We come tonight to a wonderful theme in the Scripture, again, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. And for those of you, most of you, who are with us in our study of the gospel of Luke, we have been looking closely at the record of Luke, the historical record, as well as comparing the account of Matthew and Mark and John on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have looked at the details of His dying. Tonight we want to talk a little about the theology of His death and ask the question and answer it from Scripture, “For whom did Christ die?” This is a very, very important question.
Now, I know you people very well and you are noble Bereans. You search the scriptures to see if these things that I say are so. And I also know that if I don’t cover every verse that weighs on this subject, you will line up afterwards to ask me about that verse. So in dealing with a subject like this, if I can borrow a French phrase, this needs to be somewhat of a tour de force. I need to cover the ground extensively so I can put your mind at rest because you are so incurably biblical. That, in case you didn’t know, is a great commendation. I expect that, I rejoice in that.
To begin with, what I want to say is that what I am going to teach you tonight about this application of the atonement (answering the question, “For whom did Christ die?”) is the view that has reigned supreme in the true church since the New Testament. It, along with the other essential doctrines of Reformed theology (or Augustinian or Lutheran or Calvinistic theology) has been affirmed by the church since its inception. What I am going to show you tonight is essentially what the early church believed, of course, because you’ll see it coming out of the New Testament.
It is what was affirmed in the fifth century as being a true representation of New Testament teaching under Augustine against Pelagius. It was again affirmed during the time of the Reformation by Luther in his conflict with Erasmus and further affirmed by Calvin in his conflict with Arminius. It has come down to us in our heritage, which is Baptistic, through the London Confession of 1689 and the Philadelphia Confession of 1743, being the substantial foundations for Baptists in America. And that is our tradition, our ecclesiology is Baptistic rather than sacramental and Reformed. That’s why we baptize adults who believe and not infants.
And so what I’m going to say to you is not anything new, it is something that the church has affirmed. In fact, the view that opposes what I will show you tonight has been labeled as heresy. It was so labeled at three councils early on in history, it was reiterated again during the time of the Reformation, that the view contrary to this view is, in fact, unbiblical.
Now, the question might at first seem an easy one, for whom did Christ die? Most people, I’m confident, in churches would quickly answer, “Well, He died for everyone.” Most people in the church believed that on the cross, Jesus paid the debt for the sins of everyone because He loves everyone unconditionally and wants everyone to be saved. That is not what the church has historically believed, but that is what the present version of the superficial church believes. Sinners, all of them, have had all their sins atoned for - potentially, and that’s the key word, if they will acknowledge Christ and accept the gift.
So we have, then, only to convince sinners to receive the salvation that has already been fully purchased for them at the cross. Since Christ died for everyone, everyone can believe and should believe and must believe if they’ll only will to believe. And in a contemporary concept, we work on the sinner’s will, believing that the sinner has both the responsibility and the ability to activate a saving faith on his own and believe.
If nowhere else, this is certainly indicated in the most popular of Christian books, The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church where Rick Warren says, “I can lead anyone to Christ if I can find the key to that person’s heart.” It’s just a matter of moving their will. That is the popular idea, and that means that hell is full of people whose salvation was purchased by the death and resurrection of Christ. It means, then, that everybody in hell and everybody in heaven had the same thing done for them on the cross. The lake of fire will be filled with eternally damned people whose sins were actually atoned for on the cross.
So the people in hell had the same atonement as the people in heaven. The difference was the people in heaven activated their will to accept that atonement; the people in hell did not. Now, if that sounds strange to you, it is - it is. That Jesus died for, paid for in full the sins of the damned, paid the penalty of divine justice for them - just as He did for the redeemed - is a very strange notion. And the sinner, then, determines whether that universally potential death is applied to him or not.
This view would say Christ died to make salvation possible, not actual. He died to make it possible. The sinner, then, makes the choice. He didn’t really purchase salvation for anyone, He actually died on the cross and in some way removed a barrier to make salvation a potential. You will not find such language anywhere in the New Testament or the Old.
The message that this would send to sinners goes like this: God loves you so much that Christ died for you. Won’t you let Him save you? The final decision is up to you. In fact, God loves you so much that He gave His Son and hopefully when you see the sacrifice that Christ made, you will be moved emotionally to love Him back by accepting Him.
