Monday, June 9, 2014

The Extent of the Atonement: Whosoever believes...

The Extent of the atonement

The first question we must ask when determining the extent of the atonement is,  “Did Christ provide an actual atonement or hypothetical atonement?” “Did His atonement hypothetically save all, or actually save some?” We must first deal with the passages in John 3:16-21. Comments such as, “God died for whosoever…” And, “God died for the world,” are merely surface-level descriptions of the overarching deed. Such phrases shall not be used to argue against particular atonement. Using such tactics are merely sound bites which cause inflammatory diversions. We must deal with the act. The act to which we refer is this: God sent His Son to save sinners, by sending Him to die upon the cross and to be resurrected for their justification. This is not simply an academic, second-tier, theological exercise; rather, we are discussing the scope and reach of the cross. Hyper-Calvinist straw men aside, this writer believes fully that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all men. All men must hear the glorious ultimatum before they can be regenerated and converted. The sinner must be given the gift of repentance and faith to respond rightly to this appeal.

The extent of the atonement is first a matter of dealing with the doctrine of Election.  The inescapable reality is that God has chosen some unto salvation. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

Eph. 1:3   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in bthe heavenly places in Christ, just as aHe chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the 2kind intention of His will,  6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

As Paul affirms, God has chosen those whom He will save “before the foundation of the world.” In fact, elsewhere Peter (1 Pet. 1:20) and John (Rev. 13:8) mention “the Lamb” who was slain before the foundation of world. This provision is made for sin, before the fall in eternity past. Peter’s Sermon on the Day of Pentecost clearly and emphatically states that God planned the atoning death of His Son at the hands of ungodly men (Acts 2:23). This must be first mentioned to lay the groundwork for the reach and scope of the atonement. Here, we return to our question: “Did God provide an actual atonement or hypothetical atonement?”

God clearly has selected and predestined some to be saved out of a wicked generation of rebellious sinners (Romans 9:21), according to His sovereign purpose. Now to the key verse of epic dispute,

John 3:16   “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God adid not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.


First let us deal with the obvious distinction in the verses that follow. Namely, that not all will be saved. Many will reject the Son who has been sent by God. They are identified in the following verses as those who have already been judged (vv. 18-19). They are not among those who are saved by the coming of Christ into the world. They are those who have rejected God and stand condemned before God. It is thus illogical to conclude that this second group is both saved, and condemned. This group is among the broad road of those who hate God. Did Christ come to die for their sins? If He has, do we believe that there is any weakness or deficiency in the salvific work of Calvary or in the predetermined salvation plan of God? If there is a deficiency in the plan, we must conclude that there is a deficiency in the Planner. We will return to this notion.  
Two questions must first be answered, “Who is ‘the world’”? And “Who is ‘whoever' {whosoever}”? Since the Gospel of John was originally written in koine (common) Greek, we must first engage the word “world” by its Greek definition.

The World

The verse can be understood as saying, “For God so loved the cosmos (gk.).” Here the word, “cosmos” refers to a specific world order, system. This cannot mean a general populace of the entire world. How do we come to this conclusion? Take the example of the verse in Revelation that says the whole world (KJV) or earth (NASB) followed after Antichrist. The Greek explicitly mentions that the whole general populace or inhabited earth followed after the antichrist. Rather than using a limiting term like cosmos in this verse, John uses a term of generality. Whereas in John 3:16, he uses cosmos as a term of specificity. The cosmos (world order/system) will also be redeemed with the coming of Christ, and groans until such restoration has taken place (Romans 8:22).

When the Pharisees mention that the “whole world” is following after Christ. They do not mean the entire population. In fact, Christ was rejected by the majority, the closer He came to suffering upon the cross. John the Apostle indicates that the Pharisees were speaking in exaggeration, but were still being specific, and limiting in their estimation. The whole world of Israel and other Gentiles in closer regions were following after Christ. Since, the way is narrow and few find it, we cannot surmise that the Pharisees were saying that the general populous upon all the face of the earth were following Christ. Had they meant cosmos in this way, he would not have been crucified (John 18:36). We also know that the majority despised Christ in His first advent (coming) (Is. 53:3).

