QUESTION: What is God doing in the universe?
ANSWER: He is working to reveal His own Glory to His Creation.
Did God need man when He created Him? Did He need anything at all....ever? Both the New and Old Testaments give very definitive answers to both of these questions.
Acts 17:24-28 "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'"
God is fully sufficient in Himself and has no need that must be met outside of His own being. In fact, He is the source of all things and the giver of ALL things.
He is therefore not doing anything out of need but He is working to reveal His own Glory to His Creation. This reality is the filter through which all studies on our relationship to God must pass. The Reformers called this Soli Deo Gloria [Only the Glory of God]
Psalm 19:1-14 "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer."
Isaiah 42:5-8 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. "I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.
John 7:18 "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Psalm 79:9-10 "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake. Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Let there be known among the nations in our sight."
What is the fundamental relationship between man and God? God is complete and Glorious. He is the source of life and all that is good in Creation. Mankind, by contrast, is fallen and in desperate need. We cannot keep ourselves alive and we cannot get rid of our own sins. All that we have, we have received from God through grace. Both our physical life and our Eternal life through Jesus Christ are undeserved mercies from God. The Bible reveals that men can do nothing to merit the favor of God. All His gifts are therefore, "By Grace."
Ephesians 2:4-9 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
God has revealed His Grace throughout the Scripture. The teachings on Grace are not man produced theology, but rather they are organized that we might know and understand them. Grace stands at the heart of the Gospel and therefore at the heart of Gospel Preaching. The Doctrines of grace were the driving force behind William Cary's mission to India and the preaching of Charles Spurgeon.
"Our Saviour has bidden us to preach the gospel to every creature; he has not said, “Preach it only to the elect;” and though that might seem to be the most logical thing for us to do, yet, since he has not been pleased to stamp the elect in their foreheads, or to put any distinctive mark upon them, it would be an impossible task for us to perform; whereas, when we preach the gospel to every creature, the gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear his voice, and follow him." C.H. Spurgeon
Scripture explains the total inablity of man to save himself and God's gracious willingness to sacrifice His Son in our place. It goes on to explain Christ's purpose for His Elect at the time of the Cross as well as His purpose toward those same ones today. Finally it speaks of God's purpose toward His Elect for all eternity. May God give us open eyes and hearts to receive what the Scripture teaches us about our complete dependency on God and His complete sufficiency for us.
Man's Total Inability
The Scripture's teachings on the total inability of man are sometimes called the doctrine of "Total Depravity." The Bible does not teach that all men are as bad as they possibly can be. It does teach that men are totally unable to save themselves by their own actions and are not even able to choose God. God Himself in His Word describes the fallen nature of man very precisely.
1 Corinthians 2:14 "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
Romans 3:9-11 "We have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD."
Ecclesiastes 7:20 "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins."
Psalm 130:3 "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?"
Romans 3:19-20 "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."
Romans 1:18-24 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them."
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Ephesians 2:4-10 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
When Adam was created he possessed a free will. He was under no compulsion or obligation to choose good or evil. Nevertheless, Adam did rebel against God and "death passed to all men." Man was barred from making his own way back to God when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and a guard was posted at the gate.
Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men,"
Since that time all men remain in bondage to sin.
Job 14:4 "Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!"
John 6:44 44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
Matthew 13:13-15 "I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'"
Jesus said that He was speaking to fulfill what God in His Word had already stated about mankind and his condition before God. The emphasis here is this: These were the most spiritually endowed people on the earth. They had the Bible. They had the prophets and they had the Temple and it's God prescribed worship. Even with all this they were still unable to understand their own Scriptures!!! They could not even recognize Christ, their long foretold Messiah, when He stood right before them. They could not hear the voice of God when He spoke to them. They, like all men to day, were hopelessly unable to know God and the things pertaining to Him.
Men are free to make millions of decisions all the time. God does not choose everything men do. But, this freedom of man does not extend to the ability to know and submit to God. In our fallen state, we are blind to God and deaf to His voice.
HOW THEN CAN ANY MAN BE SAVED FROM HELL?
1 Corinthians 2:1-3 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling."
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 "my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."
1 Corinthians 2:6-9 "Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM."
1 Corinthians 2:10-13 "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words."
1 Corinthians 2:14-16 "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ."
If you are a believer, can you understand the Parables? Of Course you can! As do all believers who apply themselves to study them and are then taught by the Spirit of God. They are not therefore, an inexplicable mystery. They are revealed by God to His Children.
John 10:4 "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice."