Now, the problem with this is glaring. Here’s the problem: According to Scripture, sinners are dead - dead in trespasses and sin, separated from the life of God. They are blind. They are perishing. They’re in a state of perishing eternally. They are double blind because the god of this world has blinded their minds. In their natural state, they cannot understand the things of God - they are foolishness to them. Or to borrow the language of Romans 3, there is none who seeks after God, there is no fear of God before their eyes. This, then, affirms another doctrine that the church has always established as true and that is the sinner’s total inability.
Luther’s great classic, The Bondage of the Will, is still preeminent reading for anyone who wants to understand how bound the fallen human will is and how impossible it is for the dead double-blind sinner, cut off from the life of God with no desire for God and no ability to seek after God and no fear of God before his eyes, to all of a sudden pull himself up by his own bootstraps and take hold of a potential salvation that is hanging out there for him.
The Bible is clear that all are dead in trespasses and sins. That the heart of man is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked. That all its imaginations are only evil continually. The mind is dark, the soul is dark, the heart is full of wicked corruption. The sinner, on his own, can’t do anything.
In John chapter 1 and verse 12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe on His name, who were born not of blood” - it didn’t come from a human source - “nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If you were given the authority to become a child of God, if you were born into the family of God, it wasn’t because you activated human will. “For by grace you are saved, through faith - that not of yourselves.” First Corinthians chapter 1, in verse 30: “By His doing, you are in Christ Jesus.”
The doctrine of man’s inability necessitates the doctrine of God’s divine invasion. Salvation is from God. He must give light, He must give life, He must give sight, He must give understanding, He must give repentance, He must give faith, He must totally transform the sinner. And that’s what God does. And He does it to those whom He has chosen. Scripture is very clear on that as well.
Now, since the sinner cannot will to believe on his own, since he can only believe if God enables him to believe, and since God enables to believe those whom He has chosen, it should be clear that the provision of sacrifice that Christ provided on the cross would be on behalf of those who would believe because they were given life because they were chosen. For those who would believe who are the chosen and the called of God, to whom God regenerates, gives life, the atonement was designed to apply. Someone will say, “Wait a minute. You believe in a limited atonement?” Yes, I do believe in a limited atonement and so do you.
Let me help you with that. We know the atonement is limited because not everybody believes. People die without believing in Christ. They die rejecting the gospel. They die without ever hearing about Christ, and the only way to be saved is through faith in Christ. Sinners perish every minute and have through all of history. We all know the atonement is limited. Scripture is explicit about hell. Jesus said many are going to go there. So when somebody accuses you of saying you believe in limited atonement, of course you do. The atonement does not apply to everyone.
And that leads to a second question: How is it limited? Well, simply because not all are saved, not all believe. The only remaining question is: Who limits it? Who limits it? The popular idea is that sinners limit the atonement because it’s a universally available atonement, limited only by sinners. But there’s a sense in which God limits it because God limits it to those who believe, and nobody can believe unless He gives them faith. So what the New Testament really teaches is that God has limited the atonement by His sovereign election and sovereign grace.
The atonement must not be understood as some general potential atonement or Jesus should have said instead of “It is finished,” “It is begun” - or “I hope this works out for a lot of folks.” Those who say the atonement is unlimited don’t mean that - they can’t mean that. They know the atonement is limited, they know that God limited it to those who believed, and sinners further limit it by not believing.
But when you say you believe in an unlimited atonement, you even limit it in another way. This is a huge limitation. You say that the actual work of Christ on the cross in itself was not enough to actually save people. That is a very serious limitation to put on it. In other words, the atonement is limited in its power, in its nature, in its effectiveness, in its actual achievement, actual accomplishment. It is less than a true and actual atonement. It is only a potential one. Christ, in fact, did not make a full and complete payment to God for the sins of anyone in particular, only potentially for everyone in general.
You have to say that because if you say Christ died on the cross for the whole world and most of the whole world goes to hell, then whatever that atonement was, it was very limited in its power and limited in its effectiveness. So those who limit the atonement most are those who believe in an unlimited atonement because they have now redefined the atonement to make it some kind of limited potential thing rather than a real atonement. And hell is, in fact, full of people whose sins were sort of paid for.