We have established that there are two categories in John 3:16-18; those who believe and those who are already condemned. Since the Bible must not be read through selective proof-texting, rather progressively and in context, we must go beyond Jesus' encounter with Nicomedus and onto the Garden of Gethsemane. Who was Jesus committing to prayer before the Father in John 17? There are those He refers to as given to Him from out of the world (cosmos). A specific people is whom God has selected to give to His Son is the focal point of the Son’s prayer. In John 17:9, Jesus says,

9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

Here Jesus is referring to a limited and particular people who are given to Him and that He will be glorified in them. The distinction is that Christ is not praying for the entire world populace of both believers and unbelievers. He is praying for believers who will remain in the world system. These are those given to Him, and these are those whom He, in a matter of hours, will go to the blessed cross and make a perfect sacrifice unto the Father.

Who is the ‘Whosoever’?

The term whosoever must be qualified. Are we to say that ‘whosoever’ is comprised of believers and non-believers? Emphatically, we must not! The text says, “Whosoever believes…” Therefore, whosoever is not a hypothetical group of people who may reject Christ if they so choose. There is already a category for such persons in John 3:18. They are the ‘already judged’ who ‘hate the light’. Thus, the whosoever are those who are drawn by the Father to salvation, away from sin and death, and given to Jesus Christ (John 6:37). The whosoever are an actual people who are granted eternal life for their belief, not a hypothetical group who may or may not believe upon the blessed Christ of salvation. The whosoever is granted eternal life. They do not remain dead in their sins. The whosoever are not believer and unbeliever, lest we believe in the false doctrine of universalism which says that all will enter heaven. We may look no further than John 3:18 to recognize the awaiting judgment of those who reject Christ. A specific group of redeemed men and women from every tribe, nation, and language have been elected unto salvation. Thus the ‘whosoever’ are those who are recipients of God’s electing love. Here we must briefly examine John’s later writing. Specifically, 1 John 2:2 says,

1John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

The question we must pose is this, “Has the wrath of God been satisfied for every person upon the earth, whether now or prior, whether in heaven or hell? Have the condemned received propitiation (satisfaction of God’s wrath)? Are not the condemned experiencing the wrath of God at the present moment and for all eternity? All sinners who reject Christ are abiding in the wrath of God (John 3:36). The wrath of God is revealed against them for their ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Is John the Apostle referring to the whole general populace for all time? The very term propitiation speaks of definiteness and actuality. A definite satisfaction and actual atonement has been made with the death of Christ. God’s satisfaction of the blood shed by His Son is not a hypothetical satisfaction. The former animal sacrifices of the priests, as insufficient as they were, were not hypothetical sacrifices for hypothetical Jews. Thus, do we believe that the atonement of Christ was definite and all sufficient? The writer of Hebrews reminds the Christian that His atonement has been orchestrated by God, rendered in blood, definite, all sufficient and actual (Heb. 9:13). Theologians refer to this as vicarious atonement.

The scope and reach of atonement is applied to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21). But the whosoever can only call upon Christ if the Lord enables to them to cry out. The crying out is only done where there is the preaching of the Gospel (Rom. 10:14). Thus, this writer must not succumb to the emotionalist misrepresentations that this view does not aim to call every man under heaven to repentance and faith in Christ. Every man must be confronted with the utter rebellion of sin and the necessity of salvation in Christ. However, the whosoever is the elect of God who calls upon the name of the Lord and are redeemed. The bible is clear that not all will call upon the name of the Lord. Some will hear the gospel proclamation and turn away hardened in their sin. However, only those predestined to salvation will call out. Therefore, we preach to the cosmos, and expect that only the few will be saved. The rest are condemned for their rejection. Only God knows who are His elected. Thus, we are those who cry out to every human being, and God thus determines if He may draw them or leave them in their rebellion (Rom. 9:16). Whosoever comprises not hypothetical believers, or a rebellious, undecided majority. The whosoever comprises of a definite people, responding to a definite Savior, by His vicarious death and resurrection. Whosoever are the elect of God, called to Him and predestined unto salvation. This is an actual predestination by way of an actual and particular atonement.



