Category Archives: Atonement

Is this verse forced into limited atonement theology?

Sealed

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’m speaking of 1 Corinthians 15:3: ‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’ (ESV)

I find some Calvinists not to be upfront about their meaning when they make statements about Christ dying for sinners. A person asked online, ‘When Paul initially preached to them [the Corinthians] there would have been non-believers present. What would you say to such a crowd regarding “Christ”, “died” and “sins”?’[1]

A Calvinist who believes in limited atonement responded,

Christ died for sinners. You are a sinner. To receive forgiveness for your sins you must repent of your sins believe on The Lord Jesus Christ.

Later I could say that I preached that Christ died for our sins. And it would be true.[2]

Therefore, I asked, ‘In your first sentence, ‘Christ died for sinners’, are you affirming that Christ died for ALL sinners?[3] He did not want to affirm his belief in limited atonement at this point, so he said, ‘Read it again’.[4] My response was, ‘That’s like a non-answer’ He has affirmed his belief in TULIP Calvinism constantly in his posts to Christian Forums, but he didn’t want to go down that route at this stage of the discussion.

A.  The meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:3: Limited atonement or not?

That only believers are mentioned in 1 Cor 15:3, ‘Christ died for our sins’, is because of the grammar and semantics of writing a letter to anyone. When the Bible uses ‘our’, ‘us’, and ‘we’ regarding the atonement, it does this because this is the group of people that a writer (in this case, Paul) is addressing.

Such a verse as 1 Cor 15:3 is not addressing all of those for whom there has been provision of atonement; it is speaking to those for whom there has been an appropriation/application of the atonement in Corinth. Here in 1 Cor 15:3, Paul is addressing a few to whom the atonement has been applied, so he uses the language of ‘our sins’.

B.  Provision and appropriation

This language of ‘provision’ and ‘appropriation or application’ is used by some theologians to differentiate between the number of people who are provided with opportunity for salvation (all of the people in the world) and those who accept Christ’s offer (appropriation or application of salvation). Geisler, who links his view to that of a ‘moderate Calvinist’ (Geisler 1999:52-54), uses it also (see below). He wrote that ‘while salvation was provided for all, it is applied only to those who believe’ and ‘since God also wanted everyone to believe, he also intended that Christ would die to provide salvation for all people’ (2004:187, emphasis in original). Geisler also uses ‘everyone is potentially justifiable, not actually justified’ (2004:352, emphasis in original). He also uses parallel language when he stated that ‘God’s grace is not merely sufficient for all; it is efficient for the elect. In order for God’s grace to be effective, there must be cooperation by the recipient on whom God has moved’ (Geisler 2004:144).

Thiessen, an Arminian in his views, uses the language of ‘appropriation’:

‘There is a necessary order in a man’s salvation; he must first believe that Christ died for him, before he can appropriate the benefits of His death to himself. Although Christ died for all in the sense of reconciling God to the world, not all are saved, because their actual salvation is conditioned on their being reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20)’ (Thiessen 1949:330, emphasis in original).

Therefore, Thiessen offered this summary of how Christ can be the Saviour of the world and not offer salvation only to the elect:

His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his wilful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the Cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who die in infancy, and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself (Thiessen  1949:330).

Others such as David Allen use the language of ‘the extent of the atonement’ and ‘the application of the atonement’ (Allen 2010:65, emphasis in original). Allen argues ‘the case for unlimited atonement (an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ)’ (Allen 2010:66). He concluded his exposition with this statement:

I have attempted to demonstrate the following: (1) Historically, neither Calvin nor the first generation of reformers held the doctrine of limited atonement. From the inception of the Reformation until the present, numerous Calvinists have rejected it, and furthermore, it represents a departure from the historic Christian consensus that Jesus suffered for the sins of all humanity. (2) Biblically, the doctrine of limited atonement simply does not reflect the teaching of Scripture. (3) Theologically and logically, limited atonement is flawed and indefensible. (4) Practically, limited atonement creates serious problems for God’s universal saving will; it provides an insufficient ground for evangelism by undercutting the well-meant gospel offer; it undermines the bold proclamation of the gospel in preaching; and it contributes to a rejection of valid methods of evangelism such as the use of evangelistic altar calls.

I cannot help but remember the words of the venerable retired distinguished professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Jack McGorman, in his inimitable style and accent: ‘The doctrine of limited atonement truncates the gospel by sawing off the arms of the cross too close to the stake.’[5] Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward ‘five-point’ Calvinism? Such a move would be, in my opinion, not a helpful one[6] (Allen 2010:107).

In 1 Cor 15:3, the language of ‘Christ died for our sins’ is using simple etiquette. When I’m writing to my friends and use ‘our’, I’m referring to them and me exclusively, so ‘our’ is appropriate. That is what Paul is doing here in 1 Cor 15:3. Paul is not making a statement about ‘our sins’ meaning limited atonement.

We know this because elsewhere in the NT, we have confirmation that God loves all people, Christ died for the sins of all people, and that God is not willing that any people should perish (Jn 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Tit 2:11; 2 Pt 2:1; 3:9).

Titanic

ChristArt

C.  Norman Geisler responds to this verse

In his ‘answering objections to the origin of salvation’, Geisler responds to an objection ‘based on God’s unique love for the elect’. This is the objection:

Strong Calvinists claim that God does not salvifically love all people, insisting that Christ died only for the elect. If this is true, then God is not omnibenevolent. For instance: ‘He chose us’ (not ‘all’ – Eph. 1:4); ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15;3); ‘I lay down my life for the sheep’ (John 10:15); ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 5:25) [Geisler 2004:194, emphasis in original].

What is his rejoinder to this objection?

The fact that only believers are mentioned in some passages as the object of Christ’s death does not prove that the Atonement is limited, for several reasons.

First, Paul also said that Jesus ‘gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20), het no proponent of limited atonement takes this to exclude the fact that Christ died for others as well.

Second, when Paul uses terms like we, our, or us of the Atonement, it speaks only of those to whom it has been applied, not for all those for whom it was provided. In doing so, Scripture does not thereby limit the Atonement.

Third, and finally, the fact that Jesus loves His bride and died for her (Eph. 5;25) does not mean that God the Father and Jesus the Son do not love the whole world and desire them to be part of His bride, the church. John 3:16 explicitly says otherwise (Geisler 2004:195).

See also, S. Michael Houdmann, ‘Main arguments against limited atonement(please understand that Houdmann in this link is a 4-point Calvinist who does not believe in limited atonement).

red blood cells

(courtesy wpclipart)

Works consulted

Allen, D L 2010. The atonement: Limited or universal? In D L Allen & S W Lemke (eds), Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism, 61-107. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic.

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] janxharris#11, 17 November 2013, Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘What did Paul preach to the Corinthians?’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7787859-2/ (Accessed 17 November 2013).

[2] Hammster#12, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#14, ibid.

[4] Hammster#16, ibid.

[5] At this point the footnote was, ‘Spoken to the author in a personal conversation’ (Allen 2010:107, n. 133).

[6] Here the footnote was: ‘We should heed the words of Thomas Lamb, seventeenth-century Baptist and Calvinist, who said: “… yet I deny not, but grand with him [John Goodwin], that the denial of Christs [sic] Death for the sins of all, doth detract from God’s Philanthropy, and deny him to be a lover of men, and doth in very deed destroy the very foundation and ground-work of Christian faith” (Thomas Lamb, Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christs Death for the World [London: Printed by H. H. for the authour, and are to be sold by him, 1656], 248)’ (Allen 2010:107, n. 134).

 


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 October 2016.

Unlimited atonement by Jesus

Sealed

(image courtesy ChristArt )

By Spencer D Gear

TULIP Calvinists promote belief in Limited Atonement. Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world or did he die only for the sins of the elect – the church? To ask the question another way: ‘When Christ died on the cross, did he pay for the sins of the entire human race or only for the sins of those who he knew would ultimately be saved?’ (Grudem 1994:594).

Anglican Reformed theologian, J I Packer, gave this definition:

Definite redemption, sometimes called “particular redemption,” “effective atonement,” and “limited atonement,” is an historic Reformed doctrine about the intention of the triune God in the death of Jesus Christ. Without doubting the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice or the genuineness of God’s “whoever will” invitation to all who hear the gospel (Rev. 22:17), the doctrine states that the death of Christ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve. From this definiteness and effectiveness follows its limitedness: Christ did not die in this efficacious sense for everyone. The proof of that, as Scripture and experience unite to teach us, is that not all are saved (Packer 1993:137; also available HERE)

Baptist Reformed theologian, Wayne Grudem, stated that

those whom God planned to save are the same people for whom Christ also came to die, and to those same people the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, even awakening their faith (John 1:12; Phil. 1:29; cf. Eph. 2:2) and calling them to trust in him….

The term that is usually preferred is particular redemption, since this view holds  that Christ died for particular people (especially, those who would be saved and whom he came to redeem), that he foreknew each one of them individually (cf. Eph. 1:3-5) and had them individually in mind in his atoning work(Grudem 1994;595, 596).

Is limited atonement or particular redemption taught in Scripture? For a defence of that position, see J I Packer,Definite Redemption’; Packer 1994:137-139).

However, what do the Scriptures teach? We will find that unlimited atonement (Jesus died for the whole world) is taught by biblical Christianity. The following are representative passages in support of unlimited atonement:

Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (NIV)

John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'”

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 states:

16. For God so loved the world. Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (John Calvin, Commentary on John, vol 1, John 3:13-18, CCEL, emphasis added).

John 4:42: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.'”

Acts 2:21: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

1 Timothy 2:3-4: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.”

1 Timothy 4:10: “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”
Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

1 John 2:2: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (Please note the contrast of ‘ours’ and ‘the whole world’.)

1 John 4:14: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

I was helped with the listing of these Scriptures by Ron Rhodes’ excellent article in support of unlimited atonement.The Extent of the Atonement:Limited Atonement Versus Unlimited Atonement(Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries). Another article in support of unlimited atonement is Robert P Lightner,The Death Christ Died: A Case for Unlimited Atonement’.

So the teaching on unlimited atonement is very biblical. Also, the founder of Calvinism, John Calvin, believed in it.

See my article: Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

Crucify

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

 


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world?

Through the cross

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This discussion has been continuing since the Calvinistic-Arminian debates of the Reformation period. But it is alive and well today. There are a couple Scriptures that stand out as affirming an unlimited atonement (i.e. Christ dying for the sins of every person in the world). These are:

#First John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV).

 

# Hebrews 2:9, ‘But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone’ (ESV).

A plain reading of the text indicates that Jesus death is the propitiation (to appease the wrath of God’ for ‘our sins’ (presumably referring to Christians) AND ‘for the sins of the whole world’. Unlimited atonement is the fairly obvious reading of 1 John 2:2, except if one is a Calvinist. Hebrews 2:19 states that Jesus ‘suffering of death’ meant that he did ‘taste death for everyone’. Does everyone mean all the people in the world or only a limited number? That is what is involved in some of this Arminian-Calvinist debate as I found out when interacting on a Christian forum on the Internet.

On Christian Forums, an Arminian started a thread and asked:

If faith is a gift from God exclusively to the elect, and not everyone is elect, then there are some people that have no access to salvation.

I want to ask, if I may, if the Calvinists here on CF agree with this statement?[1]

Calvinists condone God’s being selective and conditional

This is a predictable and accurate response from an Arminian, ‘Calvinists say that this gifting of faith is done so selectively and unconditionally; it’s got nothing to do with anything good or bad that a man might do, they say’.[2]

The response was unsurprising from a Calvinist: ‘That’s because there is no such thing as a man who is good or a man who does anything good’.[3]

God decrees all sin and evil

Humans Evil

(courtesy ChristArt)

I replied to the Arminian:

The plot gets even thicker with some Calvinists.[4] Take the late Edwin Palmer, a Calvinist theologian, who stated that, ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (2010:84). He continued, ‘To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God’ and

although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s….
To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. Not only is God omnipotent, so that the nations are to him a drop in the bucket or as a fine coating of dust on weighing scales (Isaiah 40), but he also “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquests of the Roman Empire, the Battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations.
In two instances, the Bible is especially clear in teaching that everything, including sin, is ordained by God: the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ (Palmer 2010:103, 100, emphasis added).

I find that that kind of statement about the absolute sovereignty of God’s foreordination of sin and evil, by Palmer, has horrific ramifications.

It means that every act of a reprobate in paedophilia, rape, violence of person-to-person, the Holocaust, the Gulag, Nero’s slaughter of Christians, the rape of Christian women fleeing Syria today by Muslim men at check points (according to Barnabas Fund) and every other evil act imaginable by individuals, groups and nations is attributed to the sovereignty of God in decreeing sin and evil. This is not only a reprehensible view – as I understand it – but it is not consistent with Scripture. How is it possible to harmonise Palmer’s perspective of the sovereignty of God who decrees all of the sin and evil in the world, with an appeal to the Scriptures? This especially relates to the character of God, his goodness and justice/righteousness.

See my article: Limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodnes

How would a Calvinist reply?

Surprising Things

(courtesy ChristArt)

It was predictable:

If God doesn’t decree sin, that means sin happens for one of two reasons:

1) God is powerless to stop it;
2) God can stop it, but chooses not to, for no reason whatsoever. Since he didn’t decree it, it means he has no purpose for allowing it to happen. Yet he allows it arbitrarily.

Pick your poison Oz.

I’d prefer to say that God has a purpose for sin, and he uses it to accomplish His purposes, as he “works all things according to the counsel of His own will”.

So which do you prefer? #1 or #2?[5]

Notice his pejorative language to me, ‘Pick your poison Oz’. This flaming language does not help rational discussion. This was my response:[6]

There’s no picking of poison here. That’s a false and defamatory accusation. You don’t seem to be able to tolerate those, like myself, who oppose your view of God decreeing all of the sin and evil in the universe, so what do you do? You make a derogatory comment towards me of telling me: ‘Pick your poison Oz’. That’s horribly insulting!

Please quit your pejorative language towards me!

You don’t seem to be able to differentiate between God’s ordaining all of the sin and evil in the universe (your Calvinism) and God’s permitting sin and evil (my Reformed Arminianism).

Johnpiper3.jpg

John Piper (courtesy Wikipedia)

Dr. OlsonRoger E Olson (courtesy Baylor University)

See Andrew Wilson’s article, ‘Piper and Olson: Does God Ordain All Sinful Human Choices?‘ I endorse Wilson’s conclusion:

So I don’t see any biblical grounds for saying that God ordains all sinful human choices, and I agree with David Bentley Hart (and Roger Olson) that Calvinists often do not distinguish clearly enough between what God ordains and what he allows. (I’ve been asked in the past why I believe ordaining and allowing are different; my usual response is to say, “because they’re different”. When you use two words that have different dictionary definitions – “commanding, giving orders for” versus “permitting” – the burden of proof is on the guy who thinks they mean the same thing, not the guy who thinks they mean different things.) From where I’m standing, the Bible does say that God ordains some sinful choices, but it does not say that God ordains all sinful choices. And if that makes me a woolly, fluffy, Amyraldian, four point, lily-livered, half-baked, big girl’s blouse of a 1536 Calvinist, then so be it.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Sea God's Will

(courtesy ChristArt)

The Calvinist, advocating God’s decreeing sin and evil, wrote:

If they deserve damnation, I fail to see how anything is wrong with that. He could have saved zero people and sentenced 100% of humanity to damnation, and been just to do so.

Further, your own view is censorious too, because God set up a stipulation for his mercy: belief. He didn’t have to do that. He could have saved everyone, but chose not to. He could have made the stipulation for salvation “be a human being”, but He didn’t. Thus, in your view too, He chose to be selective as to who He lets into heaven.

You act like only Calvinists beleive (sic) God saves some, but not all, when you believe the very same thing.

Please don’t come back and say that ‘none of us deserved anything from God’ because the fact, from a Calvinistic understanding, is that God discriminately, selectively, unconditionally, irresistibly, provides a limited atonement for some, but damns the rest and they cannot do anything about it because it is done ‘selectively and unconditionally’.

The fact that you think all men don’t deserve hell is noted.[7]

###

Note the invention here. Not once have I ever stated or inferred that I ‘think all men don’t’ deserve hell’. That’s a straw man fallacy that Skala invented to try to discredit me. It’s an under-hand, deceptive tactic that is absolutely false. I do believe all people who do not repent and have faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, will go to hell. Here are a few of my articles dealing with the existence of hell:

3d-red-star-small Torment in OT hell’;

3d-red-star-small Hell and judgment’;

3d-red-star-small Where will unbelievers go at death?

3d-red-star-small Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die’;

3d-red-star-smallWill you be ready when death comes?

3d-red-star-smallRefutation of the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death’;

3d-red-star-small Immortality of the soul’;

3d-red-star-small Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

I had written to this hot Calvinist who supports TULIP that it also doesn’t sit well with 1 Tim 2:3-4, AND 2 Peter 3:9. His reply was: ‘Your misuse of scripture (the way satan does) is noted’.[8] This is abominable, insulting, inflammatory language. He continued:

Let it be known that Oz and Janx do not think all men deserve hell.

I mean, you can tell this just based on their arguments and objections.

If you truly believed all men deserved hell, why would you object to God letting them go there without first trying to save them or giving them an opportunity to escape?

A judge does not have to give a criminal a “chance of escape” in order for his sentence to be just. He can just outright send the criminal to prison, because it’s what his crimes deserve.[9]

I was pointed in my reply:[10]

This is your invention about my theology. Thus, it is a straw man fallacy. We cannot have a rational discussion when you make a false accusation about my theology.

I DO NOT believe as you accuse that I do not believe all people deserve hell. What I do not believe is your unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace from TULIP when it comes to salvation.

Please quit your false accusations about my theology.

I wrote again:[11]‘My own view is not censorious because I affirm 1 John 2:2 as an accurate reflection of God’s view towards the damned: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”. Please quit your false accusation against my view when you state: ‘The fact that you think all men don’t deserve hell is noted’. Not once have I stated that. I don’t believe that. You have created another straw man logical fallacy.

This is a rather typical Calvinistic reply to get around the content of 1 John 2:2:

John was writing to Jewish Christians.

He is the propitiation for our sins (Jews), and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

Thus is does not mean that He is the propitiation for the sins of every individual. It is self evident that Christ did not turn away God’s wrath from every individual. Come on!

You guys need to take courses in logic. You also need to do a biblical study on the word “kosmos” (world). It NEVER means every individual. It ALWAYS is specific to a GROUP of men.[12]

My response to this was:[13]

I have taken courses in English language, Greek language, German language, logic and biblical studies.

Where in 1 John does it state that 1 John is written only for Jews? If that is the case, I’m out – because I’m a Gentile. Please show me from 1 John where this message only applies to Jews. John was correcting false doctrine in relation to the incarnation and he was writing to readers who doubted Jesus divinity because of the false teachers of a teaching like Gnosticism.

You have imposed on 1 John 2:2 a view that is not there, thus making it your eisegesis. You have read into it what it does not say. Your problem of hermeneutics would be easily overcome if you would be open to the fact that God allows human response to receive salvation. John 1:12 applies, ‘But to all who did receive him’. It does not say, ‘To all the elect who did receive him and were irresistibly drawn to him’.

Problem with access or lack of will

One response from a Presbyterian Calvinist was: ‘Someone asked what you mean by access. It’s not an idle question. Calvinists would say that the non-elect have just as much access to salvation as the elect. Our problem isn’t lack of access but lack of will’.[14] Another Calvinist’s response was: ‘Wrong! Jesus died for the Elect only. Therefore, the non-elect have no more access to salvation than Ishmael had to the covenant of salvation’.[15] It is not unusual on a Christian forum on the Internet to get that kind of response from a Calvinist.

Did Jesus die only for the elect or for the whole world? I replied[16]that his statement contradicts Scripture:

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world‘ (1 John 2:2 ESV). It does not say t hat Jesus is a propitiation for the sins of some of the world, but for ‘the whole world’. To make ‘the whole world’ equal only the elect, makes language meaningless.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time’ (1 Tim 2:5-6)

5tn_.jpg 1.1K ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18).

This is crystal clear: God loved the whole world; those who believe are saved and those who do not believe are condemned. ‘Whoever believes’ is God’s invitation. It is not, ‘Whoever  believes and is in God’s unconditional elect’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K ‘But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9).

Dr. Paul Reiter has summarised the Scriptural teaching on this issue. FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE? HE DIED…

  1. For all (1st Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53:6).
  2. For every man (Heb. 2:9).
  3. For the world (John 3:16).
  4. For the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
  5. For the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
  6. For false teachers (2 Peter 2:1).
  7. For many (Matthew 20:28).
  8. For Israel (John 11:50-51).
  9. For the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  10. For “me” (Gal. 2:20).

A helpful reply

A beneficial, faith-building reply of edification came from a Calvinistic Presbyterian, Hedrick, who began by discussing John’s audience when he wrote 1 John:

First John isn’t Romans. There’s no sign of Jew vs Gentile in the context.

If you want to read limited atonement into this passage, it’s better to use Calvin’s interpretation. He see[s] “you” as the church he was writing to, and the whole world as a global view of believers throughout the world.

However I find the summary in OzSpen’s list, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780…/#post64319067, persuasive. The problem with these arguments on the extent of the atonement is that they take an individualistic view that is foreign to the NT. In the Gospels and Paul we have a cosmic view of Jesus’ activity. He has defeated Satan, and begun the establishment of God’s rule. At least conceptually, he has atoned for the whole world. That doesn’t mean that every individual is saved. But it means that in principle he has reconciled the whole world. Of course the Kingdom is currently the seed growing secretly, so not everyone is actually participating in the restored Kingdom. But at least in principle, there’s a complete, cosmic victory.

I would say that in the NT view, the extent of the atonement is cosmic, but with an understanding that individuals participate in it by faith. I think there’s a difference between saying that the scope is cosmic and saying that it is universal. Objectively, the Kingdom of God is a cosmic reality. Christ has won the victory. Death is defeated. But at the moment not all individuals are part of the Kingdom. That’s where election applies. God calls us. It may well be that he doesn’t call us equally. Certainly not everyone hears it. But this call is a call to participate in a Kingdom founded on Christ. In the Synoptics, we “enter” the Kingdom. It’s a thing that exists independent of us. John 1 reminds us of Gen 1. God loves the world, and is restoring or recreating it as it was meant to be. 3:16-17 shows both sides of the picture. God loves the world. Jesus came not to condemn anyone, but to save the whole world. But he who believes in him is saved.

I should note that John is also one of the books that at times implies some kind of election, though I doubt it’s double predestination. But for John a cosmic extent of the atonement coexists with election, and in places also with a view that “the world” is hostile territory.[17]

Another replied to the list (above by Dr Paul Reiter) of those for whom Christ died:

Great list, Oz. Here’s some more categories that Christ came to save:

For whom did Jesus come to save?

The sick, the lost, the poor, the unrighteous, the ungodly, and sinners.

Matt 9:12, On hearing this, Jesus said, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Are just the elect “sick”?

Luke 19:10, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Are just the elect “lost”?

Luke 4:18, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. Are just the elect poor?

1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once FOR ALL, the righteous (Christ) for the unrighteous (humanity, all of them), to bring you to God. Are just the elect unrighteous?

Rom 5:6, You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Are just the elect ungodly?

Mark 2:17, On hearing this, Jesus said to them, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, butsinners. Are just the elect sinners?

Isa 61:1, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

If Christ died for just the elect, then reformed theology leads to universalism, because of these verses. That means the non elect are neither sick, lost, poor, unrighteous, ungodly, or sinners. So they don’t need salvation. And Christ wouldn’t need to die for any of them.[18]

Can there be any reconciliation?

Theoretically, yes! Practically, very difficult!

There are at least two issues here:

1. Both Arminians and Calvinists insist that they are obtaining their information from the Scriptures. Calvinists support limited atonement while Arminians support unlimited atonement. It’s an issue of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Until there is an open, honest examination of all of the Scriptures relating to the atonement, with both Calvinists and Arminians laying aside their presuppositions to examine the Scriptures as objectively as possible, I can’t see a possibility of reconciliation.

2. There is a propensity for preachers to follow the flow of the denomination to which they belong. I cannot see Presbyterian and Reformed denominations accepting preachers who are Arminian. I cannot see Arminian denominations such as the Wesleyan, Methodist, Nazarene, and some Pentecostals, accepting Calvinistic preachers in the pulpit.

Therefore a stalemate is reached. There is little movement in the Arminian-Calvinistic debate.

Works consulted

Palmer, E H 1980/2010. The five points of Calvinism: A study manual (online), 3rd edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. Part of this book is available free as a Google Book HERE.

Notes:


[1] janxharris#1, Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘If faith is a gift from God’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352/ (Accessed 18 October 2013, emphasis in original).

[2] janxharris#71, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-8/.

[3] Skala#77, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#78, ibid.

[5] Skala#80, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#84, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-9/.

[7] Skala#87, ibid.

[8] Skala#92, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-10/.

[9] Skala#93, ibid.

[10] OzSpen#95, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#99, ibid.

[12] The Boxer#106, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-11/.

[13] OzSpen#115, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-12/.

[14] hendrick#12, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-2/.

[15] The Boxer#104, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-11/.

[16] OzSpen#111, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-12/.

[17] Hedrick#136, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-14/.

[18] FreeGrace2#186, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-19/#post64324860, emphasis in original.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2016.

Limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness

clip_image002

(image courtesy Clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

What do Calvinists mean when they support the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption? Was there absolutely no possibility for Hitler or a multitude of reprobates to be redeemed? Who created all of the evil in the world? Was that God or someone else?

Did Jesus die for Hitler and all of the other evil monsters in the world over the last 20 centuries, including domestic violence perpetrators and paedophiles? Did God decree all of the evil in the world, including the Holocaust, Gulag, Pol Pot’s and Idi Amin’s atrocities? Was Jesus’ atonement only designed for a limited number of people throughout history and the rest are damned to hell for eternity – damned by God himself?

Here are a few samples of Reformed teachers who promote limited atonement or particular redemption and what they understand it means:

A. David Steele & Curtis Thomas

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which united them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation” (Steele & Thomas 1976:17)

The Scriptures that they use to support this view are in Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47). They include this scriptural support from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47):

A. The Scriptures describe the end intended and accomplished by Christ’s work as the full salvation (actual reconciliation, justification, and sanctification) of His people.

     1. The Scriptures state that Christ came, not to enable men to save themselves, but to save sinners.

  • Matthew 1:21: “… she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • Luke 19:10: “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
  • II Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 1:3, 4: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
  • I Timothy 1:15: The saying is sure and worthy of full accept­ance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.
  • Titus 2:14: . . . who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
  • I Peter 3:18: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

    2. The Scriptures declare that, as the result of what Christ did and suffered, His people are reconciled to God, justified, and given the Holy Spirit who regenerates and sanctifies them. All these blessings were secured by Christ Himself for His people.

    a. Christ, by His redeeming work, secured reconciliation for His people…. Etc, etc.

[The full list of Scriptures from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47) has been transcribed HERE.]

George ‘Lee’ Nickles (2001) gives a brief summary of some of these Scriptures used to support this view (based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas 1976). They stated:

Probably the most difficult to agree with. Also called Particular atonement.

Only the elect will be saved.

I. Christ does the saving

    1. Matthew 1:21

    Who does the saving?

    2. I Peter 3:18

    Who does the saving?

II. Christ is the basis of salvation (reconciliation, justification, sanctification)

    3. Colossians 1:21-22

    What is reconciliation?

    4. II Corinthians 5:18-19

    How are we reconciled to God?

    5. Romans 3:24-25

    How are we justified? What is justification?

    6. Galatians 3:13

    What is redemption? How are we redeemed to God?

    7. Titus 2:14

    What does Christ do for us? (2 things)

III. Only some will be saved

    8. John 10:24-29

    Does everyone follow Christ?

    9. John 17:1-3, 6-9

    Who does Christ pray for?

    10. John 17:24

    What does Christ want for his people?

IV. Concerns about “world” and “all”

    11. John 3:16

    What does “world” refer to here?

B. J I Packer:

Definite redemption, sometimes called “particular redemption,” “effective atonement,” and “limited atonement,” is an historic Reformed doctrine about the intention of the triune God in the death of Jesus Christ. Without doubting the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice or the genuineness of God’s “whoever will” invitation to all who hear the gospel (Rev. 22:17), the doctrine states that the death of Christ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve. From this definiteness and effectiveness follows its limitedness: Christ did not die in this efficacious sense for everyone. The proof of that, as Scripture and experience unite to teach us, is that not all are saved (Packer 1993:137).

C. R C Sproul:

I prefer the term definite atonement to the term limited atonement (though it turns tulip into tudip). The doctrine of definite atonement focuses on the question of the design of Christ’s atonement. It is concerned with God’s intent in sending Jesus to the cross….

Christ’s atonement does not avail for unbelievers…. Some put it this way: Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only for some. This, however, does not really get at the heart of the question of definite atonement…. The Reformed view holds that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended only for the elect. Christ laid down His life for His sheep and only for His sheep. Furthermore, the Atonement insured salvation for all the elect (Sproul 1992:1975-176).

