Soteriology 003Isaiah 53:3-6 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 20, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 003, Isaiah 53
January 20, 2016
Good evening everybody; do you guys year me okay. You might want to take your Bible and turn to Isaiah 53, taking a look at verses 3-6 in just a minute. Welcome back to lesson 3 on soteriology. We looked at, in our first session, the definition of soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation, and we also looked at the three tenses of salvation. And then last week we got into the very difficult subject of election versus free will.
Tonight we’re looking at something called the atonement. And there’s a lot of stuff under atonement so I don’t think I’ll be able to get through it all before I’m supposed to stop talking around 8:00, so we may have to continue it on into next week. But what are we dealing here when we’re talking about the doctrine of the atonement? We’re going to look at the definition of the atonement. I’ll share with you some false views of the atonement. I’ll spend a little bit of time on the role of the blood, and then we look at the extent of the atonement; in other words, how extensive is it. And then we look at is the doctrine of the atonement final. And then we also take a look, I’ll try to show you towards the end if time permits that the atonement is not something that just jumps off the page at us in the New Testament. It’s a doctrine that’s very well developed all the way through the Old Testament as early as Genesis 3. I’ll try to show you a little bit about that.
And then you might say well how does this relate to soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Well, it is the means of salvation; that’s why we cover it here. The atonement is the means of salvation, if there wasn’t an atonement there wouldn’t be salvation for any of us.
So let’s go ahead and start off with a definition of atonement and the key word to understand when you talk about atonement is the word substitute. If you don’t have the word substitute in your thinking you kind of miss the whole point. And many, many passages point this out to us but my favorite one, probably, is Isaiah 53:3-6, which is a prophecy of Jesus 700 years in advance. And notice “substitute” in this. “He was despised,” verse 3, “and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Verse 5, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
So you’ll notice from the way I emphasized some of those words in that translation the whole issue here is substitute. He’s wounded for our transgressions. He is bruised for our iniquity. The chastening that we should have experienced fell upon Him. It couldn’t be clearer because Jesus died as our substitute. In other words, if you really want to think about it technically it should have been you, it should have been me hanging there on that cross, bearing the wrath of a holy God. But Jesus stepped into the line of fire and absorbed the wrath of God in our place. So the whole concept is substitution.
And just a couple of illustrations that might help you, if watch movies like I do and there’s movies about Secret Service men, Secret Service agents, and somebody famous is about to get shot, like the President or somebody, and the assassin shoots the bullet and the secret service agent in the movies jumps into the line of fire and takes the bullet for the President, which is what your job is if you’re involved in the Secret Service. So that, sort of, if you can kind of picture that, that’s sort of what Jesus did. The wrath of God was aimed at the human race, and Jesus essentially jumped into the line of fire and absorb that wrath in our place.
Another illustration that might help with this is, I think I’ve used the example before of a situation where a bee was loose in a car, and this had to do with a Jr. High School trip that we were on, and the youth pastor was driving us somewhere, and we’re in this car and this bee is loose and buzzing around and everybody is screaming (not me of course), but all the girls were screaming, and this particular youth pastor… you know, how many times can a bee sting? One time. He reaches out, he grabs the bee, holds it in his hand for a second, then he lets it go and he shows us all the bee sting in his hand, and the bee is harmless now, you don’t have to worry about it, it can only sting once, I took the sting in your place. So there’s the whole concept there of substitution. And that in essence is what the doctrine of the atonement is, it’s really all about substitution.
Now here are some false views of the atonement and I wrote down, or I jotted down on this slide the dates of these false views. We kind of take doctrines for granted because we’re living in the 21st century and a lot of doctrine has been ironed out for us and passed down. We kind of live under the wrong assumption that these doctrines have always been crystal clear. But what you’ll discover is the church really didn’t get down to hammering this out until probably around 1100 A.D, so half of church history as we know it had transpired before the church really started to articulate and formulate a very clear teaching on atonement.
And this is not just true with the doctrine of the atonement, it’s true with a host of doctrines that we take for granted. And generally the way it works is a heretic would arise and start saying something perverse in the church somewhere and the church would have to react to that. They didn’t have a formula down for reaction so they had to basically codify one. And that’s basically how the Creed of Nicea came into existence. There’s a clause in what’s called the Nicene Creed, probably formulated about A.D. 25 it says: “of Christ, begotten and not made.” Now why did they say “begotten and not made”? Because there was a heretic at that time named Arius, and Arius essentially taught basically what the Jehovah’s Witnesses today teach. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are just recycling, they don’t know this but they’re just recycling Arianism.