His Slave, 

Doron Gladden


6 comments:

  1. UNLESS THE FATHER DRAWS HIM

    John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

    What is the meaning of John 6:44?

    1. Does it mean only a few, who have been selected by the Father, will be saved? No, it does not.
    2. Does it mean that men only respond to the gospel because of irresistible grace? No, it does not.

    WHO ARE THOSE THAT THE FATHER DRAWS?

    John 6:45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

    The Father draws all who hear and learn. The Father does not force anyone to hear or learn. Men have free-will. God does not impute faith into a few so they will believe and be saved. Faith does not come by injection.

    HOW DO MEN HEAR AND LEARN?

    Romans 10:13-14 for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

    Men need to hear the gospel before they can learn and believe. The Father draws men by the gospel.

    Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

    Faith comes from hearing the gospel. Faith does not come because the Father selected a chosen few, before the world began, to be saved. All who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are the chosen and that includes whoever accepts God's terms for pardon. Faith does not come because of irresistible grace.

    God the Father draws men to Jesus with the gospel.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,

    IT IS THE GOSPEL THAT DRAWS MEN TO JESUS!

    IRRESISTIBLE GRACE IS NOT THE METHOD THAT THE FATHER USES TO DRAW MEN TO JESUS.

    Romans 10:21 But as for Israel He says, "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

    Israel as a nation rejected the gospel. How could that be possible if irresistible grace were in play? Israel turned away from God.

    Matthew 23:37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

    Jerusalem was unwilling to be drawn to Jesus by believing the gospel. They had a choice.

    John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

    The Jews had the opportunity to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they were unwilling. There was no irresistible grace in play. The Father draws all who are willing to believe the gospel.

    John 6:40 This is the will of My Father, thateveryone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

    IF YOU ARE READING THIS BLOG YOU ARE ONE OF THE "EVERYONE" WHO HAS A CHANCE TO BE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL AND BE SAVED.

    MEN REJECT GOD.

    GOD DOES NOT REJECT MEN DUE TO NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.

    THE FATHER DRAWS MEN TO JESUS THROUGH THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. MEN ARE NOT DRAWN TO JESUS BECAUSE THEY WERE PRESELECTED FOR SALVATION!


    You are invited to follow my blog. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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  2. Steve, thanks for taking the time to read our blog. We are honored you stopped by. Scripture is replete with the truth that men are dead in sin thanks to the fall. Unable to choose righteousness apart from the moving of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God that He saves sinners! We preach the gospel to all that they might be saved. Time does not allow me a thorough reply but that it for our author to do first anyway so I'll simply leave this

    When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

    The Greek word for appoint is 'tasso' which translates as something "to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint."

    This is problematic to your assertions.

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  3. Thanks for stopping by Steve. Take a look at 2 Corinthians, it speaks of a veil. Israel has a veil preventing them from seeing. If they can't see, they can't respond. Only those who see can respond. This is why it is said, "seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear. You cannot respond to what you do not see or hear. Only when Christ is revealed do men respond. And to anyone whom He was revealed, they have responded. Christ was not crucified because He was God. He was crucified because, to them He claimed to be God, but to them He was not God. They could not see.
    When Jesus asked who men said that He was, the responses were not responses of who He was, they were responses of who He wasn't. When He asked who they said that He was, He was acknowledged as being The Christ. Jesus response says it all, "Blessed are you Simon, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven has revealed this."
    You see, if you don't recognize who He is, why would you believe? But if the Father reveals who He is, it is impossible to refuse. This is why everyone who we see rejecting Him did not recognize Him. But everyone who believed, saw.

    Blessings to you Steve!

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  4. Thank you for your comments Steve. It is best to deal with them in parts. Referring to Israel, they have rejected the Gospel as a whole but Isaiah affirms that the remnant will be saved . The rejection of majority Israel is no different than the rejection of the majority of the unbelieving. God affirms in Isaiah:
    Is. 65:8 Thus says the LORD,
    “As the new wine is found in the cluster,
    And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’
    So I will act on behalf of My servants
    In order not to destroy all of them.
    9 “I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
    And an heir of My mountains from Judah;
    Even My chosen ones shall inherit it,
    And My servants will dwell there.