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R C Sproul (Wikipedia)

D. Did John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, believe in limited atonement?[1]

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In these Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continued:

Their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8)

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement this way: How could God predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation, thus guaranteeing no hope of eternal salvation, while offering unlimited atonement? Unconditional election to damnation – which is the corollary of unconditional election to salvation – would make unlimited salvation useless to those who are deterministically damned. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

I appreciate that there are some evangelical preachers and teachers who do not believe in eternal hell for the damned. See

clip_image004 Hell No!: A Fundamentalist Preacher Rejects Eternal Torment by Charles Gillihan;

clip_image004[1]Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?’ Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Ray Bradley;

clip_image004[2]Clark Pinnock’s thoughts on hell

I am not of that view. See my articles:

clip_image005What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image005[1] 2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction;

clip_image005[2]Hell & Judgment;

clip_image005[3] Hell in the Bible;

clip_image005[4]Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image005[5]Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image005[6]Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image005[6]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image005[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image005[6]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image005[8]What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image005[9]Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image005[10]Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image005[11]Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?

However, even if one were to disbelieve in hell, the problem is still there for the Calvinist regarding God’s unfairness (injustice). If God makes salvation freely available to only a section of humanity and the rest are left to die in their sins, God’s goodness is violated by this injustice. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. That exposition is below.

Roger Nicole’s article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”, indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin. Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students. He wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (bold emphasis added; italics emphasis in original).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in unlimited (or universal) atonement.

E. What do some online Christians think of limited atonement?

Colossians 1:20

ChristArt

There is a considerable amount of back and forth between Arminians and Calvinists on the largest evangelical online forum that I have found, Christian Forums. I asked someone online at this Forum, ‘And you want me to believe that Christ preached and taught limited atonement? I do not support that view’.[2] The response was: ‘It’s the only view you can hold, since, obviously, nobody is burning in hell for sins that Christ already paid the penalty for’.[3]

My reply was: Limited atonement is not the only view that I can hold. I, as a Reformed Arminian, do not hold to limited atonement. I differentiate between Christ’s atonement SUFFICIENT for the whole world but EFFICIENT only for the elect.
I consider that the New Testament teaches these two doctrines in John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4; and Acts 16:31. ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

I support the view in which Ron Rhodes has presented a summary case for unlimited atonement in, ‘The Extent of the Atonement—Limited Atonement versus Unlimited Atonement‘.

The response on the Forum was:

Unless you are a universalist, it is the only position you can hold, for the reasons I explained before. Otherwise, you believe in a conditional atonement, which is accessed when people meet that condition; after that, the atonement is limited to whoever accepted it. No one in hell has had their sins atoned for, otherwise they wouldn’t be burning for them.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).” The context here is “us-ward,” as the KJV puts it, or “towards you,” in this case, the church. It is not referring to the scoffers and the damned reserved for judgment in the previous verses.

That the atonement is not conditional, but is effectually carried through to all the elect, is self-evident from Christ’s reply to the unbelievers in John 6.

“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
(John 6:64-65)

This cannot be so if the atonement is conditional and is not given effectually to the elect, or that it is foreknowledge of who would obey and believe which determined their membership in the elect. Otherwise Christ’s reply would be nonsensical.[4]

My reply, in quoting verses provided by Matt Slick (a Calvinist) of CARM, was:[5]

Jesus died for everyone:

  • 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!'”
  • John 3:16, “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.”
  • 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.'”
  • 1 Tim. 4:10, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
  • 1 John 4:14, “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

The supporter of limited atonement came back with:

Matt Slick of CARM is a Calvinist, just FYI. Nothing is more common for the Jews, in their writings, to limit the “world” to particular persons, or to even use the word “world” when they are referring only, perhaps, to the Gentiles, or on other occasions, to the Jews. That atonement is limited only to believers is not a point that can be disputed, as if self-evident from the other verses CARM provides, and my own. Of course, we (you and I) dispute on how they come to believe. In which case, you would need to reconcile the verses from, say, John 6, and others like them, with your view of a conditional atonement. Since if it is only “offered,” but not effected, we cannot say that some do not believe because it was not given them to believe.[6]

I didn’t come down in the last shower!clip_image006 I know Matt Slick is a Calvinist. However, even he admits that there are Christians on both sides of this debate. And he provided verses to support unlimited atonement (quoted above).

I further emphasised[7] that Calvinists who support limited atonement need to make ‘world’ = particular persons in the world. Arminians take the word ‘world’ at face value, meaning the whole world. We know that this is what the Scriptures intend, based on 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is … not wishing any should perish’ (ESV). This is not saying ‘The Lord … is wishing many to perish’ (through double predestination).

However, what does this verse say? First John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

This is to refute the idea that the sins of the world = sins of part of the world. First John 2:2 is very clear that Christ Himself was the propitiation for the sins of the WHOLE world and NOT PART of the world.

First John 4:10 makes it clear how this applies as Christ’s atonement is sufficient for the whole world but efficient for those who believe, when it states that Jesus is ‘the Savior of all men [male and female], especially of believers.”

I find that unlimited atonement is the biblical teaching. Christ’s death is sufficient for the whole world, but it only applies to ‘whoever believes in Him’ (John 3:16).

However, I cannot see us agreeing on this point, even though I find the Scriptures to be clear about Christ’s atonement being sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe.

This person did respond to me.[8] Did you notice what he did in his response to me?[9] He did not answer my post and verses I gave, with the interpretation I provided. He simply went ahead and gave his interpretation of a few verses. He ran off with his own agenda and did not respond specifically to my objections. What is he doing when he does this?

If he wants me to take notice of what he writes, he needs to stop using this kind of straw man logical fallacy. I will not engage with him further if he continues to use this tactic of writing what he wants to say and ignoring my objections. We cannot have a logical conversation when someone uses logical fallacies. For a good overview of logical fallacies, see The Nizkor Project.

clip_image007This person wrote:

First, if Christ is the propitiation for every single human being’s sins, then it means that He has atoned for the sins that they are still being punished for. It does not say that he is the possible propitiation. It says that he is, at that time, for every person in the world. This cannot be true, since only believers are saved. Unless you are a Universalist, this cannot be the verse for you. Also, your view is illogical, since it supposes that Christ died for sinners already in hell, or those who would go to hell, and millions of people who never heard the Gospel and never would, in all ages, whom the scripture regards as entirely under the guilt of sin and damned.

Arminians take these verses at “face value,” and contradict the whole of scripture and common sense. You also didn’t attempt to reconcile these views with that verse from John 6, either.

Next, let’s also put this verse side by side the parallel passage:

1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”[10]

My response was:[11]

Let’s try just one verse in this post and my response to your statement regarding 1 John 2:2 which you have quoted.

One of the most prominent Greek exegetes from the 20th century – and a Southern Baptist – Dr A T Robertson, provided this exegesis of 1 John 2:2: ‘For the whole world (peri holou tou kosmou). It is possible to supply the ellipsis here of twn hamartiwn (the sins of) as we have it in Heb. 7:27, but a simpler way is just to regard “the whole world” as a mass of sin (5:19). At any rate, the propitiation by Christ provides for salvation for all (Heb. 2:9) if they will only be reconciled with God (II Cor. 5:19-21)’ (Robertson 1933:209-210).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, prefers the translation of ‘expiation’ to ‘propitiation’ for the Greek, hilasmos. However, his exegesis is:

John advances the thought from sins to the whole world of sinners. Christ made expiation for our sins and thereby for all sinners. We understand kosmos [world] in the light of John 3:16 and think that it includes all men [male and female], us among them, and not only all unsaved men [male and female]. John does not add this “but also” as a matter of information for us regarding other people but as assuring us that, because Christ is expiation (qualitative, without the article; like dikaion) “in regard to the whole world,” we are included.

Augustine and the Venerable Bede offer the interpretation that “the whole world” = ecclesia electorum for totum mundum dispersa, which Calvin seconds…. But see II Peter 2:1: the Lord bought even those who go to hell. “The whole world” includes all men [male and female] who ever lived or will live (Lenski 1966:400).

Second Peter 2:1 reads, ‘But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (ESV, emphasis added).

As for John 6:64-65, this interpretation that I have provided in no way conflicts with these two verses which read: ‘But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”'(ESV).
These verses harmonise beautifully with Jesus’ foreknowledge of those who would believe (as opposed to unconditional election). This is obvious from the words, ‘Jesus knew from the beginning’ (his foreknowledge) those who would believe, even Judas who would betray him. The Father grants belief (faith) to those who come to him.

This fellow who was opposing me online, did run off with a long-winded reply that did not address the matters I raised, in my view.[12]

https://i1.wp.com/www.christart.com/IMAGES-art9ab/clipart/1692/candle-cross.png?w=625

(courtesy ChristArt)

F. Prevenient grace

In the above kind of discussion, irresistible grace and unconditional election are often supported by Calvinists. It is at times like this that I enter into the Arminian discussion on prevenient grace. As to prevenient grace, this is my understanding of its meaning (which I support). Roger Olson, an Arminian, stated that prevenient grace ‘is the powerful but resistible drawing of God’ towards the unbeliever. ‘Prevenient grace’ is not a biblical term, “but it is a biblical concept assumed everywhere in scripture” (Olson 2006:159).

The Remonstrants,[1] Article 4 (as the earliest Arminians promotion of resistible grace), described it this way:

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

The Remonstrants understood that there was only one way to eternal salvation and that was achieved when God’s grace came to human beings before, during and after justification. Why was God’s grace needed in this way? It was because, as the Remonstrants stated, that no human being could ‘think, will, nor do good’ unless they received God’s prevenient or assisting grace.

Steve Lemke put it this way, when speaking of the Remonstrants’ response to Calvinism in Article 4 (above):

The Remonstrants taught that the only way for anyone to be saved is for God’s grace to come before, during, and after justification because even the best-intentioned human being can “neither think, will, nor do good” apart from God’s grace.[13] They even went so far as to say that all good in “any way that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.”[14] But the question is, Why is this saving grace of God not appropriated or experienced by all persons? Has God failed in some way? Does God not truly love all persons? Does God not desire the salvation of all persons? No. The Remonstrants refused to blame this failure on God but rightly assigned this failure to the rebellion and resistance of fallen human beings. God created human beings with the free will either to cooperate with God and receive His grace or to reject finally God’s gracious gift…. Human beings would have no salvation at all apart from the grace of God; but God refuses to actualize that salvation in the life of anyone who continually resists God’s grace, refuses to humbly receive it, and finally rejects it’ (Lemke 2010:110).

G. How Calvinists tame the language of ‘irresistible grace’[15]

R. C. Sproul (1992:169-170), a Calvinist, describes irresistible grace as ‘effectual calling’. For Sproul,

the effectual call of God is an inward call. It is the secret work of quickening or regeneration accomplished in the souls of the elect by the immediate supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result…. irresistible in the sense that God’s grace prevails over our natural resistance to it.

We need to understand that the language of ‘effectual calling’ is a way to soften the language of ‘irresistible grace’, with the latter coming with overtones of God forcing a person to receive salvation. Lemke (2010:112) considers that ‘some contemporary Calvinists seem to be a little embarrassed by the term “irresistible grace” and have sought to soften it or to replace it with a term like “effectual calling”’.

While Sproul (1992), Spurgeon (1856) and Packer (1993:152-153) use the language of ‘effectual calling’, other Calvinists are more up front in emphasising that grace that brings about salvation cannot be refused – people are unable to resist. Packer’s language is that ‘in effectual calling God quickens the dead’, people understand the gospel through the Holy Spirit enlightening and renewing the hearts of elect sinners. They embrace this ‘truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection’ as they are now regenerate and have been enabled ‘by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good’ and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Packer 1993:153). Spurgeon (1856) said, ‘If he shall but say, “To-day I must abide at thy house,” there will be no resistance in you…. If God says “I must,” there is no standing against it. Let him say “must,” and it must be’.

Steele, Thomas and Quinn (2004:52-54), as Calvinists, are more to the point, using the language that ‘the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made’. It is issued ‘only to the elect’ and the Spirit does not depend on ‘their help or cooperation’. In fact, ‘for the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ’. That sounds awfully like God forcing the elect to come to Christ and by implication, leaving the non-elect to damnation.

John Piper and the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, do not use the softly, softly language. They state that irresistible grace

does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible…. The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills.[16]

However, there is a paradoxical statement in the Bethlehem Baptist statement in that only a few paragraphs after making the above statement, it stated:

Irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.[17]

It sure is a contradiction in terms and the Bethlehem Baptist Church has given that contradiction by affirming that ‘the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance’, yet God never ‘forces us to believe against our will’.[18] Sounds awfully like a Bethlehem Baptist contradiction to me.

Irresistible grace has been described as:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.[19]

H. One of the major problems with the doctrine of limited atonement

Good Witness

(courtesy ChristArt)

This also applies to the Calvinistic understanding of unconditional election and irresistible grace as well. These three doctrines cut to the heart of God’s love, goodness and justice. In my understanding, limited atonement renders impotent God’s love for the world; it attacks the goodness of God; and it makes God’s justice look like injustice for the damned – those who are elected to damnation by God.

Roger Olson has stated that the pride of place or first principle of Arminian construction is ‘the Arminian vision of the character of God as discerned from a synoptic reading of Scripture using the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the hermeneutical control’. He explained that ‘all Arminians object to is belief that God controls human choices – especially evil and sinful ones! And Arminians do not see any way to embrace divine determinism (monergism) and avoid making God the author of sin and evil…. Arminianism does not object to the idea that God controls human choices and actions through the power of persuasion’ (Olson 2006:98).

1. God as the author of sin (i.e. rape, murder, rebellion)

Olson drew my attention to this quote from Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer’s[20] 1972 publication, The five points of Calvinism (see bibliography for details): ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ and ‘although all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. Olson’s citation was to Palmer (1972:85, 103, 106, in Olson 2006:99, n. 4). I examined my hard copy of Palmer (1972) and the pages stated by Olson and these exact quotes were nowhere to be found in those stated pages given by Olson. I did find the following different quotes in my 1972 edition of Palmer in which he stated that ‘whereas the Arminian denies the sovereignty of God, the hyper-Calvinist denies the responsibility of man’ (1972:85). His response, under a heading of Calvinism, ‘a paradox’, was that

the Calvinist accepts both sides of the antimony. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous. It is simply impossible for man to harmonize these two sets of data. To say on the one hand that God has made certain all that ever happens, and yet to say that man is responsible for what he does? Nonsense! It must be one or the other, but not both. To say that God foreordains the sin of Judas, and yet Judas is to blame? Foolishness! Logically the author of The Predestinated Thief[21] was right. God cannot foreordain the theft and then blame the thief (Palmer 1972:85).

Palmer than claimed that ‘the Calvinist freely admits that this position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish’. He appealed to Paul in 1 Cor 1:18 to support this view: ‘The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness’ (Palmer 1972:85) as

the Greeks seek after wisdom and logic, and to them the Calvinist is irrational. The Calvinist holds to two apparently contradictory positions.[22] He says on the one hand, God has foreordained all things. Then he turns around and says to every man, ‘Your salvation is up to you. You must believe. It is your duty and responsibility. And if you don’t, you cannot blame God. You must blame only yourself. But if you do believe, remember that it was God who worked in you both to believe and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13). ‘If you do press on to lay hold on the goal of life, remember that Christ laid hold on you that you might lay hold on it’ (Phil. 3:12). In the face of all logic, the Calvinist says that if man does anything good, God gets all the glory; and if man does anything bad, man gets all the blame. Man can’t win (Palmer 1972:85).

However, Palmer’s theology is inconsistent in that he claims that while ‘all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. However, in the same publication he states that ‘our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty[23] and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory’ (Palmer 1972:103, emphasis added). How can it be that ‘unbelief and sin … proceed from God’s eternal decree’ but this means that God chooses ‘to permit’ the Fall into sin by ‘our first parents’? This is a conflicting interpretation. Again he has deconstructed ‘God’s eternal decree’ to mean, ‘to permit’. Honestly, this is Palmer’s promotion of contradiction. To make decree synonymous with permit, prostitutes the English language.

Thus, Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer, has admitted to the content of the very Calvinistic theology to which Arminians object regarding God’s creation of sin and God’s decreeing all of the evil in the world.

Palmer wrote: ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ (Palmer 2010:83). This is a later edition of Palmer’s 1972 publication. Although Edwin Palmer died in 1980, here in this article I am citing from and enlarged third edition that is indicated as Palmer (2010) in which the quotes by Olson appear (Olson 2006:99). However, this 2010 edition was published first in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4). Palmer stated that, ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (2010:84). He continued, ‘To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God’ and

although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s….

To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. Not only is God omnipotent, so that the nations are to him a drop in the bucket or as a fine coating of dust on weighing scales (Isaiah 40), but he also ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).

It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquests of the Roman Empire, the Battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations.

In two instances, the Bible is especially clear in teaching that everything, including sin, is ordained by God: the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ (Palmer 2010:103, 100).

This kind of statement about the absolute sovereignty of God’s foreordination of sin and evil, by Palmer, has obnoxious ramifications. It means that every act of a reprobate in paedophilia, rape, violence of person-to-person, the Holocaust, the Gulag, and every other evil act imaginable by individuals, groups and nations is attributed to the sovereignty of God in decreeing sin and evil. This is not only a reprehensible view, but it is not consistent with Scripture. How is it possible to harmonise Palmer’s perspective of the sovereignty of God who causes (decrees) all of the sin and evil in the world, with an appeal to the Scriptures?

Edwin Palmer (2010) has added this section: Twelve Theses on Reprobation[24]

This focus of Calvinistic theology is torn apart when faced with the character of God as the following exposition investigates.

2. Paedophilia, rape, the Holocaust: God’s justice and goodness.

Love and justice

(courtesy ChristArt)

Roger Olson has nailed the major problems for Calvinists: ‘This is why Arminians object to belief in the exhaustive divine determinism in any form; it cannot avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and the logical conclusion must be that God is not wholly good even though Calvinists and other monergists disagree’ (Olson 2006:99).[25] Then Olson affirms one of the Arminian vs Calvinistic differences:

Arminianism begins with God’s goodness and ends by affirming free will. The latter follows from the former, and the former is based on divine revelation; God reveals himself as unconditionally and unequivocally good, which does not exclude justice and wrathful retribution. It only excludes the possibility of God sinning, willing others to sin or causing sin’ (Olson 2006:99).

Olson could not be clearer:

There is no example within humanity where goodness is compatible with willing someone to do evil or sin and suffer eternally for it. Arminians are well aware of Calvinist arguments based on the Genesis narrative where Joseph’s brothers meant his captivity for evil but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20). They simply do not believe this proves that God ordains evil that good may come of it. Arminians believe God permits evil and brings good out of it. Otherwise, who is the real sinner?

Arminianism is all about protecting the reputation of God by protecting his character as revealed in Jesus Christ and Scripture…. God does not have to be fair. Fairness is not necessary to goodness. But love and justice are necessary to goodness, and both exclude willing determination of sin, evil or eternal suffering (Olson 2006:100, emphasis in original).

Palmer’s Calvinistic promotion of God as the author of sin and evil, runs aground on God’s attributes of goodness, justice and love. Let’s examine these attributes from God’s perspective and using some Calvinistic theologians to explain these attributes.

3. God’s goodness

There’s a marvellous verse that begins Psalm 136, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever’ (Ps 136:1 NLT).

So the Lord God is ‘good’ and his ‘faithful love’ continues ‘forever’. What does it mean to say that God is good?

a. Calvinist theologian, Charles Hodge

Hodge wrote of the goodness of God:

Goodness, in the Scriptural sense of the term, includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness; all sensitive creatures are its objects. Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable, and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness, which the Scriptures so abundantly ascribe to God. Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy. The love of a holy God to sinners is the most mysterious attribute of the divine nature (Hodge 1979:1.427)

Thus it is impossible, based on that definition, for the God of goodness to decree to create all evil and suffering in the world and for God to be the good God and responsible for all the reprobate monstrosities that happen in our world. God’s goodness does not equate with God being the creator of sin and evil. And this is the Calvinist, Charles Hodge, speaking.

b. J I Packer, Calvinist theologian

Packer claimed of particular redemption that

this sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Ps. 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Ps. 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Pss. 107, 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 78:38; John 3:10-4:11; Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Rom. 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27) [Packer 1993:46].

How does Packer, the Calvinist’s, description of God’s goodness line up with Palmer’s understanding that all sin and evil are decreed by God? Packer aligns God’s goodness with:

  • Particular redemption (limited atonement); the obvious corollary is particular eternal damnation. The latter hardly adds up to a demonstration of God’s goodness.
  • God’s glorious kindness and generosity to all people and living things. How can that be for those eternally damned and suffering eternal punishment? It cannot work for those who do not make it to eternal bliss through salvation. The Calvinistic God in action represents deterministic, censorship of those who are not included in the redeemed. Goodness as discrimination is not a consistent application of God’s goodness to all people.
  • He wrote of mercy, compassion and pity in demonstrating kindness to people in distress and rescuing them from trouble. That doesn’t work for those who are eternally damned by God or left out of God’s eternal salvation. That is not a manifestation of His goodness, but of evil. This attribute of rescuing people in trouble does not apply to the reprobate. It can’t, in the Calvinistic system.
  • Amazing grace and inexpressible love and kindness by saving sinners who deserved condemnation? What about the multiple millions throughout human history who are now experiencing torment? That’s a violation of God’s goodness, especially since they are unconditionally damned (the necessary consequence of the Calvinistic unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace).
  • Saving sinners through the cost of Christ’s death on Calvary. Wait a minute! Multiple millions since the first century have experienced eternal loss and were not included in the limited atonement provided by the Calvinistic God. This is not a demonstration of God’s goodness, but of God’s contemptible prejudice against them. That’s my understanding of how the God of Calvinism is not the good God of the majority of humanity for those unconditionally elected to eternal condemnation and for whom there was no atonement through Christ’s death.

c. Louis Berkhof, Calvinist theologian

Of the goodness of God, Berkhof wrote:

This is generally treated as a generic conception, including several varieties, which are distinguished according to their objects. The goodness of God should not be confused with His kindness, which is a more restricted concept. We speak of something as good, when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word “God.” He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. It is in this sense that Jesus said to the young ruler: “None is good save one, even God,” Mark 10:18. But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fons omnium bonorum [source of all good gifts]. He is the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. The poet sings: “For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light,” Ps. 36:9. All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the summum bonum, the highest good, for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. In the present connection we naturally stress the ethical goodness of God and the different aspects of it, as these are determined by the nature of its objects (Berkhof 1941:70).

How is Berkhof’s understanding of God’s goodness compatible or otherwise with the Calvinistic theology of limited atonement? Berkhof believes God’s goodness means this:

  • ‘It answers in all parts to the ideal… He is in every way all that He as God should be’.
  • ‘Absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself’.
  • ‘Source of all good gifts’.
  • ‘All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future’ come from God’s goodness ‘for all His creatures’.
  • He is ‘the highest good for all His creatures’.
  • The stress is on the ethical goodness of God.

I find it impossible to match these points regarding God’s attribute of goodness with the Jesus of Calvary who only died for a portion of the human race, leaving the rest to experience eternal damnation. God is thus not the source of good gifts for the lost. Yes, all creatures, redeemed and reprobate, enjoy good things in their human life but the expectation of damnation for a large hunk of the human race is hardly an experience of God’s ethical goodness. How can it be ethical goodness in operation to damn people eternally?

Now let’s check out a few Arminian or Arminian-leaning theologians for their definitions of God’s goodness.

d. Theologian Henry Thiessen, whose views harmonise with Arminians

Thiessen explained:

In the larger sense of the term, the goodness of God includes all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage; that is, it includes such qualities as His holiness, righteousness, and truth, as well as his love, benevolence, mercy, and grace. It is probably in this broad sense that Jesus said to the young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, even God” (Mark 10:18). In the narrower sense, however, the term is limited to the last four qualities named (Thiessen 1949:130)

Thiessen proceeded to explicate these four qualities of God’s goodness, the first being,

(i) The love of God

God is Love

(courtesy ChristArt)

By the love of God we mean that perfection of the divine nature by which God is eternally moved to communicate Himself. It is, however, not a mere emotional impulse, but a rational and voluntary affection, having its ground in truth and holiness and its exercise in free choice. This love finds its primary objects in the several persons of the trinity…. True love necessarily involves feeling, and if there be no feeling in God, then there is no love of God.

The Scriptures frequently testify to the love of God. They speak of him as “the God of love” (2 Cor. 13:11) and declare him to be “love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It is his nature to love. He is in contrast with the gods of the heathen, who hate and are angry; and of the god of the philosopher who is cold and indifferent. The Father loves the Son (Matt. 3:17), and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God is said to love the world (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4), his ancient people Israel (Deut. 7:6-8, 13; Jer. 31:3), and his true children (John 14:23). He also loves righteousness (Ps. 11:7) and justice (Isa. 61:8)[26] (Thiessen 1949:131-132).

God’s love, from this Arminian view, is extended to all (as in John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9), but not in the Calvinistic TULIP theology. God is not eternally moved to communicate his saving truth to the damned in Calvinistic theology. Why would God want to converse with those who are not unconditionally elected, included in the limited atonement, and for whom he does not extend irresistible grace? It would be a waste of God’s resources to extend himself to communicate with those who would never ever respond. Why wouldn’t they respond? Because they are eternally predestined not to respond! That is my understanding of Calvinism. This is far removed from the actions of the loving God who is absolutely good to all of his creation. Calvinism sounds more like the discriminatory action of a deterministic dictator who hates a large chunk of humanity and doesn’t want them in his eternal presence.

The second quality of God’s goodness according to Thiessen is,

(ii) The benevolence of God

Thiessen stated:

By the benevolence of God we mean the affection which He feels and manifests towards His sentient and conscious creatures. It is due to the fact that the creature is His workmanship; He cannot hate anything that He has made (Job 14:5), only that which has been added to His work. Sin is such an addition. The benevolence of God is manifested in His care for the welfare, and is suited to the needs and capacities, of the creature. “Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works… Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing” (Ps 145:9, 15, 16). See also Job 38:14; Ps. 36:3; 104:21; Matt. 6:23. It also extends to men as such: “He left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:17); even to men as sinful: “He sends the sunshine and the rain upon both good and bad” (Matt. 5:45)[27] (Thiessen 1949:131).

This view is contrary to the Calvinistic view of God being responsible for all of the sin and evil in the world. We note Thiessen’s understanding of the decrees of God:

Most of the difficulties concerning the decrees disappear with the proper apprehension of the nature of the decrees. They are not, as some erroneously suppose, inconsistent with free agency; they do not take away all motives for human exertion; and they do not make God the Author of sin…. We believe that the decrees of God are His eternal purpose (in a real sense all things are embraced in one purpose) or purposes, based on His most wise and holy counsel, whereby He freely and unchangeably, for His own glory, ordained, either efficaciously or permissively, all that comes to pass (Thiessen 1949:147, emphasis added).

Those emphasised words are critical. The decrees of God are designed by God efficaciously or permissively. As Thiessen explained,

There are two kinds of decrees: efficacious [which means to produce the desired effect] and permissive. There are things which God purposes that He also determines efficaciously to bring about; there are other things which He merely determines to permit…. Even in the case of permissive decrees, He overrules all for His own glory…. The decrees embrace all that comes to pass. They include all the past, the present, and the future; they embrace the things which He efficaciously brings about and the things which He merely permits. Surely, this conception of the decrees removes most of the difficulties that are often associated with them (Thiessen 1949:148).

Thiessen explains that the events that happen in our universe are ‘neither a surprise nor a disappointment to God, nor the result of His caprice or arbitrary will, but the outworking of a definite purpose and plan of God, is the teaching of Scripture’ (Thiessen 1949:148). Thiessen quotes these verses to support this teaching:

‘The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?’ (Isa 14:24, 26-27); ‘making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph 1:9, 11).

The eternal nature of these decrees is noted in Ephesians 3:11, ‘This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

So God, in his eternal purposes has permitted sin to enter the world through human beings, but God has not decreed such evil as it would make God the originator and perpetrator of sin and evil – according to the Calvinistic scheme. Such is contrary to the holiness, goodness and righteousness/justice of God. The goodness of benevolence that God has manifested to all human beings is that they are given free will to choose to obey or disobey God and that God did not decree that people would sin. Human beings, starting with Adam, chose to disobey. It was not decreed by God that Adam should disobey God and that sin should infect the entire human race. It was Adam’s choice and he was acting on our behalf. We would have made the exact same decision if we had been there.

It is as William G T Shedd has stated, ‘Sin is no part of creation, but a quality introduced into creation by the creature himself’ (in Thiessen 1949:153). This revolt by human beings against the will of God cannot be associated with God as the cause of sin as James 1:13-14 teaches, ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’. There you have the key to temptation and sin by human beings, ‘by his own desire’, or as the New Living Translation puts it, ‘Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away’ (James 1:14).

God declared in Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Notice the language, ‘When they turn’ from their wicked ways. Too often, we hear Calvinists say that the damnation of the non-elect is ‘the good pleasure of His will’. But here, God states explicitly that He takes no pleasure in damning anyone but prefers that they turn from sin and live. How this idea fits into the Calvinist scheme is not at all clear.

