Friday, July 17, 2009

The Extent of the Atonement

by Robert Fraire

Someone at Lakeside asked me to explain what I meant in my last sermon when I said: "Jesus died to pay the price for His chosen people" It is a really good questions asked with a desire to learn, and here is my response. I tried to give enough detail to give a good understanding, but in no way to I think this is an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Why do I say that Jesus died only for those who would believe?

One of the things we now about God is that He is Sovereign. This means that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It also means that whatever He chooses to do, He is able to accomplish. Ephesians 1 describes God as One who “works all things after the counsel of His will.” In other words whatever God intends to accomplish, He in fact accomplishes.

So we need to see what the Bible says about what God wills because He will, in fact, accomplish it. In Psalm 2, God the Father says to God the Son: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.”

So what was this inheritance? It wasn’t everyone, or else God would have saved everyone. In the gospels we see Jesus pray like this.

John 17 1-2
“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. "

Jesus then describes that eternal life in His prayer to the Father. He then says in verse 9 of the same chapter, speaking of the same topic: "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."

So the Father gave the Son a particular group of people as an inheritance. The Father chose those people and gave them to Jesus, His Son. But how could God redeem the sinful men for Jesus? We know that it was through the payment of the Son Himself, Jesus.

2 Cor 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Now the word “might” in that verse does not mean “maybe, if they do the right thing”. It means “with certainty”.

In John 10, Jesus uses the figure of speech of sheep to designate His people. In verse 15 Jesus says that He lays down his life for "the sheep" (His people). In the same chapter some religious Jews are questioning Jesus and he tells them, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”

It is very important to see that Jesus says the reason for their unbelief is that they are not His; that is, not of the ones that His Father gave Him.

God determined that all those whom the Father had given to the Son would be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. But that faith is not present in any man unless God regenerates him; that is, makes him a born again, new creature.

Those people will always hear the gospel and believe. That is the means that God chose to bring the people that make up the inheritance of Jesus to justification and salvation.

This is a brief statement and I know that questions can arise, and I will gladly answer them, but just keep in mind that we serve a Sovereign God who elected and drew a particular people to Himself. Jesus died for those particular people, and through God’s act of regeneration those Sheep hear the gospel message preached and believe in Christ.


Phil said...

Perhaps you could explain why reprobate are spared and their sins are tolerated during their lifetime if Christ has not in some way paid their penalty? How can grace be afforded to mankind apart from the cross? Also, what do you make of John 3:14-16?
It seems to me you are falling into an either/or fallacy here as many Calvinists do.

Robert Fraire said...

Phil, I apoligize for not seeing your comment earlier.

I would answer your first question by saying that God as the creator has the power to create and use vessels for dishonor just as he states in Romans 9. Throughout scripture God has chosen to be patient with his creatures. Giving them mercy during their days on earth. Then, as it says in Hebrews, comes the judgement. If you want more of an answer, I can write a whole post about it.

The second part of your comment is on John 3:14-16.

Whenever we read scripture we read it in the context. All of John 3 is Jesus speaking to Nicodemous, so we can not take pieces of it and ignore the others. In John 3:3 Jesus says that "unless one is born again he cannot see the kindom of God". Therefore the sprit chosen and completed action occurs first. Those that are born again then look to Christ for salvation. Only those that are born again, or regenerated will look. Scriptures are filled with open invitations to salvation. What we can't forget is that NO ONE will answer that invitation or look to Christ, unless he is one that Jesus died to redeem and thus was regenerated by the Spirit. Theology must be looked at as a whole, not piecemeal

There is another element to your question and that is, did the non-elect experience any benefits from the atonment. And I would say Yes they did, though not forgivness of sin.

Thanks for your question. I can answer further questions if you have any.