    Here, Yahweh speaks of a definite people who will, beyond doubt, bow to the revelation of Himself. He has reserved them for this purpose. However, there are those whom He will destroy, not all of Israel, but most of Israel. Thus, He is acting on behalf of His servants (in this context), believing Israel. Isaiah 63:8 almost mentions a distinct and definite people who will honor God. He has reserved them to Himself for such a purpose.

    On one hand you've mentioned that men are not 'pre-selected' for salvation and then you have dealt with Old Testament Israel under the Old Covenant while appealing to New Testament Gentiles. There is no dichotomy between irresistible grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not mentioned this as the case. Israel, all the believing ones, will be saved, but it will not be on their own accord. It will be because God drew them to Him (Isaiah 63 presupposes that on their own accord Israel would not believe the report of salvation through a suffering Servant). Since they are not merely spiritually sick, but dead (Col. 2:13, Eph. 2:1), we must not suppose that dead men can resurrect themselves. For example, did Lazarus come out of his tomb on his own accord? Or was he willing to raised to life (mind you, he was dead). Ezekiel 37 makes the same case. Israel, just like the unbelieving Gentile, is dead. God's grace appears to the unbelieving (Titus 2:11-14), and raises the dead to life.

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  5. There is also no dichotomy between faith and irresistible grace. For example, man must exhibit faith to believe, but if he is dead, who gives man the faith believe the gospel? If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, from where does faith originate? Does faith originate by hearing? Or does faith originate by inherently in the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16 is clear that the power of Gospel does not lie in the hearer, nor does it lie in the messenger, but the Gospel is inherently powerful in and of itself). Thus hearing is not the emphasis, faith is. And faith is imparted to man by another, namely Christ. God gives man faith to believe in Him. Pertaining to those whom He has preordained, in Romans 8:30, consider that predestination precedes the calling (unto salvation), the calling precedes justification, and justification proceeds glorification. The previous verse is also key because, in its context, it deals with the reality that God foreknew those whom he called and predestined them unto salvation. There is also a distinction between the two terms. Paul later makes the same case in Ephesians 1:4-5. He says explicitly that God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world. The paradigm is this, Justice = all men are headed to eternal wrath and punishment for their sin and rebellion, yet he saves some. Isaiah 10 and 11 speak of only the remnant of Israel, according to God's plan and grace, avoiding His just wrath. There is no schism with God, this is the same plan of salvation for the Gentiles, a remnant of believers who will be spared the judgment. God has not elected the unbelieving unto salvation, and their will does not prevail against His, we are the creation, and He the Creator (Rom. 9:16).

    Acts 13:48 speaks of God's Sovereign plan to adopt those whom He has chosen. All who appointed to eternal life, believed (there is a glaring distinction between belief and God's appointment of their salvation).

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  6. Let's be clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that we know who all the elect are and that irresistible grace is separate from the Gospel. Romans 10 is saying clearly that irresistible grace is granted to those who hear, and they cannot hear unless some preaches to them, and someone will not preach to them unless God sends the preacher. The preacher does not have a message to proclaim unto salvation, unless God creates the message and with the same power by which He created the world, raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is an actual and definite atonement, just like the salvation of the remnant of Jews will be a definite atonement (Romans 9-11), and those terms are quite clear, God has initiated the plan, enacts it, raises up men to proclaim it, and raises the dead to be regenerated by it. Yet, as you have said, God does in fact hold men fully culpable for their rejection (Acts 2 is quite certain of this reality).

    John 3:36 is precisely my entire point. The will of the Father is for everyone who believes to be raised up with Christ. The everyone is in fact qualified. It is everyone who believes. It is not saying everyone, both believer and unbeliever, but everyone who believes. Man is fully culpable for unbelief and the bible presupposes that man rejects Christ, not for lack of information, but because he fails to kneel down before the truth concerning himself and the creation testimony of God (meant to draw Him to worship)-Rom. 1. I make no attempt to resolve the issue of human responsibility and God's Sovereignty, because Scripture upholds both, for the Jew and Gentile (cf. Romans).

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