the world, saving the lost, calling sinners to repentance. All of those passages, don’t really mean what they say, you have to put on your “Calvinist glasses” to be able to read those passages correctly.
First, let us hear from the pens of those who believe in limited atonement.
Brian Schwertly in his book “Soveriegn Grace” says:
“What limits Christ’s death is that by God’s design and purpose Jesus died only for the elect, those chosen to be saved before the foundation of the world.” (Chapter 3 Sovereign Grace” section titled; “Christ’s blood is not limited in power but in Extent.”)
Did you see what he said? He said, God sent Jesus to die for those who were chosen to be saved. Not the alien, rank sinner. Not the person who is lost in sin, but he whom God already elected would be saved. So, it appears to me, that Christ came to save those who were already saved.
But what does the Bible say?
The Great Commission and the word All
Now the first thing we will do is look to Christ’s great commission. He has died, he is going to ascend back to Heaven. And he leaves his disciples with these words.
18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Notice: Go and teach all nations. Now, for someone to say, well, he only means teach the elect of all nations, that is simply not what he says.
He says teach all nations, baptizing them. Them who? Baptizing the people in all the nations you go to. Now, if someone says, well, “all” here doesn’t mean “all”… then we could easily argue, then Surely Christ did not mean he would be with them “always,” if not why not?
The truth is that in this passage, all means all, and always means always. It is truly that simple.
Christians are told to pray for all men. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
The word all is found a few times in this passage, he tells Christians to pray for all men. Does he mean we are to pray only for those who are ‘elect’? No, he makes it clear, even the Kings were to be prayed for. Of course this is during the time of the Roman Empire, surely he is not suggesting that the evil Emperors such as Nero were among the ‘elect!’
We are to pray for all men. He next uses the word all to describe the lifestyle of the Christian he says, we are to live a life in all Godliness. Does the Calvinist believe that a child of God should live his life in all godliness? Of course he believes that. Then he next says, for this is acceptable in the sight of God who will have all men to be saved.
So, which is it? Some all means all, and some all in the same text means other than all. Or, does it just read like it reads, and that we are to pray for all men, we are to live our lives in all godliness, because God wants all men to be saved?
Jesus’ words to the weary
If God’s Mercy is limited then, passages like Matthew 11:28 become a funny gag for Jesus.
Notice what Jesus offers.
8Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jesus said: come unto me, who? all ye that labor and are heavy laden.
Who in this entire world has ever been burdened? Who has ever felt that their work is too much? Or that they have been pushed to the limit. All people have. Every person at one point in their lives, have felt burdened, and even heavy laden.
So Jesus invites any man, and all men, who have felt that burden to come to him.
Jesus invites all men who have felt burdened to come to him.
All men have been burdened.
Therefore, Jesus invites all men to come to him.
It is clear, His invitation is not for the “elect” only but for all men.
Jesus’ words in Revelation
Notice too Jesus’ words in the final book of the Bible.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17
Who is the spirit and the church inviting? The church of course is the Bride of Christ, so who is invited to come? Whosoever will.
A couple of interesting points. First, this shows that man has a “Choice” because it says whosoever “will” - but it also shows me that all men have a choice. Whosoever, (anyone, all) – has the ability to come and take the water of life.
Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
So, when were these "elect" lost?
According to 1 Peter 1:20, Christ was foreordained to die for the lost "before the foundation of the world." So before the world ever was, Christ was foreordained to come and seek and save the lost.
According to the Calvinist, the elect were already elected before the foundation of the world. Therefore, Calvin's elect cannot be in the group for whom Christ came to seek and to save:
If we can show that according to Calvinistic teaching, that the elected/saved were already elected/saved before the foundation of the world. But Christ came to seek and save the lost. Then we can prove that Christ did not come to save those who were already elected/saved.
- We can show that according to Calvinistic teaching, that the elected/saved were already elected/saved before the foundation of the world.
- We can further show that Christ came to seek and save the lost.
- Therefore, we can prove that Christ did not come to save those who were already elected/saved.
Notice Jesus words in Mark 2:17
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them: they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2: 17).
Jesus says in Luke 5:31
And Jesus answering said unto them: They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).
Those who are eternally ordained to life could hardly be said to be sick! Calvin's creed of limited atonement actually denies salvation to anyone, for Jesus said that He came to save sinners while Calvin says the elect only.
A small problem for their doctrine:
This idea that man is saved from the beginning of the world, causes problems for the Calvinist. Every time I talk to a Calvinist I get so confused, because I am not sure whether he actually knows what he believes or not.
For instance, I will ask him, “when is man saved, from the foundation of the world or sometime later?”
If he says sometime later, then he must believe that there is something a man does, at some point in his life, to accept salvation. But, if there is something that a man does, - it automatically proves, that man has a choice in his salvation.
If on the other hand the Calvinist says man is saved from the foundation of the world. Inspired Paul must not have known it, why? Because in Romans 16 as Paul is in the midst of sending salutations he says this in vs 7:
7Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Now, if all ‘elected’ men are saved from the foundation of the world, how did Andronicus and Junia get in Christ before Paul? They may not know the answer but the answer is obvious to honest seekers of God’s Word.
The fact is, they, were not specifically chosen before the foundation of the world. They were lost in the world. They heard the preaching and teaching they obeyed the gospel, they were baptized, and these one-time worldly heathens, were now in Christ Jesus. And they happen to go through that process before Paul did. That is how they were placed in Christ before Paul.
God word is so great. I don’t have to take what any man tells me, I can study it on my own and draw my own conclusions.
In 1 John 2:2 John writing to people in the Church, people who are in a saved condition, notice what he says:
1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
He is the propitiation, notice, not for our sins only – who is the “our” there? It is the sins of those who have already obeyed, and to whom God has already put into his church. So it is not only for those in the church, but who else John? But also for the sins of the whole world.