Thiessen asks this penetrating question: ‘How could He [God] be the Author of sin and then condemn man to an endless hell for doing what He caused him to do?’ (Thiessen 1949:153). Olson affirmed the Arminian position, contrary to Calvinism: ‘Arminius’s main concern was to avoid making God the author of sin’ (quoting William Witt) and ‘to put it bluntly, for Arminius, God could not foreordain or directly or indirectly cause sin and evil even if he wanted to (which he would not), because that would make God the author of sin. And God’s good and just nature requires that he desires the salvation of every human being. This is completely consistent with Scripture (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9)’ (Olson 2006:103).

What, then, is the origin of sin? How did it enter the universe when we understand God as an absolutely good and benevolent God? Arminius, contrary to Calvinism, expounded this as ‘the cause of sin’, i.e. Adam’s first sin:

The efficient cause of this sin is two fold. The one immediate and near. The other remote and mediate.

(1) The former is Man himself, who, of his own free will and without any necessity either internal or external, (Gen. iii. 6,) transgressed the law which had been proposed to him, (Rom. v. 19,) which had been sanctioned by a threatening and a promise, (Gen. ii. 16, 17,) and which it was possible for him to have observed (ii, 9; iii, 23, 24).

(2.) The remote and mediate efficient cause is the Devil, who, envying the Divine glory and the salvation of mankind, solicited man to a transgression of that law. (John viii. 44.) The instrumental cause is the Serpent, whose tongue Satan abused, for proposing to man these arguments which he considered suitable to persuade him. (Gen. iii. 1; 2 Cor. xi. 3.) It is not improbable, that the grand deceiver made a conjecture from his own case; as he might himself have been enticed to the commission of sin by the same arguments. (Gen. iii. 4, 5.) (Arminius 1977:1.481).

Thus, the biblical data is consistent with the Arminian view that God did not create or decree that first sin, but in his permissive will he allowed for human beings to break the law of God, commit the first sin and so infect the entire human race. The Bible is very clear about that: ‘Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned’ (Rom 5:12). This is consistent with God’s attribute of goodness. It is not God who decreed sin, but it was God who permitted Adam to sin and the sin infection came to the entire human race because of one man’s sin. Ephesians 2:3 confirms that the Ephesian Christians are ‘by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’.

A third quality of God’s goodness, according to Thiessen, is

(iii) The mercy of God

Thiessen explained:

By the mercy of God we mean, his goodness manifested towards those who are in misery or distress. Compassion, pity, and loving kindness are other terms in Scripture that denote practically the same thing. Mercy is an eternal, necessary quality in God as an all perfect being; but the exercise of it in a given case is optional. To deny the freeness of mercy is to annihilate it; for if it is a matter of debt, then it is no longer mercy…. The Scriptures represent God as “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and as “full of pity [compassion] and merciful” (James 5:11).[28] He is said to be merciful toward Israel (Ps. 102:13), toward the Gentiles (Rom 11:30f.), and toward all that fear him (Ex. 20:2; Luke 1:50)[29] and seek His salvation (Isa. 55:7; Luke 1:72) [Thiessen 1949:131-132].[30]

What does it mean for reprobate people who are in distress because of their sin? If God provides atonement only for a certain section of humanity (the elect), he cannot manifest his goodness – through mercy – to the entire human race, including those who are eternally damned. The Arminian view of God’s mercy is more in line with the biblical message than that of Calvinism.

Bread from God

(courtesy ChristArt)

There’s a fourth quality to God’s goodness that Thiessen identifies;

(iv) The grace of God

By the grace of God we mean the goodness manifested toward the ill-deserving. Grace has respect to sinful man as guilty, while mercy has respect to him as miserable.[31] The exercise of grace, like that of mercy, is optional with God. He must be holy in all his actions; he may or may not show grace to a guilty sinner…. The Scriptures show that the grace of God is manifested toward the natural man: (a) In his forbearance and long-suffering delay of the punishment of sin (Exod. 34:6; Rom. 2:4; 3:25; 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:9,15) and (b) in His provision of salvation, the Word of God, the convicting work of the Spirit, the influence of God’s people, and prevenient grace. This is the common grace of God (1 John 2;2; Hosea 8:12; John 16:8-11; Matt 5:13, 14; Titus 2:11).

They also show that His grace is especially manifested towards those who respond to prevenient grace: (a) In their election and foreordination (Eph. 1:4-6), (b) their redemption (Eph. l:7, 8), (c) their salvation (Acts 18:27), (d) their sanctification (Rom. 5:21; Titus 2:11, 12), (e) their preservation (2 Cor. 12:9), (f) their service (Heb. 12;28), and (g) in their final presentation (1 Pet. 1:13). This is God’s special grace[32] (Thiessen 1949:132, emphases in original).

God’s grace toward the undeserving is evident to all, from an Arminian perspective, but only to a select minority of those for whom there is limited atonement in the Calvinistic theology. The Arminian teaching, in my understanding, is more consistent with Scripture in accurately upholding the grace of God

e. Arminian theologian, H Orton Wiley

Christian Theology -<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> By: H. Orton Wiley</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>

H Orton Wiley (christianbook.com)

Wiley explained goodness, as an attribute of God:

The goodness of God is that attribute by reason of which God wills the happiness of His crea­tures. Perfection as we have shown, is the absolute ex­cellence which God has in Himself; goodness is that ex­cellence which moves God to impart being and life to finite things apart from His divine essence, and to com­municate to them such gifts as they have capacity to re­ceive. Goodness is generally expressed by the Hebrew word chesedh, and by the Greek words  agathosune or chrestotes and such like terms. The goodness of God ad intra [towards the inside, i.e. internally] belongs to the Holy Trinity, in which the Blessed Three eternally communicate to each other their infinite richness. In this sense, goodness is eternal and neces­sary. The goodness of God ad extra [in an outward direction] is voluntary, and refers primarily to His benevolence which may be de­fined as that disposition which seeks to promote the happiness of His creatures. Schouppe defines it as “the constant will of God to communicate felicity to His crea­tures, according to their conditions and His own wisdom.” It is related to love, but love is limited to respon­sive persons or to those capable of reciprocation, while goodness applies to the whole creation. Not a sparrow is forgotten before God (Luke 12:6). The word is applied to the whole creation in the dawn of its existence. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). The positive declarations of Scripture concerning the goodness of God are numerous and convincing. God said to Moses, I will make all my goodness pass before thee (Exod. 33:19); and again, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exod. 34:6). The psalmist seems to take delight in meditating upon the goodness of God. Surely goodness and mercy shall fol­low me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23: 6). I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27: 13). O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee (Psalm 31: 19). The goodness of God endureth con­tinually (Psalm 52: 1). They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy right­eousness (Psalm 145: 7). Isaiah mentions the great goodness toward the house of Israel (Isa. 63: 7) and Zechariah voices the exclamation, For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! (Zech. 9: 17). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul speaks of the goodness of God as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4); and in the same epistle mentions the goodness and severity of God as apparently the constituent elements of the divine holiness [Rom. 11:22].[33] In Gal. 5:22 and Eph. 5:9 goodness is mentioned as a fruit of the spirit (Wiley 1940:362-363, emphasis in original).

God’s goodness, based on this definition, deals with what God wills for the happiness of human beings. Eternal damnation through limited atonement thus violates God’s attribute of his goodness and how it functions in the external world because it does not lead to the happiness of creatures. It leads to the damnation of a large portion of humanity.

f. Methodist and Arminian theologian, Thomas C Oden

Oden wrote:

The psalmists delighted in meditating on the goodness of God (Pss. 1:2; 77:12). For “The goodness of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1). “Thou, O God, in they goodness providest for the poor” (Ps. 68:10). “How great is thy goodness” (Ps. 31:19). The same divine goodness is celebrated in the New Testament as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and providing the gifts and fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9).

The divine goodness is that attribute through which God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving….

God is not only good in himself, but wills to communicate this goodness to creatures. Not merely possessing goodness, but communicating it to others, is characteristic of Scripture’s attestation of God. This may be viewed in the light of triune teaching. For within the Godhead, there is an eternal communication of the Father’s benevolent self-existence and life to the Son by eternal generation, even as the Father and Son communicate the effulgence of divine glory to each other and to creation…. God’s goodness is wholly voluntary – not imposed upon God by something else….

Divine goodness profoundly qualifies all other divine attributes, for there is no divine power apart from its being benevolent. There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good. There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures. The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness….

God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable….

[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God. As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes (Oden1987:116-117).

Notice some of Oden’s descriptions of the goodness of God and how they do not apply to Calvinistic limited atonement (or unconditional election, or irresistible grace).

  • ‘God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving’. This cannot be applied to those who are damned eternally through limited atonement. That would make happiness = reprobation with eternal suffering. An abominable thought!
  • ‘There is no divine power apart from its being benevolent’. This is false when applied to limited atonement. Those sent to eternal perdition for lack of receiving Christ’s atonement, do not experience the goodness of God through benevolent divine power. They receive evil from God. But that is the fundamental error of TULIP coming to light through these violations of the goodness of God
  • ‘There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good’. Yes there is if one believes in TULIP, with application here to limited atonement. Divine justice does evil to the reprobate according to the Calvinistic view of particular atonement.
  • ‘There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures’. There most certainly is if one is not included in limited atonement.
  • ‘The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness’. That’s not the case for those who are left out of salvation through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. These TULIP characteristics again shatter the goodness of God. They make goodness equal badness and doing sinful evil.
  • ‘God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable’. That’s not according to the Calvinistic limited atonement.
  • ‘[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God’. Not so with the Calvinistic doctrines of salvation that prostitute the teaching on the goodness of God.
  • ‘As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes’. That’s if one is an Arminian in theological understanding of the biblical material, but it most definitely gets a fail grade in the examination of the biblical teaching on eternal salvation.

We remember what Edwin Palmer, the Calvinist, stated: ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (Palmer 2010:84). With the ULI violations of the goodness of God, this should cause Calvinists to reconsider their false teaching on ULI of TULIP and its conflict with the goodness of God.

Evangelical theologian, Norman Geisler, stated:

All Calvinists believe in some form of irresistible grace: Strong Calvinists believe grace is irresistible on the unwilling, and moderate Calvinists [where he identifies himself][34] believe it is irresistible on the willing…. But in view of God’s onmibenevolence [i.e. goodness], it follows that grace cannot be irresistible on the unwilling, for a God of complete love cannot force anyone to an act against his will. Forced love is intrinsically impossible: A loving God can work persuasively, but not coercively (Geisler 2003:370, emphasis in original).

Other fundamental attributes of God also come into conflict with limited atonement (and unconditional election and irresistible grace). These are:

4. God’s righteousness and justice.

a. Henry C Thiessen – an Arminian perspective

Thiessen summarised the biblical material on these attributes:

By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of God’s holiness which is seen in his treatment of the creature. Repeatedly, these qualities are ascribed to God (2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former [the righteousness of God] He has instituted moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto. In virtue of the latter, he executes his laws through the bestowal of rewards and punishments. The distribution of rewards is called remunerative justice, and is mentioned in such Scriptures as the following: Deut. 7:9-13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26. The infliction of punishment is called punitive justice [the expression of divine wrath] and is mentioned in such Scriptures as these: Gen. 2:17; Exod. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8, 9; 2 Thess. 1:8 (Thiessen 1949:129-130).[35]

Thiessen (1949:130) inserted this quote from Wm G T Shedd:

Divine justice is originally and necessarily obliged to requite disobedience, but not to reward obedience…. God cannot lay down a law, affix a penalty, and threaten its infliction, and proceed no further, in case of disobedience. The divine veracity forbids this…. Hence, in every instance of transgression, the penalty of law must be inflicted, either personally or vicariously; either upon the transgressor or upon his substitute…. Justice may allow of the substitution of one person for another, provided that in the substitution no injustice is done to the rights of any of the parties interested (Shedd 1888: 370-373).

Thiessen concluded: ‘In other words, justice demands the punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130). However, with Calvinistic theology, there is no justice for all sinners because salvation to eternal life is only available to some sinners – those who are deterministically, discriminately chosen by God through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. God’s justice is in conflict with Calvinistic theology because of the discriminate way in which the atonement is made available – not to the whole world, but to the limited number who are the subjects of particular redemption.

b. H Orton Wiley, a Nazarene Arminian theologian

Orton Wiley, an Arminian, described God’s justice and righteousness:

Dr. Strong[36] regards jus­tice and righteousness as transitive holiness, by which he means that the treatment of His creatures always con­forms to the purity or holiness of His nature. While closely related, justice and righteousness may be dis­tinguished from each other, and both from holiness. The term holiness applies to the nature or essence of God as such, while righteousness is His standard of activity in conformity to that nature. This refers both to Himself and to His creatures. Justice may be said to be the counterpart of God’s righteousness but is sometimes identified with it. Righteousness is the foundation of the divine law, justice the administration of that law. When we regard God as the author of our moral nature, we conceive of Him as holy; when we think of that na­ture as the standard of action, we conceive of Him as righteous; when we think of Him as administering that law in the bestowment of rewards and penalties, we con­ceive of Him as just. Justice is sometimes considered in the wider sense of justitia interna, or moral excellence, and sometimes in the narrower sense as justitia externa, or moral rectitude. A further division of the term is (1) Legislative Justice which determines the moral duty of man and defines the consequences in rewards or penalties; and (2) Judicial Justice, sometimes known as Distributive Justice, by which God renders to all men according to their works. The justice by which He re­wards the obedient is sometimes known as remunera­tive justice, while that by which He punishes the guilty is retributive or vindictive justice. But whether as legis­lator or judge, God is eternally just.

In the following scripture references no distinction is made between the terms justice and righteousness. The careful student of this subject will be impressed with the many and various ways in which these attributes are combined. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19: 9). Justice and judg­ment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face (Psalm 89: 14). There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me (Isa. 45: 21). The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity (Zeph. 3: 5). Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2: 6). Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways (Rev. 15: 3).

Dr. Strong takes the position that neither justice nor righteousness can bestow rewards, in that obedience is due to God and therefore no creature can claim a reward for that which he justly owes. Dr. Pope takes a more scriptural position, insisting that while all that is praise­worthy in human nature is of God, either by prevenient grace or the renewing of the Spirit, there can be no men­tion of merit except as the word is used in divine con­descension. Nevertheless, He who crowns the work of His own hands in glorifying the sanctified believer, con­stantly speaks of his own works of faith as a matter of reward. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love (Heb. 6: 10 ). Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid for then how shall God judge the world? (Rom. 3:5, 6).[37] The rewards of God’s judicial or distributive justice are, therefore, according to St. Paul, to be reckoned not of debt but of grace (Rom. 4:4). The last day is, by the same apostle, called the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5). We may therefore with confidence believe that the punishment of evil-doers, will be at once an infliction of the divine judgment and the consequences of the treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath. And we may equally assure ourselves that the rewards of the righteous will be at once the decision of a Just Judge, and the fruitage of their own sowing in righteousness (Wiley 1940:387-388, emphasis in original).

The following Calvinistic theologians had this to affirm about God’s righteousness and justice:

c. Wayne Grudem, a Calvinistic Baptist theologian

Grudem explained that in English, righteousness and justice are two different terms ‘but in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament there is only one word group behind these two English terms’. Therefore, these two terms deal with one of God’s attributes:

God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right…. What is ‘right’? In other words, what ought to happen and what ought to be? Here we must respond that whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right…. It should be a cause for thanksgiving and gratitude when we realize that righteousness and omnipotence are both possessed by God. If he were a God of perfect righteousness without power to carry out that righteousness, he would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if he were a God of unlimited power, yet without righteousness in his character, how unthinkably horrible the universe would be! There would be unrighteousness at the center of all existence and there would be nothing anyone could do to change it. We ought therefore continually to thank and praise God for who he is, ‘for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he’ (Deut 32:4) [Grudem 1999:93-94, emphasis in original].

A major issue arises out of this kind of definition. This deals with hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). For the Calvinist, what God considers is ‘right’ includes limited atonement. For me, a Reformed Arminian, what God considers is ‘right’ is that ‘the atonement is universal. This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all’ (Wiley 1952:295). Therefore a better statement, in my view, could be , ‘God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right by His holy standard, but sinful human understanding of this righteousness by Christian believers is limited by the hermeneutical biases of the interpreters of Scripture’. Based on my hermeneutical bias, the God of Calvinism has an attribute of determinism that causes him to be unjust towards the unbelievers to whom he does not extend the benefits of Christ’s atonement.

d. J I Packer, Anglican Calvinistic theologian

Packer explained:

Justice, which means doing in all circumstances things that are right, is one expression of God’s holiness. God displays His justice as legislator and judge, and also as promise-keeper and pardoner of sin. His moral law, requiring behavior that matches His own, is “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). He judges justly, according to actual desert (Genesis 18:25; Psalms 7:11; 96:13; Acts 17:31). His “wrath,” that is, His active judicial hostility to sin, is wholly just in its manifestations (Romans 2:5-16), and His particular ‘judgements’ (retributive punishments) are glorious and praiseworthy (Revelations 16:5, 7; 19:1-4). Whenever God fulfils his covenant commitment by acting to save his people, it is a gesture of “righteousness,” that is, justice (Isa. 51:5-6; 56:1; 63:1; 1 John 1:9). When God justifies sinners through faith in Christ, He does so on the basis of justice done, that is, the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute; thus the form taken by His justifying mercy shows Him to be utterly and totally just (Romans 3:25-26), and our justification itself is shown to be judicially justified (Packer 1993:43-44).

I find some issues with this explanation. These include:

  • Like with Grudem’s definition, here he defines justice as meaning doing things that are right and being a just legislator and judge. This relates to the problem of hermeneutics. Packer as a Calvinist supports limited atonement, which he calls ‘definite redemption’ (Packer 1993:137-139). How can that be called a just judgement by God when God’s provision of atonement through Christ is not made available to all people in the world. This doesn’t mean all will accept it, but Packer’s definition is limited to his Calvinistic hermeneutical restriction of the atonement to particular redemption.
  • There is another issue as Packer’s definition of justice includes God’s ‘covenant commitment’ to ‘save his people’. That means justice is deconstructed to mean justice for some and not all of the people in the world. There is no justice here for the reprobate who are damned for eternity.
  • God’s justifying ‘sinners through faith in Christ’ is ‘on the basis of justice done’, with ‘the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute’. I find this to be a cagey way of Calvinists putting it as it avoids stating ‘the punishment of our sins’ only refers to those who experience definite redemption and excludes the rest of humanity. My understanding is that Packer here redefines injustice as Calvinistic justice. This should make the postmodern deconstructionist[38] smile with glee. For the deconstructionist, there is no fixed meaning in the text. The meaning of the text is not determined by the intended meaning of the original author, but is determined by the reader/interpreter of the text. For postmodern deconstruction, there are multiple meanings to a text and these meanings can be determined by multiple interpreters or by the one interpreter in multiple situations.

e. Reformed theologian, R C Sproul

In his explanation of the justice of God, R C Sproul wrote:

How then does mercy relate to justice? Mercy and justice are obviously different things, though they are sometimes confused. Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved or greater rewards than they earned.

God tempers His justice with mercy. His grace is essentially a kind of mercy. God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve and when He rewards our obedience despite the fact that we owe obedience to Him, and so we do not merit any reward. Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15).

People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody.

Yet, we see clearly in Scripture that God does not treat everyone equally. He revealed Himself to Abraham in a way He did not to other pagans in the ancient world. He graciously appeared to Paul in a way He did not appear to Judas Iscariot.

Paul received grace from God; Judas Iscariot received justice. Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice. If Judas’s punishment was more severe than he deserved, then he would have something about which to complain.

Paul received grace, but this does not require that Judas also receive grace. If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice.

Biblically, justice is defined in terms of righteousness. When God is just, He is doing what is right. Abraham asked God a rhetorical question that can only have one obvious answer: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Likewise, the apostle Paul raised a similar rhetorical question: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14) [Sproul 1992:53-54, emphasis in original].

Sproul provided this summary of his view:

1. Justice is giving what is due.

2. Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right.

3. Injustice is outside the category of justice and is a violation of justice. Mercy is also outside the category of justice but is not a violation of justice.

4. Biblical passages for reflection are:

Genesis 18:25

Exodus 34:6-7

Nehemiah 9:32-33

Psalm 145:17

Romans 9:14-33 (Sproul 1992:54).

I find some serious issues with this description of justice/righteousness in the light of Sproul’s support for ‘definite atonement’, which he prefers to the term ‘limited atonement’ (Sproul 1992:175-177). The points with which I have contention are:

  • ‘God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve’. But this graciousness does not extend to all human beings according to Sproul’s view of ‘definite atonement’. God withholds punishment from the elect but he lambasts the rest of humanity with the damnation of eternal punishment. That is hardly how to defend God’s gracious actions in withholding punishment that all human beings deserve; but only some are saved from it through definite atonement that covers only salvation for the elect.
  • ‘Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved’. That’s OK for the elect who are redeemed but not OK for the reprobate who experience the injustice of death without mercy and then eternal damnation inflicted by God. That is deconstructing mercy.
  • ‘Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will’. That comes out as deterministic, voluntary refusal to grant mercy to unbelievers for whom God does not provide atonement. Sadly I have to say that that is censorship in the name of mercy – Calvinistic deconstruction is in operation again.
  • ‘People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody’. People have every right to complain because limited atonement is grossly unjust when it comes to God’s eternal treatment of people, based on Calvinism. It is one thing to see that God treated people differently while they were on earth. But it is quite a different perspective when one’s eternal destiny is determined with grace for those who receive limited atonement, but not received with God’s grace for the rest of the damned. This in injustice with a capital I, but all in the name of Calvinistic views of the ‘grace’ of God in ULI of TULIP.
  • ‘Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice’. This is an example of Calvinistic sloganeering. If one is among those for whom there is no atonement in Christ’s death, no mercy and grace were offered to the sinners who were damned, but mercy and grace were provided to the elect. Sproul’s ‘nonjustice’ language is a euphemism for injustice to those who experience eternal punishment in the afterlife.
  • ‘If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice’. If grace is a dimension of God’s goodness – as it is – then limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness, repudiates God’s grace, and demonstrates God’s injustice towards the ungodly in their eternal suffering in reprobation.
  • ‘When God is just, He is doing what is right’. That is correct! But God is not doing what is right by not providing an opportunity for all people to have access to Christ’s atonement through his shed blood on the cross. Limited atonement offers a large chunk of humanity the injustice of God. It rescinds God’s goodness and justice by excluding it from large numbers of people in the world.
  • “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14). There is no unrighteousness with God but there is certainly unrighteous injustice in the Calvinistic censorious application of the atonement, by leaving a large portion of fallen humanity to wallow in their own sins without any opportunity of redemption. Such is a rewriting of the justice of God to make it synonymous with the injustice of God – for the Calvinist.
  • ‘Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right’. Therefore, Calvinistic limited atonement is linked to biblical injustice by doing what is wrong for a large number of people throughout human history. Damnation, without the opportunity of redemption (which is what limited atonement does) amounts to Calvinistic discriminatory practice of injustice towards the Calvinistic non-elect.

Conclusion

God’s righteousness is the standard of God’s action by which he bestows rewards and penalties in conformity with God’s holy nature. How can there possibly be holy, righteous justice when God discriminates in providing atonement for some and condemning the rest of humanity to outer darkness, according to the Calvinistic system? God’s righteous justice does not harmonise with discriminatory action towards people, providing salvation for some and damnation for the rest.

As this article has summarised, the Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement (with its package that includes unconditional election and irresistible grace) is in significant conflict with the nature of the goodness of God in its failure to demonstrate God’s goodness through love, benevolence, mercy and grace in action to all people throughout human history.

For your consideration:

I have covered similar issues in my articles:

# The injustice of the God of Calvinism;

# Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

See also my articles on Christ’s atonement,

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

blue-satin-arrow-smallCalvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDid John Calvin believe in limited atonement?’ ‘

blue-satin-arrow-small What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God want everyone to receive salvation?

I also recommend consideration of the content of:

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 2’.

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 2’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

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Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology (online). London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Available at: http://archive.org/stream/SystematicTheology/93884037-Louis-Berkhof–Systematic-Theology_djvu.txt (Accessed 6 October 2013).

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith, J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.[39]

Hodge, C 1974. Systematic theology, vol 1 (online). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company. Available at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology1.iv.v.xiii.html (Accessed 6 October 2013).

Lemke, S W 2010. A biblical and theological critique of irresistible grace, in D L Allen & S W Lemke (eds), Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism, 109-162. Nashville: B&H Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Nickles, G L 2001. The five points of Calvinism: A study of our great salvation (online),[40] Spring. Winder GA: Developed as a small group study for the youth group of New Life Presbyterian Church. Available at: http://www.northsidepcaonline.com/tulip.pdf (Accessed 5 October 2013).

Oden, T C 1987. The living God: Systematic theology, vol 1. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise Theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc. The chapter on ‘Definite Redemption: Jesus Christ Died for God’s Elect’ (Packer 1993:137-139) is available at Monergism (online), http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/definiteredemption.html (Accessed 5 October 2013).

Palmer, E H 1972. The five points of Calvinism: A study manual. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Palmer, E H 2010.[41] The five points of Calvinism: A study manual (online), 3rd edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. Part of this book is available free as a Google Book HERE.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: Volume VI, The General Epistles and the Revelation of John. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Shedd, W G T 1888. Dogmatic theology (online), vol 1, 2nd edn. New York: Scribner. Available at Cornell University Library, http://archive.org/details/cu31924092342538 (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Spurgeon, C H 1856. Effectual calling, sermon 73, 30 March. Available at: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0073.htm (Accessed 5 October 2011).

Steele, D N & Thomas, C C 1976. The five points of Calvinism: Defined, defended, documented. Philadelphia, Pa: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Steele, D N, Thomas C C, & Quinn S L 2004. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed.

Strong, A H 1907. Systematic Theology (online), three volumes in one. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Available at BibleStudyTools.com, http://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/strong-systematic-theology/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thiessen, H C (rev by V D Doerksen) 1979. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge. Leicester: Apollos.

Wiley, H O 1940. Christian theology, vol 1 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 14 on ‘The attributes of God’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-14/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Wiley, H O 1952. Christian theology, vol 2 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 24 on ‘The atonement: Its nature and extent’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-24/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Notes:


[1] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?’ (Spencer D Gear).

[2] I am OzSpen#36, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-4/ (Accessed 21 September 2013).

[3] Petruchio#37, ibid.

[4] Petruchio#41, ibid.

[5] OzSpen#42, ibid. In my original quote I did not mention Matt Slick but gave the link to his website, CARM.

[6] Petruchio#43, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#50, ibid.

[8] Petruchio#54., ibid.

[9] I told him so at OzSpen#56., ibid.

[10] Petruchio#54, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#58, ibid.

[12] See the long-winded reply by Petruchio#59, ibid.

[13] His footnote here was: ‘The Five Arminian Articles,” Articles III and IV, in The Creeds of Christendom (ed. P. Schaff; 6th ed.; Grand Rapids, Baker, 1963), 3:547, available online at http://www.puritansmind.com/Creeds/ArminianArticles.htm; accessed November 1, 2008’ (Lemke 2010:110, n. 1).

[14] Ibid.

[15] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’.

[16] Desiring God, ‘What we believe about the five points of Calvinism’ (rev. March 1998). Available at: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism#Grace (Accessed 5 October 2011). I was alerted to this reference from Piper in Lemke (2010).

[17] Ibid.

[18] This contradiction was pointed out in Lemke (2010:112).

[19] The Calvinist Corner, available at: http://calvinistcorner.com/tulip (Accessed 3 October 2011).

[20] The Baker Publishing Company, which published Palmer (1972), gave these biographical details about Edwin Palmer: ‘Edwin H. Palmer (1922-1980) was a theologian, scholar, teacher, and pastor. He served as executive secretary on the team’, available at: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/edwin-h-palmer/286 (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[21] This refers to Henry Statius’ (AD 1585-1623) book from the 17th century that had the unusually inflated full title (for the 21st century) – typical for that era – of, The predestinated thief. A dialogue betwixt a rigid Calvinian preacher and a condemned malefactor. In which is not onely represented how the Calvinistical opinion occasions the perpetration of wickedness and impieties; but moreover how it doth impede and hinder, nay almost impossibilitate the reducing of a sinner to emendation and repentance. London: printed by R. Trott for Daniel Jones, and are to be sold at the three Hearts in S. Paul’s Church-yard, 1658. Statius’s book is available online from Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, Digital Library Production Service, at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=eebo2;idno=A60360.0001.001 (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[22] At this point the footnote was, ‘It should be emphasized that the contradiction is only apparent and not real. Man cannot harmonize the two apparently contradictory positions, but God can’ (Palmer 1972:85, n. 2).

