The Death Christ Died
A Case for Unlimited Atonement
Chapter 5 – Problems With a Limited View of the Atonement
© by Robert P. Lightner, Th. D
[From the book, “The Death Christ Died, A Case for the Unlimited Atonement” originally published by Regular Baptist Press. This resource is now available once again from Kregel Publications; ISBN: 0825431557; (October 1998). Posted with permission from Dr. Lightner.]
The previous discussion has revealed some of the difficulties which must be faced in the acceptance of an unlimited view of the atonement. Solutions were suggested for these problems consistent with the whole of Scripture and its teaching of the atonement. It will now be well to seek answers for some of the problems which exist for the limited view. Some of the thoughts to be expressed here have been anticipated earlier. But it will be well not only to list the problems but also to see ramifications of these and to seek answers from the limited redemptionists themselves.
I. The Universal Passages
The answers of limited redemptionists to this problem have been presented earlier and will not be repeated here. However, a summary statement may be helpful at this point: a limitation is placed upon every use of such words as “all,” “whosoever” and “world” when used in salvation passages or passages related to the atonement. The limitation is a prescribed one-it is always to the elect that these words refer.
In the year 1823 a dialogue between one who believed in limited atonement and one who did not was published in the Utica Christian Repository. Aspasio represents the limited view and Paulinus the unlimited view. Aspasio has just enumerated the various usages for the word “world” in Scripture. Though the reply of Paulinus is lengthy, it will be quoted here since it answers so well the limited redemptionists in this regard.
“I am willing to grant, for the sake of giving your objection all possible force, that these words are used in the various senses you mention. Not, however, that I believe the word ‘world’ is ever used for God’s people as distinguished from others. What then, is the force of your objection? It is plainly this, that because these words are sometimes used in a limited sense, they may be so used in the texts I have quoted, and that you are at liberty to put this construction upon them if you please. But where will this principle lead us? Let us apply it to a few cases. The word God is sometimes used to signify a civil ruler; therefore, according to this principle of interpretation, it may be so understood in any given text. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ may mean, In the beginning a civil leader created the heavens and the earth. The word everlasting is sometimes used to signify a limited duration; therefore, it may be so understood in any given text; and, ‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment,’ may mean, These shall go away into a punishment of limited duration. And when the saints are promised everlasting life, it may mean a life of limited duration. And when Christ is styled the ‘Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,’ it may mean, the mighty civil ruler, the Father of a limited duration. The word salvation is sometimes used to signify deliverance from a temporary calamity therefore, it may be so understood in any given text, and there may be no salvation but deliverance from temporal calamities. The word resurrection is sometimes used to signify regeneration; therefore it may be so understood in any given text, and there may be not resurrection foretold in the Scripture but regeneration. The word baptism is sometimes used to signify sufferings; therefore, it may be so understood in any given text; and the command to the apostles to go out and baptize all nations may mean that they  should go and inflict sufferings upon all nations. A principle of interpretation which leads into such absurdities cannot be admitted as a correct rule of interpreting the Word of God. Under the operation of such a rule, the Bible would become, as some pretend it is, a book by which anything can be supported, and nothing proved. Every part of it would become ‘vague and ambiguous in its meaning.’ ” 1
Rather than allowing each individual context to determine the meaning of universal terms such as “all,” “world,” “whosoever,” “every man,” etc., strict Calvinists approach the Bible with a theological conviction which restricts every single occurrence of universal terms in a salvation context. No explanation is given why the same words are understood in a restricted sense in salvation passages and not in others. Why does not “world” mean “world of the elect” when it is used in relation to Satan’s ministry (John 12:31; 14:30)? Or in Christ’s high priestly pray (John 17), a prayer which some insist teaches limited atonement how is it that “world” no longer means “world of the elect”? Seemingly, the only explanation to be given for these arbitrary and inconsistent meanings is to be found in the strict Calvinist’s insistence that Christ did not die for all men. Being convinced of that, the limited redemptionist proceeds to defend his position by narrowing the meaning of words wherever the normal and literal meaning would contradict his premise.
II. Natural Benefits from the Cross
It seems somewhat contradictory to admit, as limited redemptionists do,”. . . that important natural benefits accrue the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that these benefits the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the reprobate also share,”2 and at the same time to deny that Christ’s substitution provided the basis of salvation for the nonelect. Why are some benefits extended to all men and others only to the elect?  Where in the Word of God are the benefits of Christ’s death divided into natural and spiritual in such a way that the non-elect involuntarily share in the one and are not allowed benefit voluntarily from the other? Hodge stated the limited view this way: “Christ did literally and absolutely die for men in the sense of securing for all a lengthened respite and many temporal benefits, moral as well as physical.”3
Attempting to clarify the question of the extent of the atonement, another limited redemptionist put it this way: “The question is not whether many benefits short of justification and salvation accrue to men from the death of Christ. The unbelieving and reprobate in this world enjoy numerous benefits that flow from the fact that Christ died and rose again.”4
Since the same death provided both temporal and spirit benefits, how can it be said that the nonelect share in the temporal but have no relationship whatsoever to the spiritual? Does not the definite relationship between common grace5 and the atonement link the nonelect to Christ’s death? The very admission of limited redemptionists that some benefits extend to the nonelect means they make the design of God twofold, applying some benefits directly to the elect and others indirectly to the nonelect. Thus, there is inconsistency in the limited view when some of Calvary’s achievements are made to extend to all men while others are restricted to the elect. Consistency would restrict all the benefits to the ones for whom Christ died; and since in the limited concept Christ died only for the elect, it is illogical to include the nonelect in any sense. If they are included at all, they must be included in it all since it was one sacrifice in which all the effects are grounded. Also, the Bible nowhere makes the distinction which strict Calvinists insist upon.
III. The Love of God
 The Bible pictures love as part of the very nature of God. He must not strive to love! He is love (1 John 4:8). Limited redemptionists must not only restrict and limit the universal phrases such as “all” and “world”; they must also do the same with the word “love” since it frequently occurs with those words (i.e.John3:16).
The problem is in no way lessened by assigning kinds of love to God (A certain kind t the nonelect and another kind to the elect) as Hodge does.6 Nor is it solved by saying “. . . Scripture does not teach. . . that God loves all men equally.” 7
Moderate Calvinists agree that the believer is the special object of God’s love. They understand the “much more” abundance of the Father’s care and concern for His own. This, however, is not the issue. The crux of the matter is, “Does God love all men or does He not?” God’s love for the entire world not only is the dear teaching of the New Testament (i.e., John 3:16) but is also the emphatic revelation of the Old Testament. When explaining the choice of the Israelites as a nation, in which there were many rebels, God said, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers . . .” (Deut. 7:7 8). Again, in a context dealing with idolatry and apostasy on the part of the nation, God reminded, “When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1). Surely the love of God here expressed to the entire nation can in no sense be restricted to the elect of the nation, for God was not addressing the believing Israelites only but the whole nation in both instances, and He stated clearly that He loved all of them.
Even though some limited redemptionists do not like to hear other Calvinists say, “. . . God is good and benevolent to  all the children of men but . . . He loves only the elect,”8 the fact still remains that this is the only conclusion one can come to who believes in limited atonement. If all the references t love in the redemption passages refer to the elect, obviously God did not have the same love for the nonelect. Kuiper admits this to be the teaching of Scripture very candidly: “. . . It tells us that His love for the elect differs qualitatively from His love for others.”9
An even more dogmatic observation comes from one determined to hold to limited atonement. “To tell the Christ-rejector that God loves him is to cauterise his conscience, as well as to afford him a sense of security in his sins. The fact is that the love of God is a truth for the saints only, and to present it to the enemies of God is to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.”10 Pink proceeds to defend this ridiculous statement by quoting dozens of verses of Scripture which speak of the wrath of God upon sinners. Of course God hates sin and will pour out His divine wrath upon sinners who reject His Son, and the unlimited redemptionist does not deny that. The fact is it is just such darkened, doomed, ungodly enemies and sinners upon whom God showers His grace (Rom. 5:8-10). The fact that God despises sin and will eternally punish sinner does not mean He does not love them. He demonstrated His eternal love at Calvary for Adam’s race on whom the wrath of God was abiding. Nothing could be farther from the truth than to say God does not love sinners unless it would be to say He loves only a certain kind of sinner-an elect one. The testimony of Scripture is so abundantly opposed to such a fanciful and absurd view that to cite passages to the contrary would border on the ridiculous.
