Calvin’s Error of Limited Atonement
©by Rev. D.A. Waite, Th.D., Ph. D
The weakest link in John Calvin’s philosophy (and I call it “philosophy” instead of “theology” because in this particular matter at least, he is 100% contrary to the revealed will of God as given to us in the Bible, hence, it cannot properly be called “theology”) is his so-called false teaching on the “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” or the “L” in his followers ” T. U. L. I. P. ” five points These five points, in general, are as follows:
1. Total depravity of man
2. Unconditional election by God
3. Limited atonement by Christ
4. Irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit
5. Perseverance of the believers in salvation
Whether or not John Calvin himself formulated these five points as such, or whether they were mere formulations of the followers of John Calvin, based upon CALVIN’S INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, is not the question. The main point is that these FIVE POINTS, or the “T. U. L. I. P.” presently characterize the theology which is called by its strictest adherents, “CALVINISM.” For this reason, we have chosen the title, CALVIN’S ERROR OF “LIMITED ATONEMENT”. It could, perhaps, just as easily be called “CALVINISM’S ERROR OF ‘LIMITED ATONEMENT.'”
By this title, there is but ONE major consideration to be taken up in this study, and that is the strictly LIMITED coverage of Calvinism’s “LIMITED ATONEMENT” teaching. It is NOT our purpose to discuss any of the other FIVE POINTS of the “T.U.L.I.P.” I am attacking ONLY the THIRD POINT or the “L” of the “T U L. I P.” without discussing pro or con the other FOUR POINTS. This has been done, because for me at least, this is the most IMPORTANT ERROR of Calvinism today.
I. “Limited Atonement” Defined
A. LIMITED ATONEMENT DEFINED BY “STRICT” CALVINISTS.
The so-called “strict” Calvinists, such as those in the Dutch Reformed Tradition, and other strict Reformed and Presbyterian traditions define LIMITED ATONEMENT as the theory that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross was strictly LIMITED in any and all of its aspects ONLY TO THE ELECT or saved ones, or believers in Christ. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the unsaved or the non-elect people of the world. In NO sense whatever, according to this FALSE VIEW, could you tell a sinner in the audience who eventually would NOT be saved in his lifetime, that “CHRIST DIED FOR YOUR SINS.” Christ died (in this FALSE VIEW) ONLY for the sins of the ELECT, and NOT for the sins of the non-elect in any sense whatsoever! This is the definition of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” which I will argue against as being unscriptural and, in effect, therefore, a heretical doctrine!
B. LIMITED ATONEMENT DEFINED BY “MIXED-UP” CALVINISTS
There is, however, a school of what I term “mixed-up” Calvinists, who think they also hold to a “LIMITED ATONEMENT” theory who teach that Christ’s death was sufficient for the whole world, but efficient or effective only for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. This explanation of Christ’s death is CORRECT, and is Scripturally SOUND, but it is NOT the proper definition of “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” and all who hold it, therefore, are NOT believers in “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” but rather in “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” This is an important distinction to bear in mind as we progress in our study.
The best way of refuting the false view of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above is by making specific reference to various verses in the Bible that teach clearly an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” Obviously, the Bible cannot teach both an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and at the same time “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above. Only one is correct, and the other must be incorrect, since these two systems of belief are contradictory the one to another.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa 53:5-6)
l. Isaiah 53:5-6 Is A Messianic Reference
This section of the book of Isaiah is a reference to the Messiah of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is teaching clearly concerning the Lord’s death for sinners on Calvary’s cross. Christ was the “servant” spoken of in Isaiah 52:13. Fundamentalists and even evangelicals are in agreement on this point.
2. The Pronoun Antecedents In Isaiah 53:5-6.
In our King James Version’s English text of Isaiah 53:5-6, there are eight pronouns (underlined above) and two “all’s” whose antecedents must be clearly understood in order to understand the meaning of these verses. Of the EIGHT pronouns, there are three “ours”; three “we’s”; one “his”; and one “us.” Various views have been advanced in giving the antecedents of these eight pronouns
2a. Some Say The Pronouns Refer To The Jews Only
There are some who take these eight pronouns to refer to the Jews only, so that the sacrifice of Christ is only of merit for Jews to whom Isaiah is writing. Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 would paraphrased, if this view were to be accepted as the truth:
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY: “But Christ was wounded for our Jewish transgressions only, He was bruised for our Jewish iniquities only: the chastisement of our Jewish peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we Jews only are healed. All we Jews only have, like sheep, gone astray; we Jews only have turned every one of us to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Christ only the iniquity of all of us Jews, but nobody else.” (Isaiah 53:5-6, PARAPHRASED FALSELY)
It is obvious to all that since Isaiah was a Jew, and the people to whom he was writing were Jews, it is POSSIBLE to think that Isaiah was writing exclusively as a Jew to fellow-Jews. But this would contradict the other teachings of the Bible relating to the death of Christ on the Cross. I do not believe Isaiah was speaking as a “JEW” in this passage and thus to not believe that the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” refer exclusively to JEWS.
2b. Some Say The Pronouns Refer To The “ELECT” Only Of Old And New Testaments
Those who hold to the false view of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above (p 1-2), take the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” to refer only to the “ELECT” or “believers” of the Old and the New Testament periods. Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 would be paraphrased, if this view were to be accepted as the truth.
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY: “But Christ was wounded only for the benefit of the elect’s transgressions, He was bruised only for the elect’s iniquities: the chastisement of the elect’s peace only was upon Him; and with His stripes only we elect are healed. Only all we elect ones like sheep have gone astray; only we elect have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of only the elect.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY).
This is an unsatisfactory interpretation. Though Isaiah was an Old Testament believer, it does not seem to fit the entire context of the Bible in reference to Christ’s atonement at Calvary to have him limit these eight pronouns to the elect. This, however, as the interpretation above, is a POSSIBLE interpretation, but it is not PROBABLY true.
2c. The Pronouns Refer To All Sinners Of All Ages
This is the correct interpretation of these words from Isaiah 53:5-6. Isaiah was not only a JEW, and a BELIEVER, but he was also a MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RACE. I believe that the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” in Isaiah 53:5-6 refer to ALL MANKIND without a single exception of any kind.
(1) Isaiah 53:5-6 Paraphrased Truly
Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 might be paraphrased truly if this is the proper interpretation as I think that it is:
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED PROPERLY: “But Christ was wounded for the transgressions of every person who ever lived without exception. He was bruised for the iniquities of every person who ever lived without exception: the chastisement of the peace of every person who ever lived without exception was upon Him; and with His stripes every person who ever lived without exception is healed (but not necessarily SAVED or REDEEMED or JUSTIFIED). All of us persons who ever lived without exception like sheep have gone astray; all of us persons who ever lived without exception have turned every one of us to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Christ the iniquity of every person who ever lived without exception.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED PROPERLY).