But Arias basically taught that Jesus was a created being and he even had a song, I won’t sing it for you, I don’t know how it went, but it was a chant he did where he said of Christ there was a time in which He was not. So the church said well, wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right, we’ve got to go to the Scripture. And so they started to understand, with greater clarity, that Jesus is eternally existent, which is the orthodox, leaf of orthodox Christianity and so they finally formulated it in the form of a creed as a reaction to Arianism.
And so that sort of is what’s going on with these doctrines throughout church history, including this doctrine of the atonement because what people started to do is they started to develop these ideas of why Christ died but they didn’t really go far enough in terms of incorporating the concept of substitution.
So here are some false views. No on so-called Christian television you can hear some of these things, particularly the first one. The first one is called the ransom to Satan view. Now you know what a ransom is, like as in someone being kidnapped; someone is kidnapped and placed into bondage and the family is trying to get the victim free pays a ransom to the kidnapper and they’re supposed to release the victim; sadly many times they don’t release the victim once they get the money they kill the victim anyway. But the idea is you pay a ransom to release someone from bondage.
So the ransom to Satan view is Christ’s death is a ransom paid to Satan for the claim that Satan had on man. Now that view is heretical because Christ’s death was not paid as a ransom to the devil. Christ’s death, if you want to call it a ransom it was a ransom paid to God the Father, because it satisfied God the Father’s holiness which demands that sin be punished. So the ransom to Satan view misses that point.
And then you have some other views, one of them is called the moral influence view. The moral influence view says Jesus’ death is just an expression of divine love and we ought to look at that and that ought to exert upon us a moral influence of some kind to soften our hearts towards God. Now with all of these false views there’s always a little bit of truth to it. I mean, it is true your heart should melt when you see what Jesus has done for you, but the fact of the matter is these views don’t go far enough, because they don’t really get into the subject of substitute. Jesus did not die simply to exert a positive moral influence on us; He died as our substitute, and if you don’t have the concept of substitute in your understanding of the atonement you miss what the Bible is saying.
A similar view is the moral example view, and the moral example view, and these are all points trying to answer the question “why did Christ die?” I’ve already answered that for us, He died as our substitute, but people come up with these false views. The moral example view is Jesus’ death is just there to inspire us to live a similar life of self-sacrifice. So they would say look at what Jesus did for us, look at how He gave of Himself; you know what, I should be a servant also because He’s my example. Now you look at that and there’s some truth to that because in Philippians 2 Paul, with Euodia and Syntyche fighting in Philippi, I call those two Odious and Syntouche, but you’ve got these two carnal believers fighting with each other, and they’re clearly believers because Philippians 4:3 says their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. [Philippians 4:2-3, I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true companion I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”]
But they’re in carnality, so Paul unfolds to them the kenosis of Christ; kenosis is just a Greek word that means the emptying of Christ, and he’s trying to inspire them to be servants and quit fighting. So there is some truth to this idea that Jesus’ death is an example for us to follow in terms of servant-hood, but that doesn’t complete the picture. In fact, if that’s your only understanding of why Christ died you miss the point of the atonement. He didn’t just die as an example for us in terms of service, He died as our substitute.
And then you have what’s called the governmental view, and this view teaches that Jesus’ death was just designed to promote respect for God’s Law by showing us the serious nature of violating God’s Law and also causing people, this is actually works, to work harder to keep God’s Law. So people that teach the governmental view basically say you know, look at what Christ did, doesn’t that show you how much God hates sin? And if God hates sin that much you should avoid sin in your life. Now again, there’s a little ring of truth to it, you look at what Jesus did and the price He had to pay, it shows you how serious sin is and that should give us some incentive to stay away from sin in a certain sense. But again, that view does not capture completely what the Bible says.
See, all these views get you to about the 50 yard line but they never take you into the end zone. The end zone is the concept of substitution.