This attempt to assign limits arbitrarily to the degree and extent of God’s love is without basis in Scripture. One wonders whether this might not also be done to the other divine attributes. Would limited redemptionists want to restrict any or all of the  other perfections of God to the elect only? If not, why not? There is not a thread of evidence which would lead one to confine any of the other attributes to just one segment of the human race. For example, who could ever conceive of God’s exercising His holiness, righteousness, justice, omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence in relation only to the elect? Why then may His complete and perfect love be so restricted? The fact is, it may not be restricted; at least it may not on scriptural grounds. To some strict Calvinists the fact that Scripture does not support their view does not seem to matter so long as Calvinists have held it in the past. Pink, for example, writes: “That God loves everybody is, we may say, quite a modern belief. The writings of the church-fathers, the Reformers or the Puritans will (we believe) be searched in vain for any such concept.” 11 This observation is very general and may or may not be true, but it is not patent to the issue.
An attribute of God is not merely a characteristic of God which simply is attached to His person. God’s attributes-all of them-are perfections of His being. They are part of His very nature. Therefore, those who would thus confine the love of God to the elect are guilty not only of arbitrarily restricting God s love, but also of placing limitations upon the very nature of God. Just because a man cannot fathom how God could love His enemies and those whom He knew would never receive His Son is no reason for saying God’s love is a truth for saints only. If God must wait until men are saints before He can love them, nobody would be loved by God until he is saved simply because nobody is a saint until that time.
Viewing the attempt of limited redemptionists from these scriptural perspectives makes their arguments appear very absurd and farfetched. The uniform testimony of Scripture is diametrically opposed to such restrictions of the love of our sovereign God. According to the Bible, Christ came to reveal the Father in all of His fulness to the entire world. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). Christ is here  seen as the great and final Revealer of the Father to men The Son exposed the Father to the world. And He made Him known fully and to the entire world, not just to the elect. He was the “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), the Revealer of God to all men (John 1:18) and the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
It seems that limited redemptionists are determined, at any cost, to force Scripture into their mold. This is done by them with regard to the love of God by taking for granted that which they seek to prove. They begin by arguing that it was a special love to the elect which induced Christ to die. But what of this premise? Granted that the death of Christ was a revelation and demonstration of the greatest love ever shown; yet, does this prove it was only for the elect?
IV. The Universal Offer of the Gospel
William Cunningham labels the scriptural command to preach the gospel to all “by far the most important and plausible of the scriptural arguments in support . . .”12 of unlimited atonement. He admits that some Calvinists such as John Gill denied that the Scriptures taught a universal offer of the gospel. For our part, Gill and others, such as some of the English Baptists, carried the limited atonement view to its logical conclusion. If Christ died only for the elect, then why take that message to the nonelect? An even more sobering question would be, “Why does God invite all men if Christ did not provide for all?” It is His invitation which is universal and man merely takes it to men.
Dr. James Richards, a Calvinist who rejected limited atonement, stated the problem clearly: “We argue it from the indefinite tender of salvation made to all men where the Gospel comes. To us, no maxim appears more certain than that a salvation offered implies a salvation provided; for God will not  tantalize his creatures by tendering them with that which is not in his hand to bestow.” 13
Limited redemptionists recognize this inconsistency in their view. Thomas J. Crawford, who is considered an outstanding adherent to the limited view and who is thought to have produced one of the greatest works in its defense, said: “That there great difficulty in the way of harmonizing the general invitations of the Gospel on the one hand with the special reference of the atonement to those who shall eventually be partakers of its benefits on the other hand-it would be altogether fruitless to disguise.”14
Crawford attempts to solve the problem by saying that these two things-limited redemption and the universal offer of the Gospel-are not within man’s ability to reconcile. This he says true because the one (he does not say which one) exceeds the power of our faculties to understand it. He then proceeds to offer some suggestions to avert the difficulty. First, there is some benefit in the cross for all and the gospel invitation conveys nothing more than this. Second, the same Scripture which invites all to salvation also has a special reference to the elect. Third, the command of God to preach the universal gospel is an expression of His desire and delight but is not declarative of His fixed purpose and determination. Fourth, the limited view is in no more difficulty than the Arminian view since some are lost to whom the message is preached.15
Hodge also admits the problem. “There is unquestionably difficulty in the neighborhood, but it will require some discrimination to determine exactly the point upon which the difficulty presses.” 16 His attempt fails to satisfy the demands of Scripture, however. He acknowledges that even though it could be demonstrated that the atonement was universal, our right to offer it to all does not rest upon that but upon the Great Commission. Hodge, too, finds refuge in the sovereignty of God  for his answer. He insists that it is man’s duty to repent and believe whether he can, or will, or not. Hodge’s final attempt to reconcile the problem is his observation that those who believe in election and who reject limited atonement have the same problem as those who believe in limited atonement.17
This final attempt of Hodge to alleviate the limited redemptionist’s difficulty by assigning the same difficulty to unlimited redemptionists is not valid. First, it is not valid as an answer to the problem because it is merely an attempt to avoid the contradiction by finding others with a similar problem. It sounds like the “misery-loves-company” idea. Second, it is not valid since the unlimited redemptionist simply does not have the problem Hodge assigns to him. The proclamation of the universal message of the gospel which includes an unlimited view of the atonement is entirely separate from God’s electing purposes. Election is God’s business, and we are not told to preach election unto all men; we are told to preach Christ and Him crucified to everyone. Therefore, the moderate Calvinist can sincerely believe in sovereign election, obey the divine injunction, and yet preach that Christ died for all men without any inconsistency whatsoever either in his own mind or in his message. The command to preach the gospel to all men is always associated with Christ’s death for all and not with God’s election of some .
Kuiper follows suit in acknowledging the seriousness of this problem with limited redemption: ”It cannot be denied that the Calvinist here faces a paradox. Significantly, he has no interest in denying the paradox, if only the term paradox be given its proper content.”18 Kuiper also resorts to the sovereignty of God and admits that since both the particular design of the atonement and the universal offer of the gospel are taught in Scripture, all man can do is find refuge in Romans 11:33. The final appeal which Kuiper makes centers in the content of the gospel or good news which we are to proclaim. Says Kuiper, we must tell men that Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6), that God makes a bona fide offer to men and that He will not  refuse any who come to Him.19 In other words, according to this point of view, the gospel is not to be personalized but presented in more general terms. And this is precisely the way it must be in the strict Calvinistic approach. The only ones who can ever be really sure that Christ died for them are the believers. This, of course, runs counter to the New Testament emphasis upon the command to take the gospel, which has at its very heart death of Christ, to all men; and it also removes the personal element which is necessary for salvation. Where is there room for any stress upon the individual’s lost condition and hope of salvation in Christ if one is never sure that Christ died for each and every person? Beyond dispute, the Bible makes the responsibility to carry the message of the gospel and to receive an individual matter.