It is important to note that “healed” does not imply either SALVATION, REDEMPTION, or JUSTIFICATION, but merely that there has been a “healing” of the deep wound of sin through Calvary’s cross. In this view, all eight pronouns and the two “alls” refer to every person in the world who ever lived
(2) Evidences In The Context of Isaiah 53:5-6 Where Isaiah referred To ALL MANKIND As Human Beings
Notice some of the references right here in the context of Isaiah 53:5-6 where Isaiah refers to MANKIND as a whole and thus which makes it possible and even PROBABLE that these eight pronouns and two “all’s” also refer to MANKIND GENERALLY
(a) Isaiah 52:14a — “Any man” – When Isaiah wrote “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any MAN, (Isa 52:14a) he was referring to ALL MANKIND, and to “ANY MAN” as a representative of the human race.
(b) Isaiah 52:14b — “The Son Of Men” – and His form more than the SONS OF MEN:”. This reference to the “SONS OF MEN” applies to ALL MANKIND and every one in the human race – not just to the Jew or to the elect alone.
(c) Isaiah 52:l5 — “Many Nations” – “So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: …” Again, the reference is to many of the unsaved nations, not Jews and not the elect.
(d) Isaiah 53:3a — “Rejected Of Men “ – “He is despised and rejected of men; …”Again the reference is to ALL MANKIND, and to human beings as a whole, and not only to the Jews or to the elect. This certainly fits the context when you take the “OF MEN” in Isaiah 53:3a and make the following pronouns all refer to Isaiah as a “MAN” saying that “WE MEN AS MEN AS IT WERE OUR FACES FROM Him; He was despised, and WE MEN AS MEN esteemed him not. Surely He hath borne OUR (AS MEN) griefs, and carried OUR SORROWS AS MEN; yet WE MEN did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR TRANSGRESSIONS AS MEN, He was bruised . ” This makes complete sense, and is by all probabilities the meaning of this passage in context.
(e) Isaiah 53:6a — “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;” This most certainly sounds like a UNIVERSAL application to ALL MEN to EVERY HUMAN BEING IN THE HUMAN RACE, male, female; young and old; Jew, Gentile; and of all ages. It is inconceivable that the only ones who had “GONE ASTRAY” like “SHEEP” and had “TURNED . . TO HIS OWN WAY” would be either the JEWS or the ELECT!! The natural, contextual, reasonable, and simple understanding of the words Isaiah uttered is that he was talking AS A MAN, and as a MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RACE, and was simply saying that EVERY ONE OF US IN THE WORLD HAS GONE ASTRAY and are therefore sinners. This is completely in accord with Romans 3:23, “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This “ALL” certainly does not pertain only to the JEWS, though Paul was a Jew; nor does it pertain only to the ELECT or BELIEVERS, though Paul was both elect and a believer in Christ; on the contrary, it applies to ALL MANKIND; to everyone of us in the world who ever saved. In this way it is like Isaiah 53:5-6!
3. Isaiah 53:5-6 As A Refutation Of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” And As An Explanation Of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT “
Having seen that the beginning words of Isaiah 53:6 refer to ALL MANKIND, and teach that each one of us have “GONE ASTRAY,” the final part of that verse also applies to ALL MANKIND and to EVERY ONE OF THE HUMAN RACE THAT WAS EVER BORN: “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b). This teaches clearly that the Lord God (The Father) has laid on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Anointed One who was to come, the “INIQUITY OF US ALL ” I firmly believe that the Bible is here very clearly teaching–for all to behold- an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of the Lord Jesus Christ. What do I mean by this? I mean that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of whom Isaiah is writing, in His own sinless, impeccable Person, as both God and Man, the anthropos [God-Man], had, by God the Father “laid on Him the INIQUITY OF US ALL in the whole wide world of sinful mankind, barring none. Not a single PERSON in the world was left out, whether man, woman, or child. ALL were included when the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Mighty Maker died, for man, the creature’s sin”!!
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
1. The Speaker In Matthew 11:28, The Lord Jesus Christ
The speaker on this occasion was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the perfect, sinless, Son of God and God the Son! He partook of all the glorious attributes of deity, including holiness, love, justice, judgment, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. He was the GOD-MAN!
2. The Purpose Of Christ’s Utterance In Matthew 11 28
The purpose of Christ’s words on this and on every other occasion, was for communication to his listeners. He always sought to make His teachings clear (except when he spoke in parables to some of the unbelievers). He did not want to confuse people when he spoke these words, but He wished to CLARIFY things.
3. An UNLIMITED Invitation In Matthew 11:28
When our Savior extended these gracious words, “come unto Me, ALL YE that labour and are heavy laden,” I believe that this was an UNLIMITED invitation to an UNLIMITED group of people. This invitation extended, thus, to the ENTIRE WORLD of mankind who would be born since He spoke these words not just to His audience at the time. He asked any and all who were “heavy laden” and who “labour” to “COME UNTO” Him! This includes ALL OF US, since we are all “HEAVY LADEN” and we all “LABOUR” under the weight and load of SIN! He did NOT in any way LIMIT this invitation only to the “ELECT”!! He didn’t say Matthew 11:28 PARAPHRASED FALSELY (AS UNLIMITED ATONEMENT PEOPLE MIGHT SAY IT): “Come unto He, ALL THE ELECT THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN.” (Matthew 11:28 PARAPHRASED FALSELY).
This is NOT the invitation the Lord Jesus offered, but He, on the contrary, offered PARDON and PEACE and REST to “ALL” who might “COME UNTO HIM.”
4. An UNLIMITED Atonement In Matthew 11:28 Implied:
In order for this UNLIMITED invitation to be a bona fide offer that, as the Lord Jesus promised “I will give you REST,” there had, of necessity, to be an UNLIMITED atonement to back it up It would have made little or no sense at all for our Lord Jesus Christ to have told His audience of both “elect” and “non-elect” that “I WILL GIVE YOU REST,” if it indeed was not possible for Him to have given them “rest,” and to have carried out His promise of “rest” to anyone in that multitude who accepted His gracious invitation! The very first requirement for this “rest” (if it were a bona fide offer to them..and I believe firmly that it was) was that He first was going to die for their sins–elect and non-elect as well in a therefore “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” sense. If our Savior were like the “LIMITED ATONEMENT” people I’ve talked to from time to time, who do not believe Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world, as clearly taught in the Bible, they would have told the audience
Matthew 11:28 PARAPHRASED FALSELY (AS UNLIMITED ATONEMENT PEOPLE MIGHT SAY IT): “Come unto me, ALL YE–PROVIDED THAT YOU ARE ELECT AND ONLY ELECT AND NOTHING BUT ELECT–that labour and are heavy laden, and I WILL GIVE YOU–that is, ONLY THE ELECT” because I am NOT going to die on Calvary’s cross for you who are NON-ELECT, but only for the ELECT.”
Our blessed Savior would not have asked the people to “COME UNTO HIM” in the first place if He had not first made PROVISION for their SINS on the Cross and could hence indeed be enabled to thus “COME” unto Him! To have it understood in any other way would, in effect, make the Lord Jesus Christ guilty, either of outright LYING or else DECEPTION of the people. For example, if I invited everybody in the town of Collingswood, New Jersey (over 16,000 of them) to my home for dinner in a bona fide sense of the term, and with all honesty, I would have to make PROVISION for the whole town so that they ALL COULD POSSIBLY COME IF THEY CHOSE TO AND WANTED TO and actually CAME to dinner! To FAIL to make such a PROVISION to back up my INVITATION, would make me either a DECEIVER, or an outright LIAR to those I invited. Our Lord could not be thought of in either of these terms, since He is the sinless, impeccable Savior. Hence His invitation was backed up by his UNLIMITED PROVISION for “REST” in His “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” at the Cross for the sins of the entire world!