And then the last view, I don’t know how you could hold to this view unless you just reject the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible, but this is what’s called the accidental view, and basically they say Jesus was a great moral teacher. Now this is kind of personal with me because my mother was raised in a home where she was told this over and over again, Jesus is not God, he was just a good philosopher and a good moral teacher. And of course, the remedy to that is to read the Bible and seeing all of the claims that Jesus made to being deity. So Jesus was obviously a good moral teacher but he was so much more than that; He was the unique God-Man
But this view says Jesus was just a great moral teacher and fate accidentally ended his life. So circumstances beyond His control came upon Him and His life was snuffed out prematurely. That view doesn’t fit the Bible at all, does it, because John 10:18 Jesus is very clear concerning His death, when He’s talking about His soon death. He says, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative, I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” So you should never get the idea in your doctrine of Christ that somehow circumstances overwhelmed Christ and snuffed out His life prematurely, in fact, He was in control of everything right down to the end. In fact, remember what He said, I believe it’s in Matthew 26, He says My Father could call down angels right now and shut the whole thing down if it wasn’t the will of the Father for me to go to the cross. [Matthew 26:53, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”]
And by the way, there are many times in the New Testament where Jesus is about to die but He miraculously escapes death because His time was not yet. There’s a reference to that in John 8:59 After He claimed to be the great I am, which is a divine title it says, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” See, he was about to die but He miraculously escaped death because His time was not yet. So there is no time in Christ’s life where circumstances overwhelmed Him and pushed Him into an early grave. He died because He had the authority to lay His life down and to take it up again. So that last view would just be a view that doesn’t really comport with wanting to submit to the authority of Scripture.
But I throw these at you just to show you that all of these views are interesting and they have a little ring of biblical truth to them (except for the last one), but they don’t go far enough in their definition of the atonement because they do not incorporate the concept of substitution.
So the belief that we have concerning the atonement is (let me throw some big words at you) the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. What does vicarious mean? It means in the place of another. If someone is living vicariously through you, as we like to say, they’re living in your place. So vicarious means substitute. So we have vicarious. The second word is penal, penal means punishment. The wrath of God that should have been borne by me was borne by Jesus Christ, atonement meaning substitute. So we believe in the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. And this is answering the fundamental question, why did Christ die?
Now as you drive through Houston you’ll notice that we, as Bible believers, are meeting a lot of times in storefronts and you drive down the street and you see these beautiful denominational buildings, stained glass windows, all paid for, beautiful seminaries, beautiful libraries, and you say well, why are we meeting in these store fronts, we’ve got the truth and those denominations don’t? What’s going on here? And the answer to that is there was a theological war that took place, called the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, and essentially what happened is the denominations, because they started to send their best and brightest off to Europe to get training, guess what happens when you sit under unbelievers for a long period of time? How do you come back? Basically an unbeliever with liberal ideas.
And they started to get into the pulpits, this would be around the 1920’s, and espouse these heretical ideas and there was a backlash and there was a war, literally, for the heart and soul of these denominations. We call these denominations the Seven Sisters, and during that time a famous sermon was preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal, and he preached a sermon saying shall the fundamentalists win? And the answer to that is the fundamentalists did not win. In other words, people that think like we do lost control of those denominations and to whom the victor goes the spoils go, right? So we lost libraries, we lost seminaries, we lost buildings, and so to teach doctrine accurately we had to withdraw from those institutions and so we had to start our own independent type churches.
And when you drive through very nice downtown areas and you see these beautiful buildings you have to understand that there’s a history as to why things happened the way that they did; it’s called the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. And these mainline denominations started to deny what we call the fundamentals of the faith. Now today “fundamentalist” is a bad name; if you want to insult somebody you call them a fundamentalist, that’s like using the “f” word, “fundamentalist” on somebody. And it’s like an insult… oh, you’re a fundamentalist! But a fundamentalist really is someone that just believes in the fundamentals of Christianity. If you understand it in context it’s not an insult at all.
Every discipline has fundamentals, right? So when you get on an airplane I hope your pilot is a fundamentalist, believes in the fundamentals of flying, understands the compass, understands gas gauges and all that kind of stuff. So what happened is these mainline denominations started to deny the fundamentals of the faith, and one of the ones that they started to deny was the penal vicarious substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ.
They started to teach all these other views that I’ve gone over, and the reaction against the liberals was a series of books that probably the key editor and writer was a guy named R. A. Torrey; Torrey was…they named the Bible conferences at Biola University after R. A. Torrey. And he wrote, or edited, or authored I should say a collection of essays in response to the liberals called The Fundamentals of the Faith. And they basically said we, as fundamentalists, will not cooperate any longer with these mainline denominations when they deny certain things. If you deny the virgin birth we’re not going to fellowship with you anymore; if you deny the deity of Christ, we’re not going to fellowship with you anymore. You deny that Jesus is coming back in a body, we’re not going to fellowship with you any more. If you deny the bodily resurrection of Christ we’re not going to fellowship with you any more.
And one of the things they stood on was this vicarious penal substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ. That was one of the fundamentals of the faith that they fought for, and actually left the mainline denominations over. They could not sit in a church any more that would not aggressively teach the substitutionary atoning death of Christ, and instead settled for kind of a watered down version, reaching back to some of these other theories as the liberals were doing. So that’s just a little bit of history of this doctrine; the atoning death of Jesus Christ is a big deal. It is the means by which we are saved. Had that not happened in history salvation would be an impossibility for any of us.