It must be admitted that these are honest efforts to solve very perplexing problem faced by the limited redemption view. It must also be acknowledged that the attempts have not in any lessened the difficulty. The one who believes in sovereign election and an unlimited atonement has no problem as a believer and as a proclaimer of the universal and sovereign offer of God’s saving grace. Neither does he have a problem in personalizing the need of each man to accept that grace. He knows the nonelect will not be saved, and he knows that the elect will in God’s time. The difficulty which the limited redemptionist faces is removed for the one who believes in unlimited redemption because he is free to announce that Christ actually did die for all men, quite to the contrary if one knows that some to whom he speaks are without any provision whatsoever and have no part in the sufficiency of Christ’s death. “. . . It is no longer a question in his mind of whether they will accept or reject; it becomes rather a question of truthfulness in the declaration f the message.”20
W. Lindsay Alexander stated the issue clearly regarding the point under discussion; “On this supposition the general invitations and promises of the gospel are without an adequate basis,  and seem like a mere mockery, an offer, in short, of what has not been provided. It will not do to say, in reply to this, that a these invitations are actually given we are entitled on the authority of God’s word to urge them and justified in accepting them; for this is mere evasion.”21
A question might be introduced at this point. “Why is the universal gospel message incumbent upon the children of God? According to 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, it is not because of election or even because of a supposed covenant of redemption but solely because of the universal reconciliation which God wrought in Christ at the cross. Never is the ambassador of Christ told to inform people of their election in Christ or lack of it. Rather he is told to announce the good news that Christ died, was buried and arose again for sinners.
The discussion of this inconsistency in the limited view may best be concluded with Chafer’s piercing remark: “To say, at one time, that Christ did not die for the nonelect and, at another time, that His death is the ground on which salvation is offered to all men, is perilously near contradiction.”22
V. The Covenant of Grace
Berkhof, a limited redemptionist and a covenant theologian, defines the covenant of grace as “. . . that gracious agreement between the offended God and the offending but elect sinner, in which God promises salvation through faith in Christ, and the sinner accepts this believingly, promising a life of faith and obedience.”23 Reformed theologians argue for at least two covenants – the one described above and also a covenant of works which existed between God and Adam, promising him life for obedience and death for disobedience, which, incidentally, would result in salvation by works. The covenant of grace was necessitated because of the failure of the covenant of works. Some other reformed theologians argue for still another covenant which they designate as the covenant of redemption This was made,  they say, between the Father and the Son in eternity past and deals with the relation of each to the plan of redemption. The covenant of redemption becomes the foundation of the covenant of grace for those who accept it.
For our present purposes we are concerned only with the covenant of grace and the relation of limited redemption to it. It is no secret that among those who adhere to reformed and covenant theology (these are almost without exception limited redemptionists) the unifying purpose of Scripture is the salvation of the elect; and this is based upon the covenant of grace, which covenant God is supposedly to have made with the guaranteeing their salvation.24 Thus one can easily see why covenant theologians are usually adherents of limited redemption. They would be very inconsistent in their overall theology viewpoint if they were not. Contrariwise, it seems equally as inconsistent for one who does not have the covenant of grace as the unifying purpose of Scripture, but adheres to a dispensational scheme of theology, to believe in limited atonement.
That the covenant of grace is basic to the limited view can be easily demonstrated. John Owen’s first two arguments against the universality of the atonement are based on his understanding of the covenant. Of this covenant and its relation to the atonement he says: “Neither can any effects thereof be extended beyond the compass of this covenant; but now this covenant was not made universally with all, but particularly only with some, and therefore those alone were intended in the benefits of the death of Christ.” 25 The one who subscribes to this covenant of grace and makes it the modus operandi of all God’s work will naturally believe in the limited atonement by directing all of God’s work on the cross to the elect with whom He made the covenant and by which He brings it to fulfillment.
Because he accepted the covenant of redemption as essentially equivalent to the covenant of grace, A. A. Hodge speaks thus  of its relation to limited redemption: “Christ died in execution of the terms of an eternal Covenant of Redemption formed between the Father and the Son…. If he died in pursuance of a mutual understanding between himself and the Father, if he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, and if every one that the Father gave him in that covenant shall be saved, then surely those who are not saved are not those for whom he died.”26
Hear the words of another limited redemptionist as he relates the covenant idea to limited atonement: “The particularistic view of the design of the atonement harmonizes perfectly with the Scriptural teaching of the covenant of redemption. From eternity the persons of the Holy Trinity planned the salvation of a multitude whom no man can number. An essential element in that plan was the giving by the Father to the Son of all who ultimately would be saved.”27
Crawford is equally as clear in his discussion: ”. . . The Son of God received a certain charge or commission from His Father which He solemnly engaged and undertook to execute; and further, that the end contemplated in this arrangement was not merely the announcement of spiritual blessings but the attainment of them, in behalf of all such as should eventually believe in Christ. 28
John Gill also associates the covenant-of-grace idea with limited atonement and does so to such a degree that he virtually rules out total depravity. Speaking of the ones involved in the covenant and thus the ones for whom Christ is said to have died he said, “The objects of redemption are the sons of God…. Now these sons, or children of God, are a peculiar number of men. They are those who are given to Christ by God, for Him to redeem. They are the seed promised to Him in the covenant, that He should see and enjoy, and to whom He stands in the relation of the everlasting Father. These are those on whose account He became incarnate, took ‘part of the same flesh and blood.’ And these are the many sons whom He brings  to glory (Heb. 2:10, 13, 14). Now these are not all men (that is, every man), they are not ‘the children of the flesh’ or such as are never born again for they are not the children of God.”29
If this be the case, how is it that elect people can be born in sin? Since the “sons of God” are the people of the covenant whom Christ died, He must have died for sons, not for sins. Furthermore, why did He need to die if the members of covenant were already His sons?
Without producing any further evidence for this necessary relation between the covenant of grace and limited atonement, it will be concluded that such a vital link does exist. The covenant of grace is not merely an auxiliary of limited atonement; is an integral part of it. Therefore, in reply to our original inquiry, we must answer that the limited view of the atonement based squarely on the idea of the covenant of grace and has no real theological basis without it.
The question is, “How scriptural is this covenant-of-grace idea?” It must be admitted immediately that none of the covenants of the covenant system are stated as such in Scripture. While this in itself does not make them antibiblical, it ought to keep one cautious about developing an entire system of theology upon them as covenant theology does.
When one rejects the covenant-of-grace idea as it is presented by covenant theologians, it does not follow that he questions whether or not God will save the elect. There can be no doubt in this regard. God will bring His purposes to fruition. The question is, “Did the Father and the Son make in eternity past such a covenant with each other and with the elect which limited the redemptive work of Christ to the elect only?”
Covenant theologians labor long and hard to gather scriptural support for such a covenant. The simple fact is there is no Scripture which states the covenant of grace concisely. Evidence is usually presented from Genesis 3:15 30 or from the idea that God always acts on a plan or from passages such as  Isaiah 53:6, 7; John 10:15, 17; Luke 22:29.31 These passages simply do not state the covenant of grace or its supposed conditions. The entire covenant system is a deduction and not an induction from Scripture. Even if such and agreement between God and the elect did exist, whether explicitly stated in Scripture or not, it would not follow that this would become the one and only purpose of God in Christ. God must be allowed to exercise His sovereignty in many ways to bring glory to Himself. Covenant theology tends to put God in a soteriological straight-jacket by restricting Him to the redemptive program as the only and all inclusive means of bringing glory to Himself. In so doing, there is a rejection of the varying rules of life and economies under which man lived and God progressively revealed Himself and His will.