[23] This is an archaic form of the spelling of ‘subtlety’ according to Dictionary.com at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subtilty?s=t (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[24] This website from Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, is available at: http://www.osl.cc/believe/rom6.htm (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[25] At this point, Olson had the footnote, ‘I am well aware that Calvinists (and other divine determinists) say that God is wholly good and they appeal to some higher good that justifies God’s foreordination of sin and evil. But Arminians want to know what higher good can possibly justify the Holocaust? What higher good can possibly justify some significant portion of humanity suffering in hell eternally apart from any genuinely free choices they or their federal head Adam made? Appeal to God’s glory to justify unconditional reprobation to hell, as Wesley said, makes our blood run cold. What kind of God is it who is glorified by foreordaining and unconditionally reprobating persons to hell? If appeal is made to the necessity of hell for the manifestation of God’s attribute of justice, Arminians ask whether the cross was sufficient’ (Olson 2006 99, n. 5).

[26] At this point, Thiessen (1979) added, ‘The assurance of God’s love is a source of comfort to the believer (Rom. 8:35-39)’.

[27] At this point Thiessen 1979 adds, ‘The benevolence of God is manifested in his concern for the welfare of the creature and is suited to the creature’s needs and capacities (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; Matt 6:26)’. However, this added information is not from Thiessen but from his new reviser, V D Doerksen. It seems as though Doerksen has Calvinised Henry Thiessen, the Arminian, a little, which would be contrary to Thiessen’s theological persuasion.

[28] We could add that God has ‘great mercy’, according to 1 Peter 1:3.

[29] See also Psalm 103:17.

[30] At this point in Thiessen (1979), the editor added, ‘The term is often used in salutations and benedictions (Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2 John 3; Jude 2)’.

[31] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added: ‘Scripture speaks of the “glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6), “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7; cf. 1:7), “manifold grace” (1 Pet. 4:10), and “true grace” (1 Pet. 5:12).

[32] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added, ‘Like mercy, this term is also often used in salutations and benedictions (1 Cor. 1:3; 16:23; Eph. 1:2; Philem. 25; Rev. 1:4; 22:21)’.

[33] The original had Rom. 22:22, which is a typographical error.

[34] Geisler wrote, ‘Moderate Calvinists, such as I am, differ with Arminians on many points’ (Geisler 1999:117).

[35] The editor of Thiessen (1979) inserted the following at this point: ‘God cannot make a law, establish a penalty, and then not follow through if the law is disobeyed. When the law is violated, punishment must be meted out, either personally or vicariously. In other words, justice demands punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ (Isa. 53:6; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8;1 Pet. 2:24). The righteousness of God is revealed in his punishing the wicked (Rev. 16:5-7), vindicating his people from evildoers (Ps. 129:Iff.), forgiving the penitent of their sin (1 John 1:9), keeping promises made to his children (Neh. 9:7ff.), and rewarding the faithful (Heb. 6:10)’.

[36] Here he refers to Baptist Calvinistic theologian, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1907:249f).

[37] Here Wiley provided the bibliographical information: ‘(Cf. STRONG, Syst. Th., I, p. 293 and POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., I, p. 341.)’.

[38] What is postmodern deconstruction? Kevin Vanhoozer explained its meaning: ‘Through the activity of reading, interpreters construct the text, or rather, its meaning. This is a new role for interpretation… hence the postmodern ‘incredulity towards meaning…. Deconstruction, as its name implies, is a strategy for taking apart or undoing’ (Vanhoozer 1998:18, 20, emphasis in original). Vanhoozer provided this further insight: ‘The virtue of deconstruction, according to David Clines, is that it undoes dogma: “The deconstructive strategy eliminated dogma as dogma, and in recognizing that multiple philosophies are being affirmed in the deconstructible text loosens our attachment to any one of them as dogma”…. Where, however, does deconstruction get us? After casting down the graven images, the Idols of the Sign, what does deconstruction put in their place? Nothing but empty spaces. Having cleaned the home of meaning of its author, the Undoer may find that seven other worse spirits return to take possession of the text (cf. Matt. 12:45)’ (Vanhoozer 1998:184, emphasis in original).

[39] This is ‘published by special arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530’ (Grudem 1999:4).

[40] This is based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas (1976).

[41] This was previously published in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Calvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement

By Spencer D Gear

                          James Arminius 2.jpg

John Calvin (courtesy Wikipedia)                   Jacob Arminius (David Bailly 1620)

I was engaged in discussion on a Christian forum about the meaning of 1 John 2:2 , which states, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV).

The issue at stake is the meaning of Jesus’ ‘propitiation for our sins’ (our, referring to believers), but also ‘for the sins of the whole world’. Calvinists do not want ‘the whole world’ to refer to the entire humanity in the past, present and future. For them, Jesus didn’t die an atoning death for the whole world but only for the elect.

A Calvinist responded,

[In 1 John] the scripture says no such thing about Him being a “provision” for sins! It says that He IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours (Jews) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).” John was writing to Jews telling them that Christ was the propitiation for Gentiles also.

The scripture says, “He IS the propitiation for sins….”

The Arminian says, “He is the provision for sins….”[1]

I responded, ‘Nowhere in 1 John 2:2 does it state what you said: “He IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins”. Not a word about the Jews in that verse. That is your insertion’.[2]

A Calvinist replied:[3]

John was writing to Jewish Christians saying that Christ IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours (Jews) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

Paul said a similar thing in Romans chapter eight. In 7:1 He said that he was writing to them that “know the law” (Jews). He continues to address Jewish Christians specifically from 7:1 to 11:13 where he begins to address the Gentiles specifically. So he is addressing Jews throughout chapter eight. In verse verse 22 he says that the “whole creation” (Gentiles) groans with birth pangs. Then he says that we (Jews) ALSO groan within ourselves waiting for the redemption of the body.

John was speaking exactly in the same manner as Paul. For Paul the whole creation was the Gentiles. They groan in birth pangs, and we (Jews) also groan within ourselves. Likewise, for John the “whole world” was the Gentiles. John said that Christ IS the propitiation for our (Jew’s) sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

John and Paul were NOT speaking about every human being. You should not give promises to those to whom God has made no promise.

The following was my response:[4]

You provided not one reference from 1 John to demonstrate that John was writing to Jews. That does not leave a good impression with me when I’m addressing a verse in 1 John 2:2 and you go to Romans to try to demonstrate that both Paul and John were addressing Jewish ‘our (Jew’s) sins’ and Gentiles ‘the whole world’. That’s called eisegesis – bringing in a meaning that is not there in the text.

In fact, some who have written detailed commentaries on 1 John disagree with this poster on First John being written to Jewish Christians.

The ‘Introduction’ in the English Standard Version of the Bible to First John states that ‘John wrote this general letter to congregations across Asia Minor (now Turkey) in the late first century A.D.’ (p. 1127).

Enlarge

(Courtesy Augsburg Fortress)

R C H Lenski, in his commentary on 1 John, states that:

This letter is an encyclical that is intended for the congregations that were under John’s special care; it was occasioned by the antichristian teachings of Cerinthus and of his following. It is usually supposed that this letter was written only to congregations in the province of Asia (1966:363).

Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude (0801020808) by Simon J. Kistemaker

(Courtesy BookFinder.com)

Calvinist commentator, Simon J Kistemaker, wrote of the ‘recipients of I John’ that

Tradition holds that John wrote his epistles during his ministry in Ephesus, and that his first epistle was addressed to a church or group of churches whom the author knew well. Succeeding Paul and Timothy, John was a pastor in Ephesus until his death in about A.D. 98. From Ephesus he wrote his epistles, presumable to Gentile audiences rather than to readers who were Jewish Christians (Kistemaker 1986:207-208, emphasis added)

These commentators also disagree with your Jewish audience: I Howard Marshall, F F Bruce, and James Montgomery Boice.

So this evidence points to a Gentile, not a Jewish, audience who received this letter of First John and it was written to churches in Asia Minor to correct the false doctrine of Cerinthus, opponent of St. John or an early form of Gnosticism.

Bibliography

Kistemaker S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

Notes:

[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Is rejecting Christ a sin?’ The Boxer #609. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755517-61/ (Accessed 12 July 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #611.

[3] Ibid., The Boxer #641 (emphasis in original).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #649.

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 March 2020.

Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

Ribbon Salvation Button

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is common in Arminian vs Calvinist discussions for Arminians to proclaim that God’s grace offers Jesus’ salvation to all people. And this verse is one of the cornerstones of understanding the “all people” who have this grace of salvation offered.

Titus 2:11-12 reads: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’ (ESV).[1]

I encountered one fellow on a Christian forum who stated: ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation teaching to renounce ungodliness. Are you saying it doesn’t actually do that since apparently it comes to people and they reject the Gospel?[2]

How should I respond? This is what I stated:[3]

It’s amazing what you leave out of a verse. You should have begun your post with, ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation to all men [people] teaching to renounce ungodliness….’

Verse 11 in the Greek begins, ‘Appeared [aorist tense] for the grace of God saving to all men….’

As to ‘the grace … saving to all men’, Lutheran exegete and commentator, R C H Lenski, stated:

the grace … saving for all men.” Here is the universality of this saving grace, which is in direct contradiction to Calvin’s limited grace, who writes in his Commentary, published in Geneva in 1600, p. 542 … “Yet, he (Paul) does not understand individual men but rather notes orders or diverse genera of life,” i. e., “classes in life,” and he does this because slaves have just been mentioned as being one such class. To Calvin “all men” = some slaves, some young men, some young women, some old women, some old men. He has a similar exegesis of other passages, for instance, John 3:16: “God so loved the world,” regarding which he says that “the world” is mentioned only because there was nothing in the whole world to call forth God’s love.
12) This wondrous grace which is “saving for all men” is now operative in us (in Paul, Titus, the Cretan Christians), “educating (or training us as a pais or boy is educated, this verb is found also in I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:25) us, that, having denied the ungodliness … we live sober-mindedly,” etc.  (Lenski 1937:919-920).

Emeritus professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada and editor of Eerdmans’ New International Commentary series on the New Testament, Gordon D Fee (ordained with the Assemblies of God), wrote of Titus 2:11,

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.
In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.
Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, contrary to Calvin, that Titus 2:11 affirms that what has appeared is grace from God that offers salvation to all people. Period! Full stop!

The kind of response to this post was predictable from the Calvinists. Here are a couple of examples:

6pointGold-small ‘Bringing now means offering. Got it’.[4]

My response was:

Why don’t you do your own Greek exegesis on the aorist, epephane (Titus 2:11), from epiphainw?

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in the passive voice (as here), ‘show oneself, make an appearance’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:304).

So are you going to challenge Arndt & Gingrich’s etymology of the word?

It doesn’t matter whether one uses ‘bringing’ or ‘offering’, the meaning is the same as I understand it. It refers to the Epiphany of Christ’s Incarnation that brought, offered salvation to the whole world – the entire race of humanity – ALL.[5]

Here was another Calvinistic response to my post:

6pointGold-small Appeal to authority fallacy. The verse says nothing about ‘offering salvation’. There you go attempting to shoehorn your free will-ism in there again.

‘These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, provide exegesis of the text that is contrary to Calvin’ [myy citation above]

It’s also contrary to the Bible.[6]

I responded in this way: [7]

That’s exegesis speaking and you don’t seem to like it.

But I consider it is rather contradictory when you claim that it is my tradition speaking but you don’t state that your tradition is doing some speaking through you in this thread.

Now answer the exegesis that Lenski and Fee provided. I gave them as examples, not as promoting a genetic fallacy, but to demonstrate that I am not the only exegete who comes to conclusions different to Calvin and griff.

The Nizkor Project’s explanation of the genetic fallacy contains this qualification, ‘It should be noted that there are some cases in which the origin of a claim is relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, a claim that comes from a reliable expert is likely to be true (provided it is in her area of expertise)’.

I have provided expert exegesis from Lutheran and Assemblies of God scholars who contradict your and Calvin’s view on Titus 2:11. It is a perfectly legitimate approach as Lenski and Fee have expertise in their area – NT Greek Exegesis.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G D 1988. I and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Notes:


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible citations are from the English Standard Version.

[2] Christian Forums, Soteriology, Is rejecting Christ a sin, griff #510, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755517-51/ (Accessed 10 July 2013).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #535.

[4] Ibid., Hammster #536.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #541.

[6] Ibid., griff #537.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen #538.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

An exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8.

Yippee

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned (Heb 6:4-8 NIV)

 

I. Introduction

Is it possible for a born-again, evangelical, saved Christian to reach a point where he or she can lose salvation? This question has caused some of the greatest theological minds in the history of the church to disagree. In fact, it is one of the most contentious subjects in today’s evangelical church.

I was in Bible College with two fellows who have now fallen away from the church and have committed apostasy, based on my observations and the insights of other students who were in College with me.

One of the fellows was an excellent preacher and Bible teacher and gave all evidence of a genuine encounter with Christ and a promising ministry of teaching in the church. The other fellow was a fiery preacher and evangelist. Again, there was confident evidence of his being a genuine Christian.

However, both of these men are not associated with the church and Christ, but are antagonistic to the faith and very resistant to any kind of Christian association in their lives. They speak against Christ and the church.

It is dangerous arguing from experience.  I consider that it is prudent and biblically wise, never to decide any doctrine on the basis of Christian experience. This applies to eternal security as with any other teaching. Correct interpretation of the Bible is the methodology for all Christians as 2 Timothy 2:15 makes clear: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV, emphasis added). [2]

Teacher of preaching, Bryan Chapell, got to the point when he said:

“When preachers perceive the power the Word holds, confidence in their calling grows even as pride in their performance withers. We need not fear our ineffectiveness when we speak truths God has empowered to perform his purposes” (1994:21).

Second Timothy 4:1-4 provides us with an exhortation and a reminder of the consequences if we disobey. To Timothy and to all preachers and teachers, Paul the apostle, wrote:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (vv. 1-2).

All preachers are exhorted to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Why was this necessary in the first century and still applicable to us in the 21st century?

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (vv. 3-4).

Then add the inspired writer’s teaching to the Hebrews in 4:12-13:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Because the Word of God is:

  • living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
  • piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow,
  • and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,

it is to the Word of God that we must turn in our preaching and teaching today. There is too much human opinion, human invention and hypotheses, and entertainment, coming from our pulpits and tickling the ears of the hearers.

When God deals with us today, it must be from and through his Word. How do we know? The Word tells us!

  • “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2);
  • Be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

WHY?

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

I heartily affirm Bryan Chapell’s assessment: “If Scripture does not determine meaning, ultimately Scripture has no meaning” (1994:70).  At a time when people are running hither and thither to hear entertaining preachers and sound doctrine seems to be of little concern, Paul, the apostle, wrote especially for his age AND my generation at the beginning of the 21st century:

6pointblue-small Preach the Word of God;

6pointblue-small Correctly handle the Word of truth.

Why must we base our doctrine on the Word of God – the Bible?  Second Tim. 3:16-17 is very clear,  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training   in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

 

II. Eternal security & leading Christian teachers of the church: A divided issue

The divided opinion on the teaching of the perseverance of the saints (eternal security) is seen in the divergence of thought by theologians and leading teachers throughout the history of the church. These people (men) loved the Lord and will be in heaven together, but they differed profoundly on their views on the perseverance of the saints.

Before we examine how history and current exegetes interpret the eternal security theology, there are some foundations that need to be examined.

A.  Exegesis Defined

Dare I suggest that this difference of view is sometimes because Bible commentators and theologians are unable to leave aside their Calvinistic or Arminian presuppositions to do a careful and honest exegesis of the text. It is difficult to put aside one’s pet presuppositions, but we must do this if we are to hear what the Scriptures meant to the original readers (not what they mean to us today) through exegesis and biblical interpretation.

“Exegesis” is a term familiar to Bible College and Seminary students, but is mostly unfamiliar to those without such training. “Exegesis” has come into English as a transliteration (character for character from Greek into English) of a Greek noun. The noun form, exegesis, does not appear in the New Testament and only once in the Old Testament Greek translation known at the Septuagint (LXX) at Judges 7:15. The Greek verbal form, exegeomai, means “I expound or interpret, relate or tell” and occurs once in John’s Gospel and 5 times in Luke-Acts at John 1:18 and Luke 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19 (Brown, 1975, p. 576). For a further explanation of what exegesis means when applied to the Scriptures, and here to Hebrews 6:1-8, see this endnote:[3]

B. The Power of Presuppositions

Examples of the power of presuppositions can be found in both Calvinist and Arminian camps.

1. A “moderate” Calvinist example of presuppositional bias

A “moderate Calvinists such as I am,” Norman L. Geisler (others would call him a one-point Calvinist), states that “there are several problems with taking this [Heb. 6:4-6] to refer to believers who can lose salvation” (1999:117, 125). What are his reasons?

a.    “The passage declares emphatically that ‘it is impossible to renew them again to repentance’ (Heb. 6:6 NASB), and few Arminians believe that once a person has backslidden it is impossible for him to be ‘saved again’” (1999:125).
b.    Geisler struggles with his interpretation because “some of the phrases are very difficult to take any other way than that the person was saved” (1999:126). These passages (all from 1999:126) include:

(1)    They had experienced “repentance” (Heb. 6:6), “which is the condition of the acceptance of salvation (Acts 17:30)”;
(2)    “They were ‘enlightened’ and had ‘tasted the heavenly gift’ (Heb. 6:4)”;
(3)    “They were ‘partakers of the Holy Spirit’ (v. 4 NKJV)”;
(4)    “They had ‘tasted the good word of God’ (v. 5 NKJV)”; and
(5)    “Had tasted the ‘powers of the age to come’ (v. 5 NKJV).”

c.  What does one conclude after giving five strong points that seem to affirm that “the person was saved” (1999:126)? Presuppositions drive Geisler’s agenda:

d.    “If they were believers, then the question arises as to their status after they had ‘fallen away’ (v. 6 NASB)” (1999:126).  Geisler opts for rejecting the five points of affirmation of their being saved, through this kind of reasoning:

e.    “The word for ‘fall away’ (parapesontas) does not indicate a one-way action as would be true of apostasy (Greek: apostasia); rather, it is the word for ‘drift,’ indicating that the status of the individuals is not hopeless” (1999:126).  

f.    “The very fact is that it is ‘impossible’ for them to repent again indicates the once-for-all nature of repentance. In other words, they don’t need to repent again since they did it once, and that is all that is necessary for ‘eternal redemption’ (Heb. 9:12)” (1999:126).

g.    “The text seems to indicate that there is no more need for ‘drifters’ (backsliders) to repent again and get saved all over any more than there is for Christ to die again on the Cross (Heb. 6:6)” (1999:126, emphasis added).

h.    “The writer of Hebrews calls those he is warning ‘beloved’ (Heb. 6:9 NASB), a term hardly appropriate for unbelievers” (1999:126).

i.    “The phrase ‘persuaded of better things’ of them indicates they were believers” (1999:126).

Geisler begins his examination of “verses used by Arminians” (to support believers losing salvation) by referring to verses that are for “those who are truly saved but are only losing their rewards, not their salvation” (p. 124). This is how he concludes his position before he examines the verses. This is a logical fallacy called circular reasoning. He begins with his conclusion. There is little hope that Geisler will arrive at a view that it possible for true believers to lose their salvation because his presupposition, that it cannot happen, drives his agenda.

We know this because:

  • He gives 5 points (above) that are very difficult to take any other way than that these people are saved. But he sets out to disprove this view by showing that:
  • “Falling away” does not mean apostasy;
  • It is impossible for repentance to happen again;
  • It only seems to indicate that these people were “drifters”;
  • The writer calls these people “beloved,” which is hardly a term for unbelievers.  What Geisler doesn’t say at this point is that the Book of Hebrews is written to believers (“beloved”) and that it could be that some in their midst had defected from the faith.
  • “Persuaded of better things” surely refers to the group of “the beloved,” but it is possible to make such a statement even if some had fallen away from the faith.
  • So, these people who “fall away” are losing their rewards, not their salvation, according to Geisler.

For Geisler, the presupposition that genuine Christians can only lose their rewards, not their salvation, is driving his agenda in the interpretation of Heb. 6:4-6. He pursues a similar tack with his comments on Heb. 10:26-29, verses which are “as strong as this sounds” (1999:126), but really appear “not to be a warning about loss of salvation but about loss of rewards” (1999:126). Again, his conclusion is at the beginning of his examination of this passage. That’s circular reasoning and it’s cheating!

2. An Arminian example of presuppositional bias

Although he gives no sustained exposition of Heb. 6:4-6 (neither does Geisler, 1999), Robert Shank (1961) agrees that “the instances of apostasy cited by the writer [in Heb. 6:4-6] are real, rather than imaginary and hypothetical” (1961:177). “That the writer [to the Hebrews] did say of them can be said only of men who have experienced the saving grace of God in Christ” (1961:229). So, Shank readily admits that these were Christian readers.

However, “we need not conclude that the passage teaches that the renewal of apostates to repentance is necessarily impossible,” appealing to Westcott’s exegesis of Heb. 6:6 which states that “the use of the active voice limits the strict application of the words [‘it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance’] to human agency” 1961:317). In spite of the fact that the Scripture says, “It is impossible to restore again to repentance” (Heb. 6:4), Shank states that “the present condition of deliberate, open hostility may conceivably be remedied and the persons renewed to repentance and salvation . . . Restoration is not impossible for apostates, including those depicted in Hebrews 6? (Shank, 1961:318-319).

This statement contradicts Heb. 6:4. Shank’s presuppositions are driving his conclusion. He concludes where he begins, with presuppositions. This is circular reasoning and it is cheating.

Yet Shank has the audacity to write that “we have earlier associated the apostasy depicted in Hebrews 6 and 10 with the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (1961, p. 320). What does Matt. 12:31 say about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (ESV).

Matthew states emphatically that the blasphemy committed against the Spirit will not be forgiven. But Shank concludes that the apostasy of Heb. 6 is equivalent to the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but “restoration is not impossible for apostates” (1961:319). What is happening here to cause such overtly contradictory statements? Shank’s presuppositions are driving his conclusions about the Heb. 6 passage.

To support his claim that apostasy is not spiritually terminal, Shank (1961) appeals to the example of the apostle Peter denying Jesus Christ three times: “In the hour of trial, he [Peter] denied even the remotest acquaintance with Jesus: ‘I do not know the man’” (1961:328). See John 18:25-27 where Peter clearly denied the Lord three times. While Peter’s severe sin was forgiven and he continued his active ministry with Jesus, there is nothing in the text of the Gospels that states that Peter returned to a state of total unbelief in God (i.e. committing apostasy).

Shank’s presuppositions mould his conclusions and he allegorises the meaning of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11ff) to fit his theological agenda: “To every weary prodigal–disillusioned, hungry, heartsick of the far country–the Saviour offers precious encouragement and assurance that the Father longs for his return” (Shank, 1961:329). Yet, the parable concludes with a clear statement on its meaning in Luke 15:32, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” The dead came alive; the lost was found! There could not be anything more succinct with regard to salvation , rather than meaning a renewed backslider.

However, even William Hendriksen (1975), a strong Calvinist, contends that “the general theme” of the prodigal son is “the Father’s yearning love for the lost . . . One of the lessons taught in this chapter [Luke 15 and the three parables about the sheep, coin and son] is surely this, that without conversion there is no salvation” (1975:752, 758).

Shank’s presuppositions powerfully influence his conclusions on Heb. 6:4-6.

C.  Some historical and contemporary supporters of perseverance of the saints

These are samples of a few of the views throughout the history of the church.

You will notice that the theologians come down on opposite sides of the theological divide: (a) Augustinian Calvinists who do not believe that a true Christian can fall away from the faith, and (b) Arminians who claim that the text teaches the definite possibility of some becoming apostate by falling away permanently from the faith. Why this divergence? As suggested above, it relates to exegesis, hermeneutics (i.e. biblical interpretation) and presuppositions.

The churches history has been dogged with widespread divergence in understanding of the perseverance of the saints. The following are but a few examples:

    1.    St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (fifth century): “This grace He placed in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things.’ And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart” (Augustine, A 1887b).

    2.    The Westminster Confession of Faith: “They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (Chapter XVII, Section I, cited in Boettner, 1932:182). 

    3. Jacob Arminius, Dutch Reformed theologian of the 16th century, the followers of whom have been called Arminians, wrote:

“Those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies – yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit . . .
“I never taught that a true believer can either totally or finally fall away from the faith and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; . . . On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration . . .
“If believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers” (Arminius, 1977a:254, 282, emphasis in original).

Elsewhere he noted

“That almost all antiquity [i.e. the teaching of the church fathers] is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish. . . ‘Elect’ and ‘believers’ are not convertible terms according to the view of the fathers, unless perseverance be added to faith. Nor is it declared, by Christ, in Matt. xxiv,24, that the elect can not depart from Christ, but that they can not be deceived, by which is meant that though the power of deception is great, yet it is not so great as to seduce the elect” (Arminius, 1977c:493, emphasis in original).

    4.  Reformed theologian of the last century, Mr. Loraine Boettner wrote:

“In regard to those who become true Christians, but who, as the Arminians allege, fall away, why does God not take them out of the world while they are in the saved state? Surely no one will say that it is because He can not, or that it is because He does not foresee their future apostasy . . . Certainly a sovereign loving God would not permit His ransomed children to thus fall away and perish . . . The born-again Christian can no more lose his sonship to the heavenly Father than an earthly son can lose his sonship to an earthly father. The idea that a Christian may fall away and perish arises from a wrong conception of the principle of spiritual life which is imparted to the soul in regeneration” (Boettner 1932:183-184). [4]

    5.  Methodist and Arminian theologian John Miley, while acknowledging that there are “alleged proofs of the doctrine [of the final perseverance of the saints], while plausible, are inconclusive. Some texts of Scripture seem, on the face of them, to favor it, but a deeper insight finds them entirely consistent with the conditionality of final perseverance.”

He refers to John 10:27-29, explaining that “such is the assurance from the divine side; but it is entirely consistent with a conditioning fidelity on the human side. The case of Judas is an illustration,” and also to Rom. 9:29, stating that “this is utterly without proof of an absolute final perseverance, except on the assumption of an absolute sovereignty of grace in every instance of a personal salvation.”

“A grouping of a few texts will suffice for the proof of a possibility of final apostasy.” He referred to Ezek. 18:24-26; John 15:4-6; 17:12; 1 Cor. 9:26-27 and 2 Peter 1:10 (Miley, 1893/1989, vol. 2, p. 269).

    6. Reformed theologian John Calvin of the sixteenth century, the one after whom the Calvinistic system of theology is named, promoted the view of eternal security that the Lord’s promise “declares that all by whom he is received in true faith have been given to him by the Father, no one of whom, since he is their guardian and shepherd, will perish [cf. I John 3:16; 6:39].” Of Judas, Calvin claims that “the Lord’s assertion in another passage [John 6:70] that he was chosen by him with the apostles is made only with reference to the ministry. . . That is, he had chosen him for the apostolic office. But when he speaks of election unto salvation, he banishes him far from the number of the elect” [John 13:18] (Calvin, 1960:3.24.7 and 3.24.9, pp. 973, 975).

    7. John Wesley, evangelist, theologian and founder of Methodism, concluded from an examination of Scripture, that “I find no general promise in holy writ, ‘that none who once believes shall finally fall’” (1872/1978c:242). To support his view that Christian believers may “finally fall,” he marshals the following Scriptures: Ezek. 18:24; I Tim. 1:18-19; Rom. 11:17; John 15:1; 2 Pt. 2:20; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:38; Hab. 2:4; Matt. 5:13; 12:43-35; 24:10; Luke 21:34; John 8:31-32; 1 Cor. 9:27; 10:3; 2 Cor. 6:1; Gal. 5:4; 6:9; Heb. 3:14; 2 Pt. 3:17; 2 John 8; Rev. 3:11; Matt. 18:35 (Wesley 1872/1978c:242-254).

    8. The renowned British Baptist preacher and ardent Calvinist of the 19th century, C. H. Spurgeon, had some strong words to say against Arminians: “What is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?” (Spurgeon 1962:168). Of the doctrine of conditional eternal security, he stated:

“Nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor. . . I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. . . I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. . . If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort” (Spurgeon 1962:168-169)

    9. Contemporary Methodist theologian, Thomas C. Oden, is firmly convinced that genuine Christian faith can be lost:

“That faith can be lost is evident from Jesus’ own description of those who ‘believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away’ (Luke 8:13 . . .) Timothy was instructed to ‘hold on to faith,’ aware that some had entirely ‘shipwrecked their faith’ (I Tim. 1:19). Paul specifically named two shipwrecks – Hymenaeus and Alexander – and elsewhere we learn of others (Demas, Philetus)” (Oden, 1992:150-151).

    10. Charles Hodge, renowned Calvinistic theologian of the 19th century, spoke of the words of Romans ch. 8:

“The proposition to be established is, that there is ‘no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ That is, they can never perish; they can never be separated from Christ as to come into condemnation. . .
“Perseverance (of the saints), [the Apostle Paul] teaches us, is due to the purpose of God, to the work of Christ, to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to the primal source of all, the infinite, mysterious, and immutable love of God. We do not keep ourselves; we are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation (1 Peter i.5)” (Hodge 1975, vol. 3:110, 113).