John 10:27-28 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
How men understanding the Scripture and the Gospel is taught throughout the Bible. Jesus Himself began the instruction by saying to His own disciples…
Matthew 13:16-17 "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. "For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
At first glance, it might sound like Jesus was saying that the disciples were more “on the ball” then other men. That they were not incapacitated and blind, but had the good sense and ability to see and hear what God says and does, but this is not the case at all. Jesus was introducing His explanation of the parable to them in this verse. God was preparing to reveal Himself through His Word to His chosen. Still today, The Word is not dead ink on paper! It is given life by God The Holy Spirit for the express purpose of making God known to men. Notice now how God Himself [God the Son] makes known the meaning to His disciples.
Matthew 13:18-19 "Hear then the parable of the sower. "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.
He drove this point home again with Peter in the presence of the other disciples and recorded it for us to read in The Bible.
Matthew 16:13-17 "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
This is what is meant by the total inability of man. It does not mean that men are as bad as they can be, although some certainly seem to be. It shows us from The Bible that we humans are fallen and must be rescued by God. He has appointed His disciples to do just that. We witness to men in the hope that God will save them and with the assurance that He can save them.
God's Sovereign Election of His Own People
By “Unconditional Election” we mean that all men are justly condemned and unable to choose God or salvation through Christ. Natural men see no need of Christ for they do not see themselves as God sees them. They do not fear God. If any are to be saved therefore, God must chose to save them. His chosing is not based on any merit or intrisic goodness in the Elect. All men are unworthy to be chosen by God and so His Election is said to be "UnconditionaL." This is abundantly clear in the Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 10:14-15 "Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. "Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.
Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.
Psalm 65:4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
Haggai 2:23 'On that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares the LORD of hosts.
Matthew 11:27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
Matthew 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."
Romans 8:33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;
Romans 11:28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago
1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Furthermore, God’s choosing is not predicated in something good that He foresaw in His elect. God as The Sovereign of the Universe, does not respond to man. He has declared man to be Totally corrupt and hopeless. He must therefore, act alone to save them.
Romans 9:11-13 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."
Romans 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
2 Timothy 1:9-10 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.
Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 18:27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through [“dia,” on account of, because of] grace
Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
2 Timothy 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
Exodus 33:19 And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Romans 9:10-24 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will
1 Chronicles 29:10-12 So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. "Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.
Job 42:1-2 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Psalm 115:2-3 Why should the nations say, "Where, now, is their God?" But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,
Isaiah 14:27 "For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?"
Isaiah 46:9-11 "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.
Isaiah 55:11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Jeremiah 32:17 'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,
Daniel 4:35 "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'
Here are some reasons why this doctrine is a comfort:
Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Psalm 65:4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
Matthew 11:27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
Christ's Sovereign Atonement for the Sins of His People
Did the omniscient Christ already know the identities and names of those He had chosen for Eternal Life when He was dying on the Cross? The answer "yes" seems to be the inescapable conclusion. To put the question another way; "was Christ's atonement a payment for the sins of all men or for a particular people that He had already chosen to save? With these questions in mind let's look at the pertinent passages and do our best to let them speak clearly.
Believers would be best served by not forcing the Scripture to fit their set ideas of what God has done or how God thinks. We freely acknowledge that men do not fully understand God’s Salvation. We only understand God through His gracious gift of the Scripture and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. His thoughts are not our thoughts and it is a serious error to judge His thoughts and words using mere human wisdom. Let us therefore purpose not to put words in God’s mouth or take any out. At the same time, let us not apologize for God and what He says. God offends men when He speaks, but may we allow Him to speak for Himself while we humble ourselves to listen, believe and submit.
There is one other vital point to be made here. Our salvation does not depend on this doctrine. It is a most unchristlike attitude to attack one another over something like this. Most believers have chosen sides on this issue based on what they have been told rather than what the Bible clearly asserts. This is an “in family” dispute and should be kept that way. The children seem to be arguing over what the Father means by what He says. With this in mind let’s look at what many call "Limited Atonement" or what we will call "Particular Atonement."
Because election itself marked out or "chose" particular sinners for salvation it is asserted that Christ died for those particular ones on the cross. Particular Redemption teaches that Christ’s redeeming work was definite in design and accomplishment and was intended to render complete satisfaction for the sin of particular sinners. Furthermore, it actually secured salvation for these particular individuals.
“Christ did not die simply to make it possible for God to pardon sinners. Neither does God leave it up to sinners to decide whether or not Christ’s work will be effective. On the contrary, all for whom Christ sacrificed Himself will be saved infallibly. Redemption, therefore, was designed to bring to pass God’s purpose of election.” Five Points of Calvinism by Steel, Thomas, Quinn.