“Behold the LAMB OF GOD, which TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.” (John 1:29b).
1 The Meaning of “TAKETH AWAY” In John 1:29b
The word for “taketh away” is “airon” and is a present participle, signifying continuous action. The meaning of the verb, (“airo“) is “take up, lift, raise; bear, carry; take away, remove; destroy, kill ” This is what the Savior did with the sins of the world!
2. The “SIN OF THE WORLD” In John 1:29b.
In the last part of this verse, we see the direct object of the verb “TAKETH AWAY,” namely, “THE SIN OF THE WORLD.” The “LAMB OF GOD,” the Lord Jesus Christ, in His capacity as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, did NOT simply “take away” the sins of the “elect” or of “believers in Christ” only [though this He did indeed!], or of “saved ones” only. No, my friend! If the Bible means anything, it means that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, “took away” just what this verse says–“the SIN OF THE WORLD.” There is not one single sin that was omitted from the Lamb’s finished work on the cross. It is not just “taking away” provisionally, or in some token fashion, but it is completely “taking away” once and for all! This, however, does by no means imply that the sinner is thereby SAVED merely because Jesus Christ, God’s Lamb “took away” their sin by the sacrifice of Himself! NOW the issue is NOT the SIN QUESTION, but the SON QUESTION. The sinner must turn to this “Lamb of God” who did indeed “take away” his every sin–past, present, and future–and “receive” and accept this provision for him (John 1:10-12). Otherwise, the sinner will go to an everlasting, eternal hell, burning with fire. My friends, this is indeed an UNLIMITED ATONEMENT, and it seems so simple, that it is beyond my understanding why every born again Christian cannot just simply open up his heart and believe it, receive it, and see it clearly! This raises an interesting question: Can a person whose sins have been completely “taken away” by Christ, the Lamb of God” end up in hell? The answer is, “YES, HE CAN,” if he refuses to “believe on” and “receive” the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior (John 1:10-12; Acts 16:30-31).
“And as Moses Lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be LIFTED UP. “
1. Similarities Between The Serpent And The Cross In John 3:14.
If you’ll consult Numbers 21:5-9 , you will see that this is an allusion to an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Moses “lifted up” a “fiery serpent, and SET IT UPON A POLE; and it shall come to pass, that EVERY ONE that is bitten, WHEN HE LOOKETH UPON IT, SHALL LIVE ” (Numbers 21:8). This provision made by the Lord Himself was for 100% of the people that were bitten by the poisonous, fiery serpents, just as Christ was “lifted up” upon the Cross of Calvary for 100% of the people who are bitten by the SIN NATURE (which includes every man, woman, and child ever born of Adam’s race, except the Lord Jesus Christ, who escaped any contamination of the SIN NATURE by His Virgin Birth!). On the one hand, in the wilderness, there were in the neighborhood of 3,000,000 people or so that were possibly affected by this calamity of the serpents. On the other hand, today, the entire WORLD of mankind is affected by the calamity of SIN. In both cases, there needed to be an “UNLIMITED PROVISION” — and there was just that!
2. The Brazen Serpent Speaks Of Sin In John 3:14.
As mentioned above, the “serpent of brass” (Numbers 21:9) which Moses made and put on a pole was a picture of the very thing that had bitten the people, namely the “fiery serpents” (v. 6). As such, it speaks of SIN which bites all of us like a “serpent.” How many people in the world have been bitten by “SIN” [like the brazen serpent or the fiery serpent]? The answer is 100% of the people in this world, for “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23)
3. The Look Brought Life In John 3:14.
Looking to the brazen serpent on the pole brought PHYSICAL LIFE, HEALING, AND DELIVERANCE to those Israelites who availed themselves of this UNLIMITED PROVISION by God. How many people in the wilderness were there who received this physical healing from death? The answer is that 100% of those who did no more than LOOK on that serpent on the pole, for the Scripture says. . . “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, SHALL LIVE.” (Numbers 21:8b) So there was LIFE for a LOOK at this brazen serpent on the pole.
4 The Analogy for Christ’s Work On The Cross In John 3:14
What then, is the analogy for Christ’s work on the Cross as mentioned in John 3:14? There must be such an analogy, for the Bible clearly uses the words, “AS MOSES LIFTED UP THE SERPENT . . . EVEN SO MUST THE SON OF MAN BE LIFTED UP. “ Here in the picture: Though 100% of mankind is born in sin and is sinful by nature and by practice, the Lord Jesus Christ was “LIFTED UP” and made provision for 100% of the sins of these sinners by dying for them effectively and literally, and really on the Cross, so that all that these sinners now need to do is to accept, believe on, and receive HIM (John 1:12) as their personal Savior from sin, and they are promised eternal and everlasting LIFE (John 3:16). THIS is the message of the brazen serpent for us today! In the wilderness, there was a UNIVERSAL and UNLIMITED PROVISION by God for those who were bitten; today, there is a UNIVERSAL and UNLIMITED PROVISION by God, through His Son’s death at Calvary, for all those bitten by SIN (meaning 100% of us!). One thing must be remembered, however, and that is that there must be a LOOK to the Savior by FAITH, or that UNLIMITED PROVISION will not do the sinner any good whatsoever, just like in the wilderness the LIFTED UP brazen serpent did not do a bit of good to anyone who hat been batten by the fiery serpents unless they LOOKED UP at it in FAITH as they had been told to do by Moses!
“He that believeth in Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God .” (John 3:18).
1 The False Argument Of “LIMITED ATONEMENTISTS” On John 3:18
In a nutshell, those who hold the false and unbiblical teaching of a “LIMITED ATONEMENT” teach that Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross had nothing whatsoever to do for the SINS OF THE WORLD — including every man, woman, and child who ever lived (as clearly taught in John 1:29). These people believe, on the contrary, that Christ’s death on the Cross was exclusively and only for the “elect” or the Christians. The REASON that God would condemn the non-elect to hell in this case [which is NOT the case, and which is FALSE!] would be BECAUSE CHRIST HAD NOT DIED FOR THEIR SINS AND THEY WERE OUT IN THE COLD WITH AN IMPOSSIBILITY EVER OF BEING SAVED AT ALL!! If this were the case [and it most certainly is NOT!] Christ would, I believe, clearly teach it in His words and doctrine while He was on earth He would say something like this:
(CHRIST DID NOT SAY)–“Now Listen here, my friends in the audience today. Some of you are going to be taken care of when I die on the Cross, and some of you are NOT going to be taken of. I’m going to die for the sins of SOME OF YOU, but for others of you, I AM NOT GOING TO DIE. And since I am not going to die for your sins and make provision for your salvation, there is no use in believing on me, or receiving me, because I am not going to die for your sins!”
The Lord Jesus Christ NEVER would have said this. He never DID say it! And to have known this and to have planned this [which He did NOT], and NOT to have communicated it to His hearers, would have been a great DECEIT, which Our Lord was not capable of!