John writes again in John 3:16-17:
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He loved the people of the world so much that he sent his son to redeem it. Scripture cannot be any plainer than that.
The Hebrews writer in Hebrews 2:9 says:
9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Who did the Hebrews writer say that Jesus would taste of death for? For every man.
Later we will discuss why it is that every man will not be saved, and it is not because he cannot be saved, but because he refuses to be saved.
The Holy Word of God does not teach that Christ came to seek and save only the elect, in fact there is no such thing as personal eternal election.
Paul’s Words to Timothy:
4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)
God wants all men to be saved, but they will not be, not because they cannot, but because they will not.
The Angel’s pronouncement
In Luke 2 at the announcement of the Lord to Mary and Joseph. Notice what the angel says to them:
9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Do you see any place where it says he would bring glad tidings of great joy, to the eternally elect people? Absolutely not! Rather, I see the words “to all people.”
God’s Message to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
14And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
Did Christ come to bless all the families of the earth, or just a few that he wanted to bless? God makes it clear, all over the world there would be people blessed by the coming of the Christ. Not just a select few who were supposedly chosen before time began.
Peter’s words about the Gentiles
We learn more about this topic from Peter’s statement in Acts 10 when he said in vs 34-35
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
First, nations have choices to fear God and work righteousness, or not to. Nations are made up of individuals, and so therefore, if nations are free to make choices, then individuals are too.
But it also says something about the nature of God. And that is, that he doesn’t show a respect to certain individuals, when it comes to salvation. He doesn’t have a selected group that he will save, that he handpicked from the foundation of the world.
For him to have such a thing would be completely contrary to what Peter says in this passage. The fact is God is not a respecter of persons.
And so I know that God did not simply choose some to be saved and others to be lost, based upon absolutely nothing. And that Christ’s atonement was so weak that it did not cover sinners, but only covered the Elect.
The Apostle John’s Words
14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:14)
He sent him, to be what? The Savior of the elect? John is that what he said? John can you say those words again for me? That the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
Paul’s words to Timothy (again)
1 Timothy 2:5-6 Paul writes
5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Paul, who did Christ come to give himself a ransom for? Notice: “ Who gave himself a ransom for all…”
You see the word “elect” anywhere in there? I don’t either. That’s because it isn’t there.
Paul’s Words to the church in Rome
32For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:32)
To whom did God show mercy? This passage says that he might have mercy upon all.
Paul later writes to Titus:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)
Well if Limited Atonement is true, these are most confusing passages. Romans 11 said God wishes to and extends his mercy to all , and Titus 2 says that God’s grace has appeared to all men.
Why did His grace appear to all men? Because, he wants all men to be saved.
In fact notice the words of inspiration recorded in Acts 17:30:
30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent
So, God may I ask: Who is it exactly that you command to repent? The answer is all men everywhere.
How could he command all men to repent, when he doesn’t intend on saving the non-elect in the first place. What kind of God commands all men to repent, then doesn’t allow certain ones to follow his command? Certainly not the God of the Bible.
Paul’s admonition to the church in Corinth
14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And 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. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Notice these verses, if one died for all then all were dead. And that he died, for all… A person has to try very hard to misunderstand that passage.
Another conundrum for the Calvinist:
10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
And in Matthew 10:6, Jesus tells them to go to the “Lost sheep of Israel.”
If Christ is the Good Shepherd as John 10 says he is. And he was sent to save the Lost, and there are apparently lost in his sheepfold. How could God, both LOSE and FIND his sheep at the exact same time? Further, how could God lose him to begin with?
If Calvinism is true, and Calvinism teaches that an elected soul can never be lost. Then how could he find a sheep, that was never lost to begin with?
The only way this verse is even possible, is if in fact, God did not elect certain ones to salvation and certain ones to damnation. The only way to go to people who are lost, is because they are indeed lost, and not “saved from all eternity.”
One of my friends and instructors at the Memphis School of preaching wrote about this very thing and he draws our attention to
18For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1Corinthians 1:18-
Here is what he says about this passage:
The contrast here is between those who "are perishing" and those who "are being saved" (apollumenois and soozomenais, these are present participles; that is, they are ones in process). The condition of the lost, according to Paul is not static; neither is the condition of the saved. If one is without Christ, one is in the process of perishing, but one's condition of abnegation from God is not permanent. One need not despair of being lost eternally if one is still living, for one is in a process here; but while one is here, Christ is in the process of seeking the perishing by means of the message of the cross. Man is only lost when he is without Christ (Eph. 2: 12), not because God chose that man to be lost. (Keith Mosher)
It is a process. You are in the state of being saved, if you are walking in the Light, as John talks about in 1 John 1:7. And if you are not walking in the light, you are in the process of being lost.
If you never get into the light, then you will never walk in the light and therefore you will be lost. But, if you will get into the light, by your choice, (not because God elected you specifically.) Then you will be in the Light, and you will be in the process of being saved.
It is not “static” as Keith Mosher pointed out, it is a process.
With all of these scriptures I stand amazed, when I hear statements like
“What limits Christ’s death is that by God’s design and purpose Jesus died only for the elect, those chosen to be saved before the foundation of the world.” (Schwertley, Chapter 3 Soveriegn Grace” section titled; “Christ’s blood is not limited in power but in Extent.”)
When you start with a false premise, everything else in your theory can be shown to be false. And so when the theory is based upon a faulty understanding of the Sovereignty of God and man’s free choice; then the rest of what you have to say will likely also be faulty.
The fact is Christ died to take away the sins of the world. But he gave man an option to believe that Christ as the Son of God died. Upon that belief, they then must obey.