It’s not at all biblical to think along these lines. We must agree that the atonement is limited. Yes, it is limited to those who believe. Those who believe are limited by the sovereign electing purpose of God. In that sense, the atonement is limited. It is limited to those who believe, and that limitation is established by God and not by man since man can’t believe on his own.
But the atonement is unlimited in the sense of its actual power and its actual effectiveness. Jesus did actually accomplish on the cross the atonement of those who are His own. The death of Christ is not a potential, general atonement - it is an actual, particular, specific atonement. Now, that’s the way we have to think about the atonement.
Now I want to look for a few moments at what the Bible says about this and try to help you sort through some of the scriptures. Of all those doctrines that are familiar to us in Reformed theology that have to do with the sovereignty of God and man’s fallenness and his inability and unwillingness and grace and sovereignty and election and perseverance and all those things, this particular doctrine needs the most careful scrutiny when you look at the scriptures because so many times Christ is introduced as the Savior of the world. And so many times He is referred to as the One who saves all. We have to take a look at what that means.
What does “world” mean? What does “all” mean? What does “many” mean? And this could be a very long and detailed study, so let me sort of give you a good summary of it (I hope).
Now, whenever you see the word “world” in the New Testament, you certainly know you could take it a number of ways, world could be simply the system, love not the world. That doesn’t mean people, that simply means the system. It could mean the eco, that would be the moral system or immoral system or system of sin. It could be the ecosystem, it could be speaking more in a physical level. It could mean humanity. We have to determine that in the context of every situation.
But to be sure, when it talks about Him being the Savior of the world and taking away the sin of the world, we know one thing: It does not mean every person who ever lived or there would be no hell, there would be no judgment, and there would be no warnings about those. So “world” is always qualified.
Let’s look at some of those illustrations. John 1. John 1:29, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Now, that is very strong language. Takes away the sin of the world - removes it. Now how do you translate world? How do you understand world? Well, what does it mean? Does it mean He literally removed the sin of every person who ever lived? Of course not because 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 9 (and a lot of other passages) say that when Jesus comes, He is going to pour out retribution on most of the world - all of the world of unbelievers - having rescued His own.
You have to qualify “world.” Yes, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but if you go back in chapter 1 to verse 11, it says, “He came to His own, and those that were His own didn’t receive Him.” Well, He didn’t take their sins away. “But as many as received Him, He gave them the right to become the children of God.” So in what sense is He the Savior of the world? In the sense that there is no other Savior in the world. There is only one Savior. “World” taken in the sense of humanity here. He is humanity’s only Savior.
In John 3:16 and 17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world should be saved through Him.” Again, are we universalists? Does the New Testament teach universalism? These are the kind of verses that universalists use, where everyone is going to be in the end saved, there’s no hell, there’s no judgment, there’s no damnation, we’re all going to end up in heaven.
We know better than that because there’s explicit teaching in the Bible to the contrary. So when it tells us here very clearly that the world should be saved through Him, it must mean something other than every human being who’s ever lived. It simply means humanity, mankind. God has a love for humanity. In John 4:42, these are very similar, this is Jesus talking with the woman at the well. She says, “It’s no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” Again, it is not to say that Jesus has saved the world, it is to say again that He is the one Savior for humanity - there is no other Savior.
In John chapter 6, in verse 33, “The bread of God,” says Jesus, “is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” Again, does that mean that the whole world has spiritual life, that the whole world partakes of the life of God that comes through Jesus Christ, who is the true bread of life? Of course not. Again, it is qualified to indicate this is the only source of life, the only source of salvation the world will ever know.
Verse 51, same chapter, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” He is, again, the only sacrifice the world will ever know, but only those who take of that sacrifice, eat that bread, will experience life. In John chapter 12, verses - I think it’s about verse 47, 48, “If anyone hears my sayings, doesn’t keep them, I don’t judge him, for I didn’t come to judge the world but to save the world.”
Again, in the end, most of the people in the world are going to be judged. Few find the narrow way. But again, the point is He comes to be the only Savior the world will ever know. Verse 48, “He who rejects me and doesn’t receive my sayings has One who judges him.” He just said, “I didn’t come to judge the world, I came to save the world.” Turns right around and says, “But if you reject me, you’re going to be judged.”