Now the role of the blood. When you think about atonement you’ve got to think about this: salvation is free to me, it’s free to you. But it was not free to Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Godhead. His blood had to have been spilled on our behalf, and so sometimes we talk so frequently about grace that we’re so accustomed to grace and we’re so accustomed to receiving something free from God that we have a tendency to forget the expense that was paid. The expense was paid by Christ to make it free to us. And that is the significance of the Lord’s Table.
The Lord’s Table, which Jesus commanded His church to celebrate consistently and regularly; at our church, at Sugar Land Bible Church we celebrate it once a month, but it’s significance is you would have, as the elements being distributed, a tangible symbol of Christ’s body and His blood. Now the body and blood at the Lord’s table are memory devices, that’s all they are, they’re designed to assist memory. The bread reminds us of His body which was sacrificed on our behalf. The cup reminds us of His blood which was spilled on our behalf and it is to be a perpetual reminder to God’s church that yes, salvation is free to everybody that will receive it by faith but it was not free to Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Trinity. His, as Peter calls it in 1 Peter, His very expensive blood was spilt.
So the New Testament over and over again points to the blood of Jesus Christ, it says it over and over and over again. Just a few verses, Acts 20:28, you can jot these down and look all those verses up this week and just notice how frequently the blood of Christ is mentioned. Acts 20:28 says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among you which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased,” in other words, bought, “with His own blood.” Paul mentions the blood of Christ over and over again, Romans 5:9 would be an example, Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” I’ll let you look up those others, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:13, Colossians 1:20.
[Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Colossians 1:20, “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”] The general epistles, now the general epistles are the letters that are not part of the 13 letters Paul wrote; Paul wrote 13 letters. We have other letters in our New Testament that we call the general letters and that would be basically Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, 1, 2, and 3 John. I think I covered them all, there’s eight of them, and they’re called the general letters because they are written by many different authors. So Peter wrote the Peter letters; John wrote the John letters. And they’re called the general letters because unlike Paul’s letters they’re not aimed at a specific group. Like when Paul wrote Romans it’s to the church at Rome. When he wrote Philippians it’s to the church at Philippi. The general letters, as you study them are written more to a broader audience. James, for example, writes to the scattered believing Jews, not people in a specific geographical area. So that’s why sometimes they’re called the general letters, universal letters. Sometimes they’re called the catholic letters, everybody gets nervous because they think that’s the Catholic Church but “catholic” just means universal.
So in the New Testament we have Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. We have the book of Acts, and the 13 letters Paul wrote, and then we have these 8 general letters, and then we have the book of Revelation. So Acts mentions the blood of Jesus Christ quite frequently, Paul’s letters mention the blood of Jesus Christ quite frequently and so do the general letters.
For example, take a look at Hebrews 9, now we’re into the general letters, Hebrews 9 and this one you’ll recognize because I read it pretty much every Sunday when we do communion. Hebrews 9:22, it says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” of sin. See how the blood is mentioned. Backing up in the chapter, Hebrews 9:12, “and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all,” and so forth. 1 Peter 1:2, you’ll see that we have been sprinkled, metaphorically, “with His blood.” 1 John 1:7.
[Hebrews 9:22, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:12, “and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption .” 1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” 1 John 1:7, “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”]
And then, of course, the book of Revelation mentions the blood of Christ quite frequently. Revelation 1, and notice verse 5, it says, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins” don’t stop reading, “by His blood.” Revelation 5:9, the blood of Jesus Christ you’ll see. It’s talking about those that are saved, “they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood ….”] And by the way, how do we overcome? Through His blood. Revelation 12:11, it says, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,” and so forth.
In other words, if the blood of Jesus Christ was never shed and positionally applied to us we would have zero standing before God. So salvation is free to us but very expensive to Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Godhead. And of course, the Lord’s Supper is a perpetual reminder of that. The Lord’s Supper is not for the unbeliever; the Lord’s Supper is to remind the believer the expense of what we have. So it’s sort of sad that in Christianity today most people just kind of go through the Lord’s Table as a ritual but it’s not a ritual, it’s something designed by God to contribute to worship, because if you understand the expense of what Jesus went through on our behalf, as we’re visibly reminded through the bread and the cup, that should overwhelm our hearts with an attitude of gratitude. Right? That should create worship and praise amongst God’s people. So it’s hard to really talk about the atonement without mentioning the blood of Jesus Christ.