2. John 3:18’s Refutation Of “LIMITED ATONEMENTISTS.”
In John 3 18, however, the ONLY sin that will “condemn” a sinner, is the sin of “NOT BELIEVING” in the Lord Jesus Christ The verse says “He that BELIEVETH NOT is CONDEMNED ALREADY, BECAUSE HE HATH NOT BELIEVED IN THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD. “ The person mentioned in this verse is not “condemned” because Christ did not die for his sins [which would be the case if the false “LIMITED ATONEMENT” theory were true, but he IS condemned because he won’t believe in the Christ who DID die for every one of his sins on the cross! It becomes, therefore, not the “SIN QUESTION,” but the “SON QUESTION,” the sins of the world have already been atoned for and paid for by Jesus Christ’s death at the cross. All that remains is for the sinner to TRUST in this Savior!
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY. ”
1. Romans 5:6 And The FALSE interpretation Of The “LIMITED ATONEMENT” People.
Again, let us repeat, that the “LIMITED ATONEMENT’ people would take this clear verse to teach the very opposite of that for which it was intended by Paul and by God , the Author of Scripture. They claim that it teaches that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary had merit, benefit, and was really LIMITED only to the ELECT, or those who would one day accept and receive Christ as Savior, but that this death had nothing whatever to do with the “sins of the world” in general, whether saved or lost! This is heresy, and clearly contrary to the revealed Word of God!
2. Romans 5:6 Clearly Interpreted As Evidence For The “LIMITED ATONEMENT “
When Paul wrote that “CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY,” there can be no question whatsoever but that His death on Calvary’s cross was for the sins of the entire world of “ungodly” people. The word “ungodly” has to refer to the UNSAVED, LOST, HELL DESERVING SINNERS The word, “hyper” is used, meaning that this death was not only “instead of, and in place of “the ungodly” people, but also “for their benefit.” This is the sense of the word “for ” It is clear, therefore, from this context, that the “we” refer to “we” as sinful human beings of Adam’s race–whether elect or non-elect! Can any other meaning be read into the words, “CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY”?! The “LIMITED ATONEMENT” people like to interpret the words “UNGODLY” as “UNGODLY ELECT PEOPLE” but the context makes no provision for such a stretching of word- meanings “UNGODLY” obviously extents to every man, woman, and child, since all have sinned and are hence “ungodly” and have come short of the glory of God. It is for these unsaved, lost, hell-deserving, hell-bound sinners that the Lord Jesus Christ “DIED ” Hence, here is clear proof of an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of Christ on the Cross!
“To wit, that God was in Christ, RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES UNTO THEM; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. ”
1. 2 Corinthians 5:l9 Falsely Interpreted by “LIMITED ATONEMENT” People.
Those who hold to the false and unscriptural, unbiblical, and anti-Biblical view that Jesus Christ died ONLY for the ELECT, or only for those who are SAVED or BORN AGAIN, or CHRISTIAN, but that His death has nothing whatsoever to do with the NON-ELECT, or the LOST, or the SINNERS who never trust Christ as their Savior because of their unbelief, would view this verse as teaching that “God was in Christ, RECONCILING THE WORLD [of the ELECT ONLY] UNTO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR [That is, only the ELECT’S] TRESPASSES UNTO THEM; . . .” There is no such interpretation possible by the contextual structure of the verse and the entire passage, and those who would stretch it in this manner should be ashamed of themselves!!
2. 2 Corinthians 5:19 Shows God’s OBJECT Of “RECONCILIATION” To Be The “WORLD.”
Such a rendition of this verse as mentioned above, of course, is silly and foolish. It is an abomination to all proper laws of Biblical hermeneutics. The OBJECT of God’s “RECONCILING” work in this verse is “THE WORLD.” It is the same OBJECT as God’s “LOVE” in John 3:16, “For God so LOVED THE WORLD…. “ It is NOT the world, merely of “the ELECT,” but it is the “world” which includes every single man, woman, and child who has ever been born or who ever will be born in the future. The Greek text puts its STRESS on this object, the “WORLD,” by the word order, putting it FIRST in the clause. It reads: “the WORLD reconciling . . “. When “WORLD” is placed first in this clause, when the usual order would be to place it AFTER the verb, it is EMPHATIC by the rules of Greek syntax. It is almost as though God is screaming out at all the false and unscriptural “LIMITED ATONEMENT” people who are parading around their “other gospel” (Galatians 1:8), and saying, “Here is something that I did through My Son’s Work at the Cross of Calvary which had an effect on the WHOLE, ENTIRE WORLD of mankind, barring NONE!!” The plain meaning of this verse is that in some sense, God “RECONCILED” the entire WORLD unto Himself in Christ. This does NOT mean, however, that all the “WORLD” is thereby “SAVED.” It merely means that the PROVISION at Calvary was for ALL!
“For there in one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man CHRIST JESUS, Who gave Himself a RANSOM FOR ALL, to be testified in due time.” (1Timothy 2:5-6).
1. What Is The Reference For “MEN” In 1Timothy 2:5-6?
When verse 5 states that there is “one Mediator between God and MEN, the Man CHRIST JESUS,” to what group does this word “MEN,” refer? The Greek word used is “anthropon” which means “human, belonging to man,” in contrast to the Greek word, “aner“, which is the word for a “male.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is a “Mediator” between God and EVERY HUMAN BEING WHO EVER LIVED OR WHO EVER WILL LIFE IN THE FUTURE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH–BARRING NONE! The “LIMITED ATONEMENT” school, however, would seek to limit the meaning of “men” as a reference only to the “ELECT,” which is so false theologically as it is ridiculous in this context!
2. In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, For What Group Did Christ Give Himself A “RANSOM FOR ALL”?
The reference behind the word “all” is obviously, from the context, the SAME group of people comprehended in the word “men” (v. 5), which we saw to be a reference to HUMANITY AS A WHOLE! It is as a “ransom for ALL MEN,” therefore. The “LIMITED ATONEMENT’ school would say that this is a reference merely to “all of the ELECT,” which is untrue to the context. The word, “antilutron” [from the two words,”anti“+”lutron“)] comes from the verb, luo, which means “to loosen, unbind, unfasten, disengage, set free, set at liberty, deliver, declare free.” The compound word used here, refers to the “price paid” or the “ransom ” The resultant meaning and teaching is that at Calvary, Jesus Christ’s death was a “ransom for all” men of all ages! The only thing left for the sinner to do now, is to BELIEVE ON and to RECEIVE this Savior personally, and gain the benefits of this “ransom” which has already been paid for his sins (John 3:16; l:10-12)!!
” But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God SHOULD TASTE DEATH FOR EVERY MAN.” (Hebrews 2:9).
l. Hebrews 2 9 Deals With The Death Of Christ.
Recently I had an interesting chat with a close friend of mine about this column on “CALVIN’S ERROR OF LIMITED ATONEMENT” and some of the verses we had been using. The comment was made that a certain passage did not definitely state that it was speaking about the DEATH OF CHRIST, and so, perhaps, it was not teaching an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” after all. The verse before us here, Hebrews 2 9, most definitely and very clearly teaches about Christ’s “SUFFERING OF DEATH” and His tasting of “DEATH FOR EVERY MAN.”