It is not our intention here to engage in an extended refutation of covenant theology. Suffice it to say that the most serious weakness of the system is the way in which the Biblical and unconditional covenants (i.e., Abrahamic, Gen. 12; Palestinian, Deut. 28-30; Davidic, 2 Sam. 7; New, Jer. 31-33) are subjected to the covenant of grace and thus stripped of their literalness and real significance for the people with whom they were made.32
The system of covenant theology is not to be found in the historic creeds of the church, nor was it proclaimed until after the Reformation. The Scriptures are simply forced into the covenant  mold by its adherents. If the idea that God made a covenant before the foundations of the world promising to send His Son die for the elect only is not clearly taught in Scripture, then it is altogether possible that its necessary concomitant-limited atonement-is not taught there either.
VI. Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience
Can it be said that Christ died only for the elect and at the same time that He vicariously atoned for sin in His life and in His death? If this be true, and most limited redemptionists say it is, a serious difficulty arises.
By active obedience is meant those sufferings which pertain to Christ’s ministry while on the cross. Murray explains it this way: “The real use and purpose of the formula is to emphasize the two distinct aspects our Lord’s vicarious obedience…. Christ’s obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness [italics mine].”33 Hodge’s explanation of the active obedience or life sufferings of Christ will help us. “He lived his whole life, from his birth to his death, as our representative, obeying and suffering in our stead and for our sakes; and during this whole course all his suffering was obedience and all his obedience was suffering.”34
Whether or not Christ’s life sufferings were atoning in the sense that His death sufferings were is highly debatable if not antiscriptural. Since a brief refutation of the substitutionary nature of Christ’s life was presented earlier, our purpose here will be to present what seems to be an obvious contradiction as this relates to the atonement. If Christ’s ministry prior to the cross is placed on the same level as His ministry on the cross, there is an evident discrepancy. Surely no one would deny that during His life the Savior ministered to more than the elect. The Scripture indicates that He ministered to many who  never believed on Him. If He was man’s representative, obeying and suffering in our stead all through His life, how and in what sense can this aspect of His ministry be said to be limited? And if it be argued that His life sufferings are to be kept distinct from His death sufferings, then what happens to the entire argument for the validity of an active and a passive obedience, and on what basis is such a distinction made? Berkhof, an able exponent of the covenant system and of the vicarious nature of Christ’s life, stated the relationship between the active and passive obedience very clearly: “It is customary to distinguish between the active and passive obedience of Christ. But in discriminating between the two, it should be distinctly understood that they cannot be separated. The two accompany each other at every point in the Saviour’s life. There is a constant interpretation of the two…. Christ’s active and passive obedience should be regarded as complementary parts of an organic whole [italics mine].”35
If the active and passive aspects of Christ’s obedience ca not be separated, if they are complementary parts of a whole and if they are alike vicarious in nature, there seems to be serious discrepancy and inconsistency with limited atonement. The problem is this, “How is it possible to have a Christ Who lived a substitutionary life, which obviously was not confined or limited to the elect, and at the same time have a Christ whose substitutionary death was only for the elect?” Is it not contradictory to believe in the unlimited vicarious nature of Christ’s life and at the same time believe in the limited vicarious nature of His death, since His life and death sufferings “cannot be separated”?
VII. The Necessity of Faith for Salvation
This is the most serious problem with the limited view. Even though those who accept the limited view pay lip service to the need for faith, the fact remains that if their view of the design of the atonement is true, faith is meaningless and without purpose. Owen is a good example of one who acknowledges the  necessity of faith and yet in the final analysis removes it as a real condition of salvation. “If the fruits of the death of Christ to be communicated unto us upon a condition, and that condition to be among those fruits, and be itself to be absolutely communicated upon no condition, then all the fruits of the death Christ are as absolutely procured for them for whom he died as if no condition had been prescribed; for these things come all to one…. Faith, which is this condition, is itself procured the death of Christ for them for whom he died, to be freely bestowed on them, without the prescription of any such condition as on whose fulfilling the collation of it should depend.”36 This is a rather involved statement which in essence declares at Christ procured the condition of faith for the elect, thus moving every condition for salvation from them. One would wish for scriptural support for such an observation. The truth the matter is there simply is no scriptural support for the idea that Christ purchased faith for the elect, thus removing the condition of salvation for them. The Bible insists everywhere that before ever man’s sin is put away he must believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God: “. . . And that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20: 31). If faith does not remain as a condition of salvation for men, then words have lost all their meaning.
Questions regarding the limited view may be stated in various ways. If the cross applies its own benefits and is God’s only saving instrumentality, what place does faith have? When are man’s sins forgiven-at the cross, thus before multitudes of men are ever born, or when man believes and thus appropriates what Christ has done? Paul said forgiveness comes to the individual when he believes; “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38,39). This is the universal testimony of Scripture. There is no exception; the cross is never said to apply its own benefits.  Does not the strict limited view of the atonement also weaken the doctrine of total depravity? If Christ’s death secured the salvation of the elect and if it saves and applies its own benefit how can the elect be said to be born totally depraved or without any merit before God? In the limited view all the elect have a the merit of the Savior by virtue of His death alone. “It is a plenteous redemption, full and complete. Men are not merely brought into a state where they can be saved, but they al actually saved by it. Through it, God is not merely made reconcilable to them, but the redeemed are actually reconciled to God. Salvation is not conditionally obtained for them, but absolutely.”37 There seems to be a contradiction among the claims as to what saves and when that salvation is a reality and the Apostle Peter’s testimony: “To him give all the prophet witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
Nothing is clearer in Scripture than that until men believe they are lost in the broadest sense of that term. The elect are just as lost as the nonelect, until they believe. In Ephesians 2:3, they are said to be “. . . by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Thus, the work of Christ even for the elect is provisional and dependent upon their acceptance of it by faith. Granted, this faith which the elect must exercise is not a work or something which improves the work of Christ; yet they must do the believing, and until they do, and unless they do, they are lost.
Men in their unregenerate state are not distinguished in the Bible. The elect and the nonelect are both viewed as lost an in need of Christ. But those who restrict the death of Christ to the elect are forced to make just such a distinction between lost sinners who are elect and lost sinners who are not elect.
The basis for the limited view that Christ’s death saves is found in those passages which speak of His work as complete The unlimited redemptionists in no way deny these. We cannot emphasize too strongly the fact of Scripture that Christ’s death completely satisfied the righteous demands of God and was a  complete substitution. What the limited redemptionist fails to do is take into consideration that whole host of other passages which show the necessity of individual appropriation of that finished work by faith.
Crawford’s statements in this connection will put the limited view clearly before us. Speaking of the death of Christ he said: – “For while it provides a suitable and sufficient remedy for all evils and miseries of our sinful state, it also obtains that grace of the Holy Spirit by which this remedy is effectually applied to those who are made partakers of its benefits. Thus, does it not only put them in a saveable position or place salvation, as it were, within their reach but it secures salvation for them, and actually ‘saves them to the uttermost.‘ “38
The point of conflict in the limited view becomes apparent when one observes what this same writer in the same work has to say about the relation of faith to salvation. After quoting many of the choice passages which show the absolute necessity of faith for the appropriation of Calvary’s accomplishments, he says -:”. . . Invitations must be complied with, promises must be relied on, and proffered blessings must be received by us, in order that we may be personally benefited by them…. Food will not nourish us unless we partake of it; a remedy will not cure unless we consent to have it applied; and no more will Christ, with all His fulness of spiritual blessings, be to us personally of real advantage, unless we receive and rest upon Him for salvvation.”30 With equal force the same writer again declares: “Faith in Christ is expressly declared in Scripture to be the means by which we become partakers of His purchased blessings.” 40
This insistence upon the fact that the cross saves and at the same time upon the necessity of faith by limited redemptionists is not some isolated view; it is shared by many.