Chapter 14 of John, verse 22, Judas - not Iscariot, one of the apostles - said, “Lord, what then has happened that you’re going to disclose yourself to us and not to the world?” Well, what did that mean? Didn’t mean everybody who’s ever lived in the history of the world, it simply meant to the public, to the general public. “You’ve told us these things, the apostles, but you haven’t told the general public.”
So the term “world” is always to be qualified, and you can’t just say because He’s the Savior of the world that that means that He has provided an actual atonement for the whole world or you’re going to have to end up as a universalist with everybody in heaven. So if you don’t want to end up as a universalist, but you want to affirm that Jesus loves the whole world, died for the whole world, then you limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement, making it only some kind of a potential thing that is activated by the will of the sinner, which is impossible because the sinner can’t activate his own will because he’s dead.
The testimony of Scripture with regard to “world” is consistent. For example, even a statement like, “All men perceived that John the Baptist was a prophet.” What do you mean “all men”? Every person living in Israel? Every person in the world? “All” has to be qualified. Not everyone in Israel perceived that John was a prophet. Not everyone in the world perceived. The “all” is qualified, “world” is qualified by the context.
In the twelfth chapter of John, verse 19, “The Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see, you’re not doing any good. Look, the world has gone after Him.’” Well, what did they mean by that? They meant the general public. And so this is an important distinction to make.
Now, frequently “the world” also is intended as a term to embrace Gentiles, okay? The Jews had this very isolationist mentality that they were the only people who were going to cash in on the promises of the Old Testament, they were the covenant people of God, they would receive all the blessing and the Gentiles would not. And so frequently, they are reminded that He is the Savior of the world, meaning not just Jews but Gentiles. So you’re talking about general humanity, mankind, but in particular, Jesus is saying when He says these things so many times about the world that this includes Gentiles. That is absolutely unmistakable.
I thought of another verse, Luke 9:25, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world.” Well, “world” doesn’t mean if he absolutely owned the entire planet. So that word is always to be qualified, understood in a qualified way. In the fifteenth chapter of Acts, in verse 6, this shocking reality, the apostles, elders, came together to look into the matter after there had been much debate. Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you that by my mouth a Gentile should hear the Word of the gospel and believe.”
This is a jolt to the isolationists in Israel. God bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit as He did to us, made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way as they also are.” Again, there’s only one Savior for the world. There’s only one gospel for the world. God loves the world, people in general, Jew and Gentile.
In 1 John, there’s a verse that we want to look at, 1 John 2, “My little children, I’m writing these things to you that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He Himself is the propitiation, the hilastērion, the covering, the mercy seat for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.” What do you mean, “the whole world”? Now look at the language. He is the propitiation, that is not a potential, that is an actual satisfaction. The word means a covering.
He is a real covering, not a partial covering. He is the mercy seat. He propitiates God. He satisfies God, an actual satisfaction, an actual propitiation, not for our sins only - what are you talking about? Jews - but for the whole world, every tongue, tribe, nation, people, Gentiles. Compare that in Revelation 5:9 where they’re all gathered there. Propitiation, very strong, actual satisfying of God’s just wrath. Jesus placated God’s anger and judgment for our sins, turned away God’s wrath forever for any Jew and any Gentile who believes.
Second Corinthians 5, verse 19, a real familiar passage, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” That can’t possibly mean the planet, that can’t mean all of humanity. Whatever world is, it is only for those who have had their sins forgiven, who have had their guilt erased, who have been reconciled to God and are forever free from condemnation, those who believe.
Why does he say “world”? Because it’s important that we know there are no distinctions. In Christ, there’s neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, bond or free.
Christ didn’t ever say in the New Testament through the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the writers of the New Testament that He paid the penalty in full for everyone’s sins, that He actually satisfied God’s wrath for every person who ever believed, but they’re still going to go to hell. He rather provided a full hilasmos, a full atonement, a full propitiation for those who would believe, whether Jew or Gentile, any nation, any people.
Similarly, there are New Testament usages of the word “all.” Just a couple of those because, again, people will go back to that and ask the question - Romans 5, for example, verse 18, “So then as through one transgression” - talking about Adam’s sin - “there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” Well, those two “alls” are different.