2. The Teaching Of Hebrews 2:9
The verse clearly teaches that Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, at the Cross of Calvary, “should taste death FOR EVERY MAN.” The word for “taste”, “geusetai” is in the aorist tense, middle voice, of a verb meaning “to cause to taste, metaphorical, to have perception of, experience, to experience death, to die.” It is in this sense in Matthew 16:28, for example The word, “for” in the phrase, “for every man,” is “huper“, which means not only “instead of, or in the place of,” but also, “in behalf of and for the benefit of.” Substitution is clearly taught here “EVERY MAN” is “pantos“, and is either masculine or neuter, meaning either “every one or every man and woman” or “everything” which would include all mankind plus creation as well. Clearly, regardless of the gender of this pronoun, this is another clear and plain verse which teaches Christ’s “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” for everyone, barring none! It must again be repeated, however, that just because the Lord Jesus Christ suffered “DEATH FOR EVERY MAN,” this does not give “EVERY MAN” automatically eternal life, forgiveness of sins, or a home in heaven It merely takes care of the penalty for every man, woman and child on the face of the earth The penalty was paid by Christ, and everyone who comes to Christ and through – Christ and receives this Savior personally, receives redemption, eternal life, and forgiveness of his sins Those who refuse to come to Christ by faith are lost eternally and are sent to the Lake of Fire!
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)
1. 2 Peter 2:1 Refers To UNSAVED MEN
From the context of this verse, there can be no question whatever but that the reference here is to unsaved men who are “false prophets” or “false teachers” who bring in “damnable heresies” and earn for themselves “swift destruction“. By no stretch of the “hyper-Calvinists” can these men be part of the company of the “elect”!! They are unsaved and unregenerated!
2. Yet 2 Peter 2:1 States That The Lord “BOUGHT THEM ”
Though these unsaved false teachers, “deny” Him, it is stated clearly that the “Lord” “BOUGHT THEM.” The Greek word is “agorazo“, which means to “redeem, to buy, to acquire by a ransom or price paid.” The obvious time and place where this “redemption” or “buying” took place was when the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s Cross. Not that these “unsaved” men were ipso facto SAVED, FORGIVEN, and given FORGIVENESS; but Jesus Christ, their “Lord”, “despoten” “bought them” in the sense that He died in their place, for their sins, and carried their sins in His own sinless body at that Cross. This truly is an “UNLIMITED REDEMPTION” and puts the lie once and for all to any false teaching of either John Calvin and/or his followers (past or present) who speak of a “LIMITED REDEMPTION” wherein (they say) Christ died ONLY for the “elect” or the “believers” in Christ. While it IS a Biblical fact that Christ did die for the “elect,” He also died for the LOST, the “NON-ELECT” and UNBELIEVERS- even these unsaved rebels that are called “false teachers” in this present verse!
“And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.” (1 John 4:14).
l. l John 4:14 And The “Accusative Of Reference “
First of all, this verse has a grammatical difficulty that must be explained You’ll note that in the KJV, “to be” is in italic type, indicating that these words were not in the Greek, but were supplied by the translators to complete the meaning [by the way, the KJV is one of the FEW translations in English that FAITHFULLY tells you when things like this are added to complete the sense!] The Greek merely says, “sent the Son, Savior of the world.” The words, “ton huion sotEra,” “the Son, Savior”, are all in the accusative case in Greek. The first two words are the regular accusative of direct object of the verb, “sent ” [sotera, “Savior”], is in the adverbial accusative of reference, and can therefore be translated, “the Father sent the Son AS the Savior of the world.” This is a normal Greek construction, and could easily be understood as “TO BE” for “AS” under the same usage
2. The “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT”‘ In 1 John 4:14
However difficult the former point might be, one thing is crystal clear–the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, was, and IS the “SAVIOR OF THE WORLD”!! He is NOT merely the “SAVIOR” of the “elect, “or those who believe on Him, but there is a wider sense in which, by dying for the SINS OF THE WORLD, He earned the title “SAVIOR OF THE WORLD ” Personal faith in this “SAVIOR”, however, MUST be present, for anyone to be the recipient of ETERNAL LIFE, and forgiveness of their sins. Christ is the “SAVIOR OF THE WORLD” because He died for the SINS OF THAT WORLD. He CAN be the personal “SAVIOR” in the real and in the practical sense of the term when the individual places his faith and trust in this Savior for himself. Nothing else will avail!
“And He is the propitiation for OUR SINS: and not for ours only, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD. “
1. 1 John 2:2 Speaks Of The Lord Jesus Christ
The antecedent of the word, “He”, is found in verse 1, and it is “Jesus Christ the Righteous.” It is HE who is spoken of as the “propitiation” for the sins of the world!
2. The Meaning Of “PROPITIATION” In 1 John 2:2.
The word, “propitiation,” comes from the Greek word, “hilasmos” and comes from the verb meaning “to appease, render propitious, to expiate, make an atonement or expiation for, being gracious, showing mercy, pardon.” Theologically considered, it means a “satisfaction” where God the Father is SATISFIED completely with the work at Calvary’s Cross done and accomplished by His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. It was God the Father who had to be “PROPITIATED,” and Who WAS PROPITIATED in the death of His Son at the Cross. He was SATISFIED with the work of His Son!
3. The TENSE Of “PROPITIATION” In 1 John 2:2.
The tense of the word, “is” “estin,” to be,” is present tense, and thus signifies a continuous, iterative, on-going action and activity. The Lord Jesus Christ “IS, AND CONTINUES TO BE” the “PROPITIATION” or the “SATISFACTION” for sinners. It is NOT something future. It is not something which is only “possible” or “potentially” true. It “IS” in reality and in FACT, without any question or shadow of a doubt!
4. The RECIPIENTS Of “PROPITIATION” In 1 John 2:2.
Jesus Christ is the “PROPITIATION for TWO groups of people:
a. Christ The “PROPITIATION” For BELIEVERS” Sins. First of all, Christ is the PROPITIATION “for OUR SINS.” The preposition, “peri” [“for”], with the genitive case here, means “in behalf of” as in Matthew 26:28, for instance. Here it refers to the “our” of believers, saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is for the “elect,” yes it is. He took away ALL their sins, paying for them completely on the Cross through His infinite sacrifice of Himself as “the Son of God” (John 1:29b).
b. Christ The “PROPITIATION” For UNBELIEVERS’ Sins Also.
In the second place, it says: “and NOT for OURS ONLY, BUT also FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.” Even though “the sins of” is in italics in our KJV, and these words are not in the Greek text, nevertheless, this is the thought which can be legitimately supplied from the context, where the word “hamartion,” “sins” is found. The clear teaching of this verse is, however, that Christ’s “PROPITIATION” extends as well “FOR . . . THE WHOLE WORLD.” The very same “PROPITIATION” which is “for” the believers, is also “for” (to the SAME EXTENT EXACTLY) “THE WHOLE WORLD.” Holou, “whole” means “all, whole, entire” and the word, “kosmou,” “world” means, in one sense, “the world, the aggregate of mankind; the world, the public; the human race external to the Jewish nation.” This clearly presupposes an UNLIMITED ATONEMENT by Christ!