Smeaton said of the nature of the atonement: “. . . The atonement, as a fact in history, is as replete with saving results  and consequences, as the fall of man….”41 Concerning the relation of faith to this he said, “. . . It is the means by which redemption is appropriated…. Without it there is no relation to Jesus, and the atonement would be offered in vain.”42
Accepting these two facts-the cross saves and the necessity of faith-changes the design of the atonement from an actual one which applies its own benefits to a provisional one requiring faith for the appropriation of its results. There seems to be a glaring conflict in saying on the one hand that the death o Christ “secures” and “guarantees” the salvation of the elect and that it saves them and, on the other hand, that faith is necessary to apply the benefits. The question is, “Was the redemptive work of Christ actual apart from other considerations or was it potential, requiring faith to apply its benefits?” This question concerns the divine design of the atonement which we discussed earlier. It does not seem that limited redemptionists can have it both ways. Either the atonement was provisional or it was not.
We have been arguing for the provisional nature of the atonement and thus against the idea that the cross applies its own benefits and that it in itself “saves unto the uttermost.” The point of conflict boils down to this: If the divine design of the atonement is what limited redemptionists say it is, then how can it be at the same time provisional and “offered in vain” if men do not believe it? For the limited redemptionists to say it is provisional militates against their dogmatic assertions regarding its design or nature and places them in the position of the modified Calvinists or unlimited redemptionists who have always argued for its provisional nature and potential power toward the sinner.
The difficulty is not lessened, as the limited redemptionist supposes, by saying that faith and the work of the Holy Spirit were included in the accomplishments of the cross. The modified Calvinist also rejects the idea that faith comes apart from the Spirit’s work or that it adds one iota to the completed and vicarious  sacrifice of Christ. He does stand on Biblical ground, however, when he insists on the necessity of the exercise of that faith in order to appropriate the provisional work of Calvary. The point at issue is not related to the absolute finality of the sacrifice of Christ nor to the totality of its scope. The crux of the matter concerns the problem of whether or not the sacrifice was provisional in nature. The simple fact of the admission of the necessity of faith-regardless of the source of that faith makes the atonement provisional and potential and not immediate and actual in the application of its benefits. The subject of the source and nature of the faith which man places in Christ is a matter not directly related to the discussion at hand.
This whole problem is complicated even more for the limited redemptionist when he insists, as Owen does, that the sin of unbelief has no particular significance. In a quotation which we used earlier 43 Owen said regarding unbelief: “. . . Is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder more than their other sins for which he died, from partaking of the fruit of his death?”44
This logic militates against two of the most basic scriptural principles. First, it removes the necessity for belief and all the importance from belief. Second, it postulates the absurd idea that unbelief on the part of the unsaved is not a sin for which he should be punished since Christ died for it.
If the sin of unbelief is to be viewed as all other sins and to be included as one for which Christ removed all penalty, there does not seem to be any reason for faith. Believing that Christ’s death paid for the sin of the rejection of His person and work means that for whomever He died there is salvation ether they believe or not. Since in the strict Calvinistic scheme of things it is not a sin to disbelieve, it is legitimate to ask why God demands faith and repentance of all men (Acts 17:30). Following this line of reasoning, faith is altogether unnecessary, totally irrelevant and without any real purpose; even if the elect do not believe, they will still be saved since Christ died for  their unbelief. Nothing could be more contrary to the Scriptures than that.
To sum up the limited view regarding the relation of faith to salvation, it may be said that it holds men are lost and destined to spend eternity apart from God because they were born in sin, were not elect, hence not included in Christ’s death. The Bible, on the other hand, declares that men are lost because of their refusal to receive God’s provision for their sin. The issue is no longer a question of sin alone but the question of man’s relationship to the Son of God. In the limited view, the sin of unbelief cannot be charged to the nonelect, for no salvation and no Savior have been provided for them. Thus, in the limited view, the nonelect are not guilty of their rejection of Christ, for they have no Christ to reject; whereas in the unlimited and, we believe, Biblical view men are guilty before God and will be condemned on the basis of their rejection of Christ.
VIII. The Convicting Work of the Holy Spirit
Believing in limited redemption seems not only to remove the importance, if not the necessity, of faith but also to raise a question as to the necessity and possibility of any work of the Holy Spirit for the nonelect.
By necessity, if Christ died only for the elect, then the work of the Holy Spirit which must find its origin and basis in that death must also be confined to the elect. This means that the Holy Spirit has never had a ministry to the nonelect in the world either before or since Christ’s death. The Holy Spirit’s work could not reach out beyond the elect if the death of Christ did not have this universal scope since the Spirit’s ministry was procured in and through the cross. In other words, how could a part of the work of Christ on the cross be universal if the whole of it was not? The difficulty in this connection with the limited view is much the same as was discovered in the attempt. to apply “natural” benefits from the cross to the nonelect while restricting the “spiritual” benefits to the elect.
The problem really centers in the convicting work of the Holy Spirit since this is His principal ministry toward the unsaved.  How can the Spirit be said to have a ministry toward the entire world in showing all men their need of Christ if the death of Christ did not reach to the entire world? Furthermore, what need is there for the convicting work of the Spirit toward the elect if the cross applies its own benefits? It even seems unnecessary for the Spirit to regenerate the elect at a point in time if the death of Christ has already done it. On the one hand, why would the Spirit convict the elect of the sin of rejecting Christ if Christ’s death paid for their sin of unbelief? On the other hand, how could the Spirit convict the nonelect if they have no relationship and therefore no responsibility to Christ’s death?
The interpretation to which limited redemptionists place upon John 16:8-11 is very revealing of the dilemma they face in this regard. The passage delineates the threefold work of the Holy Spirit in the world and reads as follows: “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
A normal reading of this passage leads one to understand that Christ was here informing the disciples of a threefold ministry of the Holy Spirit to the entire world. This is precisely how John Calvin understood the passage. “Under the term world are, I think, included not only those who would be truly converted to Christ, but hypocrites and reprobates.”45
Not all of Calvin’s espoused followers share his view of this passage, though. For example, Pink says: But, it may be said, is not the present mission of the Holy Spirit to ‘convict the world of sin’? And we answer, It is not. The mission of the Spirit is threefold: to glorify Christ, to vivify the elect, to edify the saints. John 16:8-11 does not describe the ‘mission’ of the Spirit, but sets forth the significance of His presence here in the world. It treats not of His subjective works in sinners, showing them their need of Christ, by searching their consciences and  striking terror to their hearts; what we have there is entirely objective.”40
Again, the same writer emphasizes his point: “We repeat John 16:8-11 makes no reference to the mission of the Spirit of God in the world, for during this dispensation. the Spirit has no mission and ministry worldward….”47
Another explains the word world used here as referring to the Jews of that day who rejected Christ. “The world here spoken of as thus convinced, reproved, and condemned of the Spirit primarily refers to the Jews, who in the times of this outpouring of the Spirit would be convinced of their deep an aggravated sin in rejecting Jesus Christ.”48 Having thus limited the ministry of the Spirit to the world of the Jews, Owen has second thoughts and admits, “But while this is primarily spoken of the Jews, it is in the highest degree true of all who have heard the name of Christ. The office of the Spirit is to convince them of sin in refusing to believe in an offered Redeemer, and to reprove and condemn them for this state of apathy and unbelief.”49
Serious questions are raised when a limited redemptionist concedes that the Spirit’s convicting ministry is upon all who have heard the name of Christ. This of course does not make the ministry completely worldwide but at least it is sure to include at least some for whom Christ did not die. How is this possible when the Spirit’s work spoken of in this context by our Lord was based squarely upon His death? This is true not only in the general context of the Upper Room Discourse but it is also true in the immediate context as well. The three indictments which the Spirit is said to level against the world are all based for their very validity upon the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Buswell. who believes in limited atonement, acknowledges at it is the death of Christ which “. . . furnishes the ethical  and logical ground for common grace….50 He then goes on to say, “In my opinion the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the world in general is a work upon the hearts of all men prior to either faith or regeneration, a work wherein not only is the Gospel freely offered to all, but all are brought to a point of enablement to such a degree that, if having been convicted, they reject the grace of God thus offered to them, they are subject to the eternal wrath and curse of God. . . “51
It is difficult to conceive of a God Who would through the death of His Son not only make a universal offer of salvation to all men but who would also through the Holy Spirit bring all men to see their need of Christ if His Son did not in the first place provide a redemption for all.
