Last time when we started a new study on the “L” of the acronym that makes up Calvinism’s “TULIP” we saw that, contrary to the teachings of “Limited Atonement,” the possibility of salvation is not the same thing as enjoying the benefit of salvation; meaning that the incremental conclusion of Calvinistic theology which is demanded due to its teaching concerning “Totally Hereditary Depravity” and “Unconditional Election” is completely erroneous.
Now it is true that there are limits given by God when it comes to the benefit of salvation through Jesus, but contrary to the manmade limits that Calvinism places on the Gospel, the Bible does indeed teach that Jesus died for all, but we must be willing to believe that he died for all and for me as an individual. Let me show you what I mean.
Salvation through grace is God offering a stamp on a debt that says “Paid In Full!” That’s literally what redemption means. It means a Christian has been forgiven of a debt that we couldn’t pay. But the payment for our debt being available and the debt actually being paid off are, again, two different things. God’s redeeming grace has been made available to all to forgive all sins, but we must be willing to admit that we’re all spiritually bankrupt and then have a willingness to accept God’s mercy by faith. For example Titus 2:14 says:
“[Jesus ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.”
While we’re at it, also think about when Peter asked Jesus how many times did he have to forgive his brother who sinned against him, and Jesus responded by telling a story about a servant who had all his debt forgiven simply because the master had compassion on him (Matthew 18:27). That’s redemption! And that’s why I love to sing, “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”
We can’t earn redemption because we can’t pay the price (Romans 6:23), but if a person refuses to acknowledge his or her debt and ask for God’s credit giving grace they won’t get it; but it’s not because the grace isn’t available.
Take for example John 1:29:
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!“
As John said, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin. But just because Jesus offered Himself as the world’s atonement, that doesn’t mean all of the world will receive the benefit of it! Why not? Because the benefit of Jesus’ atonement is only received by faith (John 3:16-17).
Just like the children of Israel the night Egypt was judged for its stiffneckedness – it was God who gave the plan paid for by the blood of the lamb!!! But they had to apply the blood, through faith, to their own door frame to receive God’s grace. The point is too clear – accept the grace, receive the benefit – reject the grace, receive no benefit. The plan was made available for all, but each individual had to respond, and a person’s failure to respond had nothing to do with a plan not being made available for them!
Take for another example John 3:14-15 which says:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.“
It’s important to pay attention to what Jesus said when He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Jesus was talking about Numbers 21:8-9 which says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.“
The people had sinned so God punished them, but not without a chance to find His grace. Now the question is, “What if someone refused to go and “look up” at the snake”? The answer is clear! But whether or not someone actually chose to go and find the answer to their problem by faith was up to them. The fact is that an opportunity for atonement was there for everyone!!! And same thing is true if a person refuses to “look up” at the Son of God in faith – the possibility of salvation does not equal the benefit of salvation but the missing benefit isn’t due to the missing possibility.
For a person to enjoy the benefit of Jesus’ universal atonement they must have individual faith. You can look at Romans 5:6-11 to see what I’m saying:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when 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. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Look again at verse 8 (it’s the first verse highlighted in bold). There’s the atonement made available by God’s grace. That’s why Paul uses all the powerful point making words like justification, salvation, reconciliation and atonement. But look at verse 11 again (the second verse in bold) – now, how have we received that individual salvation from Jesus’ universal peace making atonement? You can go back to the beginning of the chapter for the answer:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
The whole thing that leads up to Paul saying that God demonstrated His love for the world and we as individuals being able to enjoy it is our willingness to trust God’s grace through faith.
But someone may say, “Hey, wait a second! Paul didn’t say anything about Jesus’ death being for the whole world in vs.1-2.” You very well might be thinking that Paul was only saying this to the church – to the “only” people who Jesus died for (Acts 20:28). To that type of thinking I would first say don’t confuse the saved with those who can be saved and I would also say keep reading Romans 5 until you get down to around verses 18-19 which say:
“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”
Just as Adam’s sin introduced a path that leads to death for all people, Jesus introduced a path that leads to life for all people. So yes, Jesus’ atonement is limited in scope to those who choose to believe in Jesus – but it was not limited by God in that it was never meant to have the power to save everyone.
So don’t let man put asunder what God has brought together and don’t let man put limitations where God has promised freedom through the atoning blood of Jesus. EA
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 – NKJV)