5. The SIGNIFICANCE Of “PROPITIATION” In 1 John 2:2.
The Biblical doctrine of “PROPITIATION” whereby a holy, omnipotent, loving God can deal with unholy, finite, unloving MANKIND, is of great significance! It is God’s “hilasmos,” “propitiation”, which means “propitiation, expiation; one who makes expiation.” In layman’s language, “PROPITIATION” simply means that God was “SATISFIED” with the work on Calvary’s Cross of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! This clear teaching of the verse of Scripture now under consideration extends God’s “SATISFACTION” in His Son’s death not only to the BELIEVERS, but also to the UNBELIEVERS who may NEVER receive salvation by personal and individual faith in Christ. This includes the “WHOLE WORLD.” In other words, God is satisfied that His Son has ACTUALLY, and REALLY, and LITERALLY PAID for the SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD by His SACRIFICE on the Cross. This does NOT, however, automatically insure the “WHOLE WORLD” of receiving His forgiveness, pardon, and everlasting life! It merely means that the PENALTY HAS BEEN PAID, and now, the sinner need only “receive” and “believe” (John 1:12) on the Lord Jesus Christ in heart-felt “faith” (Acts 16:30-31) because, in a very real and literal sense, as the songwriter has written, “JESUS PAID IT ALL”!!
In this section, we begin a study of some of the verses in the Bible which speak of the “terms” for the reception of God’s salvation There is not one single hint in the verses to be examined of any “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as we will see. Certainly, if the view of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” were true (ant it is not) there would never be even so much as ONE verse of the Bible which would contradict it. Yet we have discussed some 12 verses in pages 2-11 above, which clearly contradict “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” hence it could NOT by God’s truth! Furthermore, from the very TERMS of the receiving of salvation, “LIMITED ATONEMENT’ is refuted as well. We will discuss only three such verses, since we wish to make this section suggestive only, and not exhaustive From this consideration of these three verses, we will conclude with a consideration of some of the theologians and groups who, like us, FAVOR the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of Christ
“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them THAT BELIEVE ON HIS NAME.”
1. The Goal Of John 1:12
The “goal” spoken of in this verse is the “power to become the sons God.” This is another way of saying to be “saved” or to have “eternal life.” This is the net result if the requirements in the verse are fulfilled by the individual.
2 The Partakers In That Goal In John 1:12
The verse is quite clear that those who partake in this goal of becoming “the sons of God ” by being born again and regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith, are (1) “as many as received Him” [Christ] and/or (2) “to them that BELIEVE on His Name” [Christ’s]. These two synonymous expressions of “receiving” and “believing on His Name” are the only qualifications needed for becoming a “son” or “child” of God. Any others who do NOT meet one or the other of these two qualifications (actually they are the same, but spoken in slightly different words), cannot be the “sons of God” and cannot be saved.
3 The Refutation of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” In John 1:12
There is not a hint in this verse that this INVITATION to sinners to become saints is LIMITED only “to the elect” or that we are to restrict the INVITATION artificially by theological words. We are to preach that “as many” sinners who would “receive” Christ as Savior and “to them that BELIEVE” on His name” whoever they might be- would be guaranteed by God to “become” a “son” or “child” of God! We can make this UNIVERSAL offer, because Jesus Christ died for the SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD–barring none! They have to “receive” Him and “believe on His Name” to be saved, and to partake of Christ’s benefits on their behalf. Not receiving of Him–No benefits!!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
1 The Objects of God’s LOVE In John 3:16
It was the “world” that was the object of God’s great love in this verse. One of the meanings of this word, [kosmon, “world”), is: “the world, the aggregate of mankind.” This is NOT the “world of the elect” as some would ADD to the Scriptures and thus twist them. It includes every person who was ever born, from Adam to the last person to be born This presupposes an UNLIMITED ATONEMENT, because it tells the group of people God had an interest in that led Him to “give” His Son.
2. The Result of God’s LOVE In John 3:16:
“That He gave He only begotten Son” was the ACTION that God ‘s great LOVE prompted. The Incarnation of Christ was the first step in such a gift; the Crucifixion of Christ was the final step in this gift. At Calvary’s Cross, God ‘s Son was “given” in result of God’s LOVE, and it presupposes that he was “GIVEN” for the same company people that God “SO LOVED” in the first place–that is, for EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD FROM ADAM TO THE LAST ONE TO BE BORN! This is the language and the thoughts of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
3. The Offer of God’s LOVE In John 3:16:
“That WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life” shows that the OFFER of God’s great love is for ANYONE who believes in the Lord Jesus as Savior. “WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH” does not restrict God ‘s offer of salvation to some LIMITED group, but to EVERYONE in this wide world! Had God wanted to show us a LIMITED rather than an UNLIMITED ATONEMENT teaching in this verse, He would have said “If the ELECT believe” or “If the LIMITED number of people believe.” But, when God said “WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH,” He showed that His GIFT was to benefit an UNLIMITED NUMBER of people–whoever who would “BELIEVE” or trust Him as Savior! We can therefore ask EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD to “BELIEVE” on the Lord Jesus Christ, and can honestly and sincerely INVITE them to receive this “everlasting life” by faith, knowing that God DID make PROVISION for them by His Son’s death for their SINS on the Cross, and thus offers them a bona fide gift for the taking!! BUT, they MUST “RECEIVE” this GIFT, or it will NOT be theirs as their own personal and real possession!!
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the WORLD through Him MIGHT BE SAVED. “
1. Christ’s Mission Was NOT To “CONDEMN” The World In John 3:17 :
The verse indicates that it was NOT God’s purpose in sending His Son into the world “to condemn” or to “judge” the world. He would not have needed to have come to earth If His mission had been “Judgment.” His mission was to DIE for the sins of the world!
2. Christ’s Mission WAS To Offer SALVATION To The World In John 3:17 :
In the words, “but that THE WORLD through Him MIGHT BE SAVED, ” we see a “purpose clause” introduced by the Greek conjunction, [hina, “that”]. As such, it expresses “the aim of the action denoted by the main verb.” [Cf. Dana & Mantey, Grammar of N.T. Greek, p. 282l]. This was God’s desire, aim, and purpose in sending His Son into the world. He had an entire “WORLD” in view!!
3. An “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” Best Suits Such A Purpose In John 3:17 :
If indeed God had a purpose, and “aim” and a desire that the entire “WORLD” might be “SAVED” through faith in “Him,” then it is best understood that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire WORLD, so that this might be possible–provided they believe on Him by faith and thus come “through Him.” Any other understanding, such as the false “LIMITED ATONEMENT” foreign to the Bible, would make God a liar and would not make this a UNIVERSAL OFFER of salvation to those who believe in Christ. If it was God ‘s PURPOSE that the entire “WORLD” might be “SAVED” through His Son, it stands to reason that Christ’s death on the cross made PROVISION for that WORLD” in order to fulfill God’s purpose. This, in the very terms, argues clearly for an UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.