    11. In commenting on John 6:38-40, contemporary Bible exegete and Calvinist, D. A. Carson, states that the “for” (Greek hoti) at the beginning of v. 38, “introduces the reason why Jesus will perfectly preserve all those whom the Father has given him.” Concerning divine sovereignty in salvation,

“The form of it in these verses, that there exists a group of people who have been given by the Father to the Son, and that this group will inevitably come to the Son and be preserved by him, not only recurs in this chapter (v. 65) and perhaps in 10:29, but is strikingly central to the Lord’s prayer in ch. 17 (vv. 1, 6, 9, 24 . . .) John is not embarrassed by this theme, because unlike many contemporary philosophers and theologians, he does not think that human responsibility is thereby mitigated” (Carson 1991:291).

    12.    Robert Shank believes the Bible teaches that “there is no valid assurance of election and final salvation for any man, apart from deliberate perseverance in faith” (1961:293).

    13.    R. C. Sproul stated “that if you have saving faith you will never lose it, and if you lose it, you never had it. . . We may fall for a season but never fully or finally fall away. . . Only Judas, who was a son of perdition from the beginning, whose profession of faith was spurious, was lost. Those who are truly believers cannot be snatched from God’s hand (John 10:27-30)” (1992:197, 199).

How is it that such acclaimed theologians and Bible teachers of the church throughout its history could have such contrasting views of the eternal condition of those who allegedly fall away from the faith? The contrast covers the range from Augustine who wrote, “He [God] worketh that we do not depart” (Augustine, 1887b) to John Wesley, “I find no general promise in holy writ, ‘that none who once believes shall finally fall’” (1872/1978c:242). Both of these saints were renowned Christians and leaders of the church, yet they came down on opposite sides of the evangelical fence concerning the perseverance of the saints – and both based their views on the Bible.

The theology of the perseverance of the saints has exercised the minds of those who love the Lord but they cannot conclude in unison. Why is it so difficult for agreement in this critical area of the doctrine of salvation?

 

III. Salvation can be lost. Isn’t it crystal clear?

One of the most pointed and controversial sections of Scripture is Hebrews 6:4-8.  These verses have created extensive debate through the centuries:

“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (ESV).

Isn’t it clear? Ashby (2002), speaking of Heb. 6:4-6, states that “it is hard to imagine finding any clearer statement that describes believers anywhere in all of Scripture” (p. 175). John Wesley agreed: “It will be clear to all who impartially consider and compare both these passages [Heb. 6 & 10], that the persons spoken of herein are those, and those only, that have been justified” (Wesley 1872/1978b:522).

However, that is not how it has been interpreted by some Bible commentators and theologians. Here’s a brief sample of their views:

F. F. Bruce: “The warning of this passage was a real warning against a real danger, a danger which is still present so long as ‘an evil heart of unbelief’ can result in ‘falling away from the living God’ (Ch. 3:12)” (1964:123).


The Scofield Reference Bible
states that these verses present “the case of Jewish professed believers who halt short of faith in Christ after advancing to the very threshold of salvation, even ‘going along with’ the Holy Spirit in His work of enlightenment and conviction (John 16:8-10). It is not said that they had faith. This supposed person is like the spies at Kadesh-barnea (Deut. 1:19-26) who saw the land and had the very fruit of it in their hands, and yet turned back” (Scofield, 1945:1295, n. 2).

John Wesley: “Must not every unprejudiced person see, the expressions here used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting, be understood of any but true believers” (Wesley, 1872/1978c, vol. 10:248).

Michael S. Horton: “Covenant theology . . . recognizes a third category besides ‘saved’ and ‘unsaved’: the person who belongs to the covenant community and experiences thereby the work of the Spirit through the means of grace, and yet is not regenerate” (2002:37). From Horton’s perspective, the people addressed in Hebrews 6 had been part of the covenant community, have not experienced salvation, and have fallen away from the community.

Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, believes these people were not Christians: “It is true the apostle declares that the men guilty of this sin ‘were once enlightened,’ and ‘have tasted of the heavenly gift,’ and ‘were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ and ‘have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come;’ but they are never said to have had a broken and a contrite heart.’” (cited in Shank, 1961:228).

Theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler: “There are several problems with taking this to refer to believers who can lose salvation. . . The word for ‘fall away’ (parapesontas) does not indicate a one-way action as would be true of apostasy (Greek: apostasia); rather, it is the word for ‘drift,’ indicating that the status of the individuals is not hopeless” (1999:125-126).

 

IV.  A closer look at Hebrews 6:1-8

Hebrews 6: 1-8 (NIV) [5]:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

Surely it is crystal clear that these people were once Christians – they were saved believers? Not so, according to many theologians, exegetes, commentators and Bible teachers. What are the reasons for not wanting to call these people truly Christian and having them return to their previously lost condition.

A.  Some issues from this passage

   1. Who are the people addressed in the letter to the Hebrews?

The title of this epistle, “To the Hebrews,” was not found in the earliest manuscripts of this book of the Bible. However, “it must belong to a very early tradition for it is found in the MSS Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and in the Chester Beatty papyrus” (Hewitt, 1960, p. 32).

The internal evidence in the Book reveals the following:

a.    It was not written to a general audience of Hebrew people, but to a group of people who had endured persecution, had their property plundered, but they had not been martyred (see 10:32-34; 12:3-4).
b.    They had exercised a ministry of good works to the imprisoned (6:9ff; 10:32-34);
c.    Based on Heb. 5:11-6:3, the readers were babies in Christ, but they should have been teachers. The exhortation urges “the readers to move away from spiritual infancy and to go forward to spiritual maturity” (Hewitt, 1960, p. 103). They are urged to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ” [lit. “leaving behind the word of the beginning of Christ”] and to “go on to maturity” (6:1). This compares with Heb. 5:12, “the basic principles of the oracles of God” (ESV). So, to gain spiritual maturity, they must break away from Judaism. This “foundation” on which their faith is built, consists of:

  • Repentance from dead works (6:1) – possibly referring to the Levitical sacrificial system, but 9:14 suggests that it might mean sinful or guilty actions or works (Hewitt, 1960, p. 104). It is Lenski’s view that

“All of these genitives refer to basic Christian and not to the old Jewish teachings; yet they refer to what the readers as former Jews learned when they were brought to Christ. If this letter were intended for former Gentiles, some at least of these genitives would be different” (1966, p. 176).

These two matters, repentance and faith, are basic to Christianity and the Jews previously lived in the dead works of outward conformity to the Law. See also Matt. 7:16-20; 25:44-45.

  • Faith toward God (6:1). Foundational Christianity combines repentance with faith. Why does the writer not refer to “faith in Christ” but “faith based on (Gk. epi) God”? Since these readers are former Jews, he is probably referring

“To faith that is based on God who spoke concerning Christ in the Old Testament. The Jews did not need another god, they needed faith in the God whom they knew, genuine trust in him and in the revelation of his Word” (Lenski 1966:177).

  • Instruction about washings (6:2);
  • The laying on of hands (6:2);
  • Resurrection of the dead (6:2), and
  • Eternal judgment (6:2).

d.    They were called upon to imitate the faith of some of the leaders (13:7), which seems to indicate the church could have been in existence for a time.

e.    Throughout the epistle, the writer appeals to the Old Testament with language of the old covenant, Melchizedek, types and shadows. There is an assumption that the readers were familiar with the references he was making.

f.    In the immediate context of Heb. 6, we have a call for the readers and the writer to “let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God . . .” (vv. 1-2). These were immature Christians who needed to grow up.

g.    Hebrews 6:9-12 (ESV) is revealing as a context for interpretation of the immediately preceding verses. In addressing these people, the writer is speaking of “things that belong to salvation” (v. 9) and that these people were “serving the saints” (v. 10). The writer’s desire was that this good work to the saints would continue and that they would “have the full assurance of hope until the end” (v. 11) and that they would continue to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (v. 12).

h.    Therefore, we can have confidence in concluding that the book was not written to Christians in general, or to Gentile Christians, but to Hebrew Christians who knew the Old Testament Scriptures well. They were immature Christians, but the internal evidence of the book confirms that the audience is Christian.

i.    Hewitt, on fairly solid grounds, concludes “that the readers were Jewish Christians, probably resident in Rome” (1960, p. 34). Lenski (1966) agrees: “This body of purely Jewish Christians lived in Rome. The salutation of ‘those from Italy’ in 13:24 points almost directly to Rome” (1966:15, emphasis in original).

2. What do these aspects of the passage mean?

Five things are stated about these people:

  • There were once-for-all enlightened.
  • They tasted the heavenly gift.
  • They became sharers of the Holy Spirit.
  • They tasted the good Word of God and the powerful deeds of the age to come.
  • They fell away (Ashby, 2002:175).

Speaking of this passage, John Wesley wrote: “Must not every unprejudiced person see, the expressions here used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting, be understood of any but true believers?” (1872/1978c:248).

Here the writer of Hebrews gives us five aorist tense participles (i.e. they happened at a point-action time as fact), as translated by Ashby: once-for-all enlightened, tasted, became sharers, tasted, and fell away. We know that the author is writing to current believers because he writes about “us” (6:1), we” (6:3) but transitions to “those, they and their” (6:4-6), but returns to “we, your and beloved”(6:9).

Please understand that the conditional “if” they fall away (as in NIV and ESV) does not appear in the Greek text. The Greek is literally, “and falling away ” (aorist participle), i.e. these Christians fell away.  It is not a hypothetical possibility that might happen but hasn’t eventuated yet. It happened!

                a.    It is impossible to restore these people again (v. 4)

This sounds fairly straightforward. Adunaton (from adunatos) is an adjective which, with or without the verb “to be,” has the meaning of “it is impossible” (Arndt & Gingrich, 1957, p. 18). [8] What is impossible? It is impossible to anakainizein. This is the Greek present, active infinitive from the verb, anakainizo, meaning in Heb. 6:6, “to renew or restore” (BAG, 1957:55).

It is impossible to restore or renew these people to their former condition. What was their former state from which they have fallen? What follows is a series of four Greek participles that define their previous condition: have been enlightened, have tasted (twice) and have shared. For this passage to declare its content, we must understand these participles.

                b.    The meaning of “have once been enlightened” (v. 4)

This is the first of “four participles, all aorists of fact, [that] have one article and thus describe the same persons; the accusative makes them the object of the verb ‘to renew again unto repentance’” (Lenski 1966:181).

“Once” being enlightened is in contrast with the “again” (or second time) of v. 6 (Lenski 1966:181). The meaning of “have been enlightened” (photisthentas from photizo) is “to enlighten spiritually, imbue with saving knowledge” and in Heb. 6:4 and Heb. 10:32 “of those who have been made Christians” (Thayer 1962:663).

Grudem (1994) disagrees, stating that “this enlightening simply means that they came to understand the truths of the gospel, not that they responded to those truths with genuine saving faith.” He claims that photizo

“Refers to learning in general not necessarily a learning that results in salvation – it is used in John 1:9 of ‘enlightening’ every man that comes into the world, in 1 Cor. 4:5 of the enlightening that comes at the final judgment, and in Eph. 1:18 of the enlightening that accompanies growth in the Christian life. The word is not a ‘technical term’ that means that people in question were saved” (Grudem 1994:796).

While it is acknowledged that photizo (I enlighten) has a different nuance in other settings of Scripture, the context of Hebrews 6:4-6 and lexical considerations run counter to Grudem’s understanding. He, taking “a traditional Reformed position” that “those who are truly born again will never lose their salvation” (1994:16), is a strong Calvinist. He seems to be defending this passage in support of his presuppositions.

F. F. Bruce, himself an Augustinian/Calvinist, exegetes “they were enlightened” to mean “enlightenment here is something which has taken place once for all…. The light of the Gospel has broken in upon these people’s darkness, and life can never be the same again; to give up the gospel would be to sin against the light, the one sin which by its very nature is incurable” (1964:120).

Based on lexical considerations, these people were once Christian believers. But there is still more to confirm their former spiritual condition.

c. The meaning of “have tasted the heavenly gift” (v. 4)

“Have tasted” is the Greek aorist participle, geusamenous, from the verb, geuomai. The verb can be used of a literal tasting, meaning to “taste, partake of, enjoy, experience” (Brown 1976:269) as in Matt. 27:34; John 2:9; Acts 10:10 and Col. 2:21.

In a figurative sense it is used in I Peter 2:3, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This refers back to Ps. 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” This may also be reflected in Heb. 6:4 where “it is not clear whether the author is thinking specifically of the forgiveness of sins, the gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit, or Christ himself,” but it is “most probable that salvation is in mind” and that “the emphasis in tasting is not that of taking a sip, as Calvin thought.” (Brown:270). We have a clear example of the figurative use of “tasting” in Hebrews 2:9, where

“Christ tasted death in the sense that he experienced its bitter taste to the full. The amount consumed is not the point, but the fact of experiencing what is eaten. The Christians to whom this is addressed have already experienced something of the future age, the world that is to come” (Brown 1976:270)

“Tasting,” meaning experiencing (the heavenly gift) in Heb. 6:4, is confirmed by Kittel: It

“Describes vividly the reality of personal experiences of salvation enjoyed by Christians at conversion. . . They have had a taste of the heavenly gift . . . of the forgiveness of sins accomplished for them by the heavenly High-priest Christ (Heb. 5:1ff; 9:24ff), of the good Word of God” (1964, vol. 1:676-677).

However, the Calvinist, Wayne Grudem, claims that “inherent in the idea of tasting is the fact that the tasting is temporary and one might or might not decide to accept the thing that is tasted” (1994:797). He appeals to Matt. 27:34 where geuomai is used “to say that those crucifying Jesus ‘offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink’” (1994:797).

Kittel, in seeking an understanding of tasted, links the Heb. 6:4 passage with Heb. 2:9 where tasting death meant, “to experience death as what it is” (1964 vol. 1:677).

BAG agrees, stating that geuomai, in Heb. 6:4, means to “obtain a gift” and other figurative uses mean to “come to know something” as in Mt. 16:28, Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27, John 8:52, and Heb. 2:9 (1957:156). Vincent refers geusamenous (tasted) back to 2:9, “tasted death.” He concludes that the meaning of “tasted” is to “have consciously partaken of” and that this “heavenly gift is the Holy Spirit. It is true that this is distinctly specified in the next clause, but the two clauses belong together” (1887/1946:445).

Therefore, for lexical reasons, we conclude that to “have tasted the heavenly gift” is to have obtained and experienced the heavenly gift, which “gift” could refer to the forgiveness of sins, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit at salvation or Christ himself. Whichever way we look at these readers of the book of Hebrews, they were definite Christian believers, even if we were to base our decision on this phrase alone. But the spiritual condition of these people is further reinforced in:

                d.    The meaning of “have shared in the Holy Spirit” (v. 4)

Literally, these people have “become sharers/partakers in [the] Holy Spirit.” How are we to understand “sharers/partakers”?

“‘Partakers’ places them among the rest, of whom the same thing can be said. They belonged to this heavenly company. . . To be partakers or sharers of the Holy Spirit does not mean to divide the Spirit. He is a person, and those are partakers of him who with others receive him in their hearts with all that this saving, sanctifying presence means” (Lenski 1966:183).

In opposition to Lenski’s view, Grudem (1994) questions

“The exact meaning of the word metochos, which is here translated ‘partaker.’ It is not always clear to English-speaking readers that this term has a range of meaning and may imply very close participation and attachment, or may only imply a loose association with the other person or persons named. For example, the context shows that in Hebrews 3:14 to become a ‘partaker’ of Christ means to have a very close participation with him in a saving relationship. On the other hand, metochos can also be used in a much looser sense, simply to refer to associates or companions. We read that when the disciples took in a great catch of fish so that their nets were breaking, ‘they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them’ (Luke 5:7). Here it simply refers to those who were companions or partners with Peter and the other disciples in their fishing work. . .
“By analogy, Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of people who have been ‘associated with‘ the Holy Spirit, and thereby had their lives influenced by him, but it need not imply that they had a redeeming work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, or that they were regenerated. . . The very word metochos allows for a range of influence from fairly weak to fairly strong, for it only means ‘one who participates with or shares with or accompanies in some activity.’ This was apparently what had happened to these people spoken of in Hebrews 6? 1994:797-798).

It must be remembered that this noun, “sharers/partakers” is closely linked with the aorist participle, genethentas (became — point action), from ginomai.

What is the lexical support?

The word for “sharers/partakers” is metochous (accusative, plural) from metochos, which BAG translates as “sharing or participating in” when used with the genitive of the person or thing, as here (1957:516; also Thayer 1962:407). Also see its similar use in Heb. 3:1.

“The metochoi Christou (those who ‘share in Christ’, Heb. 3:14; cf. 6:4) are called upon to patient endurance in persecution and holding fast to the true faith, so that they may not lose their share in future glory. To be metochoi paideias (participants in chastisement, [Heb.] 12:8) is in fact a sign of being a true child, for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves ([Heb.] 12:6; cf. Prov. 3:12)” (Brown 1975:639).

Colin Brown here clearly demonstrates that “partakers” of chastisement were genuine Christian believers. While there is Calvinistic objection to “partakers” being true believers, the limited lexical information available seems to favour this as “a partaking of the Spirit of Christ ([Heb.] 6:4), the preliminary eschatological gift according to the early Christian view” (Kittel 1962, vol. 2:832).

F. F. Bruce concludes:

“Whether it is possible for one who has been in any real sense a partaker of the Holy Spirit to commit apostasy has been questioned, but our author has no doubt that it is possible in this way to do ‘despite unto the Spirit of grace’ (Ch. 10:29)” (1964:121).

Bruce refers to the biblical example of Simon Magus who believed the gospel, was baptised, “attached himself to the evangelist whose preaching had convinced him, and presumably received the Spirit when apostolic hands were laid on him,” but he “was pronounced by Peter to be still ‘in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity’ (Acts 8:9ff., 18ff.), and showed himself in the following decades to be the most determined opponent of apostolic Christianity” (1964:121-122).

Heb. 6:4-6 affirms what is elsewhere stated in Scripture that a believer can become an unbeliever – the saved can be lost.

e.    The meaning of “have tasted the goodness of the word of God” and “have tasted  . . . the powers of the age to come” (v. 5)

The spiritual state of these people is here confirmed. As explained above, “tasted” means that they experienced it (although it is used with the accusative case here rather than with the genitive case in v. 4).

“In Hellenistic Greek the verb ‘to taste’ may govern either the genitive as it does in v. 4 or the accusative as it does in v. 5 without a difference in meaning; the classics use only the genitive. The writer intends to make no difference, nor should we seek one” (Lenski  1966:185).

What was experienced? The “goodness of the word of God” (the fact that God spoke through his rhema) and “the powers of the age to come” were their real experience. “The powers of the age to come” were indicated by the mighty works and signs that Simon Magus also experienced (see Acts 8:13, “and seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.”)

These people were clearly believers; but then comes a staggering statement in v. 6:

f.    “If they then fall away” (v. 6, ESV). Is it possible to become apostate or is this a hypothetical question that can never eventuate?

Why is it impossible to renew these people to repentance (6:6)? It happened to

the ones who had fallen away. The Greek text does not include the conditional “if” as translated in the ESV (and the NIV). They “fell away” from genuine Christian faith, as reasoned above.

Did they commit apostasy?

I find Calvin’s argument somewhat manipulative. Since Calvin believed that “the perseverance of the elect rests upon the sovereign power of God . . . exercised by Christ on their behalf” (1960 vol. 2, 3.22.7: 941, n. 13), one would expect him to consider Heb. 6:4-6 as referring to unbelievers since it presents such a strong case on the destiny of those who commit apostasy. I was not disappointed. Calvin precedes his comments about Heb. 6:4-6 by this introduction:

“If you pay close attention, you will understand that the apostle (he was previously referring to 1 Tim. 1:13) is speaking not concerning one particular lapse or another, but concerning the universal rebellion by which the reprobate forsake salvation. No wonder, then, God is implacable toward those of whom John, in his canonical letter, asserts that they were not of the elect, from whom they went out [I John 2:19]! For he is directing his discourse against those who imagine that they can return to the Christian religion even though they had once departed from it. Calling them away from this false and pernicious opinion, he says something very true, that a return to the communion of Christ is not open to those who knowingly and willingly have rejected it. But those who reject it are not those who with dissolute and uncontrolled life simply transgress the Word of the Lord, but those who deliberately reject its entire teaching. Therefore the fallacy lies in the words ‘lapsing’ and ‘sinning’ [Heb. 6:6; 10:26]. . . It is not any particular failing that is here expressed, but complete turning away from God and, so to speak, apostasy of the whole man. When, therefore, he speaks of those who have lapsed after they have once been illumined, have tasted the heavenly gift, have been made sharers in the Holy Spirit, and also have tasted God’s good Word and the powers of the age to come [Heb. 6:4-5], it must be understood that they who choke the light of the Spirit with deliberate impiety, and spew out the taste of the heavenly gift, will cut themselves off from the sanctification of the Spirit, and trample upon God’s Word and the powers of the age to come. And the better to express an impiety deliberately intended in another passage he afterward expressly adds the word ‘willfully.’”(Calvin 1960, vol. 1, 3.3.23:618-619).

Calvin here was referring to Heb. 10:26, and concluded that “no other sacrifice remains when His has been rejected. Moreover, it is rejected when the truth of the gospel is expressly denied” (1960 vol. 1, 3.3.23:619).  He explains further:

“To some it seems too hard and alien to the mercy of God that any who flee for refuge in calling upon the Lord’s mercy are wholly deprived of forgiveness. This is easily answered. For the author of Hebrews does not say that pardon is refused if they turn to the Lord, but he utterly denies that they can rise to repentance, because they have been stricken by God’s just judgment with eternal blindness on account of their ungratefulness” (1960, vol. 1, 3.3.24:620).

What an interesting trick! John Calvin links 1 Tim. 1:13 and 1 John 2:19 with Heb. 6:4-6 and Heb. 10:26. First Tim. 1:13 and 1 John 2:19 obviously refer to unbelievers in “universal rebellion” who are the “reprobate” and who “were not of the elect,” to use Calvin’s language. They were unbelievers and I agree.

However, there is no exegesis here by Calvin to show that the two passages in Hebrews refer to those who are the reprobate who have never ever been saved. What could be driving Calvin’s interpretation of the Hebrews’ passages? It is his presuppositions concerning the perseverance of the saints:

“I know that to attribute faith to the reprobate seems hard to some, when Paul declares it the result of election [cf. I Thess. 1:4-5]. Yet this difficulty is easily solved. For though only those predestined to salvation receive the light of faith and truly feel the power of the gospel, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect, so that even in their own judgment they do not in any way differ from the elect [cf. Acts 13:48]. Therefore it is not at all absurd that the apostle should attribute to them a taste of the heavenly gifts [Heb. 6:4-6]–and Christ, faith for a time [Luke 8:13]; not because they firmly grasp the force of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith, but because the Lord, to render them more convicted and inexcusable, steals into their minds to the extent that his goodness may be tasted without the Spirit of adoption. . . Although there is a great likeness and affinity between God’s elect and those who are given a transitory faith, yet only in the elect does that confidence flourish which Paul extols, that they loudly proclaim Abba, Father [Gal. 4:6; cf. Rom. 8:15] (Calvin 1960  vol. 1, 3.2.11:555).

Calvin’s presupposition is “that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect” and the reprobate see themselves as “not in any way differ[ing] from the elect.” These reprobate of Heb. 6:4-6 are likened by Calvin to those whom Jesus said had “faith for a time” (Luke 8:13).

What does the Lord do with these reprobates according to Calvin? He “steals into their minds to the extent that his goodness may be tasted without the Spirit of adoption.” God, who does not deceive or lie, here “steals into their mind” and they “taste” God’s goodness but cannot experience “the Spirit of adoption.” This sounds more like the plot of a contemporary movie where God plays mind games with people so that they taste his goodness but never can embrace his ultimate salvation. Can such be substantiated from Hebrews 6 or elsewhere?

F. F. Bruce, “an impenitent Augustinian and Calvinist” (Forster & Marston 1973, foreword:vii) considers that in Heb. 6:1-8,

“The warning of this passage was a real warning against a real danger, a danger which is still present so long as ‘an evil heart of unbelief’ can result in ‘falling away
‘ (Ch. 3:12). . . The writer to the Hebrews himself distinguishes (as did the Old Testament law) between inadvertent sin and wilful sin, and the context here shows plainly that the wilful sin, which he has in mind, is deliberate apostasy. People who commit this sin, he says, cannot be brought back to repentance; by renouncing Christ they put themselves in the position of those who, deliberately refusing His claim to be the Son of God, had Him crucified and exposed to public shame. Those who repudiate the salvation procured by Christ will find none anywhere else” (Bruce 1964:123-124).

Let’s get serious with the text of Heb. 6:4-6.  The nature of this apostasy (v. 6) is clarified by an examination of the exegetical considerations of the original language. It is the Greek, parapesontas, aorist participle of parapipto, which BAG gives the meaning as “fall away, commit apostasy” (1957:626). This is affirmed by Thayer: “to fall away (from the true faith)” (1962:485). Henry Alford states that it is used in 6:6 in a similar sense to “sinning deliberately” in Heb. 10:26, or “falling away (committing apostasy) from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). See also Heb. 10:29 and 2:1, “as pointing out the sin of apostasy from Christ” (Alford, 1875/1976:110).

While the other word for apostasy/unbelief (apostasia, apistia, aphistemi) is not used here, as it is in Heb. 3:12 (apistia), the lexical understanding of parapipto is that of committing apostasy and the aorist participle indicates an action in the past that happened as fact. Some born-again Christians fell away from the faith and thus committed apostasy.

F. F. Bruce affirms the lexical conclusions:

“People who commit this sin, he [the writer of Hebrews] says, cannot be brought back to repentance; by renouncing Christ they put themselves in the position of those who, deliberately refusing His claim to be the Son of God, had Him crucified and exposed to public shame. Those who repudiate the salvation procured by Christ will find none anywhere else” (1964:124).

We must be careful to note that this falling away is extremely tragic because these believers are not

“Falling into some sin or error which is dangerous but not deadly; no denial like that of a Peter in a panic of fear, like that of weak Christians. . . ‘And fell away’ (literally ‘to the side,’ para) means to fall away utterly. They fell to such an extent that ‘it is impossible again to renew them unto repentance,’ i.e., again to produce repentance. . . It is the state into which they have fallen which makes renewal to repentance impossible” (Lenski 1966:185-186).

This is seen in two phrases in v. 6 that use present tense, continuous action participles. The apostate is:

  • “Crucifying once again the Son of God” and
  • “Holding him up to contempt”

“Since they are recrucifying for themselves the Son of God and exposing him to public ignominy” as a causal action,

“As the tenses show, there is no cessation in this double act. The enormity of these acts is expressed by making ‘the Son of God’ the object of them. They are repeating the awful act of the Jewish Sanhedrin, who crucified Jesus because he said he was the Son of God (Matt. 26:63-66). They are doing this ‘for themselves’” (Lenski 1966:186).

The second durative action participle, “holding up to contempt” is from the verb deigmatizo, meaning “to expose, make an example of” something or someone (BAG 1957:171). Thayer endorses this definition, adding “to expose one to disgrace” (1962:126). The verb is a rare word that Kittel contends means “‘to exhibit,’ ‘to make public,’ ‘to bring to public notice,’ [especially] that which seeks concealment, so that it almost has the sense of ‘to expose’” (1964, vol. 2:32). In the New Testament it is only found in Matt. 1:19 and Heb. 6:6. In the Matt. 1:19 passage,

“Joseph did not wish to cite Mary publicly and thus to expose her. There is no evident distinction from paradeigmatizein. . . In the apostasy of the baptised [Heb. 6:6] Christ is crucified through them and thus publicly shamed. They expose Christ to public obloquy by their apostasy” (Kittel 1964, vol. 2:31-32).

What could this mean? The exposing of Jesus to public contempt is similar to what the members of the Sanhedrin did in Matt. 26:67-68 when they spat in the face of Jesus, and struck and slapped him. Lenski has so powerfully explained what this means for those who were once Christians and who commit apostasy. Those who fall away from faith in the Son of God openly revile him before the world by being a friend who has turned to traitor,

“Who viciously uses all that his former intimacy provides him, but do it so that men shall see what they as one-time converts of Jesus have now as disillusioned converts come to think of him. Outsiders may vilify the Son of God; they have never been personally in touch with him. What does that amount to? It is a different matter when his own converts eventually expose him to public shame. The word blasphemy is not used here as it is in the passages in the Gospels that speak about the sin against the Holy Ghost; but ‘exposing to public ignominy’ is a full equivalent” (Lenski  1966:186-187).

g.    How do vv. 7-8 help the interpretation?

This agricultural imagery demonstrates that land that has drunk the rain produces a useful crop and those who cultivate the crop receive the blessing of God as the land keeps producing. The tenses of the participles need to be noted. The rain keeps falling (present continuous) on the land. The land has drunk (aorist, factual action) the rain and the land continues to produce (present continuous) a crop.

However, land could be treated just as well and yet produce “thorns and thistles.” This makes the land “worthless” and is cursed by burning. The application to verse 6 is very clear – the same word of God proclaimed can produce saints or saints who can later choose to fall away permanently.

B. Summary of the meaning of Hebrews 6:1-8

The above exposition refutes Geisler’s view that this Heb. 6 passage “refers to those who are truly saved but are only losing their rewards, not their salvation” (1999:124).