The question therefore is, ”Since the Spirit’s work was based on Christ s work, on what basis could the Holy Spirit bring conviction to men who were beyond the scope of Christ’s death? Another troublesome question is presented in this regard. Owen and other limited redemptionists admit that the sin of which Holy Spirit is here said to convince or give demonstrable proof of is the sin of unbelief in Christ.52 Does it not appear strange that the Holy Spirit would bring such conviction to those who could not reject Christ since, if the limited point of view be allowed, He did not do anything for them which they could reject. No one can reject something which was never even intended for him nor extended to him in the first place.
Now concerning the extent of this promised convicting ministry of the Spirit, there can be no doubt but that it is worldwide. This is true for a number of reasons beyond the fact that the word cosmos, “world,” is used by the Lord.
Christ was dealing with discouraged and defeated disciples because of the prospect of His imminent death. He had just commissioned them to be witnesses after His departure, in a world that would be hostile and antagonistic to them and the One they were to preach (John 15:18-25). It was because of their own  inadequacies and the world’s antagonism that the Savior promised them the Spirit’s aid. They were not going to be left alone as orphans; the Holy Spirit would be their Comforter (John 1@:26-16:6). Since they were to bear testimony to all men and not just the elect, and since they would be enabled to do this by the Holy Spirit, His ministry would then also be to all men.
The threefold indictment of the Spirit upon the world does not mean the world would thus receive the Christ of whom the Spirit was bearing testimony. That is not implied in the word “convince.” What is involved, though, is rebuke which brings conviction or acknowledgment of what has been done. The Spirit of God had done this work before (Gen. 6:3), but now after the Son’s departure He was to perform a more intensive work because of the Savior’s absence. He was to give demonstrable proof to all men of the facts about sin because they do not believe, about righteousness because the only righteous One has been crucified and raised from the dead, and about judgment because the prince of the world was judged, thus assuring the future judgment of all his followers.
The present ministry of the Spirit in the world is the answer of the Lord’s petition to the Father: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me …. that the world may know that thou has sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me [italics mine]” (John 17:20-23). In accordance with the Savior’s request, it is the third person of the Godhead who uses the believer’s dedicated life and the Word of God to bring the world to an acknowledgment that the Son was sent by the Father Who loved them. Of course, they do not all believe, but they are all without excuse.
Another difficulty in the limited redemption concept becomes apparent in this connection. The necessity for this universal convicting ministry of the Spirit in common grace lies in the spiritual blindness which Satan brings upon men. That blindness which is part of man’s total inability is not true only  of the elect. It is true of all men, and therefore the Spirit’s ministry must be coextensive with Satan’s imposed blindness. Then, too, one wonders about the nature of this spiritual blindness. Paul declared, “. . . The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). If Christ did not die for the nonelect, of what are they blinded? It cannot be that they are blinded of Christ’s death for them and their need for faith if Christ never died for them. They cannot be blinded in their unbelief because they have nothing to believe or to disbelieve since they have no relationship to Christ’s death!
The difficulty of explaining such a passage is removed when it is acknowledged that spiritual darkness has come upon all men, making it impossible for them to understand or believe that Christ died for them. The Holy Spirit works through various means to bring blinded sinners to the realization of their need and Christ’s provision. This He does for all men even though many resist and refuse His work (Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:24-26; Isa. 63:10; Acts 7:51).
IX. Adam and Christ
According to Romans 5:12, it was by one man, and all men in him, that sin and death entered the world: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” It seems clear from this text that Adam was not only the federal head of the entire human race but that he was also the natural head; and thus when he committed the sin, the whole race being represented by him and being seminally in him, committed the sin also. Therefore Paul could say, “for all have sinned,” meaning by it that all sinned at a point in time in the past, namely, when Adam sinned.
Further evidence for the actual participation of all mankind in the sin, and therefore the universal diffusion of the result of that sin, follows in Romans 5:13, 14: “(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over  them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” Physical death reigned as a tyrant over men from Adam to Moses even though law had not yet been codified in that period and even though men did not reenact the same sin that Adam had committed. Since death did not exist before Adam’s transgression but was a result and punishment for his sin, and yet since men died after Adam who had not sinned in exactly the same way, it can only follow that those who thus died did so because the were participants in Adam’s sin and therefore recipients of his subsequent punishment.
There need be no doubt about the fact that Adam was a type of Christ since he is called “the figure of him that was to come” (Rom. 5:14). Adam was such a figure or type because, as he became through his one act of disobedience the cause of death to his descendants, so Christ became through His one act of obedience the dispenser of righteousness and the cause of eternal life to as many as receive Him in faith (Rom. 5:17).
While the apostle’s chief concern in Romans 5:12-19 is to show how a single act of one affects many, he nevertheless reveals a likeness as well as several contrasts between Adam and Christ. “The likeness consists in this: one man is the source of sin, death, condemnation – one man the source of righteousness and life. Again, one act is the evil source – one act the good source.” 53
The first difference between the first and last Adam is to be found in the phrase, “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift” (Rom. 5:15). Adam’s “offense” brought sin and death to himself as well as to the entire human race of which he was the natural and representative head. In direct contrast, Christ’s “free gift,” or more literally “gracious gift,” was not for Himself at all but exclusively for others.
There is another difference indicated in the same verse in the words “much more.” The thought is that Christ’s one act is more certain of having its effect upon “the many” than  Adam’s one act had upon the same group. Surely there is a greater abundance of grace and life in Christ than there was death in Adam; yet Paul does not seem to be emphasizing either a contrast of quality between life and death or a contrast quantity – a greater amount of life than of death. It is rather a higher degree of certainty which the apostle wishes to stress. Hodge has correctly said the words “much more” do “. . . not express a higher degree of efficacy, but of evidence of certainty: . If one thing has happened, much more certainly may the other be relied upon.’ “54 Another Greek exegete adds a fitting word: “The apostle is not at all concerned to demonstrate that there is more grace in Christ than there was death in Adam. What he wishes to prove is that if a slight cause could bring sentence of death on all mankind, this same mankind will experience in its entirety the salutary effect of a much more powerful cause.”55
The Romans 5 passage relates to the extent of the atonement, especially in verses 15-19. Though the definite article does not appear in the English translation, it is present in the Greek text before the word “many” in both instances in verse 15. Therefore, it should read “the many” thus referring to the same group the case of Adam and Christ.
By this phrase, ‘”the many,” Paul is speaking of the entire human race just as much as if he had said “all.” The definite article which appears before the word “many” proves this. No doubt the reason for his choice of “the many” instead of “all” was to provide a better contrast to the “one” from which the sin went forth and the “one” from which the grace went forth. The term “all” would be more opposed to the word “some” than it would to “one.”
Needless to say, this passage creates serious problems for the one believing in limited atonement. Paul’s emphasis is clearly that to the totality of the race was grace extended through one man, Jesus Christ. Nothing could be more contradictory to the limited view than that.