Another issue in this whole subject of the atonement is the extent of it. How wide is the atonement. And what you’ll discover within orthodox evangelical Christianity is there’s basically two views on this. The first view, which I think is wrong and I’ll tell you why I think it’s wrong in a second, it’s called limited atonement. Limited atonement is the view that Christ died only for the elect. We went over election versus free will last time, so the five point Calvinist will basically tell you that Christ died only for the elect, He did not die for the entire world. And if you’re familiar with five point Calvinism what it is, is it’s more of a philosophy read into the Bible than a theology taken out of the Bible. And they go by this, an acronym, T-U-L-I-P. T stands for total depravity; the U stands for Unconditional election; the L stands for limited atonement, the I stands for irresistible grace, and the P stands for perseverance of the saints.
And I used to look at those anacronyms and say yeah, I agree with a lot of that, total depravity, uncondonital election, I never agreed with “L”, I’ll show you why in a second, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints, so I used to call myself a four-point Calvinist and I went down to a three-point Calvinist, and so forth. And then I started to figure out what those words actually meant when these terms were coined. And I started to say I don’t believe any of those things the way they define them.
Total depravity, what a very strong five point Calvinist means by total depravity is not only are we sinful but we don’t even have an ability to believe. Even when the Spirit of God convicts you, you can’t believe you’re so depraved. And so that’s where their doctrine of regeneration precedes faith comes in; they say God gives you the gift of faith, He regenerates you first so you can believe. Now I don’t believe that because regeneration is the result of faith and they’re making it the cause of faith. There’s no clear verse in the Bible that teaches regeneration precedes faith.
Unconditional election, I’m a lot more open to, we went over that last time. The “L” let’s put that aside just for a second, Limited atonement, we’ll talk about it. Irresistible grace basically means that God, if you’re elect He draws you to Himself and you really have no choice in it. So they override all of the passages that we went over last time that not only teach election but also free will. You just kind of wake up one day and you’re a believer.
And then perseverance of the saints, I used to think that what they mean by that is eternal security, which as I’ll be showing you later on in the course, I think eternal security, “once saved, always saved” is an accurate doctrine. But that’s really not what they man by perseverance of the saints. What they mean by that is if you are one of the elect, because your salvation was caused by God, then you will always overcome in good works… always! And so if you’re not overcoming in good works, guess what? Maybe you were never one of the elect. And it opens the door to massive lack of assurance of salvation. And people today struggle under this doctrine because they really wonder if they’re Christians or not because they sinned last week, or this week, or today, and they say wow, if I’m really saved I should be overcoming in good works. I had a good day on Monday but I slipped up on Tuesday, so maybe I’m not one of the elect. And so there’s almost no assurance of salvation in their teaching. But I’ll make more reference to Calvinism as we go through it.
But the one that they’re most vulnerable on, biblically, I believe is the “L” because essentially what they believe is Christ only died for the elect, He did not die for the entire world. Now these people are not dumb-dumbs, okay, there are verses, when you look at them at first glance, that make it look like Jesus only died for the elect. So probably one of their more popular verses that they like to use is John 10:15. [John 10:15, “even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”]
By the way, this is why I don’t spend a lot of time promoting the teachings of John MacArthur in this church. If anything I try to warn you about some of the teachings of John MacArthur, even though I do think John MacArthur has said some good things, but you have to understand that John MacArthur is coming at the Bible through a five point Calvinist lens. When you listen to John MacArthur what you have to understand is you’re not getting the Bible; you’re getting the Bible through a lens. It’s kind of like news, right? You know when someone is giving you a news from a conservative angle or a liberal angle, they’re giving it to you through a filter. And some of these very aggressive Calvinists, like John MacArthur, others, John Piper, very popular, that I could name, are giving you the Bible through a specific lens. I’m not saying don’t listen to these people ever, I’m just saying please have some discernment when you listen to them and when you listen to me or anybody for that matter.
So they do have verses that they go to support this limited atonement doctrine. John 10:15 is sort of a favorite, Jesus says, towards the end of the verse, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” [John 10:15, “even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”] So they look at that and they say there it is, He didn’t die for everybody, He only died for the elect. They like to use Matthew 20:28 which says Jesus died for the many. Not everybody, but the many is how they think. [Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”] Not everybody, but the many is how they think.