Hebrews 6:4-8 is a specific application of John Wesley’s view: “I find no general promise in holy writ, ‘that none who once believes shall finally fall’” (1872/1978c:242).

The affirmation is that Christians who have been enlightened spiritually with saving faith, have experienced the gift of salvation, have received (become partakers of) the Holy Spirit, enabling them to experience the goodness of God’s word and the powers of the mighty works of God’s kingdom among us and in the ages to come, can commit apostasy (fall away completely from the faith). For such people, tragically there is no possible way to repent again. This does not mean that Christians who have sin in their lives at death are doomed to damnation. However, there is one and only one means of being damned after being a Christian.

Oden summarises the issues well (with one proviso):

“Insofar as a particular believer is concerned, is it possible, once having received pardon, to cast it back, forget it, or negate it? No and yes. Never in the sense of undoing God’s act. Those who live in Christ are promised sufficient grace to carry them to completion of God’s intention (Phil. 3:12-14). But yes in the sense that if they forsake trusting and once again choose death and throw themselves back into self-justifying syndromes of sin and despair under the law, they then live as if the pardon were forfeited, negating its benefits. The parable of the unmerciful servant tells this story exactly of one who having received pardon forfeited it (Matt. 18) . . .
“Systemic sins against faith occur either by heresy or by apostasy. In heresy one who is baptized holds to the name Christian yet denies the apostolic faith. . . In apostasy one who is baptized falls away from the faith totally, so as to ‘turn away from God altogether. . .
“Weak faith and strong faith share in all that Christ is, and hence equally justify. . . In justifying faith, all effectiveness is derived from that which calls faith forth, namely, grace.
“There are indeed degrees of faith, yet justification is a no-holds-barred declaratory act of God that offers new birth. . . The strength of faith does not increase the merit of Christ. The weakness of faith does not diminish the merit of Christ (Luke 23:43; 17:5; 2 Cor. 10:15; 2 Thess. 1:3)” (Oden 1992:151-152).

My one proviso concerns Oden’s statement that true faith is associated with “one who is baptized.” I find no biblical support for baptismal regeneration.  The thief who died beside Jesus on the cross had this confirmation from Jesus, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).  The saved and crucified thief had no opportunity for baptism,yet inherited eternal life in Paradise with Jesus.

Based on Heb. 6:4-6, there is only one way for a Christian believer to lose his or her salvation. That is by a “decisive act of apostasy – departing from the living God through unbelief (Heb. 3:12)” and for this loss of salvation there is no remedy (Ashby 2002:182-183).

C.  What about sinning and loss of salvation?

“It is not by quitting sinning that one becomes justified before God. It is, instead, by faith in Christ. Neither does committing sin after one is saved cause one to become unjustified before God” (Ashby 2002:187). What does cause one to become an unjustified unbeliever? Based on Heb. 6:4-6, “the singular act of apostasy is irreversible” (Ashby 2002:187).

Arminius also maintained such a view: “If believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers” (1977a:282). Put another way, it is “impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers to decline from salvation” (Arminius 1977a:281, emphasis in original). Elsewhere he stated: “Some will say, from Heb. 6 and 10, that one, who wholly falls away from the true faith, can not be restored to repentance” (1977c:494).

A “Wesleyan Arminian view” is:

“Involuntary transgressions (i.e., sins we commit without the awareness that we have done so) are not held against us by God, unless we discover them and do nothing about them. Voluntary sins–deliberate violations of known laws of God–do, however, become mortal if we do not repent of them. The subject of eternal security rests (in both categories of sin) on the matter of ongoing repentance” (Harper 2002:240)

Harper (2002:240) appealed to John Wesley’s sermon, “On Sin in Believers,” to support his proposition of voluntary sins that violate God’s known laws to lead to loss of salvation (i.e., to become mortal). In this sermon, Wesley asks:

“Is there then sin in him that is in Christ? Does sin remain in one that believes in him? Is there any sin in them that are born of God, or are they wholly delivered from it? Let no one imagine this to be a question of mere curiosity; or that it is of little importance whether it is determined one way or the other. Rather it is a point of the utmost moment to every serious Christian; the resolving of which very nearly concerns both his present and eternal happiness” (Wesley 1872/1978a:144, emphasis in original).

The implication from this teaching is that if a believer continues to practise known sin, that person forfeits salvation. However, Wesley wanted to make allowance for new Christians and their sinning:

“‘But how can unbelief be in a believer?’ That word has two meanings. It means either no faith, or little faith: either the absence of faith or the weakness of it. In the former sense, unbelief is not in a believer; in the latter, it is in all babes. Their faith is commonly mixed with doubt or fear; that is, in the latter sense, with unbelief. ‘Why are ye fearful,’ says our Lord, ‘O ye of little faith?’ [9] Again: ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ [10] You see here was unbelief in believers; little faith and much unbelief”(1872/1978a:155, emphasis in original).

The verses here quoted by Wesley are from Matt. 8:26 and 14:31. The contexts do not relate to unbelief and eternal salvation. This is out-of-context proof texting. Matt. 8:26 deals with the disciples in a boat on the sea in the midst of a severe storm and appealing to Jesus to save them from a potential life-threatening disaster. In Matt. 14:31, the situation is related to Jesus’ walking on the water and calling Peter to come to him on the water.

One must ask, at what point does a Christian move from being a “babe” in Christ and committing sin that does not lead to eternal death, to a more mature believer where sinning leads to loss of salvation? Isn’t this an arbitrary ruling? Wesley explains:

“A man may be in God’s favour though he feel sin; but not if he yields to it. Having sin does not forfeit he favour of God; giving way to sin does. Though the flesh in you ‘lust against the Spirit,’ you may still be a child of God; but if you ‘walk after the flesh,’ you are a child of the devil. Now this doctrine does not encourage to obey sin, but to resist it with all our might” (1872/1978a:155, emphasis in original).

Wesley was asked,

“Does sin precede or follow the loss of faith? Does a child of God first commit sin, and thereby lose his faith? Or does he lose his faith, before he can commit sin?’ His response was: “Some sin of omission, at least, must necessarily precede the loss of faith; some inward sin: But the loss of faith must precede the committing outward sin” (1872/1978a:232).

This seems to be without biblical precedent. Wesley emphasised again that inward sin may lead to shipwreck of one’s faith:

“Even he who now standeth fast in the grace of God, in the faith that overcometh the world, may nevertheless fall into inward sin, and thereby ‘make shipwreck of his faith.’ And how easily then will outward sin regain its dominion over him!” (1872/1978a:233).

The sequence as seen by Wesley was:

Christian believer blue-arrow-small inward sinblue-arrow-small loss of faith blue-arrow-smalloutward sin blue-arrow-smalldominion of sinblue-arrow-small damnation.

How is it possible to avoid such loss of salvation? Wesley’s view was:

“Thou, therefore, O man of God! Watch always; that thou mayest always hear the voice of God! Watch, that thou mayest pray without ceasing, at all times, and in all places, pouring out thy heart before him! So shalt thou always believe, and always love, and never commit sin. . . The more any believer examines his own heart, the more will he be convinced of this: That faith working by love excludes both inward and outward sin from a soul watching unto prayer” (1872/1978a:233, 232).

Contrary to this Wesleyan position, as demonstrated by the exposition of Heb. 6:4-8 above, it is not by voluntary, inward sin leading to outward sin, that causes a Christian to lose salvation. Even though Harper (2002) claims that his view is a Wesleyan Arminian position, it is not the classical Arminian view of Jacob Arminius, as Arminius stated himself:

“Those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies – yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ” (Arminius 1977a:254).

The only means of declining from the faith and making shipwreck of salvation is through deliberate apostasy. William Lane agrees: “The sin of apostasy entails irreversible consequences” (cited in Ashby 2002:177).

 

V.  Do other Scriptures teach the possible loss of salvation?

        A. Jesus believed in loss of salvation.

    1.    Faith can be lost according to Jesus. In Luke 8:13, Jesus, when interpreting the parable of the sower, stated that “the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

    2.    Using horticultural and other images, Jesus “assumes the vulnerability of faith” through leaven losing its efficacy (Matt. 16:6) salt losing its taste (Matt. 5:13), the barren tree (Luke 13:6-9), the dead branch of the vine (John 15:6) and the fruitless tree (Matt. 3:10) (Oden 1992:151).

  3. What about Judas Iscariot? In John 17:12, Jesus said, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Yet, Judas was chosen as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. John 6:70-71 states: “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.”

Good arguments have been given for both sides of this argument that Judas was a true believer and that Judas was an imposter of the faith from the beginning.

Norman Geisler advocates the imposter position:

“Judas was only a professing believer, a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Jesus called him a ‘devil’ (John 6:70), who was eventually indwelt by Satan himself (13:27).” He gives his reasons: The word used of his so-called ‘sorry’ after he betrayed Christ reveals that he was not a true believer. The Greek word used is metamelomai, which denotes regret, not repentance (Gr., metanoeo). Indeed, in his great high priestly prayer, Jesus excluded Judas from those who were truly his own (John 17:12)” (2002:88).

The other view which I will be advocating is that Judas Iscariot was a true apostle and believer who committed apostasy.

The biblical material points to an understanding of the Judas situation in two areas:

First, Jesus clearly states that he was a “chosen” disciple (John 6:70), one of the Twelve original disciples. Jesus knew that he would betray Jesus, but he was clearly a chosen disciple who, under the influence of Satan, committed apostasy because he left the faith and his destiny as Christ’s true disciple.

Second, in Acts 1:25 it states that “Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” The “turned aside” (ESV) is the Greek, parebe (aorist indicative) of parabaino (a rare word in the New Testament), which, according to Thayer, means “to go by the side of . . . of one who abandons his trust . . .and ‘fell away’ (RV)” (1962:478). Colin Brown affirms a similar meaning: “Judas’ sin consisted in his abandoning the topos, the place or position of service and apostleship. . . Judas has abandoned his discipleship” (1978:584). Kittel & Friedrich state that “literally, of course, it simply states the fact that Judas has withdrawn from his apostolic office” (1967:738). Hervey confirms the meaning of parabaino in an intransitive sense as meaning “to transgress, fall away from, turn aside from,” a meaning that is common in the Septuagint in verses such as Ex. 32:8; Deut. 9:12; 17:20, etc. (Hervey n d:6).

That Judas “fell away” (also Vincent, 1887/1946:447) provides a pointer to the preferred interpretation, as stated by Shank:

“The statement that Judas ‘fell away’ . . . from his ministry and apostleship is an assertion that, by a specific action, he disqualified himself. The necessary corollary is that he previously was qualified. The case of Judas, then, was one of apostasy, rather than original hypocrisy” (1961:179).

However, the aorist tense indicative indicates that there was a point in time when that happened as an action of falling away in the past (Dana & Mantey, 1927/1955:193). [11] Should the preferred meaning of parabaino be “transgressed,” the interpretation changes significantly – Judas sinned and fell away from his apostleship, but did not necessarily commit apostasy. I think that Shank (1961:179) protesteth too much!

Whether one accepts that Judas fell away or that he transgressed, Judas was chosen by Jesus as one of the Twelve disciples and became a “devil,” to use Jesus’ own words (John 6:70; 13:27). Therefore, Judas is an example of one who lost his apostleship and salvation by becoming “a devil” and one who was indwelt by Satan (John 6:70; 13:2, 27).

Those who support eternal security often appeal to John 6:64 where Jesus stated,

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” Robertson’s analysis is accurate:

“John does not say here that Jesus knew that Judas would betray him when he chose him as one of the twelve, least of all that he chose him for that purpose. What he does say is that Jesus was not taken by surprise and soon saw signs of treason in Judas. . . Judas had gifts and was given his opportunity. He did not have to betray Jesus” (Robertson 1932:114).

     4.  John 15:1-6
In this metaphor of the true vine, the gardener and the branches, Jesus stated, “Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away” (v. 2) and that the branches are to “abide in me, and I in you” (v. 4). “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (v. 6)

This passage provides a wonderful picture of the believers union with Christ. We need to note the Greek tenses for the use of “abide” (ESV, Gk. meno) and the immediate context in this passage. These are:

  • “Abide in me” (v.4) – a constative aorist imperative, which “may regard the action [to abide] in its entirety” (Dana & Mantey, 1927/1955:194; Robertson 1932:258).
  • “Unless it abides in the vine” (v. 4). Present tense, continuous action, i.e. continues to abide.
  • “Unless you abide in me” (v. 4). Present tense, continuous action.
  • “Whoever abides in me and I in him” (v. 5). Present tense, continuous action.
  • “If anyone does not abide in me” (v. 6), Present tense, continuous action.

The interpretation is straightforward. We, in union with Christ, are commanded to abide (remain) in union with Christ and that will continue as long as we continue to abide in Him. This is not speaking of a Christian who is commanded to abide in Christ as an instant action and that guarantees one’s eternal state. The eternal salvation state is guaranteed only as long as the believer continues to abide/remain in union with Christ.

“John thus uses the verb ‘abide’ [remain] to express the need for disciples to continue in their personal commitment to Jesus; the abiding of Jesus in them is not an automatic process which is independent of their attitude of Him, but is the reverse side of their abiding in Him. Just as men are summoned to believe in Jesus, so they are summoned to abide in Jesus, i.e. to continue believing” (I. Howard Marshall, cited in Ashby 2002:180).

By use of this vine and gardener metaphor, John 15:6 makes it clear that the believer who does not continue to abide in Christ, is thrown away like a branch, gathered up and cast into the fire to burn. What clearer analogy to damnation, after salvation, could be made? “Jesus as the vine will fulfil his part of the relation as long as the branches keep in vital union with him” (Robertson 1932:258). Remaining “in me [Jesus]” (v. 6), “shows that his primary thought was of apostate Christians. . . An unfaithful Christian suffers the fate of an unfruitful branch” (C. K. Barrett, cited in Ashby 2002:180).

    5.    John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 64; 10:27-28
Almost all of these verses demonstrate the conditional nature of salvation by use of the present tense in Greek, stating that continuing to believe is the condition required for eternal life to be experienced.

In John 3:15 it states “that whoever believes [present participle, is believing] in him may have eternal life.” For John 3:16, the emphasis is similar, “That whoever believes [present participle, is believing] in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 5:24: “Whoever hears [present participle, is hearing] my word and believes [present participle, is believing] him who sent me has eternal life.” The same emphasis is found in John 6:35, “Whoever believes [present participle, is believing] in me shall never thirst,” and John 6:40, “Everyone who looks [present participle, continues to look] on the Son and believes [present participle, continues to believe] in him should have eternal life.” John 6:64, speaks of “some of you who do not believe [present participle, are believing]. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe[present participle with the negative, are not believing], and who it was who would betray [future participle, will betray] him.)

The theme continues in John 10:27-28: “My sheep hear [present tense, continue hearing] my voice, and I know [present tense, continue knowing] them, and they follow [present tense, continue following] me. I give [present tense, continue to give] them eternal life, and they will never perish [aorist, perish as a fact of action], and no one will snatch [future tense, snatch in the future] them out of my hand. So, here the need for a continuation of belief is necessary to prevent a future snatching of believers from the Father’s hand.

Geisler avoids consideration of the conditional aspects of salvation (continual hearing, knowing and following Christ) that are precursors for no one snatching them out of the Father’s hand. He writes: “What makes our salvation sure is not only God’s infinite love, but also His omnipotence. ‘No one,’ not even ourselves, can pry us out of His hand” (1999:118).

It is Geisler’s view of these verses that “‘No one,’ not even ourselves, can pry us out of his hand. Further, Jesus said his sheep (the saved) will ‘never perish.’ Very plainly, then, if any believer loses his or her salvation, then Jesus is wrong!” (2002:72).

Ashby hits the mark: “It is not a small thing to change the scriptural emphasis from believing as a process, which is yielding eternal life, to belief as a momentary act, which one may walk away from one moment after believing with no adverse consequences” (2002:165).

These verses underline the consistent biblical theme that a believer who continues to believe shall not perish. Or as Arminius put it, it is “impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers to decline from salvation” (Arminius 1977a:281, emphasis in original).

    6.  John 17:12
The verse states: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

Verses like this one and Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:5 and 1 John 5:13 clearly indicate from context that believers are being addressed. I can enthusiastically endorse what Jesus says about believers receiving eternal life, but I cannot endorse “saved unbelievers” (Ashby 2002:166) receiving eternal life, as some Calvinists want to maintain.

These verses support the view that those who continue to believe in and trust in Christ alone for salvation will be saved. Comprehensive biblical support is that “God will not turn away a single believer. Of those who are believers, not one will be lost – for they are ‘kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation’ (1 Peter 1:5)” (Ashby 2002:166-167).

    7.  Matthew 12:31-32

Jesus stated:

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (emphasis added).

Geisler believes that “nothing in [this passage] supports the Arminian position” and that “there is no indication here that believers can commit this sin. The context shows that the passage is referring to hard-hearted unbelievers, who attributed the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ to the devil (see Mark 3:30)” (2002:95).

First, Geisler is wrong in stating that the Arminian position does not support the view of an unpardonable sin for which there is no forgiveness. William Lane states that “the sin of apostasy entails irreversible consequences” (cited in Ashby 2002:177).

Arminius himself stated, “If believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers”(1977a:282). Ashby, a Reformed Arminian, also supports apostasy without the possibility of further repentance:

“The New Testament affirms one species of loss of salvation: apostasy through defection from faith. . . If one becomes an unbeliever, which is not probable but yet is possible since he or she is a personal being, then God removes that individual from the true vine, Christ Jesus (John 15:2, 6). Hence, the singular act of apostasy is irreversible (Heb. 6:4-6)” (Ashby 2002:187).

Thomas Oden says that the “falling away” of Heb. 6:4-6 “refers to an untimely falling away near death, so that no further opportunity is offered for repentance (cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 41-42; 1 Cor. 9:27; Phil. 2:12)” (1992:325). While the Hebrews 6 passage does not refer to a falling away “near death,” Oden, a Methodist Arminian, here affirms a falling away for which no repentance is available.

In referring to Heb. 6:4-6, John Wesley concluded that it means, “in plain English, ‘It is impossible to renew again unto repentance those who were once enlightened’ and have fallen away; therefore they must perish everlastingly” (1872/1978c:295).

Geisler has a stereotypical view of Arminianism that falls wide of the mark, the above being examples that confound Geisler’s view.

Second, Geisler states that “the context shows that the passage is referring to hard-hearted unbelievers, who attributed the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ to the devil (see Mark 3:30)” (2002:95). However, he nowhere states the evidence from the context that these people were unbelievers. This is committing the logical fallacy of argument from silence.

        B.  Paul made it clear that some could “shipwreck” their faith.

    1. Paul urged Timothy to be “holding faith and a good conscience,” because Paul was aware that “some have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19) and he names two who have “made shipwreck” of the faith – “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20).

We learn of others who have apparently abandoned the faith. According to 2 Tim. 4:10, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

    2.  In 2 Tim. 2:16-18, Paul makes this appeal:

“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some” (emphasis added).

    3. Again in 2 Tim. 2:11-13, Paul raises the spectre of loss of salvation:


“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.”

This is quite clear. Because God is the truly faithful one, “If we deny him, he also will deny us.” F. Leroy Forlines states it well: “If we become faithless, Christ will remain faithful to His character and will deny us” (cited by Ashby 2002:162).

Second Tim. 2:12 needs no further explanation: “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.” In this context, we can’t deny someone with whom we had no relationship. Concerning our salvation, God will remain faithful if we remain faithful.

    4. Paul warned the Corinthians: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There are ample examples of warning in Paul’s writings of the danger of departing from Christian salvation, denying the faith, and God’s denying salvation to the former believer. This is one of them.

    5. Ephesians 1:13-14 clearly refers to believers as is indicated by Paul’s including himself with the saints of Ephesus (1:1) and “we who were the first to hope in Christ” (1:12, emphasis added). Of all present and continuing believers addressed in Eph. 1:13-14, it can be said, with a hallelujah of praise:

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

We need to note three aorist tenses in v. 13:

a. “You heard,” or more literally, “having heard” (active, participle);
b. “(You) believed,” or more literally, “having believed” (active, participle);
c. “(You) were sealed” (passive, indicative).

This reads like the definitive verse in support of eternal security: These believers had heard as an action, believed at a point of time, and in the past were sealed by the Spirit for salvation at a point in time. These are the emphases of the aorist tenses of these verbals. [17] 

As exegeted elsewhere in this paper, the emphasis has been on the continuous action of believing to receive the guarantee of eternal life.  How can the act of hearing, followed by the act of believing, lead to the act of being sealed by the Holy Spirit, without any indicator of the continuation of believing to guarantee entrance into the eternal kingdom?    Eph. 1:13 sounds like signed, sealed and delivered for the eternal security proponents.  But it doesn’t harmonise with the Scriptures that emphasise the need to continue to believe to retain salvation, as expounded in this article.

The meaning of “sealed”

Before we look at this string of aorist tenses, we need to ask, “What does it mean to be ‘sealed’?”  What is the meaning of esphragisthete (you, plural, were sealed), from the old verb, sphragizo?  It means “to set a seal on one as a mark or stamp, sometimes the marks of ownership or of worship of deities like stigmata (Gal. 6:17).  Marked and authenticated as God’s heritage as in 4:30? (Robertson 1931:519).  Thayer gives a similar meaning as applied to Eph. 1:13 in a metaphorical sense.  It means, “in order to mark a person or thing; hence to set a mark upon by the impress of a seal, to stamp” (1962: 609), a view also endorsed by BAG: “Mark (with a seal)  as a means of identification. . .  This forms a basis for understanding the symbolic [expression] which speaks of those who enter the Christian fellowship as being sealed with or by the Holy Spirit Eph 1:13; cf. 4:30? (1957:804).

This lexical base supports F. F. Bruce’s interpretation of “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”:

“An owner seals his property with his signet to mark it as his; if at a later time he comes to claim it and his right to it is questioned, his seal is sufficient evidence and puts an end to such questioning.  So, the fact that believers are endowed with the Spirit is the token that they belong in a special sense to God” (1961:36).

When did this happen?  According to Acts. 19:1-7, it may have happened on “the day when they received the Spirit after being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus and having Paul’s hands laid upon them.”  For others, they might

“Think of the day when the Spirit came upon them, although to many of them this had happened as soon as they believed, before they entered the baptismal water as the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace which they had received [cf. Acts 10:44-48]. . . Other seals, literal or figurative (like circumcision, the seal of the covenant with Abraham), were affixed externally; the seal of the new covenant is imprinted in the believing heart” (Bruce 1961:36).

Therefore, this “seal” was an inner guarantee that the believer was owned by God and that the believer’s ownership was authentic.  Could this seal ever be “unsealed” (broken) and the believer lose his or her being “sealed” or owned by God?

The effect of the aorist tense

Here it is needful to be somewhat technical with understanding the Greek use of the aorist tense. Esphragisthete (you were sealed) is aorist, passive indicative (see above).  We must remember that

“The Greek aorist [indicative], as can be readily seen, is not the exact equivalent of any tense in any other language.  It has nuances all its own, many of them difficult or well-nigh impossible to reproduce in English.  Here, as everywhere, one needs to keep a sharp line between the Greek idiom and its translation into English.  We merely do the best that we can in English to translate in one way or another the total result of word (Aktionsart), context and tense.  Certainly one cannot say that the English translations have been successful with the Greek aorist. . .  The English past [tense] will translate the Greek aorist in many cases where we prefer ‘have.’  Burton puts it clearly thus: ‘The Greek employs the aorist, leaving the context to suggest the order; the English usually suggests the order by the use of the pluperfect [e.g. had been sealed]. . .  The aorist in Greek is so rich in meaning that the English labours and groans to express it.  As a matter of fact the Greek aorist is translatable into almost every English tense except the imperfect, but that fact indicates no confusion in the Greek” (Robertson 1934:847-848).

Since the indicative mood with the aorist tense, as here with esphragisthete, indicates a time in the past, we still must not ignore the fact that “the fundamental significance of the aorist is to denote action simply as occurring, without reference to its progress” (Dana & Mantey 1955:193).  The aorist indicates that something happened (“you were sealed”), but no reference is made as to whether or not it has been going on further.

Therefore, there is no need to conclude that the aorist tense indicates an action that is “sealed” now and cannot be terminated at some later stage.  While the analogy takes a different hue in Rom. 11: 17-24, there is an indicator in this Romans’ passage that that which was previously engrafted can be cut off.  We read:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,  [18] do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  [19] Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  [20] That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.  [21] For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  [22] Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.  [23] And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.  [24] For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree” (ESV).

Note especially vv. 20-23.  The Jews were “broken off” (exeklasthesav, aorist, indicative, passive) because of their unbelief (v. 20).  These Gentile Roman Christians were shown kindness by God “provided you continue in his kindness.”  Otherwise, these Gentile Christians “will be cut off” (v. 22).  Even the Jews, “if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again (v. 23).

Robert Shank has exegetical and hermeneutical support to draw these conclusions about Rom. 11: 20-22:

“While the faithfulness of many in Israel did not nullify the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises, neither did the faithfulness of God prevent the faithlessness of many of His covenant people (Rom. 3:3-8).  The faithfulness of God toward Israel did not prevent ‘some of the branches’ from becoming severed from Him: “Because of unbelief, they were broken off (Rom. 11:20).  Paul warns the Gentile believers not to be presumptuous, but to recognize that the same tragedy could befall them, for they only stand by faith (vv. 20-22).  To assume that Christians cannot become lost because of the faithfulness of God is to ignore an essential part of the truth.  The faithfulness of God cannot avail for men who become unfaithful.  ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering: for he is faithful who promised’ (Heb. 10:23)” (Shank 1961:109-110).

    6.    Romans 8:16
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Geisler’s view is that this verse “is a present witness of our ultimate state. We know now that we are God’s children. . . Believers can have present assurance of their ultimate salvation” (2002:78-79).

This verse is not speaking about unconditional eternal security and the “ultimate state” of eternal salvation forever and ever. In context in Rom. 8, it speaks of the Christians benefits, possessed by those who are in Christ: no condemnation (8:1), setting their minds on things of the Spirit (8:5), the witness of the Spirit (8:16), heirs of God (8:17). “These are not abstract entities that I possess. They result from my union with Christ. If that union is broken by unbelief, then the benefits are gone” (Ashby 2002:167).

Geisler has appealed to a verse that does not teach what he claims.

    7.    Phil. 1:6; 2:15-16; 2 Thess 3:3; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18
These verses confirm that God is committed to continuing the work of salvation that he has begun and that there are ultimate, confirmed benefits for those believers who continue in salvation. These verses also express our thanksgiving for God’s salvation and confidence that he will remain faithful to his side of the deal. He is the faithful one; we are the ones who can become unfaithful.

    8.    Col. 1:21-23
Here Paul makes it clear that ultimate salvation is for those who continue in the faith. He is speaking to those “who once were alienated and hostile in mind [toward God] . . .” and are “now reconciled” to him. The aim is for these believers to be presented “holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

How will this goal be attained? It will happen “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (v. 23)

We do not lose salvation by sinning and failing to confess sin. Verse 23 confirms that having faith in Christ and continuing that faith in Christ is what brings the “in Christ” salvation. Our union with Christ does not cease when we sin. It ceases when faith ceases. Therefore, “continue in the faith” is central to guarantee eternal salvation.

I Tim. 1:18-20 continues this theme. In v. 19, it is Timothy “having (present participle, continuing to have) faith and a good conscience” who has salvation. Then Paul gives the examples of those who “have made shipwreck of their faith” (v. 19), naming Hymenaeus and Alexander (v. 20). What is the guard against a shipwrecked faith of apostasy? Continuing faith!

        C. The author of the Hebrews gives further warning.

Is Ashby’s view too strong? “When considering apostasy or perseverance, Hebrews should be the primary focus of one’s attention, since it is in Hebrews that this subject takes center stage” (Ashby 2002:170). Dale Moody takes a similar line, believing that an understanding of the warnings in Hebrews clarifies the meaning of other New Testament passages of warning:

“It is when one tries to twist Hebrews to fit traditional systems based on false philosophy and dogma that difficulties arise. Few passages in the New Testament have been twisted with more violence than the five warnings on apostasy in Hebrews” (cited in Ashby 2002:).

After examining the five warning passages in Hebrews, Dale Moody reached three conclusions:

“(1) It is possible to press on to maturity and full assurance (6:1, 11; 10:22);
“(2) It is possible for believers who do not press on to commit apostasy; and
“(3) There is no remedy for the sin of apostasy” (cited in Ashby 2002:171, n. 64).

        1. Hebrews 3:6b, 12-14
Hebrews 3:6b states that “we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Some MSS add “firm to the end.” It is better attested in 3:14 than 3:6b.

Robertson provides a succinct, but technical, explanation of this portion of the verse:

If we hold fast (ean kataschomen) [is a] condition of third class with ean and second aorist (effective) active subjunctive of katecho. This note of contingency and doubt runs all through the Epistle. We are God’s house if we do not play the traitor and desert. . . The author makes no effort to reconcile this warning with God’s elective purpose. He is not exhorting God, but these wavering Christians” (1932:355).