At first, when this series was begun, it was our intention to take up each of the following verses, and explain in detail just how their TERMS argued for an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and how their TERMS argued against a “LIMITED ATONEMENT.” It was decided, however, to shorten the series and begin at once a discussion of some of the theologians and groups who stand with the BIBLE FOR TODAY and this writer in favor of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and who therefore oppose the “LIMITED ATONEMENT” teaching. Some of the verses we had planned to discuss are as follows:
John 9:35, 38
As you look at these additional 12 verses- all from John–together with the many, many other verses in the New Testament which speak of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can easily see how the very TERMS used in the verses themselves REFUTE “LIMITED ATONEMENT” and presuppose and teach the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
A. DR JOHN F WALVOORD AND DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER STAND FOR “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” AND AGAINST “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT”
I attended the Dallas Theological Seminary, in Dallas, Texas, from 1948 through 1952 for my residency, and completed my final degree in 1955. I received the Th. M. degree with a major in New Testament Literature and Exegesis (GREEK), and the Th. D degree with a major in Bible Exposition from this school. I hold no brief whatsoever for the seminary’s lack of BIBLICAL SEPARATION in many areas, including speakers who come to the campus and the other ecclesiastical relations of the school and its teachers, administrators, and board members Dallas Theological Seminary can be classified rightly, I believe, as a NEO-EVANGELICAL school. Now having said this, I must also say that I received (aside from the areas of BIBLICAL SEPARATION and specific Baptist distinctive areas) sound and well-rounded training from that school in the areas of Greek, Hebrew, Bible, Theology, Church History, and Practical Theology, and I am very grateful for such training. My convictions on the area of BIBLICAL SEPARATION, and on other areas where the seminary, I feel, finds disagreement with the Bible, I had to find for myself from the Bible itself which they had taught me to understand and to expound in the original languages! Nevertheless, Dallas Theological Seminary stands today as one of the largest- if not THE LARGEST – seminaries of the conservative viewpoint in the United States today and many churches and denominations and mission boards have been influenced by this Seminary through the personnel who have graduated from it. Many of our present-day SCHOOLS- whether Bible Institutes, Bible Colleges, Colleges, or Seminaries–have on their faculties graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. Many of our Radio Stations, newspapers, Christian periodicals, and the like also have men who are graduates of this school. It is a significant Seminary- though certainly not perfect! I have therefore included the opinion on this theme of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of the Seminary’s founder, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the Seminary itself, and the present President, Dr. John F. Walvoord, for the reasons given above. It is of historical interest to say the very least.
1. I Wrote To Dr. Walvoord Specifically On “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
I wrote to Dallas Theological Seminary’s present President, John P Walvoord on July 13, 1977 Dr. Walvoord replied: This will acknowledge your letter of July 13, 1977, requesting a statement concerning the position of Dallas Theological Seminary on the matter of UNLIMITED ATONEMENT. I told Dr. Walvoord I would publish any answer he might give and he gave this letter with this in mind. In other words, he wrote it knowing I had requested permission to publish it, and he wrote it for publication. It is dated July 20, 1977.
2. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer Wrote And Revised The D.T.S. Doctrinal Statement Which Holds To “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
Walvoord continued: As you will understand, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer was the founder of DALLAS SEMINARY and wrote the original DOCTRINAL STATEMENT adopted in 1925 and revised in 1952, during his lifetime. (op. cit.) l952 was Dr. Chafer’s last year alive, and I was in the class of 1948-52 which was the last full four-year class to have Dr. Chafer as our teacher. Walvoord continued concerning Dr. Chafer: He served as chairman of the revision committee. The only change since has been the added statement that we believe in the INERRANCY OF THE BIBLE. This was recently adopted to clarify the truth which was implied but not specifically stated in the doctrinal statement. (op. cit.).
3. Dr. Chafer’s Belief In “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” Affirmed By Walvoord.
Walvoord stated concerning Chafer: In regard to what is known as ‘UNLIMITED ATONEMENT,’ Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer HELD THIS IN HIS TEACHINGS AND WRITINGS and also INCORPORATED THE CONCEPT but not the precise words into the DOCTRINAL STATEMENT OF THE SEMINARY. He held that CHRIST DIED WITH THE PURPOSE OP PROVIDING REDEMPTION FOR ALL even though all would not be saved. (op. cit.)
4. Dallas Seminary’s DOCTRINAL STATEMENT OPPOSES “LIMITED ATONEMENT” And Affirms “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
Dr. Walvoord spoke of the Seminary’s Doctrinal Statement on this issue: Our DOCTRINAL STATEMENT does not deal with the subject of the five points of Calvinism or use the terminology of LIMITED OR UNLIMITED ATONEMENT. It does, however, indicate that CHRIST DIED FOR THE WHOLE WORLD, and in my thinking, THIS IS NOT IN KEEPING WITH THE DOCTRINE OF LIMITED OR PARTICULAR ATONEMENT as is commonly thought. (op. cit.)
5. 100% of Dallas Seminary’s Present Faculty Stands For “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT”!
Walvoord talked of the present faculty’s position on this question: Through the years of its existence, Dallas Seminary’s position has been and is that CHRIST DIED FOR ALL in the provisional sense, even though only the elect are saved. Our position on this doctrine, as well as all others stated in our doctrinal statement, HAS NOT CHANGED. Members of our FACULTY under contract to teach for the school year beginning July 1, 1977, SPECIFICALLY HOLD TO UNLIMITED ATONEMENT. (op. cit.) Note that this cut-off date is from July 1, 1977 and ONWARD!! This is important because prior to that date, there had not been l00% “specifically” holding to “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” Thus it can be seen even in this Seminary which has held the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” through the years, has had to finally take a strong stand on this issue just as the BIBLE FOR TODAY has been taking a strong stand on this Matter as of August 15, 1975 when we began this series.
6. Specific Permission Was Given by Walvoord To Quote From His Letter.
Dr. Walvoord gave specific authorization for me to quote from his letter. He said: You are free to quote from this letter as REPRESENTING THE POINT OF VIEW OF DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY. (op. cit.) In other words, Dr. Walvoord was not just speaking for himself, but, as President of the Seminary. He spoke for the entire school in an official and representative capacity I have quoted this letter of July 20, 1977, at length to show that, despite other differences that the BIBLE FOR TODAY might have with D.T.S. and vice versa, this Seminary stands with the BIBLE FOR TODAY in FAVOR of an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and AGAINST the “LIMITED ATONEMENT”!! We are glad about this. In other words, we both see this in the Bible, as a BIBLICAL TEACHING!!
B. JOHN CALVIN HIMSELF MODIFIED HIS POSITION AND OPPOSED HIS OWN FORMER TEACHING OF “LIMITED ATONEMENT” IN FAVOR FINALLY OF AN “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
We have saved one of the most powerful witnesses until last, namely, JOHN CALVIN HIMSELF. Yes, John Calvin himself, as we will see, is his own most convincing witness AGAINST HIS OWN FORMER ERROR of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” and in FAVOR finally of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
1. Some “LIMITED ATONEMENT” Fanatics Disagree That Calvin, In These Quotes Favored “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.”
I was very much surprised to receive a long, long letter from a very devoted “LIMITED ATONEMENT” man a few weeks ago, who told me that I had misinterpreted John Calvin in the quotations that I will be using here. He interpreted Calvin’s words in a “LIMITED ATONEMENT” sense which he claims is the way ALL “LIMITED ATONEMENT” people understood them. Read his quotations very carefully, and see if there can be any doubt whatsoever, unless people are “WRITING OUT OF BOTH SIDE OF THEIR PEN”!!