In Adam, all died, and that’s all. In Christ, all being made alive is a qualified “all” because it can’t mean every human being. The all, first of all, means every human being. Secondly, it means only those who have been justified and given life. “For as through the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners,” and Paul there switches from all to many just to loosen up those words a little bit, “and through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous.”
All and many are interchangeable, and they illustrate simply the impact that one person’s act has a massive effect on people. Adam’s did and Christ’s did as well. But the all who sinned is a much greater number than the all who are justified and given life.
Well, you say, “What about 1 Timothy 2:4 through 6?” God, our Savior, who desires all men to be saved. God desires all men to be saved. Well, if God desires all men to be saved, then why aren’t all men saved? You say, “Because God doesn’t get what He wants.” Really? He doesn’t get what He wants. He’s up there wringing His hands because sinners won’t activate this potential atonement? The all men that God desires to be saved are the all men that God determined to save. He determined to save whom He desired to save. Christ was a ransom for all who would believe, and all who would believe would believe because God would give them life.
The use of the word “many” in the New Testament is helpful. Just maybe one passage on that one. Matthew 20:28, “The Son of man didn’t come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” One place it says all, one place it says many. The fact that those words are used interchangeably means there’s some freedom in those terms. They’re simply intending to show not absolutely all but many.
Many, then, is a word that is used synonymously with all, which then defines all as meaning many. As in Adam, it’s fair to say many died. They did, many - in fact, all. As in Christ, many are made alive, many from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Well, I think you get the picture. These words are qualified by what we clearly understand the New Testament teaches.
Now, that takes us to another section of Scripture that I’ll just kind of give you quickly that is definite in its reference to the atonement. Listen to Matthew 1:21. “And she will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus” - this is very important - “for it is He who will save” - what are the next two words? - “His people from their sins.” It is He who will save His people from their sins.
Turn to John chapter 10 - John chapter 10, verse 11. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for” - what? - “the sheep.” Again, definite atonement, definite sacrifice. Verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, Gentiles, not of this fold. I must bring them also and they shall hear my voice and they shall become one flock, Jew and Gentile, with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.”
Verse 24, “The Jews gathered around Him and were saying to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you’re the Christ, tell us plainly.’ To which Jesus responded, ‘I told you and you don’t believe the works that I do in my Father’s name. These bear witness of me but you do not believe because you’re not of my sheep.’” Pretty clear, isn’t it? “I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear me. My sheep follow me. You don’t because you’re not among my sheep.”
Verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, they follow me, and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” And that, of course, takes us to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or the security of those who are saved.
In the eleventh chapter of John, in verse 50, Caiaphas, high priest, speaking, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation should not perish.”
Now, He didn’t say this on an own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, so writes John. And not for the nation only but that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad, meaning not just Jews but Gentiles, consistent with how the word “world” is intended to be understood. He has died for the people, the nation Israel, those within that nation who are His sheep, as well as those He will gather who are scattered abroad in other nations.
The seventeenth chapter of John - and there are lots of scriptures that have this specificity - 17:6, “I manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were and thou gavest them to me and they have kept thy Word.” They who followed Christ did so because God chose them and gave them to Christ. “Now they have come to know that everything thou hast given me is from thee, for the words which thou gavest me I have given to them and they received them. Truly understood that I came forth from thee. They believed that thou didst send me. I ask on their behalf.”
Listen to this: “I do not ask on behalf of the world but of those whom thou hast given me, they are thine.” Very specific again, intercessory prayer on behalf of the elect, chosen by God to be given to Christ, and not intercession on behalf of the rest of mankind. Very specific. Verse 12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in thy name which thou hast given me. I guarded them; not one of them perished.” Special care protection for those chosen and given to Christ. Verse 24, “I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am in order that they may behold my glory.”
He intercedes on behalf of those whom the Father has chosen and given to Him saying, “I long for them to be in heaven and behold my glory.” Christ knows His sheep, gives His life for His sheep, gathers His sheep, secures His sheep, and brings His sheep ultimately to eternal glory.
