The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...s, by the admission of many Calvinists, the most extensive work on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, or better named, Particular/Definite or Atonement/Redemption. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to take a brief look at his case for Particular Atonement over against Universal Atonement. Dr. Owen is aware and acquainted with the material of the opposing position and he interacts with them and answers their objections. He is not writing against caricatures of the opposing side but has researched the materials and arguments of the opposing side and, in my opinion, utterly refutes their arguments.

Almost everyone who has any reasonable knowledge of the debates concerning limited or Unlimited Atonement must have heard of Owen’s trilemma, which we have presented above. The trilemma is really forceful, but it is merely one argument out many more from Dr. Owen’s arsenal. The trilemma is not his only argument for Particular Redemption. But it may be an accurate summary of his case. He argues each of his points biblically. For a good summary of his arguments see here.

Dr. Owen’s book is divided into four books and various chapters dealing with the issues related to the atonement.

  1. Book 1 (8 chapters) deals with the purpose of the Trinity in the design of the atonement.
  2. Book 2 (5 chapters) deals with the effects and application of the work of Christ.
  3. Book 3 (11 chapters) presents 16 arguments against Universal Atonement and for Definite Atonement.
  4. Book 4 (7 chapters) answers various interpretations and objections to Particular Atonement.

Note: All biblical references in the quotes are modernized (e.g. John i. 1 to John 1:1 for the ease of reading and the recognition by the Scripture Tag).

The General Purpose of Christ’s Death

First, he enquires about the “general of the end [i.e., purpose] of the death of Christ” (book I, chap. 1). What does the big picture of Scripture say about the death of Christ? What is indisputable there about it? He divides this question into two sections:

  1. “that which his Father and himself intended in it” (book I, chap. 1):
    1. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
    2. 1Tim. 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
    3. Matt. 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    4. Gal. 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
    5. Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendorwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
    6. Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

After citing and alluding to the above-cited passages, Owen says:

Thus clear, then, and apparent, is the intention and design of Christ and his Father in this great work, even what it was, and towards whom, — namely, to save us, to deliver us from the evil world, to purge and wash us, to make us holy, zealous, fruitful in good works, to render us acceptable, and to bring us unto God; for...


John Owen's Case For Particular Atonement

...s, by the admission of many Calvinists, the most extensive work on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, or better named, Particular/Definite or Atonement/Redemption. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to take a brief look at his case for Particular Atonement over against Universal Atonement. Dr. Owen is aware and acquainted with the material of the opposing position and he interacts with them and answers their objections. He is not writing against caricatures of the opposing side but has researched the materials and arguments of the opposing side and, in my opinion, utterly refutes their arguments.

Almost everyone who has any reasonable knowledge of the debates concerning limited or Unlimited Atonement must have heard of Owen’s trilemma, which we have presented above. The trilemma is really forceful, but it is merely one argument out many more from Dr. Owen’s arsenal. The trilemma is not his only argument for Particular Redemption. But it may be an accurate summary of his case. He argues each of his points biblically. For a good summary of his arguments see here.

Dr. Owen’s book is divided into four books and various chapters dealing with the issues related to the atonement.

  1. Book 1 (8 chapters) deals with the purpose of the Trinity in the design of the atonement.
  2. Book 2 (5 chapters) deals with the effects and application of the work of Christ.
  3. Book 3 (11 chapters) presents 16 arguments against Universal Atonement and for Definite Atonement.
  4. Book 4 (7 chapters) answers various interpretations and objections to Particular Atonement.

Note: All biblical references in the quotes are modernized (e.g. John i. 1 to John 1:1 for the ease of reading and the recognition by the Scripture Tag).

The General Purpose of Christ’s Death

First, he enquires about the “general of the end [i.e., purpose] of the death of Christ” (book I, chap. 1). What does the big picture of Scripture say about the death of Christ? What is indisputable there about it? He divides this question into two sections:

  1. “that which his Father and himself intended in it” (book I, chap. 1):
    1. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
    2. 1Tim. 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
    3. Matt. 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    4. Gal. 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
    5. Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
    6. Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

After citing and alluding to the above-cited passages, Owen says:

Thus clear, then, and apparent, is the intention and design of Christ and his Father in this great work, even what it was, and towards whom, — namely, to save us, to deliver us from the evil world, to purge and wash us, to make us holy, zealous, fruitful in good works, to render us acceptable, and to bring us unto God; for...


John 1:29, 'takes away the sin of the world'

...enry, Whole Bible Commentary on John 1:29-36. Taken from the Bible software The Word. See “Resources.”

...

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 'he died for all'

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

“Can it get plainer than this? Don’t you see that it says ‘he died for all.’” Well, we could take the “all’s” there to mean “every individual who has ever lived on this planet”, but we will lose biblically consistency.

This is going to be a little bit lengthy and that because I decided that we must deal with the clear context of the passage about Christ's death for a specific people rather than addressing verses 14-15 only.

The context speaks of the ministry of reconciliation which we as believers and evangelists have received to share with the world. We are to call everyone to repentance and faith in Christ.

In verse 14 Paul says that the love of Christ controls, constrains and compels us based on the fact that Christ has died for all. But we must dig deeper to understand the meaning of the word “all” in this context.

We must illustrate what verses 14 and 15 are saying in a table:

The action The Result
One has died for all All have died
He died for all “...no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised”

The death of Christ was also the death of all. How can this be if this speaks of all men without exception? For all men were already dead in sin and trespasses because of Adam (Eph 2:1-3), but this speaks of Christ substitutionary death. This is seen from the fact that Paul speaks of us being united to Christ in His death. See for example Gal 2:20 –

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Who else but the elect can say these words? Can any reprobate truly say that they were united with Christ in His death and they frustrated the purpose of His death? Because from Gal 2:20 it is clear that the result from being united with Christ in His death is to live with and for Him. So much so that Paul says that He no longer lives, because he considers himself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Rom 6:11). When the Lord Christ died on the cross for our sin, we also died with Him. We were united with Him in His death and that is the assurance to Paul in Rom 6:5 that we also will be united with Him in the resurrection.

Now we go back to 2 Corinthians, there the all are all who are in Him. All who are in the cov...