A third class conditional clause in Greek syntax implies doubt or indefiniteness of a hypothetical condition.[12] Here there is doubt about the continuation of being one of God’s house, unless one holds fast the confidence. “Hold fast” is aorist subjunctive (kataschomen) from katecho (“keep firm,” BAG 1957:424; “to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of,” Thayer 1962:340). This exact word, including tense and mood, is found in 3:14 also.

F. F. Bruce, although a Calvinist, knows what this means in Heb. 3:6b:

“Nowhere in the New Testament more than here [in the Book of Hebrews] do we find such repeated insistence on the fact that continuance in the Christian life is the test of reality. The doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints has as its corollary the salutary teaching that the saints are the people who persevere to the end” (1964:59).

In vv. 12-14, we need to heed these warnings:

  • Beware of an evil, unbelieving heart,
  • This may lead these believers “to fall away from the living God”,
  • Exhort (present tense, keep on exhorting) one another every day, Why?
  • That none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,
  • We share in Christ when we “hold firm” our confidence “to the end.”

The conditions are clear that “we are his house” if we hold fast our confidence. We “share in Christ” if “we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Philip E. Hughes states the point well:

“Admonitions such as our author gives here serve to emphasize the seriousness of the Christian’s calling and are thoroughly in line with God’s covenant relationship with his people in former times (cf., for example, Dt. 30). God is not beholden to any person or nation: obedience to the terms of the covenant brings blessings; unfaithfulness and apostasy lead to judgment” (cited in Ashby 2002:173-174).

This “unbelieving heart” may be developed by “brothers” (3:12) of which the writer is one (see his use of “we” in 3:6, 14). He warns against this and the only sure antidote is to “hold our original confidence firm to the end” (v. 14). If these Hebrew Christians failed here, they would “fall away from the living God.”

        2. Hebrews 10:26-31 reads:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

How can loss of salvation for apostasy (Heb. 6:4-6) harmonise with Heb.10:26-27? In these latter verses it is stated that people who “go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (v. 26) receive the fury of the fire of God’s judgment. Is this not pointing to deliberate sin as a reason for losing salvation (a la many Wesleyan Arminians), in addition to the finality of apostasy?
This was John Wesley’s view, stating that the meaning of Heb. 10:26-29 was “undeniably plain.” He taught,

“(1) That the person mentioned here was once sanctified by the blood of the covenant.
“(2) That he afterwards, by known, wilful sin, trod under foot the Son of God.
“(3) That he hereby incurred a sorer punishment than death, namely, death everlasting.
Therefore, those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly”  (Wesley,1872/1978c:297).


In Heb. 10:26-29, the writer is speaking to the Christian who “was sanctified” These were clearly believers. In context, something very serious was involved, that was far more severe than “anyone [who] is caught in any transgression” (Gal. 6:1). The New Testament teaching is that Christians have a high priest who helps those who are tempted to sin, who sympathises with our weaknesses, and deals gently with the ignorant and wayward (see Heb. 2:17ff; 4:15ff; 5:2; suggested by Bruce 1964:258).
Here, Heb. 10 is dealing with something more serious, akin to those who “fall away from the living God” (3:12). This is parallel to the serious warning of 6:4-8. If one “receives the knowledge of the truth” (10:26) and then rejects this only way of ultimate salvation through Christ, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (v. 26), but fearful judgment of God’s wrath against God’s adversaries, including former Christians (v. 27). Bruce states “that outright apostasy is intended here seems plain from the language of verse 29? (1964:259): “The one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (ESV).
Bruce gives this powerful assessment:

“Our author is not given to wild exaggeration, and when he uses language like this, he chooses his words with his customary care. To spurn the Son of God, to trample Him underfoot (as the word literally means), ‘denotes contempt of the most flagrant kind’; to treat the covenant-blood of Christ, by which alone His people are sanctified, cleansed and brought to God, as no better than the most common death, is to repudiate decisively both His sacrifice and all the blessings which flow from it; to outrage the Spirit of grace is, in the words of Jesus, to be ‘guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:29)” (Bruce 1964:259-260).

This passage is not teaching that any ordinary transgression leads to apostasy and ultimate damnation, after knowing the truth. Taken as a block of teaching about falling away from the faith, the meaning of Heb. 10:26-29 is a further confirmation of Heb. 6:4-6 where apostasy leads to a falling away from salvation for which there is no further remedy unto eternal life.  In this Heb. 10 passage, the process begins with those who “go on sinning [present tense participle] deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (v. 26).  The teaching is similar to that of
(see below).

3. Heb. 10:23, 35-39

It is Geisler’s view that the “great reward” (v. 35) “is not speaking of salvation” but about “believers coming before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10)” (1999, p. 127).
This view is difficult to justify when “my righteous one shall live by faith” is in contrast with the one who “shrinks back” (v. 38) and those who do that “are destroyed” (v. 39).

Ashby (2002:178) shows this contrast from the passage:

The just
Those who shrink back
Live by faith (v. 38)
Encouraged to hold fast to their confession of hope (v. 23)
They are those who believe (v. 39)
Belief results in salvation (v. 39)
Throw away their confidence (v. 35)
God has no pleasure in them (v. 35)
(Conversely implied) They do not continue to believe (v. 39)
Their end is destruction (v. 39)

D. Peter’s writings

1.    I Peter 1:5

This is a precious promise that assures true believers of their ultimate salvation. They are those “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” God by his power is guarding this ultimate, eschatological salvation for believers “through faith.” This is not talking about saved unbelievers (Ashby 2002:166) but a guarding of salvation for those who continue as believers in accordance with verses such as Matt. 10:22 and 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

2.  Second Peter 2:20-22

Who were Peter’s readers? They are those who “have escaped the defilements of the world” (v. 20). How did they manage such an escape? Peter says that it was “through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 20).

To this saved group of people, Peter warns them of the consequences of turning back from the commandments of God to the vile defilements of the world:

  • “The last state has become worse for them than the first”;The first state was what they were like as unbelievers, under the wrath of God and alienated from God. What could be worse than this? Verse 21 says that,
  • “It would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

This warning from Peter is among the worst in Scripture (along with the warnings of Hebrews), telling us of a situation that is worse than being an unbelieving pagan heading for hell. This is a situation that belongs to those who once knew the Lord and have chosen to be like the dog who returns to its own vomit (v. 22). They are those who were once saved, have become lost again, and now have no possible hope of salvation. They are worse off than before they heard the gospel because their situation is final with no hope of ever attaining eternal life.

This is a similar outcome to Heb. 6:4-6; and 10:26, 39.

E. Other Scriptures

            1. First John 5:13

“I write these things to you who believe (present participle, continue believing) in the name of the Son of God that you may know (perfect tense, have known and presently know) [14] that you have (present tense, continue having) eternal life.

Plummer highlights this: “We have St. John’s favourite pisteuein eis, expressing the very strongest belief; motion to and repose upon the object of belief” (1950:141).

This verse has a strong parallel with John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed (present participle, continue believing) in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Believers, as long as they are believers, continue to believe in Christ and continue to have eternal life. They may know this as a present reality, based on a knowledge that took place in the past, which infers a time of conversion to Christ in the past.

            2. Jude 24-25

    These verses show again the need for perseverance of believers and that God is ever faithful in doing his part.

            3. Revelation 3:5

This is a warning to the Church in Sardis, Christians who “have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (3:1).  In verse 5, of the Christian who conquers, God says, “I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” To be threatened with removal of one’s name from the book of life, one must have already had his or her name in the book of life.  This is an empty threat if it is not possible to have one’s name removed from God’s book of life.  I am left with no other conclusion: Damnation is possible after one has experienced salvation!

Other verses in the Book of Revelation contain the same kind of warning.  See Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; and 21:27.


4. James 1:14-15

These verses read, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

James is addressing believers, as the context from James ch. 1 makes clear: “brother” (1:2, 9), “the crown of life” is expected (1:12); “my beloved brothers” (1:16, 19); and “of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creation” (1:18).  These “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1) are beloved believers who expect the crown of life when they “remain steadfast under trial” (1:12).

Here we have teaching on a process of how apostasy, ultimate falling away from the Christian faith,  may take place for those who were once genuine Christians – but I’m jumping ahead of myself (that’s my conclusion, based on the following teaching).  These are exegetical points to note:

a. This Christian “is tempted” (perazetai, v. 14).  This is the present, passive, indicative of peirazo, meaning “enticement to sin, tempt” (BAG, 1957:646); “to solicit to sin, to tempt” (Thayer 1962: 498).  Therefore, a reasonable translation of the first clause would be, “But each one is continuing to be tempted.”

b. How does this happen?  Note two present tense, passive participles in v. 14:

  • Exelkoumenos, from exelko, means, “to lure forth” and James 1:14, “where the metaphor is taken from hunting and fishing: as game is lured from its covert, so man by lust is allured from the safety of self-restraint to sin” (Thayer 1962:222).
  • Deleazomenos, from deleazo, means to “entice” (BAG 1957:173).  It is from an old verb, with the idea “to catch fish by bait or to hunt with snares,” but used here figuratively as “allured by definite bait” (Robertson 1933:18).

Bringing these two participles together, thus far we can say that verse 14 means: “But each one is continuing to be tempted when he is continuing to be lured forth and continuing to be enticed. . .”  By what?

c. Verse 14 states that the bait is ” by his own desire.”  It is by his own epithumias (plural of epithumia), which is an old word “for craving (from epithumeo, to have a desire for) either good (Phil. 1:23) or evil (Rom. 7:7) as here [Jas. 1:14].  Like a fish drawn out from his retreat” (Robertson 1933:18).

If we pull this exegetical material together, James 1:14 has the meaning: ” But each one is continuing to be tempted when he is continuing to be lured forth and continuing to be enticed by his own [evil] desires or cravings.”  But it doesn’t end there.  Verse 15 powerfully shows how this continuous temptation, with continuous luring and enticing from one’s own evil desires, leads to the next step, with a devastating impact.

Note these further exegetical points:

d.   The Christian “has conceived” (an aorist participle, sullabousa, from sullambano, meaning to “conceive in the womb,” symbolically – BAG 1957:784).  Being aorist tense, it indicates it occurred as a point of action, rather than the continuous action of the tempting, luring and enticing of v. 14.  We can state that a Christian’s life of continuously being tempted and being lured forth and enticed by one’s inner desires/lusts, leads to the act of metaphorical conception.  This then leads on further:

e.   It “gives birth” (present, indicative active, tiktei, from tikto, meaning, “bring forth” [as from a mother or from a seed, physically or metaphorically] (BAG 1957:824; Thayer, 1962:623).  The result of this conception is that it continues to give birth to sin.  Robertson rightly states that “sin is the union of the will with lust” (1933:18).  When this beginning (birth analogy) of sin continues, it leads to more serious consequences.

f.   What does it mean to state that what is birthed “is fully grown” [apotelestheisa, aorist participle from apoteleo].  There’s a little disagreement among the scholars.  Robertson (1933:18) disagreed with the ESV translation of “fully grown” (even though he wrote 70 years before this translation), stating: “It does not mean ‘full-grown’ like teleioo, but rather completeness of parts or functions as opposed to rudimentary state (Hort) like the winged insect in contrast with the chrysalis or grub (Plato).”  Thayer considers that it means “to perfect; to bring quite to an end . . . having come to maturity” (1962:69).  BAG agrees, stating that when used figuratively and passively, it means to “come to completion, be fully formed . . . of being completed in action” (1957:100).  Ropes endorsed the translation of the lexicons rather than Robertson’s when he stated that apotelestheisa means

“When it has become complete, fully developed, ‘has come to maturity.’  The word (on which see Hort) is drawn from the figure of the successive generations, and it is not necessary to determine wherein in fact the complete maturity of sin consists; sin is ‘complete’ when it is able to bring forth inevitable baneful fruit, death.  The ‘perfect work’ (cf. v. 5) of sin is death” (Ropes 1973:157-158).

When that which is birthed becomes mature or fully grown (point action of aorist tense),

g.   It “brings forth”  (apokuei, present active indicative of apokueo, meaning “give birth to, bear . . . sin brings forth death” (BAG 1957:93).  Taking the tense into consideration, sin continues to give birth to death.

Based on James 1:14-15, this is the sequence for believers that may lead  to death.  It would be pointless to say that this refers to physical death as all human being die physically (except for those who remain when Jesus Christ returns).  These are the steps that a believer takes to experience eternal death – becoming lost again:

Personal inner lusts/cravings with luring & enticement blue-arrow-smallconception blue-arrow-small give birth to sin blue-arrow-small sin when fully matureblue-arrow-smallbrings forth eternal death

“Once the sin is born, it comes to completeness.  This does not mean that, like a babe, it gradually grows to the adult stage.  James is speaking of a Christian who loses his faith and spiritual life in some temptation.  Unbelievers are in spiritual death from the start.  When sin is born of the fleshly lust that is still lingering in the believer, the question still remains whether his faith, which is crushed down for the moment, will not again assert itself and rid itself of the deadly hold of sin by true repentance.  Peter repented.  Ananias and Sapphira carried their sin through to completion.  David repented.  Sin is brought to completion when repentance is blocked” (Lenski 1966:543).

Tragically, here is further evidence that the source of temptation within every born-again believer can travel through the process of the passion of inner cravings, leading to continuous sin, which ultimately leads to eternal death.  The inference is that such sin leads to a state where no further repentance is possible.  This is akin to committing apostasy.  My interpretation of Heb. 10:26-27 (above) harmonises with this understanding of James 1:14-15.

James 1:14-15 answers James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”   Christians are tempted by the inner desires that can ultimately lead to eternal death if the believer allows sin to mature and apostasy is committed.

 

VI.    Other eternal security Scriptures raised by advocates

There are some passages that seem to indicate that there is eternal security for those who have faith in Christ for salvation. This will be a brief examination of such passages as the main thrust of this paper has been an exposition of Heb. 4:4-8.

A. John 6:37-40

It reads:

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. . . And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Geisler uses John 6:37 and its emphasis on “whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (NIV) to prove that “not only is everyone who comes saved, but also everyone who is saved is saved permanently! It is a forever salvation” (2002:71).

“I will never cast out,” with its “strong double negation,” demonstrates that this is a “definite promise of Jesus to welcome the one who comes” (Robertson 1932:108).

The idea that everyone who comes is saved and saved permanently (as with Geisler) contradicts the plain teaching of Jesus elsewhere (e.g. John 15:1-6). As discussed above, in Jesus’ intercessory prayer just before he was betrayed, He confounds the “saved permanently” view: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). This passage in John 17 confirms John 6:39 that “this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.” It is not the Father’s will that anybody should be lost but that all should come to the truth and be saved. This is confirmed in 2 Peter 3:9 and I Tim. 2:4.

Second Peter 3:9 states: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

First Tim. 2:3-4, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

As explained above, John 6:40 teaches the continuing necessity to be looking (present participle) to the Son and the ongoing believing (present tense) to guarantee eternal life.

It is a repeated theme in the New Testament that people have been given to Christ (as in John 6:37; also John 17:2, 6, 9). It must not be assumed that this is an arbitrary act by which God chose to give some to Jesus and not to give the rest of humanity. Thiessen’s view has merit: “In the light of God’s revealed character, it is more probable that He did this because of what He foresaw they would do, than merely to exercise sovereign authority” (1949:348). First Peter 1:1-2 confirms this view as this letter is addressed “to those who are elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God.” This is God’s election of individuals to salvation, based on God’s forknowledge of the person’s response to the proclamation of salvation.

    B. I John 3:9

The ESV makes this verse clear with its translation of the verbs: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”  No further explanation is needed.

    C. Romans 8:35-39

This passage is often used to support the view that a Christian cannot be lost again by quoting that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” to demonstrate that “true believers are eternally secure” (Geisler 1999:143). This passage does not teach that salvation can be lost, but assures the person who is a child of God that her or she cannot be separated from God’s love.

“What comfort and encouragement in the day of battle! Consider the force of Paul’s argument (Rom. 8:31ff.): God is for us; who then can prevail against us? God justifies; who can condemn? Christ died, rose, and intercedes for us; who can separate us from His love? ‘I am persuaded,’ writes Paul, ‘that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ our Lord’ (vv. 38, 39). No power in all the universe can separate from Christ the one who is trusting in Him” (Shank 1961:207-206).

We have to guard against making texts say what we want them to say. This series of verses is not addressed to teaching on the perseverance of the saints, thus making it invalid to appeal to such for support.

 

VII. Some other issues

A. Born again a second time does not make sense.

James Arminius, in replying to William Perkins’ objections wrote:

“It is not absolutely necessary that he, who falls away, should be again engrafted; indeed some will say, from Hebrews 6 and 10, that one, who wholly falls away from the true faith, can not be restored by repentance. . . There is no absurdity in saying that they may be engrafted a second time, because in Romans 11:23, it is said of branches, which had been cut or broken off, that ‘God is able to graft them in again’” (1977c:494).

B.  Logical arguments to support eternal security

For a more detailed, but not comprehensive, response, see Ashby, 2002, pp. 167ff.  The arguments are “often based on analogy with human experience rather than scriptural teaching” (Ashby 2002:167).  Briefly stated they are:

    1.    “If one could be removed from the body of Christ, Christ’s body would be maimed.”  This is not the teaching of the Bible.  Col. 2:10 says that we “have come to fullness in him” (NRSV) or “filled in him” (ESV). [15]

    2.    “If one is a child of God, then no matter what happens one cannot cease to be a child of God.”  The angle is: Since my father was, Roy Gear and I am his son, Spencer Gear, I can never cease to be Roy Gear’s son, even though he now lives in the presence of the Lord (following his death as a Christian).  The problem is with the analogy of a physical relationship with a spiritual relationship.  Ashby explains:

“If it is true that a spiritual relationship cannot be broken when applied to a ‘child of God,’ then logical consistency would demand that ‘children of the devil,’ must always remain children of the devil.  Thus, no one could ever become a child of God.  ‘Once a child, always a child” [in spiritual relationship with God or the devil] is simply an invalid argument” (2002:168).

3.    “One who is born again can never become unborn.”  The truth is that one does not become unborn if one becomes apostate.  He or she dies!  Compare Eph. 2:1 with John 3:36.

4.    “The believer is said to have eternal life as a present possession; it would not be eternal if you could lose it.”  Texts used in favour of this argument include John 3:15-16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:54; 10:28.  As explained above, these texts come with verbs for “believing” that are present tense verbs and mean progressive, continuous, durative action.  Is eternal life a quantity of life by which we can live forever?   Unbelievers, including unbelievers again, will exist forever in hell, but not with the gift of eternal life in the Son.  Verses such as the following emphasise that there is life in Him (God/Jesus): John 1:4; 5:26; 5:39-40; 10:10; 12:50; 1 John 5:11-13.

“Faith in Christ is what places one in Christ.  Eternal life is not merely perpetual existence; it is the very life of God.  I participate in that life because I am forensically in Christ.  No one who is outside of Christ has eternal life  The life of God was eternal before I got it, and it will continue to be eternal, even if I were to forfeit it by rejecting Jesus Christ” (Ashby 2002:169)

 

C.    The logical case for conditional salvation

    Again, I am indebted to Stephen M. Ashby (2002) for a sustained biblical exposition of conditional salvation.  The God who gave us free will [16] does not remove it at the point of salvation:

“If divine grace is resistible prior to conversion, it is also resistible after conversion.  God does not take away our free will at the moment of conversion (bear in mind that Reformed Arminians hold free will to be ‘freedom from deterministic necessity’)” (Ashby 2002:170).

F. Leroy Forlines agrees with this biblical emphasis, but expresses a personal perspective:

“While I do not think that the likelihood is high that a person who is saved will become an unbeliever again, I do believe that because we are persons, the possibility remains open. . .  the real issue is whether a Christian is a genuine, personal being.  Does he think, feel, and make choices (both good and bad)?” (in Ashby 2002:170).

Ashby’s logical case for conditional perseverance of the saints, includes the following points:

1.    “Numerous warning passages throughout the book of Hebrews” warn of the danger of falling away from salvation if one ceases to believe in Christ.  “When considering apostasy or perseverance, Hebrews should
be the primary focus of one’s attention” (Ashby 2002:171).  We have considered these warnings in depth
in the above exposition.


2.    “Texts that indicate one’s final salvation is conditioned on continuance in faith.”  See Col. 1:21-23 as an example of those “who once were alienated and hostile in mind” are “now reconciled . . . if indeed you continue in the faith.”  See other passages also discussed above, such as I Peter 1:5 and Heb. 3:14.


3.    “Passages that name individuals who have renounced faith in Christ and are endangering others.”  These include Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:18-20) and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-18).  Such shipwreck of the faith seems to mean that
they committed apostasy.


4.    “Texts in which Paul expresses concern that his labor among believers might be in vain.”  These passages include Gal. 4:9-11;  Phil. 2:15-16; 1 Thess. 3:5.  These believers were experiencing trials and tribulation (1 Thess. 3:3-3) and were exposed to false teaching (Gal. 3:1-3). 


5.    “Texts that speak of the possibility of a person’s name being blotted out of the book of life.”  See Rev. 3:5; 22:18-19.

To have one’s name removed from the book of life means that it was there in the first place.

 

VIII. Conclusions

See the article, “Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist.”


For as long as Christians continue as believers, it is impossible for them to lose their salvation. The just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

Since it is by faith in Christ that one becomes justified by God and not by means of stopping sinning, therefore committing sin after salvation does not make one unjustified before God. Salvation is not lost if “anyone is caught in any transgression” (Gal. 6:1).

What does cause one to become an unjustified unbeliever after being a justified believer? Hebrews 6:4-8 teaches that there is only one way for a Christian to lose his or her salvation. That is by a decisive act of apostasy – departing from the living God through unbelief. For this loss of salvation there is no remedy.

St. Augustine wrote: “He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves” (cited in Wesley, 1872/1978b:281). [13] Thomas Oden gives a clear summary of the Bible’s teaching in his paraphrase of the views of early church fathers, John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo:

“God who made you without you and atoned for you without you is determined to save you only with your free consent (Eph. 2:8-10)” (Oden 1992:92).

Can a person be “once saved” and “lost again”? From my examination of many relevant Scriptures in this exposition, the answer is, “Yes,” if that person commits apostasy.

 

IX. Endnotes

1. I am a retired Australian general and family counsellor,  counselling manager, doctoral student in New Testament, and an active Christian apologist. To contact me, I refer you to the Contact Form on this homepage. I live in Brisbane, Australia.

2. The ESV refers to The English Standard Version. Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible quotations are from the ESV.

3. In this examination of Hebrews 6:1-8, exegesis will be used

“In a consciously limited sense to refer to the historical investigation into the meaning of the biblical text. Exegesis, therefore, answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? It has to do both with what he said (the content itself) and why he said it at any given point (the literary context). Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author intend his original readers to understand . . ?
“The key to good exegesis is the ability to ask the right questions of the text in order to get at the author’s intended meaning. Good exegetical questions fall into two basic categories: questions of content (what is said) and of context (why it is said).

“The contextual questions are of two kinds: historical and literary. Historical context has to do both with the general historical setting of a document (e.g., the city of Corinth, its geography, people, religions, economy, etc.) and with the specific occasion of the document (i.e. why it was written). Literary context has to do with why a given thing was said at a given point in the argument or narrative.

“The questions of content are basically of four kinds: textual criticism (the determination of the actual wording of the author), lexical data (the meaning of words), grammatical data (the relationship of words to one another), and historical-cultural background (the relationship of words and ideas to the background and culture of the author and his readers).

“Good exegesis, therefore, is the happy combination–or careful integration–of all these data into a readable presentation. . .

“The ultimate aim of the biblical student is to apply one’s exegetical understand of the text to the contemporary church and world” (Fee, 1983, pp. 27-28).

4. In another edition of Loraine Boettner’s book, he stated: “There is scarcely an error more absurd than that which supposes that a sovereign God would permit His children to defeat His love and fall away” (p. 183, 1932, Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, cited in Thiessen, 1949, p. 387).

5. NIV refers to the New International Version of the Bible.

6. The NIV footnote for 6:1, “Or from useless rituals.”

7. The NIV footnote for 6:6, “Or repentance while.”

8. Hereafter, Arndt & Gingrich will be documented by the abbreviation BAG (for Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich).

9. Matthew 8:26.

10. Matthew 14:31.

11. “The fundamental significance of the aorist is to denote action simply as occurring, without reference to its progress, . . its time relations being found only in the indicative, where it is used as past and hence augmented. . . The aorist signifies nothing as to completeness, but simply presents the action as attained. It states the fact of the action or event without regard to its duration” (Dana & Mantey, 1927/1955, p. 193, emphasis in original).

12. Dana & Mantey (1927/1955, p. 288) explain: “The third-class condition begins with ei+an or eav, or sometimes av. . . It implies doubt or indefiniteness. Its very presence in a sentence indicates lack of certainty on the part of the one using it. It warns us not to take at full face value what the other words may imply.” They emphasise that we need to “remember that this word [eav] which implies uncertainty is used with the moods for uncertainty.” In this case, eav is used with the subjunctive mood, thus indicating a “degree of uncertainty.” For “a greater degree of uncertainty” one would use the optative mood (Dana & Mantey, 1927/1955, p. 288, 287).

13. This quote by Augustine is from John Wesley’s Sermon LXIII, “The General Spread of the Gospel”(in Wesley, 1872/1978b, p. 277ff). However, Wesley did not footnote his bibliographical details for Augustine and Augustine’s quote was repeated in Harper, 2002, p. 251, also without bibliographical information. I have not been able to locate Augustine’s exact quote in his works on the World Wide Web. However, we can note Augustine’s struggle with human free will and divine sovereignty in the following teaching from, “A Treatise on Grace and Free Will” (Augustine, 1887a):

“Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, ‘Harden not your hearts;’ [Ps. 95:5] and in Ezekiel himself, ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions’ [Ezek. 18:31] . . . We should remember that He says, ‘Make you a new heart and a new spirit,’ who also promises, ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.’[Ezek. 36:26] How is it, then, that He who says, ‘Make you,’ also says, ‘I will give you’? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands? . . .” [Ch. 31 (XV)]
“It is certain that it is we that will when we will, but it is He who makes us will what is good, of whom it is said (as he has just now expressed it), ‘The will is prepared by the Lord.’ [Prov. 8:35] Of the same Lord it is said, ‘The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and his way doth He will.’ [Ps. 37:23] Of the same Lord again it is said, ‘It is God who worketh in you, even to will!’ [Phil. 2:13] It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will, who has said, ‘I will make you to walk in my statutes, and to observe my judgments, and to do them’ [Ezek. 36:27] . . .” [Ch. 32 (XVI), emphasis in original].
“Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will . . . On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” [Phil. 1:6] He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will”[Ch. 33 [XVII]).

Here, Augustine struggles, as many of us do as Christians, to find the explanation for the God who “operates without us, in order that we may will [to do something]; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us.” It is the paradox of the integration of the Lord who commands free will decisions from human beings (e.g., “Make you” and yet the Lord says, “I will give you.”) and the sovereignty of God who steps in and acts on human beings. It will remain a paradox (some would use the term, “mystery”).

14. The perfect tense is “the tense of complete action. Its basal significance is the progress of an act or state to a point of culmination and the existence of its finished results. . . The point of completion is always antecedent to the time implied or stated in connection with the use of the perfect” (Dana & Mantey, 1927/1955:200).

15.  NRSV refers to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

16.  By “free will,” I mean “freedom from deterministic necessity.”  This view is that “God is sovereign, but he has chosen that his foreknowledge will be conditioned on the actual and contingent actions of his free creatures” (Ashby 2002:148).

17.  See note 11, above, for support of the view that the aorist indicative has a time indictor of action in the past.

 

X. References

Alford, H 1875/1976, Alford’s Greek testament: An exegetical and critical commentary, vol. 4, Pt. 1, Guardian Press, Grand  Rapids, Michigan.

Arminius, J 1977a, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 1 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Arminius, J 1977b, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 2 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Arminius, J 1977c, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 3 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W, 1957, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, trans. & adapt. of Bauer, W, The University of Chicago Press (limited edition, Zondervan Publishing House), Chicago.

Ashby, S M 2002, ‘A Reformed Arminian view’ in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Augustine, A 1887a. ‘On grace and free will’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series (online), vol 5. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis.  Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Augustine A 1887b. ‘On the predestination of the saints’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, first series (online), vol 5, rev by B B Warfield. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15122.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Boettner, L 1932, The reformed doctrine of predestination, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Brown, C (ed) 1975, The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 1, The Paternoster Press, Exeter.

Brown, C (ed) 1976, The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2, The Paternoster Press, Exeter.

Brown, C (ed) 1978, The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 3, The Paternoster Press, Exeter.

Bruce, F F 1961, The epistle to the Ephesians, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey.

Bruce, FF 1964, The epistle to the Hebrews, series in Bruce FF (gen ed), The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Calvin, J 1960, Institutes of the Christian religion, vols. 1-2 (McNeill, JT ed. & Battles, FL transl.), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.

Chapell, B 1994, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dana, HE & Mantey, JR 1927/1955, A manual grammar of the Greek New Testament, The Macmillan Company, Toronto, Canada.