They like to use a verse that we just quoted a little earlier, Acts 20:28 where it says Jesus purchased the church with His blood. He didn’t die for everybody they say, He just died for the elect. He died only for the church. They like to use Ephesians 5:25 which says Jesus laid down His life for the church. [Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”]
So that’s what you call limited atonement. Now you say well, does it really matter what you believe about this? A five point Calvinist, like for example Jay Adams, okay, Jay Adams is a five point Calvinist, he’s written some wonderful books on counseling, and his key book is Competent to Counsel. And it’s a wonderful book on why you can counsel based on the authority of the Word of God. But what you also must understand about Jay Adams is he is a five point Calvinist, eschatologically he’s a Preterist also, he believes most of the book of Revelation already happened in A.D. 70. So Jay Adams has actually said this, when he evangelizes an unbeliever he does not say to the unbeliever Jesus died for you. Now why would he say that? Because he’s not really sure if that unbeliever he’s evangelizing is one of the elect. So you can’t go up to an unbeliever and say Jesus died for you if you are an adherent to limited atonement. Do you follow.
And I just bring that up because I’m trying to show you why this stuff matters. It matters in terms of how you share the gospel. So what we believe at Sugar Land Bible Church is not limited atonement, we believe in unlimited atonement: Jesus died for the world. And John’s Gospel is just massive on this subject. In fact, I don’t even have time to read through all of those verses John gives but John, one of his points is the gospel is for the entire world.
John 1:29, notice that, this is what John the Baptist said when He saw Jesus coming, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the…” elect? NO, “world.” You all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son….” Look up sometime John 4:42, John 6:51, John 12:32, John 12:47.
[John 4:42 “and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is 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.’”
John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’”
John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
John 12:47, “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. “]
Now Paul, in his preaching is unlimited atonement, notice Acts 17:30, it says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” Don’t worry about repent right now, (I mean worry about it in your personal life) but we’ll be explaining what repent means. It’s a synonym for believe because the word means change of mind. But notice who is supposed to repent or change their mind? …“all people everywhere,” not just the elect.
Paul’s epistles are filled with this doctrine of unlimited atonement, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 2:6. To me, I have underlined what I think are the strongest unlimited atonement passages. Take a look at 1 Timothy 4:10, it says, “For it is for this we labor and we strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” See that, yeah, He’s the Savior of believers but He’s also the Savior of all men. That to me is very hard to get away from in terms of a good argument for unlimited atonement. Titus 2:11 says almost the same thing. [2 Corinthians 5:19, “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 1 Timothy 2:4, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:6, “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”]
Getting into the general letters you might want to take a look at Hebrews 2:9, towards the end of the verses, of Jesus it says, “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for every man.” That’s a very strong unlimited atonement passage. [Hebrews 2:9, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely Jesus, because of the suffering of death and crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”] Probably the strongest unlimited atonement passage in the whole Bible would be 1 John 2:2, that’s why I have it underlined. John says, 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” So he doesn’t just say “world,” as he says over and over again in his gospel, he adds an adjective in front of the word “world.” He says there, “the whole world.”
I also like to use 2 Peter 2:1 for unlimited atonement because there’s a very strong argument that the false teachers that Peter is rebuking here in chapter 2 are unbelievers. He says things like “darkness is reserved for them forever.” [2 Peter 2:17, “These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.”] But then he says of these false teachers, 2 Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,” watch this, “even denying the Master who bought them,” so if these folks are unbelievers, chapter 2, these false teachers, notice that Christ’s death bought them also. So a very, very strong unlimited atonement passage.
So how, then, do limited atonement people explain away all those verses? Their trump card is John 12:19, they LOVE John 12:19. What does John 12:19 says? John 12:19 says, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world,” same Greek word, cosmos, that’s been in all these other passages, “the world has gone after Him.’” Now obviously in the triumphal entry, which is what John 12 is about, the whole world wasn’t there, it’s just making a point that Jesus was popular.
So they say look, when John uses the word “world” he doesn’t mean everybody, it’s just an expression to mean a limited group. Now that is an exegetical error that’s very common amongst theologians. Let me give you a fancy word for it, called illegitimate totality transfer. It’s an exegetical fallacy. Illegitimate totality transfer occurs when you examine what a word means in a different context, a totally different context, and then you transport that meaning into another context, whether the context supports that other meaning or not.
Let me give you an example. Take, for example, the word “apple.” How many meanings of the word “apple” are there? Well, I could be talking about a piece of fruit; if I’m giving a computer lecture I could be talking about a computer. If we’re talking about a city, the Big Apple, I could be talking about New York. If I’m talking about the pupil of your eye I could say the apple of one’s eye. See, it’s the same word “apple” but I just generated four meanings to the word. So when I see the word “apple” when I’m reading something how do I know which meaning to supply to that word? What tells me? Context, what are the three rules of real estate, location, location, location. What are the three rules of Bible study interpretation: context, context, context because words mean things in the context that they’re found in.
