Thursday, July 12, 2007

T.U.L.I.P vs. R.O.S.E (Part II)

Well, now comes the big one . . . the “L”. "Limited Atonement". The very words send shivers up the spines of many. To reduce the shock some have renamed this tenet as: “definite atonement”, “particular atonement”, “particular redemption” and others. The bottom line is, who did Jesus die for?

But before we explore the possible answers to that ultimate question, let’s deal with some preliminary issues. First, why did Jesus give His life on the cross in the first place? The short answer is: in order to satisfy the just penalty of death and separation from God for sin. Second, was Jesus successful in this quest? In other words, has the penalty for sin been fully and completely paid/satisfied? I hope we all will agree He most certainly has done so. Third, does their remain any portion of this payment/satisfaction yet to be paid? The Reformed response is that there is absolutely NOTHING that must be added; Jesus + 0 = Salvation. Fourth, Jesus’ death on the cross was also redemptive for the Old Testament saints due to their looking forward in faith for the then coming Messiah. Therefore, Jesus’ victory on the cross is effectual for all eras: past, present and future.

With these issues in mind, I can conceive of only three options for the scope of Jesus’ atonement:

Option “A”: Jesus died for everybody on planet Earth. This position is known as “Universalism”.

Option “B”: Jesus died to make salvation “possible” for everybody. This is a major tenet of Arminianism.

Option “C”: Jesus died to absolutely guarantee salvation for only a portion of humanity. This is a major tenet of Calvinism.

No doubt, veterans of the Calvinist/ Arminian/Universalist debate are familiar with the texts each side uses to support their position. I will not post an exhaustive list of them here, but I will list a few for the Calvinist (and therefore, correct) argument. You “Arminians” out there may feel free to provide your texts in the “comments” section and I will promptly show you your error in response. As for any “Universalists” in our midst, I must dismiss you with one simple statement from our Almighty, All-Knowing Savior, “I tell you, many will come from the east and west and recline at the table with Abraham , Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. (Matthew 8:11-12). That doesn’t sound like salvation to me!

Matthew 1:21 states in regard to Jesus that, “ . . .He will save His people from their sins”. I derive two conclusions from this statement from the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

1) Jesus, being sovereign and invincible God, cannot fail in anything He attempts. If indeed He intended to save everyone and some one ends up unsaved; then Jesus has failed in this thing which He has attempted. But that is impossible because He is the sovereign and invincible God. Therefore, Jesus did not intend to save everyone.

2) If indeed, He will save His people from their sins and some people end up unsaved; then all people cannot possibly be His people. Therefore, Jesus did not intend to save everyone.

The Arminian will often point out II Peter 3:9 in response to verses like Matthew 1:21. This verse states: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. There are a couple of issues which must be understood with this passage. First of all, who are the “you”,the “any” and the "all" referred to in the verse? Speculation is unnecessary for who the "you" are as the answer is provided in the very first verse of Peter’s letter. In verse 1, Peter addresses those for whom his instructions are intended: “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours . . .” The “you” of chapter 3 verse 9 are these same people (and consequently all people throughout time) who have obtained this faith, no one else. The “any” in verse 9 has a referent, that referent is the “you” of the same verse. God is not willing that any (of “you”, you who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours, you of all eras) should perish . . . The "all", consequently, are of those referred to by the "you". Peter is quite simply addressing true Christians in this passage. And God will not allow true Christians to perish.

Second, there is the matter of God’s not “willing” that any should perish. On the surface it might be assumed that since God is not “willing” that any perish, then none should perish. Well, that leads us back to “universalism” which is patently false (previous discussion on Matthew 8:11-12). So there must be some caveat regarding God’s will. Dr. R.C. Sproul delineates this caveat for us in his, “Chosen by God”:

“In the first place we must understand that the Bible speaks of the will of God in more than one way. For example, the Bible speaks of what we call God's sovereign efficacious will. The sovereign will of God is that will by which God brings things to pass with absolute certainty. Nothing can resist the will of God in this sense. By his sovereign will he created the world. The light could not have refused to shine.

The second way in which the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to what we call his preceptive will. God's preceptive will refers to his commands, his laws. It is God's will that we do the things he mandates. We are capable of disobeying this will. We do in fact break his commandments. We cannot do it with impunity. We do it without his permission or sanction. Yet we do it. We sin.

A third way the Bible speaks of the will of God has reference to God's disposition, to what is pleasing to him. God does not take delight in the death of the wicked. There is a sense in which the punishment of the wicked does not bring joy to God. He chooses to do it because it is good to punish evil. He delights in the righteousness of his judgment but is “sad” that such righteous judgment must be carried out. It is something like a judge sitting on a bench and sentencing his own son to prison.

Let us apply these three possible definitions to the passage in 2 Peter. If we take the blanket statement, “God is not willing that any should perish,” and apply the sovereign efficacious will to it, the conclusion is obvious. No one will perish. If God sovereignly decrees that no one should perish, and God is God, then certainly no one will ever perish. This would then be a proof text not for Arminianism but for universalism. The text would then prove too much for Arminians.

Suppose we apply the definition of the preceptive will of God to this passage? Then the passage would mean that God does not allow anyone to perish. That is, he forbids the perishing of people. It is against his law. If people then went ahead and perished, God would have to punish them for perishing. His punishment for perishing would be more perishing. But how does one engage in more perishing than perishing? This definition will not work in this passage. It makes no sense.

The third alternative is that God takes no delight in the perishing of people. This squares with what the Bible says elsewhere about God's disposition toward the lost. This definition could fit this passage. Peter may simply be saying here that God takes no delight in the perishing of anyone.”

Wow, I know this is a lot to chew on. So why don’t I break here and let you digest this. I ‘ll see you next time with T.U.L.I.P. vs. R.O.S.E. (Part III)!

Be Like the Bereans Baby!!!

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