 Godet, a Greek exegete and theologian, put it this way: “What the apostle here compares is not as some have thought, the abundance of the effects, but rather the degree of extension belonging to the two works; for the emphasis is on the term the many, of the two sides of the parallel; and this degree of extension he measures very logically according to the degree of abundance in the factors – a degree indicated on the one side by the subordinate clause of the first proposition; through the offence of one, on the other by the subject of the second; the grace of God, and the gift through this grace of one man. From the contrast between these factors it is easy to arrive at this conclusion. If from the first factor, so insignificant in a way – the offence of one!-there could go forth an action which spread over the whole multitude of mankind, will not the conclusion hold a fortiori that from the two factors acting on the opposite side, so powerful and rich as they are, there must result an action, the extension of which shall not be less than that of the first factor, and shall consequently also reach the whole of that multitude.”56
If “the many” associated with Adam are “the many” unto whom Christ’s grace abounded, does this not mean the whole human race will be saved? The answer is an emphatic no! The apostle argues strongly here for the necessity of faith on the part of each of “the many” to whom Christ’s grace abounds in order that the grace may be appropriated.
He speaks first of all in verse 15 of the last Adam’s work as a grace-gift, which surely implies that it must be received individually. Then, in verse 16 when he says, “. . . The free gift is of many offences unto justification,” he does not use the definite article with “many” as he did twice in verse 15.
“The accepters are not the totality of men condemned die; Paul does not even say that they are necessarily numerous. His thought here is arrested by each of them, whatever shall be their number.”57
Thus there is on the side of grace a totally different position as compared with those on the side of sin. Those  represented in the sin of Adam and its subsequent judgment did not need to do any more to be condemned. Those who are said to be dead in verse 15 are the same ones under judgment and condemnation in verse 16. But that same group, “the many,” must do something about the provision of Christ if they are to be justified. Christ’s one act in death made the grace abound to the entire race; it overflowed as the contents of a container filled to overflowing. But it is man’s personal reception of that grace poured out at the cross which brings the justification to that part of “the many” which believe.
According to verse 17, it was through Adam’s one offence that death reigned but much more those who receive the grace given by the last Adam shall reign in life through Him. The emphasis is upon the necessity of receiving the grace. Lenski summarizes this point very well: “The fact that the condemnatory verdict damned all men is beyond question after considering v. 12-15. The fact that the justifying verdict does not justify all men ought to be equally beyond question in view of v. 17 and of all that Paul has said regarding justification by faith alone.” 58
The verb in verse 17 translated “receive” signifies literally “the receivers” or “accepters”. The word from which this verb comes means “to take,” “to lay hold of” or “to receive.” Here it obviously refers to an act of faith or acceptance. Godet again comments: “Vv. 16 and 17 demonstrate the full reality and quickening efficacy of the personal application which every believer makes of the justification obtained by Christ. Affirmed in ver. 16, this individual efficacy is proved in ver. 17. One single agent, serving as the instrument of a very weak cause, could bring about the death of so many individuals who had not personally taken part in his act. Consequently, and much more certainly, will each of those same individuals, by personally appropriating a force far superior in action to the preceding, become thereby a possessor of life.”59
 That all will not receive the extended grace procured for them by Christ seems certain from the fact so clearly stated that they who do shall “reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Thus, not only does verse 15 support an atonement coextensive with the fall, but verse 17 also implies that some for whom grace abounded will not receive it. Nothing could be more certain from these verses than that all to whom the free gift of righteousness and grace is extended are not receivers.
Other interesting differences of a more technical nature between the judgment and condemnation of Adam’s sin and the gracious gift of justification to life issuing from Christ’s death are found in verses 18 and 19. These differences or contrasts argue strongly against any worldwide justification in this passage.
Verse 18 is the summation of the teaching in verses 12-17 “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” [italics mine] There are no verbs in the verse in the Greek text; translators and commentators have inserted them. Evidence against any kind of universal justification or even justification apart from faith is found in the word translated “justification” at the close of the verse. In direct contrast to several other words from verse 16 on, which have an ending which emphasizes the end result, this word has an ending which stresses not result at all but action. Perhaps it would be clearer if we took the word translated “judgment” in verse 18 as an example of the contrast. This word with its suffix speaks of a resultant judgment upon al men through Adam that is absolutely final and which will without any further activity on the part of those involved result in condemnation. Yet in the same verse, when Paul speaks of the work of Christ extending the gracious gift of justification unto life to “all men,” he uses a suffix or ending on the word justification which does not imply absoluteness in the sense that those thus involved, “all men,” are automatically justified. No, his ending has the sense of action but not the result of that action.
Robertson, in his advanced Greek grammar, says: “It is important to seed the meaning not only of the root, but of this  formative suffix also when possible.” He further states that ma denotes result and sis means action.60
Lenski adds this clarifying statement in his exegesis of the verse: “The difference in the terms is marked: not for all men asfor Christ, dikaioma, a justifying verdict as the finished and permanent result, but dikaiosis, the action of declaring righteous, the action that is repeated in every case in which ‘the gift of the righteousness is received’ (v. 17) by faith. Adam’s fall (result, paraptoma) = for all men, katakrima, finished condemnation, a result, not merely katakrisis, condemning action that occurs in a succession of cases; Christ’s dikaioma, finished result like Adam’s paraptoma) = for all men, not also dikaioma, finished result, but dikaiosis, justifying action that occurs in a succession of cases. 61
Further explanation of the two facts paralleled in verse 18 is given in verse 19. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Here again we have the appearance “the many” which occurred in verse 15 and which was substituted for “all men” in verse 18. The significance of the verse in relation to the extent of the atonement lies in the future “shall many be made righteous” as opposed to the aorist “were made sinners.” The aorist tense in Greek stresses point action in the past. It would seem that if two aorists were necessary in verse 18, “judgment came” and “the free gift came,” two aorists would also appear in verse 19, “many made sinners” and “many made righteous.” This, however, is not the case, and because it is not we have a good argument against worldwide justification to parallel worldwide condemnation. Instead of two aorist tenses there is one aorist signifying the finality of the past act of Adam whereby “the many” were constituted sinners. In the case of Christ’s act of obedience and its relation to “the many,” a future tense appears. The total number involved in Adam’s disobedience is not the same as those who shall be constituted righteous. As this entire context and rest of Scripture shows,  faith is necessary for the individual application of that procured righteousness. “This passage refers, as is proved by the future will be made righteous, to the effectual application.”62
The idea expressed here is that all along as men receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, they shall be constituted righteous. “‘The many’ with reference to whom the aorist is used are determined by that aorist, ‘the many’ with reference to whom the future tense is used are limited by that tense. These tenses decide the issue. Christ’s obedience will never constitute an unbeliever who spurns this vicarious obedience dikaios ‘righteous,’ declared so by the eternal Judge.”63
It should be evident from this survey of Romans 5:12-19 that the contrast and comparison of Adam and Christ in this passage lends no support to limited atonement. Through Adam’s one act of disobedience the entire human race became the recipients of sin, and through one act of obedience the last Adam brought the gracious gift of righteousness to the entire human race. The disobedience of the one was coextensive with the obedience of the other. “The many” unto whom death came are “the many” unto whom the gracious gift abounded through Christ. There is no clearer passage than this to teach the imputation (putting over to one’s account) of Adam’s sin to the race and the sin of the race to Christ.
Understandably, those who believe in limited atonement find it necessary to confine “the many” unto whom grace abounded (v. 15) and the “all men” unto whom justification of life came (v. 18) to the elect. The limitation is placed only upon those associated with Christ’s work and not upon those associated with Adam’s sin, even though the two are parallel in the text.