Now James Barr, who developed this phrase “illegitimate totality transfer” who wrote a book called The Semantics of Biblical Language, was basically saying that very thing. He was saying you cannot take the same word that’s used in a different context and read the meaning of that word into your present context when the present context doesn’t support the meaning of that word. That is what James Barr called “illegitimate totality transfer,” because words have multiple meanings and words mean different things based on the context that they’re used in.
The word “run,” did I go on a run before I came to class? Is my car engine running? If I’m a lady do I have a run in my stockings? I mean, think of all the different meanings of the word “run.” Well, if you see the word “run” how do you know what meaning to supply? The context tells you. So how does this relate to the unlimited versus limited atonement debate? They find the word “world” in some totally different context where the context shrinks the meaning of the word. They then develop that meaning and read it into every use of the word world in the whole Bible. And you have to watch theologians very carefully because they do this quite frequently; when they want to prove a point they’ll go outside the context, the same word, and read that meaning into their present context and when you see that happening you automatically say that’s illegitimate totality transfer, it’s exegetical hermeneutical error because words mean things based on their context.
So nobody disputes that John 12:19 means “world” in a limited sense in John 12:19. That’s not what it means in John 3:16; that’s not what it means in John 1:29, and so this is sort of how this game is played. I’m just trying to show you how people actually justify this doctrine of limited atonement. [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.” John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”]
Now in all of these passages we went through supporting limited atonement, Jesus died for the church, He laid down His life for the sheep, did you ever hear the word “only” in any of those verses? Yes, He died for the sheep, but it doesn’t say He only died for the sheep. Now if those verses said “only” or “alone” or “by itself” then there might be some kind of argument for limited atonement. But because a term of exclusivity is not used we have to put all kinds of verses together. One verse says He died for the sheep. Another verse says He died for the world. There’s no contradiction there. Yes, He died for the sheep one verse says, but He also died for the world, another verse says. There’s not conflict there unless these limited atonement verses said the word “alone” or “only” which they do not say that.
So these sorts of verses, Matthew 20:28, John 10:15; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25, these are what we would call non-exclusive verses. They’re just making a statement of what something Christ’s death did accomplish but they’re not saying that’s all Christ’s death accomplished. The Bible makes statements constantly that are non-exclusive.
For example, one gospel writer says in the tomb of Christ there was an angel. Another gospel writer says in the tomb of Christ there were two angels. And people say look, there’s a contradiction, one gospel says an angel, another gospel writer says there were two angels. Well there is no contradiction because when the gospel writer says there was an angel in Christ’s tomb he’s not saying there was one and only one angel, one angel period. He doesn’t say that. There’s just two angels and one gospel writer focuses on one of them, what he’s saying, he doesn’t say he was the only one there, and the other gospel writer kind of broadens the picture a little bit and focuses on two angels. But because the statement about the first angel is a non-exclusive statement it doesn’t contradict the other gospel writer that says there were two angels.
If the first gospel writer says there was only one angel then there would be a contradiction but the gospel writer never says that. It’s the same type of thought process when you think about this issue of limited versus unlimited atonement. It’s like you’ve got two kids and you say, about one of your kids, I really love this kid over here. Now when a parent says that they’re not saying I love this kid and only this kid at the exclusion of the other kid. Right! They’re just making a statement that I love this kid, they never intended it to mean I don’t love the other one. And we understand that basically is how language functions and you have to sort of apply this thinking to statements in the Bible that at first glance seem contradictory. They are not contradictory. The concept of unlimited atonement does not contradict those earlier passages that we went through indicating that Christ laid down His life for the sheep. I hope I’m making some kind of sense up here.
So what is our view on the atonement of Christ? We believe that it is unlimited which basically means the whole world is savable. Every human being on planet earth that’s ever lived, that’s alive today and will be ever live is savable because of what Christ did. Now, as I’ll be showing you under the one condition of salvation later on in the course, they are not actually saved until they believe, but they are savable.
If I was to say that everybody on planet earth is saved that would be heresy, because I would be teaching universalism, which as I’ll be showing you is a wrong doctrine. So I’m not saying every person on planet earth is saved. What I’m saying is because of the unlimited atonement of Jesus Christ every human being is savable, because Christ’s blood was spilled for everybody on planet earth.
So unlike Jay Adams, who doesn’t tell unbelievers Christ died for you because he doesn’t know if they’re one of the elect or not, I do not do that. When I share the gospel, whether I understand the elect or not the elect, I couldn’t understand it anyway, right? That’s God’s business. But I tell everybody when I share the gospel Jesus died for you! I do it with total confidence because of my understanding of the unlimited atonement of Jesus Christ.