ESV 2001, The Holy Bible: The English standard version, Crossway Bibles (Good News Publishers), Wheaton, Illinois.

Fee, GD 1983, 1993, New Testament exegesis: A handbook for students and pastors (rev ed), Gracewing, Fowler Wright Books (Westminster/John Knox Press), Louisville, Kentucky.

Forster, R T & Marston, V P 1973, God’s strategy in human history, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois.

Friedrich, G (ed.) 1967, Theological dictionary of the New Testament (vol. 5), Bromiley, GW (transl. & ed.), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N L 1999, Chosen but free, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Geisler, N L 2002, “A moderate Calvinist view,” in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grudem, W 1994, Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Harper, J S 2002, “A Wesleyan Arminian view,” in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hendriksen, W 1978, New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hervey, A C n.d., “The Acts of the Apostles,” in The Pulpit Commentary (vol. 18), ed. H. D. M. Spence & J. S. Exell, Wm. B.  Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hewitt, T 1960, The epistle to the Hebrews: An introduction and commentary, series in Tasker, R V G ( gen ed),Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, The Tyndale Press, London.

Hodge, C 1975, Systematic theology, vol. 3, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Horton, M S 2002, ‘A classical Calvinist view’ in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Kittel, G (ed.) 1964, Theological dictionary of the New Testament (vols. 1-2), Bromiley, G W (transl. & ed.), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lenski, R C H 1966, The interpretation of the epistle to the Hebrews and the epistle of James, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Miley, J 1893/1989, Systematic theology (vol. 2), Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts.

NIV 1978, The holy Bible: New International Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

NKJV 1982, The holy Bible: The new King James version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville.

NRSV 1989, The holy Bible: New revised standard version, Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.

Oden, T C 1992, Life in the Spirit (systematic theology, vol. 3), HarperSanFrancisco, New York.

Plummer, A 1950, “The epistles of St. John,” in the pulpit commentary (vol. 22), ed. H. D. M. Spence & J. S. Exell, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Robertson, A T 1931, Word pictures in the New Testament (vol. 4), Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee.

Robertson, A T 1932, Word pictures in the New Testament (vol. 5), Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee. Robertson, AT 1933, Word pictures in the New Testament (vol. 6), Broadman Press,  Nashville, Tennessee.

Robertson, A T 1934, A grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of historical research, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee

Ropes, J H 1973, A critical and exegetical commentary on the epistle of St. James (The International Critical Commentary), T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh.

Scofield, C I (ed.) 1945, The Scofield reference Bible, Oxford University Press, New York.

Shank, R 1961, Life in the Son: A study of the doctrine of perseverance, Westcott Publishers, Springfield, Missouri.

Sproul, R C 1992, Essential truths of the Christian faith, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.

Spurgeon, C H 1962, C. H. Spurgeon autobiography: Volume I: The early years 1834-1859, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh.

Thayer, H T 1962, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Thiessen, H C 1949, Introductory lectures in systematic theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Vincent, M R 1887/1946, Word studies in the New Testament (vol. 4), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Wesley, J 1872/1978a, The works of John Wesley (vol. 5), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Wesley, J 1872/1978b, The works of John Wesley (vol. 6), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Wesley, J 1872/1978c, The works of John Wesley (vol. 10), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV): And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2016.

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Did John Calvin believe in limited atonement?

John Calvin: Barcelona, Spain (1554)

Courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continues:

their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8)

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement in that it would be impossible for God to predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation and yet provide unlimited atonement that was available to them, unto the possibility of salvation. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

Roger Nicole has written an article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”. This indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin. But at the end of the article he stated, ‘Our conclusion, on balance, is that definite [limited] atonement fits better than universal grace into the total pattern of Calvin’s teaching’.

Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students.

Calvin wrote in his commentary on John 3:16,

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith (bold emphasis added).

Thus, John Calvin himself is very clear here. He believed in unlimited atonement because a limited atonement would not make sense in light of his statement about John 3:16 that ‘he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers’. If unbelievers were destined for eternal destruction by the predestination of God, they would have an excuse, ‘God destined it that way, so I have no alternative but to go to eternal condemnation’. Calvin’s language is unequivocal in John 3:16 that the ‘whosoever’ meant ‘all indiscriminately’ and that no unbeliever would have an excuse before God.

What about his commentary on 1 John 2:2? This verse states, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV). This is speaking of Jesus’ blood sacrifice. Was his suffering for the sins of the entire world or only for the elect, as Calvinists teach?

Calvin believed unlimited atonement

In his commentary on 1 John 2:2, John Calvin wrote:

Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world and in the goodness of God is offered unto all men without distinction; His blood being shed not for a part of the world only but for the whole human race. For although in the world nothing is found worthy of the favor of God yet He holds out the propitiation to the whole world, since without exception He summons all to the faith of Christ which is nothing else than the door unto hope.[1]

I was alerted to this content of Calvin in Augustus Hopkins Strong’s systematic theology (1907:778). I have the hardcover edition, but it is available online at: Google Books (Accessed 28 August 2012). Strong begins his introduction to this quote from Calvin in 1 John 2:2, ‘In later days Calvin wrote in his Commentary on 1 John 2:2….’ (Strong 1907:778). However, I have not been able to source this quote from Calvin online, although one poster in a Forum stated that it was from an earlier edition of Calvin’s commentaries published by Eerdmans.

However, Strong’s statement is not what Calvin wrote earlier in his commentary on this verse as the succeeding quote demonstrates.

Roger Nicole’s assessment of Calvin on the atonement is in, ‘Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement’.

To try to uncover the original source of Calvin’s quote, I started a thread on Christian Forums, ‘Calvin on the Atonement’ (29 August 2012). The only helpful comment in trying to identify this quote has been from LamorakDesGalis:

I believe Eerdman’s was founded in 1911, so its unlikely that they were the publisher. I think it likely that Strong had access to Calvin’s Opera Omnia[2], a massive Latin work of 59 volumes, and probably translated it from the Latin.
The quote from Strong is consistent with what Calvin has stated in many places. The early Reformers – Luther, Zwingli, Bullinger – held to universal atonement. Calvin was no exception, and his comments throughout his works are very clear. For example Calvin’s commentary for Romans 5:18 where he states that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world:

He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.[3]

Also Calvin’s commentary for Mark 14:24, where Calvin clarifies what is meant by “many”:[4]

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race[/b]; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse.[5]

How would a Calvinist reply to these citations from Rom. 5:18 and Mark 14:24 in support of universal atonement? Here is one example:

This is the quote from Calvin’s Commentaries on Romans 5:18:
“He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.”

What Calvin is saying is that the OFFER is to all, but all do not receive him, so even though the offer is to all, the atonement is not extended to all.

[Of Mark 14:24],

What Calvin means is simply that Christ died for the world, in the sense that He died not just for Jews, or for the French, etc. but that He died for peoples from every nation tribe and tongue, which together represent the entire human race. Similar to reading Scripture, to properly understand an author, we have to read them in their proper context. To say that John Calvin held to a “universal atonement” is simply not consistent within the context of his writings as a whole.[6]

Why would Augustus Strong do this?

It is important to understand that Augustus Strong was a Calvinist. The Reformed Reader states:

Augustus Hopkins Strong is perhaps the most notable Baptist theologian of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.  His place in a compendium of Baptist theologians is central.  In some cases he must be read in order to understand the theological writings of others.   Strong taught and wrote his orthodox theology from a committed, reformed, Baptist perspective, while at the same time rigorously engaging intellectual developments within his cultural context.  Strong’s magnum opus, the Systematic Theology, embodied the best of his own theological reflection and of Baptist theological thought prior to the momentous crisis (the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy).

The Hall of Church History: The Baptists notes that ‘Augustus Strong, another well-known Baptist theologian, was an Amyraldian (four-point Calvinist)’. Elwell’s Handbook of Evangelical Theologians states that ‘The dominant influence at Rochester Theological Seminary when Strong was a student there was Ezekiel Robinson. As a preacher and theologian, Robinson made a great impression on Strong, shaping his theology into a Calvinist mold’.

Strong was writing from a perspective of sympathy with Calvinism. We don’t know the reasons for this amalgamation of Calvin’s teaching against limited atonement (from a synthesis of comments in his commentaries), but it may have been to show that Calvin did not support limited atonement. We know this from Calvin’s commentaries on Mark 14:24, John 3:16, Romans 5:18 and 1 John 2:2.

Calvin believed limited atonement

However, Calvin’s online edition of 1 John 2:2 states:

And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ[7] suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.

In earlier days, did Calvin believe limited atonement? See the Institutes.

See the quotes at the beginning of this article from Institutes 3.23.5 and Institutes 3.23.8. However, these have to do with double predestination and not limited atonement. In Calvin’s works, I cannot read support for limited atonement, but I have not read all of his voluminous writings.

On Christian Forums a person alerted me to this article that helps to explain how Strong got his quote, ‘Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) on Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement’. This is part of what that author wrote:

There is no evidence that Calvin held to limited atonement early in his life, and then moved to embrace unlimited atonement later. 2) Regarding the second comment, Strong’s formatting leaves much to be desired. At first glance, it may appear that Strong is extracting a single quotation from Calvin, and that from his commentary on 1 John 2:2. Strong is quoting free separate sources from Calvin’s commentaries. Firstly, Calvin’s comments on 1 John 2:2, and then the three separate references: Romans 5:18, Mark 14:24, and lastly John 3:16. For the last, Strong appears to be citing an older unknown translation of Calvin on John 3:16, or perhaps his own translation. Early English translations of Calvin on John 3:16 translated propitium as reconciliation or propitiation. 4) Thus Strong has extracted multiple comments from Calvin and then collapsed them into an apparently single quotation string.

That helps me to understand that Calvin never believed in limited atonement and that Strong’s assessment is from a variety of Calvin’s commentaries.

Here is further information on Calvin’s teaching on unlimited expiation.

Here I update the above assessment where further research has discovered that Calvin did not believe Jesus’ death was for the whole world of sinners. See my further assessment in:

Was John Calvin a TULIP Calvinist?

Further research

In my further investigation of Calvin on his view of the atonement, I discovered he was a fence-sitter. Sometimes he believed in universal atonement for the whole world and at other times it was limited to the elect. See the further research at: Was John Calvin a TULIP Calvinist?

I am left to conclude this was his conclusion concerning the atonement:

https://i1.wp.com/i.pinimg.com/originals/c1/06/86/c106860e30037481bfe6f3fbc6775341.jpg?resize=157%2C209&ssl=1

(photo courtesy Linda Sumruld)

What did the early church fathers say?

Church Fathers, 11th century Kievan minature: Wikipedia

Quotations from the Early Church Fathers

In this link you will find quotations by Ron Rhodes from church fathers affirming universal atonement. However, Ron has gathered these quotes from secondary sources. Not once in this link does he acknowledge the primary sources for these quotes. However, he does give secondary sources (in footnotes) in ‘The extent of the atonement’, but he is quoting other Christian authors and not directly from the church fathers. In what follows, I have attempted to follow up his quotes from the primary sources available on the www. What I found in some cases was that many of these quotes from the secondary sources were not confirmed in a www search. But Rhodes’ quotes from the early church fathers seem to have been accepted by many people using his quotes from his article.[8]

Let’s check out the primary sources online to see if some of the early church fathers (the ones mentioned by Ron Rhodes) supported unlimited atonement!

clip_image002Clement of Alexandria (150-220):‘He bestows salvation on all humanity abundantly’ (Paedagogus 1.11). ‘For instruction leads to faith, and faith with baptism is trained by the Holy Spirit. For that faith is the one universal salvation of humanity’ (Paedagogus 1.6). Elsewhere it has been stated by Ron Rhodes that Clement of Alexandria taught, ‘Christ freely brings… salvation to the whole human race’.[4][9] However, I’ve been unable to find these exact quotes in the writings of Clement of Alexandria.

clip_image002[1]Eusebius (260-340): ‘the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and of His human body…. This Sacrifice was the Christ of God, from far distant times foretold as coming to men, to be sacrificed like a sheep for the whole human race’ (Demonstratio Evangelica, Bk 1, Introduction, ch. 10). ‘His Strong One forsook Him then, because He wished Him to go unto death, even “the death of the cross,” and to be set forth as the ransom and sacrifice for the whole world…. to ransom the whole human race, buying them with His precious Blood from their former slavery to their invisible tyrants, the unclean daemons, and the rulers and spirits of evil’ (Demonstratio Evangelica, Bk 10, ch 8).

clip_image002[2]Athanasius (293-373), in The Incarnation of the Word, wrote: ‘None could renew but He Who had created. He alone could (1) recreate all, (2) suffer for all, (3) represent all to the Father’ (7, heading). ‘all creation was confessing that He that was made manifest and suffered in the body was not man merely, but the Son of God and Saviour of all’ (19.3); ‘or who among those recorded in Scripture was pierced in the hands and feet, or hung at all upon a tree, and was sacrificed on a cross for the salvation of all?’ (37.1)

It has been quoted frequently across the www that Athanasius stated, ‘Christ the Son of God, having assumed a body like ours, because we were all exposed to death [which takes in more than the elect], gave Himself up to death for us all as a sacrifice to His Father’.[5] [10]However, I have been unable to find this exact quote in Athanasius.

clip_image002[3]Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386): ‘And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf’ (Catacheses – or Catehetical Lectures 13.2).

clip_image002[4]Cyril of Alexandria (A.D. 376-444) taught that we confess that he is the Son, begotten of God the Father, and Only-begotten God; and although according to his own nature he was not subject to suffering, yet he suffered for us in the flesh according to the Scriptures, and although impassible, yet in his Crucified Body he made his own the sufferings of his own flesh; and by the grace of God he tasted death for all…. he tasted death for every man, and after three days rose again, having despoiled hell.’ (Third epistle to Nestorius). ‘Giving His own Blood a ransom for the life of all’ (That Christ is one).

On the Internet, I have read many examples of this quote, “The death of one flesh is sufficient for the ransom of the whole human race, for it belonged to the Logos, begotten of God the Father.” (Oratorio de Recta Fide, no. 2, sec. 7). I have not yet located it on the www.

clip_image002[5]Gregory of Nazianzen (324-389): ‘He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood.  As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also’ (Oration XXIX, The third theological oration on the Son, XX).

I was unable to locate the quote, ‘the sacrifice of Christ is an imperishable expiation of the whole world’, allegedly from Oratoria 2 in Pasch., i.e., Passover.

clip_image002[6]Basil of Caesarea, Basil the Great(330-379): “But one thing was found that was equivalent to all men….the holy and precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He poured out for us all” (On Ps. 49:7, 8, sec. 4 or Psalm 48, n.4). I have been unable to track down this quote on the www.

clip_image002[7]Ambrose (340-407): “Christ suffered for all, rose again for all. But if anyone does not believe in Christ, he deprives himself of that general benefit.” He also said, “Christ came for the salvation of all, and undertook the redemption of all, inasmuch as He brought a remedy by which all might escape, although there are many who…are unwilling to be healed” [supposedly from Ps. 118, Sermon 8]. I have not yet located it online.

clip_image002[8]Augustine (AD 354-430): Though Augustine is often cited as supporting limited atonement, there are also clear statements in Augustine’s writings that are supportive of unlimited atonement. For example: ” The Redeemer came, and gave a price; He poured forth His Blood, and bought the whole world. You ask what He bought? You see what He has given; find out then what He bought. The Blood of Christ was the price. What is equal to this? What, but the whole world? What, but all nations?” (Exposition on Psalm 96.5). He also stated, “For the blood of Christ was shed so efficaciously for the remission of all sins” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 92.1).

clip_image002[9]Prosper of Aquitaine (a friend and disciple of Augustine, ca. AD 390-455): “As far as relates to the magnitude and virtue of the price, and to the one cause of the human race, the blood of Christ is the redemption of the whole world: but those who pass through this life without the faith of Christ, and the sacrament of regeneration, do not partake of the redemption” (Responses on Behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by the Vincentianists, 1, part of this quote is available at, Classical Christianity). Unfortunately, I have not been able to source this online from a site for Prosper of Aquitaine.

He also wrote: ‘Wherefore, the whole of mankind, whether circumcised or not, was under the sway of sin, in fetters because of the very same guilt. No one of the ungodly, who differed only in their degree of unbelief, could be saved without Christ’s Redemption. This Redemption spread throughout the world to become the good news for all men without any distinction’ (Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations, p. 119).

The following are citations from secondary sources for Prosper of Aquitaine, but I have been unable to locate primary sources on the www: He also said, “The Savior is most rightly said to have been crucified for the redemption of the whole world.” He then said, “Although the blood of Christ be the ransom of the whole world, yet they are excluded from its benefit, who, being delighted with their captivity, are unwilling to be redeemed by it.”

For an assessment of the biblical material, see my article, ‘Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement?

See also:

References

Strong, A H 1907. Systematic Theology, three vols in one. Philadelphia: The Judson Press.

Notes:


[1] This quote also is cited by other writers online but no reference is given to the primary source by Calvin, examples being:

(1) http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?4239-Did-John-Calvin-Change-his-views-on-Limited-Atonement;

(2) http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80286&page=3;

(3) http://ronleigh.com/bible/calarm/index.htm;

(4) http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/1jn2.htm;

(5)http://www.baptistbanner.org/Working /What%20Should%20Southern%20Baptist%20have%20to%20do%204884.htm;

(6) http://www.doffun.com/index.cfm?article_num=493;

(7) http://the212partnerscalvinism.blogspot.com.au/;

[2] He gave this information about this source: Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia. Edited by G. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss. 59 vols. Corpus Reformatorum 29–87. Brunswick: Schwetschke, 1863–1900. Calvin’s Opera Omnia is available online at PRDL | Welcome to The Post-Reformation Digital Library – in Latin. I’m not really aware of any English translations.

[3] I located this quote online from Calvin’s commentary on Romans 5:18, available at: http://m.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom38.ix.x.html?highlight=romans#highlight (Accessed 31 August 2012).

[4] I sourced this quote of Calvin from: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc33/cc33028.htm (Accessed 31 August 2012).

[5] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Calvin on the atonement’, LamorakDesGalis#18. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7683551-2/ (Accessed 31 August 2012).

[6] Apologetic Warrior #19, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7683551-2/#post61293992 (Accessed 31 August 2012).

[7] The footnote at this point was, ‘“It seems to me that the Apostle is to be understood as speaking only of all those who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, over the whole world.” — Doddridge. — Ed’. This seems to be an imposition on the text in light of Calvin’s comments about “all the world”, “the whole human race”, “extended to all”, etc. in Mark 14:24; John 3:16; Rom. 5:18 and 1 John 2:2.

[8] Here are a few examples: http://www.gracemessenger.com/index.php?id=612; http://209.157.64.201/focus/religion/2661138/replies?c=1248; http://www.baptistboard.com/showpost.php?p=938642&postcount=27.

[9] Ron Rhodes 1996. The extent of the atonement: Limited atonement versus unlimited atonement (Part 2), available at: http://chafer.nextmeta.com/files/v2n3_rhodes.pdf (Accessed 28 August 2012). Rhodes gives the reference as Paedagogus, ch. 11. However, there is no such reference as there are three books (online) each with a ch. 11, but the quote is not to be found in any of these chapters.

[10] One example is in Ron Rhodes cited above at: http://chafer.nextmeta.com/files/v2n3_rhodes.pdf (Accessed 28 August 2012).

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 July 2019.

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What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

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ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Is it too much to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is closely linked to his atonement for sin to provide salvation for Christians and that the resurrection of Jesus is critical to our understanding of Christ’s passion?

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, wrote:

Peter says that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  Here he explicitly connects Jesus’ resurrection with our regeneration or new birth.  When Jesus rose from the dead he had a new quality of life, a “resurrection life” in a human body and human spirit that were perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever.  In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his.  We do not receive all of that new “resurrection life” when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death.  But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power.  Thus it is through his resurrection that Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.”  This is why Paul can say that God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him” (Eph 2:5-6; Col 3:1). When God raised Christ from the dead he thought of us as somehow being raised “with Christ” and therefore deserving of the merits of Christ’s resurrection. Paul says his goal in life is “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection….” (Phil. 3:10). Paul knew that even in this life the resurrection of Christ gave new power for Christian ministry and obedience to God (Grudem 1994:614).

Isn’t that a delightful summary of how the Christian’s atonement is associated with Christ’s death and resurrection?

A false view of Jesus’ resurrection

But does the nature of Jesus’ resurrection matter? Will John Dominic Crossan’s view (he’s a member of the Jesus Seminar) of the resurrection be adequate for the biblical understanding of Christ’s resurrection? Here are a few samples of Crossan’s understanding of Jesus’ resurrection:

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John Dominic Crossan: Wikipedia

  1. ‘Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane’ (1995:184).
  2. ‘The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is mate to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong (1995:180).
  3. ‘The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul’ (1995:208).
  4. ‘It never occurs to Paul [1 Cor. 15] that Jesus’ resurrection might be a special or unique privilege given to him because he is Messiah, Lord, and Son of God. It never occurs to Paul that Jesus’ case might be like the case of Elijah….. Risen apparitions are, for Paul, not about the vision of a dead man but about the vision of a dead man who begins the general resurrection. It is, in other words, an apparition with cosmically apocalyptic consequences…. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul begins by enumerating all the apparitions of the risen Jesus…. The Corinthians know all about visions and apparitions and would not dream of denying their validity’ (1998:xix, xxviii)

Instead, it is Crossan’s view that is the mythical one. To counter such a view, see, ‘The myth of the metaphorical resurrection: A critical examination of John Dominic Crossan’s methodology, presuppositions and conclusions’ (Anderson 2011).

What really happened at the resurrection of Jesus?

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ChristArt

It is very easy to show from the Scriptures that Christ rose from the dead in a physical body.  Let’s look at the evidence (based on Geisler 1999, pp. 667-668):

1. People touched him with their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to Thomas in John 20:27 was: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  How did Thomas respond, “My Lord and My God” (20:28).

Jesus said to Mary as she grasped him, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.”  Matthew 28:9 tells us that the women “clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, what did Jesus say?  Luke 24:39, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (ESV). does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Do we need any further evidence that Jesus had real human flesh after his resurrection?

2. Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

The verse that we have just looked at gives some of the most powerful evidence of his bodily resurrection: “Touch me and see; a [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39) and to prove that he really did have a real body of flesh and bones, what did he do?  According to Luke 24:41-42, Jesus “asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”  Folks, spirits or spiritual bodies do not eat fish.

Third piece of evidence in support of the bodily resurrection of Christ:

3. Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for “food”).

As we’ve just seen, they gave him “broiled fish” to eat.  He ate real food on at least 3 occasions, eating both bread and fish, (Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12-13).  Acts 10:41 states that Jesus met with witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

That sounds clear to me.  Jesus ate food after his resurrection.  People in real bodies eat real food.

A fourth proof that Jesus was raised in his physical body:

4. Take a look at the wounds in his body.

This is proof beyond reasonable doubt.  He still had the wounds in his body from when he was killed.  John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

When Jesus ascended, after his resurrection, the Bible records, “This same Jesus [ie this divine-human Jesus], who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
There’s a fifth confirmation of his bodily resurrection:

5. Jesus could be seen and heard.

Yes, Jesus’ body could be touched and handled.  But there is more!

Matthew 28:17 says that “when they saw [horao] him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” On the road to Emmaus, of the disciples who were eating together, Luke 24:31 states, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”  The Greek term “to recognize” [epiginosko] means “to know, to understand, or to recognize”  These are the normal Greek words “for ‘seeing’ (horao, theoreo) and ‘recognizing’ (epiginosko) physical objects” (Geisler 1999, pp 667-668).

Because Jesus could be seen and heard as one sees and recognises physical objects, we have further proof that Jesus rose bodily.

Sixth:

6. The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body” (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

In that magnificent passage in I Cor. 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999, p. 668).  We’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a 7th piece of evidence in support of bodily resurrection:

7. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12).  That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, “from the dead.” Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus’s being raised ‘from the dead’ (John 12:1).  In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried.  Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

8. He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul]also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ “appeared” to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul “as to one abnormally born.”

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an “appearance” or was it actually “seeing” his physical being?  These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh, he died in the flesh, he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of  Jesus from the dead was not a form of “spiritual” existence.  Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987, p. 728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

See also my articles on Christ’s resurrection:

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(Courtesy ChristArt)

References

Anderson, T J 2011. The myth of the metaphorical resurrection: A critical examination of John Dominic Crossan’s methodology, presuppositions and conclusions, PhD dissertation, May. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, available at: http://digital.library.sbts.edu/bitstream/handle/10392/2847/Anderson_sbts_0207D_10031.pdf?sequence=1 (Accessed 9 May 2012).

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Resurrection, Evidence for’, in Norman L. Geisler 1999, Baker Encyclopedia of  Christian Apologetics, Baker
Books, Grand Rapid, Michigan.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

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(Courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Christians need to be people of discernment, not only with all of the influences from the secular world of godlessness, but also in the church.

Which of these two statements can be confirmed by the Scriptures?

  • Jesus did not die for the sins of all people in the world. He died only for his predestined people, the elect. An example of such a statement by a theologian would be by Homer C. Hoeksema, ‘It is in this truth of limited atonement[1] that the doctrine of sovereign election (and, in fact, sovereign predestination with its two aspects of election and reprobation) comes into focus’.
  • Jesus’ death on the cross was to make salvation for all the people in the world, i.e. unlimited atonement. This kind of statement is supported by the Society of Evangelical Arminians, ‘We believe that the shed blood of Jesus Christ and his resurrection were provided for the salvation of all people, but are effective only for those who believe’.

So, did Jesus die only for the elect or did he die for the whole world? There is a fairly strong presence of Calvinists and Arminians on the www on Christian forums. Here is one example of an interaction.

Some Calvinists don’t believe that Jesus died for the sins of all the people in the world. However, some Calvinists do believe in unlimited atonement. Here is an example of Skala’s post on Christian Forums when he stated of 2 Peter 3:9:

I don’t think you understand the interpretation.
God is patiently waiting for the elect to be saved, which is why he delay’s (sic) Christ’s return.
God is patient towards YOU (the elect), not willing that any perish, but for all to reach repentance.
You have to read stuff that is not in the verse, into the verse, to get it to say what you are trying to assert.
That God is trying to save everyone, and is trying to get everyone to repent. Suddenly, in your interpretation, the pronoun “you” refers to every single individual in the human race. Even though for the past 9 verses, indeed, the last 2 books (1st and 2nd Peter) it has referred to “God’s elect”.[2]

He[3] doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of English or Greek words in this verse. Second Peter 3:9 states:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (NIV).

He does not understand the meaning of ‘anyone’ and ‘everyone’.

Second Peter 3:9 confirms the truth of 1 Tim. 2:3-4,

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (NIV).

There is not a hint in any of these verses that ‘anyone’, ‘everyone’ and ‘all people’ refers only to the elect. It’s a Calvinistic premise that is imposed on the text. It is not exegeted from the text.

John Calvin wrote of 2 Peter 3:9,

So wonderful is [God’s] love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost (The Second Epistle of Peter, p. 419, emphasis added).

Calvinistic commentator, Simon J. Kistemaker (1986:334) wrote of 2 Peter 2:9,

‘”Not wanting anyone to perish.” Peter is not teaching universalism in this sentence. In his epistle, he clearly states that the false teachers and scoffers are condemned and face destruction (see 2:3; 3:7; Rom. 9:22). Does not God want the false teachers to be saved? Yes, but they disregard God’s patience toward them, they employ their knowledge of Jesus Christ against him, and they willfully reject God’s offer of salvation. They, then, bear full responsibility for their own condemnation.
“[God wants] everyone to come to repentance.” God provides time for man to repent, but repentance is an act that man must perform’

These two Calvinistic commentators do not agree with Skala. There is not a word in the statement or in the context to support his invented statement that ‘God is patiently waiting for the elect to be saved, which is why he delay’s (sic) Christ’s return’.[4]

This is an utterly false statement. The verse does NOT state that and both Calvin & Kistemaker agree with my understanding and disagree with his imposition on the text.

Skala was engaging in eisegesis[5] of the text by placing his meaning onto the text and not engaging in exegesis,[6] getting the meaning out of the text.

References:

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Notes:


[1] By ‘limited atonement’ is meant ‘the teaching held in Reformed (Calvinist) circles of Christianity which states that Jesus bore only the sins of the elect, and not that of every individual who ever lived’ (CARM, ‘limited atonement’, available at: http://carm.org/dictionary-limited-atonement [Accessed 3 April 2012]).

[2] Skala #132, 3 April 2012, Christian Forums, ‘Jesus teaches TULIP’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7642873-14/#post60169337 (Accessed 3 April 2012).

[3] The following was my response to him as OzSpen#133, ibid.

[4] Cited above.

[5] ‘Eisegesis is when a person interprets and reads information into the text that is not there’ (CARM, ‘Eisegesis’, CARM, available at: http://carm.org/dictionary-eisegesis [Accessed 3 April 2012]).

[6] ‘Exegesis is when a person interprets a text based solely on what it says. That is, he extracts out of the text what is there as opposed to reading into it what is not there’, CARM, available at: http://carm.org/dictionary-exegesis (Accessed 3 April 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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