Here are the verses that reveal what the Bible teaches about the extent of the atonement of Christ on the Cross.
Matthew 1:21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
NOTE: They are Christ’s people before they are saved from their sins. that is because He chose them before the foundation of the world!
Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Galatians 1:3-4 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
Titus 2:14 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.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Ephesians 2:15-16 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
Colossians 1:21-22 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
Romans 3:24-25 Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
Romans 5:8-9 God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
1 Corinthians 1:30 By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "—
Colossians 1:13 He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Hebrews 9:12 Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
1 Peter 2:24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
Acts 5:31 "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.
Titus 2:14 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 3:5-6 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Ephesians 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
Hebrews 9:14 How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood,suffered outside the gate.
1 John 1:7 If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
John 6:35-40 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
John 10:14-18 "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 10:24-29 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
John 17:1-11 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh,that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. "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. "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.
John 17:20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;
John 17:24-26 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
Ephesians 1:3-12 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
How did Jesus die for “All’ and yet for a Particular People too?
John 1:9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
But clearly all men are not enlightened!
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
But clearly the sin of the world remains!
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
But clearly all men's sins are not propitiated!
Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
But clearly all men are not justified to eternal life!
1 Timothy 2:3-6 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.
But clearly all men are not ransomed to eternal life!
What is clear from the context of the entire Scripture and also common observation is that all men are not saved! In light of this reality, how should believers understand the use of "all" and "every" in the verses we have just cited? I assume my readers do not think God's Word is false or contradictory, so we need to apply ourselves to understand God's Word on this question.
The following is the way these verses should be understood given the fact that most of the world is clearly not saved:
The First Century Church was locked in a battle over the Jewish assertion that salvation was through the Jews and only for the Jews. The "Judiazers" claimed that men had to essentially become Jews before they could become Christians. The Scripture opposes this false belief by asserting that Salvation is not just for Jews, but for "all" men and for "every" man. Paul makes this entire idea clear when he wrote to the Roman Church.
Romans 10:11-13 The Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Notice that the word "all" clearly does not extend to every human being in the world, or all would be saved. Instead it clarifies the truth that the Gospel of Christ is for all men and not for Jews alone.
“Such phrases as “the world” “all men” “all nations” and “every creature” were used by the New Testament writers to emphatically correct this mistake. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction [i.e.,, He died for Jews and Gentiles alike]” Five Points of Calvinism p. 50
Many passages speak of Christ's salvation for a chosen or particular group [“His People” “His Sheep” “His Church”], but that group was taken from among all the peoples of the world and not from Jews alone. Notice the particular nature [in brackets] of the people for whom Christ died:
Matthew 1:21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save [His people] from their sins."
Matthew 20:28 Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for [many]."
Matthew 26:28 For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for [many] for forgiveness of sins.
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for [the sheep].
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved [the church] and gave Himself up for [her].
Romans 8:32-33 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;
Hebrews 2:17-3:1 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of [the people]. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered,He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.------ 3:1 Therefore, [holy brethren], partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
Hebrews 9:15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, [those who have been called] may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Christ's death on the Cross has infinite power and infinite ability to save. And, it satisfies the infinite offense to God's infinite righteousness by men. But....men are hopelessly lost and unable to turn to God through Christ. They have, as we have already seen, a total inability" to seek and to know God. Because of that, God in mercy, has chosen to save a people for His own Glory. This was decided before God laid the foundations of the world.
Ephesians 1:4-6 He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Particular atonement realizes that Christ was not dying on the cross "for no one in particular" but for His Elect, which He chose and knew before He began to create the world. His death has infinite value, but finite scope.
Those who hold to the "unlimited atonement view" also limit the extent of Christ's atonement. For them it is limited by the choice of men. In other words, only those men who chose Christ will be saved. The atonement is therefore limited by men and what they choose to do. There is never any certainty with men, but God always carries out His will perfectly and unopposed. Because of this we say with great Joy that Our God is the Sovereign and Living God!
“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.” Boettner
In Contrast, The Bible teaches that the effects of Christ's death on the Cross are limited by the choice of God not the choice of humankind. God does this because no human being has the ability to chose God. In gracious, merciful love, God chose to extend His salvation to "all" the people groups of the earth and has not excluded "any." He has truely called out from among the Gentiles, a people [a particular people] for His name. Acts 15:14
This particular group is called; His sheep, His Bride, His Children, His Elect, His People and His Church. This particular group will appear before the throne of God and Christ in heaven to affirm this truth. When John saw them there, he said that.....
Revelation 5:9 They sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
This article is in progress so please check back soon for more.
God's Sovereign Calling of His People
God's Sovereign Preservation of His People