Hodge, in defense of the strict Calvinistic and limited view cites the timeworn arguments concerning the frequent limitation upon the words “all,” etc., in Scripture. He concludes from this and from the fact that even in the case of Adam’s transgression Christ was excepted, and therefore absolutely all did not die in  him, that the work of Christ was not coextensive with the sin of Adam. 64
Murray brings the same one-sided limitations to the text seemingly to avoid universalism or worldwide justification.65 It is certainly true that the Bible does not teach that all men will eventually be saved either here or elsewhere. Within this very text itself, as we have demonstrated in the previous pages, the necessity of faith is clearly taught. There is no necessity to place limitations upon one side of the obvious parallel in order to avoid universalism. That false doctrine is repudiated by the apostle both here and elsewhere. He made it as clear as words could make it that, even though the work of the last Adam reached to the same group as that reached by the sin of the first Adam, there is a difference in how the effects of each reach men. Christ’s work was a gracious gift implying the need of reception; Adam’s sin was not. Christ’s gift of righteousness must be received before it is applied to the individual; Adam’s sin must not. Christ’s obedience shall constitute many righteous, as they believe. Adam’s disobedience constituted all men as sinners immediately at the time Adam sinned.
No greater confidence is needed for the proclaimer of the gospel to lost men than that Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:22,45) finished a work through which salvation was provided for every single member of the first Adam’s condemned race.
X The Resurrection of the Wicked Dead
Another evidence that all men were involved in Christ’s work on the cross relates to the resurrection power which His death procured for the entire race. His victory over death provides a basis for the future resurrection not only of the saved but also of the unsaved.
Before Adam sinned, there was no death. As a punishment for sin, death entered the universe in three forms. Man died spiritually; that is, his fellowship with God was immediately  broken. Man also began to die physically in fulfillment of God’s threat: “. . . In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). One needs only to read God’s obituary column in chapter 5 where the phrase “and he died” occurs eight times for proof of physical death resulting from sin. Likewise, man became the subject of spiritual death-eternal separation from God-unless the divine provision of substitution for sin be accepted.
As the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), Christ defeated the power of death incurred by the first Adam; and since the penalty of death extended to all men, Christ’s victory over death, proved by His own resurrection, must also be the basis for the future resurrection of all men. That all men will be raised was clearly taught by Christ Himself. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29). It is clear from the immediate context of these verses that the source of resurrection power as well as the authority to execute judgment resides in the Son of Man as a gift from the Father (John 5:19-27).
“The abrogating of death is no less than a repeal of the sentence that was given in Eden, except for the abiding spiritual aspects of death; and is brought about not only by a divine decree which determines its end, but by a universal resurrection or renewal of all that physical death hath wrought. This reference to the cessation of the reign of death, as presented in 1 Corinthians 15:26, is in connection with the end or final resurrection-event which closes the whole program of resurrection which began with Christ’s resurrection and includes the resurrection of those that are Christ’s at His coming and includes, also, this, the end resurrection when the remaining dead will ‘stand’ before the great white throne (Rev. 20:12).”66
Whatever view of last things one accepts, premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial, the fact remains that all men will be raised. Neither is it of any consequence to the present discussion  whether the church and Israel are raised at the same time or at different times or whether there is a single general resurrection or a resurrection in stages. All evangelicals must agree that all men will be raised from the dead in the future.
The wicked dead are just as much a part of the resurrection program as are the righteous dead. And both will be raised by the power of Christ’s resurrection. This being true, it must be admitted that even the nonelect were included in the Savior’s death since it is on the basis of His death that they shall one day be resurrected to live a conscious existence forever.
But in the limited atonement concept, the nonelect are not included in Christ’s death. If they are not, then how is it that the source of power for their future resurrection is to be found in Christ’s defeat of death by His own death and resurrection? There is no other alternative; the basis of the future resurrection and judgment of all unsaved men finds its source squarely in the death and resurrection of Christ.
1 Johnathan Edwards and others, The Atonement (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1859), p. 581
2 Louis Berhhof, Systematic Theology (Grand rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1941), p. 438.
3 A. A. Hodge, The Atonement (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), p. 427.
4 John Murray, Redemption-Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955), p. 71.
5 Common grace may be defined as the work of God in behalf of all men in His general care for them. It is to be contrasted with efficacious grace which always eventuates in salvation.
6 Hodge, op. cit., pp. 382,383.
7 R. B. Kuiper, For Whom Did Christ Die, (Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), p. 68.
8 lbid .
9 Ibid .
10 Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Cleveland: Cleveland Bible Truth Depot, 1930), p. 246.
12 William Cunningham, Historical Theology (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Bible Truth Depot, 1960), II, p. 344. 13 J James Richards, Lectures on Mental Philosophy and Theology (New York: N. W. Dodd, 1846), p. 322. 14 Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine of Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954), p. 510.
15 Ibid., pp. 510-513.
16 Hodge, op. cit., p. 418.
17 Ibid., pp. 418-423
18 Kuiper, op. cit., p. 86
19 Ibid., p. 94.
20 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1950), III, p. 195.
21 Ibid., citing W. Lindsay Alexander, A System of Biblical Theology, II, p. 111
22 Chafer, op. cit., p. 194.
23 Berkhof, op. cit., p. 277.
24 For a full discussion of the rise, validity and objections to covenant theology see John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Findlay, Ohio: Dunham Publishing Company, 1959), pp. 89-91; and Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chigcago: Moody Press, 1965), pp. 177-191.
25 John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. Thomas Cloutt (London: J. C. Dove, 1823), V, p. 325.
26 Hodge, op. cit., pp. 404-408.
27 Kuiper, op. cit., p. 65
28 Crawford, op. cit., p. 148.
29 John Gill, The Doctrine of Particular Redemption, p. 9.
30 Oswald T. Allis, “The Covenant Works,” Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl. F. H. Henry (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962), p. 97.
31 Hodge, op. cit., pp. 406, 407.
32 Those who adhere to the covenant system, quite frequently accuse the dispensationalists, who reject their system, of teaching several ways of salvation. This is simply not true of normative dispensationalism. Charles c. Ryrie has succinctly stated the dispensationalist’s viewpoint concerning the way of salvation: “The dispensationalist’s answer to the problem is this: The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations. It is this last point, of course which distinguishes dispensationalism from covenant theology, but it is not a point to which the charge of teaching two ways of salvation can be attached It simply recognizes the obvious fact of progressive revelation. When Adam looked upon the coats of skins with which God had clothed him and his wife, he did not see what the believer today sees looking back on the cross of Calvary. And neither did other Old Testament saints see what we can see today There have to be two sides to this matter-that which God sees from His side and that which man sees from his.” (Ryrie, op. cit., pp. 123,124).
33 Murray, op. cit., pp. 27, 28
34 Hodge, op. cit., p.250.
35 Berkhof, op. cit., pp. 180, 181.
36 Owen, op. cit., X, p. 450.
37 Gill, op. cit., p. 30.
38 Crawford, op. cit., pp. 121,122.
39 Ibid., p. 145
40 Ibid., p. 509.
41 George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), p. 366.
42 Ibid., pp. 396, 398.
43 See chapter 4
44 Owen, op. cit., X, p. 174
45 John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids; Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), p. 138
46 Pink, op. cit., p. 92.
47 Ibid., p. 94.
48 John J. Owen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John (New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1886), p. 385
50 James Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), II, pp. 142,143.
51 Ibid., p.157.
52 Ibid., p. 386.
53 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1945), p. 367.
54 Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Philadelphia: Alfred Martien, 1873), p. 257
55 F. Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883), p. 216.
56 Ibid., p. 214.
57 Ibid., p. 222.
58 Lenski, op. cit., p. 374
59 Godet, op. cit., p. 374
60 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), p. 151.
61 Lenski, op. cit., p. 379.
62 Godet. op. cit., p. 226
63 Lenski, op. cit., p. 383
64 Hodge, op. cit., p.268,269.
65 John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), I, pp. 191-206
66 Chafer, op. cit., II, p. 154.