2. Dr. John R. Rice Quoted August H. Strong On Calvin’s MODIFICATION OF HIS VIEWS.”
Though I to not concur in everything Rice writes on a number of subjects, yet, as I was reading his book, PREDESTINED FOR HELL? NO! [1958 and 1977] (pp. 11-12), I noted an interesting lead. Rice wrote: However, it is fair to say that CALVIN IS THOUGHT TO HAVE MODIFIED HIS VIEWS SOMEWHAT THROUGH THE YEARS. Dr. Augustus H. Strong, in his standard Systematic Theology Vol. II, Doctrine of Salvation, page 778, quotes CALVIN’S LATER COMMENTS to prove this, as follows:…(op.cit. p. 12). Part of Rice’s quotation from Strong was a follows:
The progress in Calvin’s thought may be seen by comparing some of his earlier with his later utterances. . . . IN LATER DAYS Calvin wrote in his Commentary on 1 John 2:2–“he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world“–as follows: “CHRIST SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD. and in the goodness of God is OFFERED UNTO ALL MEN WITHOUT DISTINCTION, HIS BLOOD BEING SHED NOT FOR A PART OF THE WORLD ONLY, BUT FOR THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE; for although in the world nothing is found worthy of the favor of God, yet he HOLDS OUT THE PROPITIATION TO THE WHOLE WORLD, since without exception he SUMMONS ALL TO THE FAITH OF CHRIST, which is nothing else than the door unto hope.” (Rice, op. cit., p.12). Let it be very plainly stated: Calvin himself here repudiates “LIMITED ATONEMENT” and affirms an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT”!! And everyone of his “followers” should do likewise!! No amount of semantical gymnastics can twist the clear meaning of Calvin’s words quoted above into anything else but that!!
Mark 14:24 states in English (KJV): And He said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, WHICH IS SHED FOR MANY. (Mark l4:24). Here is the comment that John Calvin made on Mark 14:24, as translated and published in the Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Volume III, p. 139 [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, 1972]:
“The word many DOES NOT MEAN A PART OF THE WORLD ONLY, BUT THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE: he contrasts many with one as if to say that he would not be the Redeemer of one man, but would meet death to deliver many of their cursed guilt. No doubt that in speaking to a few Christ wished to make His teaching available to a larger number…So when we come to the holy table not only should the general idea come to our mind that THE WORLD IS REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST but also each should reckon to himself that his own sins are covered. (op. cit., p. 139).
In this passage, John Calvin clearly and unmistakably affirms his belief in the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of the Lord Jesus Christ who “SHED” His blood for “THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE” with the result that it can be said that “THE WORLD IS REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.” What could be clearer? John Calvin by no means took the “Fifth Amendment” on this verse! In fact, where many of his “LIMITED ATONEMENT” followers use the “many” to try to force a “LIMITED ATONEMENT” into that word, John Calvin broadened it out in an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” sense as it should be broadened by way of contrast with a “few.”
Romans 5:18 states in English (KJV): Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18) Calvin’s comment on Romans 5:18, as translated and published in the COMMENTARY ON ROMANS AND THESSALONIANS, 1973, pp. 117-18 [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids] was: “Paul makes grace COMMON TO ALL MEN, not because it in fact EXTENDS TO ALL, but because IT IS OFFERED TO ALL. Although CHRIST SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD. AND IS OFFERED BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WITHOUT DISTINCTION TO ALL MEN, yet not all receive him (op. cit., p. 829). If indeed Christ “SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD,” John Calvin was himself (at least at the time of his writing this Commentary on Romans) a confirmed believer, as is the BIBLE FOR TODAY, in an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of the Lord Jesus Christ! Any self-respecting friend of John Calvin presently holding the unscriptural and anti-Scriptural error of “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” should immediately get rid of it–If only in deference to their friend! A BETTER reason, however, for getting rid of it, would be because it is unbiblical!
Calvin’s “LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, April 25, 1564” as printed in the History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, pp. 828-29, by Philip Schaff [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, 1972], states: “I testify also and declare, that I suppliantly beg of Him, that He may be pleased so to was and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer HAS SHED FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE, that under His shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat.…”(op. cit., p 829). Here is a clear testimony made by John Calvin who was about to die, in 1564, that He, at least at the end of his life, had come to believe most definitely that the Lord Jesus Christ “SHED” his precious “BLOOD” “FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE ”
This is, in very essence, an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” for which we have been speaking, writing, and arguing these many months [28 to be exact]. Again, let me urge every follower of John Calvin, because of the biblical truth of his position, to JOIN HIM in this sound belief in the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” that is, that the Lord Jesus Christ “HAS SHED” His blood “FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE”!! Notice that in these words, John Calvin, however, seemed to be in DOUBT of HIS SALVATION! Thus he sounded like he no longer was certain, for himself, at least in the “perseverance of the saints.” This is a rather SAD statement, I believe, for Calvin himself to make on his death bed!
Though much more might be said, we will end this series at this point, until further notice. At some time in the future, perhaps, we might re-open the subject of “CALVINISM,” but for now, these few words standing for the “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and against the “LIMITED ATONEMENT” will suffice Among the many CONCLUSIONS that could be made from this brief study, here are a few to keep in mind
1. “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” Is Clearly Taught In The Bible. From the many passages which were studied in this short paper, it should be seen that ” UNLIMITED ATONEMENT ” IS A BIBLICAL doctrine that is clearly taught in the Bible. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.
2. No One Should Be Ashamed To Believe In An “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” Since the doctrine of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” is so clearly taught in the Bible, no one should be ashamed to believe in it as a teaching. There should be no sense of shame or of offense in believing this doctrine.
3. “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” Is Not A Doctrine That Makes No Difference. The “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” of Christ on the cross is VITAL doctrine! It DOES make a lot of difference. Those who reject “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” in favor of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” cannot ever say in a public meeting to the sinners in their audience, The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins on the Cross, and all that you have to do is to “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST” and you’ll be saved and given eternal life. That is a sad thing when you cannot tell the unsaved in an audience that Jesus Christ DIED FOR THEIR and offers them, each and every one therefore, ETERNAL LIFE by faith! The “LIMITED ATONEMENT” people get all tongue-tied and are very careful in how they state the gospel message.
4. “LIMITED ATONEMENT” Is The Most Important ERROR In Calvinism! There is no more important ERROR in Calvinism than “LIMITED ATONEMENT.” Though differences in other points of the FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM might exist, this “L” or “LIMITED ATONEMENT” is the most important ERROR of the entire system!
5. The Challenges Against “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” Are Going To Continue To Increase Both In Number And In Severity. As we continue into the end of the 20th Century, I believe there will be an increase in both the number and in the severity of attacks against the biblical doctrine of “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” This intellectualism which considers a philosophy to be superior to the clear teachings of the Bible is a danger to one and all. The hermeneutics which forces all Bible verses into the “LOGICAL” mold of a philosophical system rather than to let the Bible DETERMINE the system first, is dangerous indeed!