Is Jesus the justifier of everyone? Listen to Romans 3:23. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Being justified is a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” And there it is again. His death is an actual propitiation, an actual satisfaction. This is to demonstrate His righteousness through the forbearance of God. “He passed over the sins previously committed for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time.”
And here it tells you who He propitiated for, who He died for, “That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” He provided a sacrifice only for those who would put their faith in Christ. Since man cannot do that on his own, they are the ones whom God gives life.
There are many other texts that we could look at. Perhaps Titus 2, and I’ll give you just a couple more. “Looking” - verse 13, Titus 2 - “for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus who gave Himself for us” - for us - “that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession.” A people of His own possession. Down in verse 4 of chapter 3, “When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us. He poured out on us” - verse 6 - “richly the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Savior.” First Peter 2:24, “He bore our sins.”
It is not a matter of a potential atonement, it is an actual atonement on behalf of us. “Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.” The called, the chosen, are the ones for whom Christ died. One writer says this: “An opposing view tells us that Jesus died for multitudes that will never be saved, including millions who never so much as heard of Him. It tells us in the case of those who are lost, the death of Jesus, represented in Scripture as an act whereby He took upon Himself the punishment that should have been ours, was ineffective. Christ suffered once for their sins, but they will now have to suffer for the same sins forever in hell.”
This idea of the atonement has the initial appearance of being very generous, but the more closely we look at it, the less we are impressed. Does it guarantee the salvation of anybody? No. Does it guarantee that those for whom Christ died will have an opportunity to hear of Him and respond to Him? No. Does it in any way remove or even lessen the sufferings of the lost? No. In reality, this view of the atonement doesn’t atone, merely clears the way for God to accept those who are able to lift themselves by their own strength.
So in summary, as we think about this, the death of Christ was a real, true,, actual satisfaction of divine justice so that the sinner for whom Christ died is really, not potentially, provided an atonement into which that sinner will enter by the sovereign power of God at the moment when God regenerates that sinner and gives him faith. Not apart from the sinner’s will, but in accord with the sinner’s will, activated by the power of God.
The death of Christ, then, was definite, particular, specific, and actual on behalf of God’s chosen people. It was limited in its extent by the sovereign purpose of God. It was not limited in effect. It was the work of God and Christ to actually accomplish redemption, not just make it possible. Christ procured salvation for all that God would call and save. Sinners do not limit the atonement as to its extent, God does. And God put no limit on it as to its effect. It fully saves all who will believe.
Jesus actually took the penalty and paid in full for the sins of those who believe. This is why there is no condemnation. This is why we persevere in faith. This is why you can’t lose that salvation, because it was paid for in full. All these great doctrines of grace tie together perfectly and biblically.
Father, we have had a wonderful evening tonight, thinking about some of these things, and there’s much more to be perused in the Word. But, Lord, I just pray that perhaps there’s a freshness to the way that we look at the cross, seeing it not as a point of frustration where you gave your Son to pay the penalty in some strange way for the whole human race and most of them would never receive the benefit of that, but rather to look at the cross as something very specific, very particular, actual, a real atonement paid for in full for all who would believe.
Because you would grant them life out of their deadness, sight out of their blindness, understanding out of their ignorance, faith out of their unbelief, so that in the end it’s by your doing that we are in Christ Jesus and you receive all the glory.
It is a kind of sacrilege to diminish the power and the efficiency of the atoning work of Christ, to make it something less than it really was. And when it came to an end, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Paid in full on behalf of all His sheep.
Father, we would again say thank you. There are no words to describe the privilege and joy that we experience, having been brought to faith in Christ. O Lord, we pray that you will awaken the dead, give sight to the blind, understanding to the ignorant, faith to those who don’t believe. Work that mighty miracle, and may sinners even tonight find something rising up in them that attracts them to Jesus Christ and causes them to want to run to Him and repent of their sin and embrace the forgiveness that He alone can give.
And where that heart feels that divine compulsion, we know it’s your work, for man on his own cannot, will not come. Father, work your work in the heart of that sinner who has not yet come to Christ, and may he or she come running to embrace the sacrifice in full provided on the cross. We thank you that you died for us. You paid the price for our sins completely and we are free from any judgment ever. This is beyond comprehension, and we are unworthy, but we rejoice. And we thank you and we thank you in Christ’s dear name. Amen.
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