And I don’t think I’m going to have time to develop this but let me just give you something to chew on for next week. Jesus’ death related to the atonement is final. There is nothing else to be added. The whole thing that He accomplished is completely finished. We know that for three reasons: Jesus, in His present session, at the Father’s right hand, is always (I’ll give you one exception in a minute) is always portrayed as seated. Colossians 3:1 He’s seated; Hebrews 1:3 and those other verses He’s seated. Revelation 3:21 He’s seated. The one exception is in Acts 7:55 when Stephen, the first martyr of the church age, as his soul is entering heaven Jesus is portrayed as standing, I think out of honor to Stephen. But other than Acts 7:55 every time you see Jesus in His present session at the Father’s right hand He is always seated.
[Colossians 3:1, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 1:3, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Romans 8:34 says “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Acts 7:55, “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”]
Keep in mind a lot of these references come from the book of Hebrews. Hebrews means it was written to a Jewish audience. The Hebrews understood the tabernacle really well; the author of Hebrews makes a lot of references to the tabernacle. What piece of furniture is not in the tabernacle? There’s no chair. Now why is that? Because under the old covenant the priest’s job was never finished. That’s the imagery, because once you offered one round of sacrifices on the day of atonement, a sacrifice on the day of atonement you had to do the whole thing next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. So under the Old Covenant there were perpetual sacrifices. That’s why God looks at it and says I’m not satisfied with this, because it never dealt with the sin question in totality and finality.
And you’re a Jewish Christian, you’re reading the book of Hebrews and you get to Hebrews 1:3 and it says Jesus is sitting in His role as high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He’s sitting. Now to a Jew that would just jump right off the page. Oh my goodness, that’s different than anything I’ve ever read about in the tabernacle. Now those of us that are Gentiles that come into Christianity and don’t really know our Old Testament that well, that imagery just goes right over our heads, but it is highly significant that He’s seated, meaning His work is finished.
Number 2, there is a Greek word “once,” Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:10 used over and over again, the Greek word is hapax, one time. Christ’s sacrificial death was one time. In Greek hapax means once. We have actually a phrase we use called hapax legomena, legomena means a word in Greek, so hapax legomena is a word used only one time. I’m just trying to show you that hapax means once. And those are great verses to show your Roman Catholic friends because they believe that every time they take the mass Jesus is being re-crucified, if they understand what their church teaches.
[Hebrews 9:12, “and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:26, “Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 10:10, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”]
And the third reason we know Christ’s death is completed is because of the final words He said on the cross, which is what? John 19:30, “It is finished!” The Greek verb is teleio now when Jesus says “It is finished” it’s a translation of the perfect tense of that verb which is the Greek verb tetelestai, the perfect tense is a big deal in Greek because it means a one-time action in the past with ongoing results. Tetelestai means it is finished, there isn’t anything else to add to it.
Now this is the difference between religion and biblical Christianity. Religion, whether it’s Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, any other world religion you want to talk about, says Jesus did about 90% but you need to pick up the slack and you do that by paying, praying and obeying. Now there’s no assurance of salvation if you believe that because how do you know if you’ve really picked up 10%, maybe you only did 8 ½ percent. So you go to your grave wondering if you’ve done enough. In contrast, what we believe is Jesus did it ALL, it’s 100% finished. How do I know it’s 100% finished? Because He’s seated, the word hapax, one time, is used, and His final words on the cross were tetelestai, meaning paid in full, teleio in the perfect tense. So we do not believe that Jesus did 90%; we don’t believe Jesus bought lunch and we need to leave the tip. We believe He did everything.
Now if that’s true, that shapes how you share the gospel because the way you share the gospel with people is you share it with them in a way that communicates to them that it’s all paid for. Most gospel tracts, it’s very sad, they say this: You’re saved by grace, not by works. And you keep reading the tract and they give you three or four works to do, you need to pray, you need to raise your hand, you need to walk an aisle, you need to confess. Why are we doing that to people when Jesus did it all? What we share with people is you have to receive what he has done for you because He did it all, it’s all been paid for, as a free gift, and the only way to receive a free gift is by faith. Romans 4:4-5, “But to the one who does not work, but” what? “believes,” that’s what you focus on. Belief, because everything has been paid for. [Romans 4:4,“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.”  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” ]
So I realize we went through a lot today. Definition of atonement, false views of atonement, role of the blood, extent of the atonement and finality of the atonement and we’ll pick this up next time.