Six Essential Truths of the Biblical Faith: Limited Atonement
Before I begin to deal with the subject of this article, let me address my position in so writing.
First, I write as a Christian who holds the Scriptures to be the Word of God and the final authority for the practice of the Christian faith and as the final authority for truth.
Second, it is not my purpose to try and cram either my faith or my understanding down anyone’s throat. I present my faith and in so doing, it may be taken or left. It may serve as a warning to some, and prayerfully, their conversion. To others, it is but a bitter pill to be despised. Hopefully, it will serve as a matter of encouragement to those who share my faith. I have no desire to promote controversy. My desire is to promote truth as set forth in the Bible. If the presentation of truth results in controversy, then I find myself in the best of company. Anyone who presents truth will have those who oppose. So it was with Christ, so with His Apostles, so with His servants today.
Now, to the issue at hand: the third of five letters of the acrostic TULIP. We deal with the letter “L” which stands for limited atonement. While this has been a hated doctrine by universalists and those whose Christology is not supported by the Bible, it is nevertheless a Biblical truth. Those who hate the very idea of a day of accountability, a day when men are to be judged according to their deeds and especially according to their response to the revelation of God in Christ Jesus, to such this is a hated doctrine. Hating truth never makes it go away.
Nevertheless, if one is to accept the Bible as the full and final authority regarding the biblical faith once delivered to the Apostles through the perfect revelation of God in the personal of His eternal Son and to all Christians in the revealed Word, then the doctrine must be accepted.
It is clear from the Bible that as there was in the nation of Israel, a nation who numbers were figuratively as the sands of the sea, but, “only a remnant will be saved (Romans 9:27, a passage from Isaiah 10:22). In the Revelation of Christ Jesus, through His Apostle John, the following passages stand out in the support of this fact that not everyone will be saved.
Note these words in this last book of God’s Word to mankind. Revelation 20:14-15:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Aside from any debate about the meaning of the transliteration of the Greek word “Hades,” surely, no one would deny that some of the world’s masses are included in this grouping whose names are not in the book of life..
In the following chapter of the same book, where the subject is about the new heaven and the new earth, in verse 27 you have these words recorded:
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.- Revelation 21:27
Only a dishonest person would deny, in the context, and with these words, that there is not a limitation on the number of those who will be saved.
Jesus Himself, in Matthew 7:13 and following, makes it very clear, even to the moralist who love this portion of the Bible, that not everyone will heed the Good News from heaven and believe. He admonishes men to seek the kingdom of heaven, but says:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
In Luke 13, not only is the gate narrow and very restricted but the road is a difficult one. Again, how can anyone fail to see that not all people of the world will be saved or enter into the kingdom of God which is the subject of Christ in these passages?
Not only does the Bible declare this doctrinal truth, but even the opponents, Arminians vs Calvinists, end up in exactly the same place. Both limit salvation, but have different starting points. One group starts with man, the other with God. The first group make man the limiting factor; the second make God the limiting factor. The first group hold that Christ’s death was for all mankind; the second group believe that His death was for those chosen in Him by the Father before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The first group not only deny the clear teaching and authority of the Bible, but make a mockery of God’s person and Sovereignty as well as denial of man’s depravity, of the power of sin over mankind. Calvinists, not to be confused with belief beyond the five points of the acrostic, undergirded by God who is absolute and sovereign in all things, follow scripture and exalt God, acknowledge the depravity of man, the power of sin and declare that if God does not intervene in a radical manner, then no one would be saved.
You will reason then, if you end up at the same place, then what’s the problem? Truth must not be compromised. God deserves the honor and praise for man’s redemption for it is according to His holy purpose. Man has no place to boast. If there is boasting, follow the admonition of Paul and boast in the Lord (Ephesians 2:8,9). The noble, but broken sentiment of Augustine is appropriate here: “nothing conquers but truth; the victory of truth is love.”
Horatius Bonar has well written:
Not what these hands have done
Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne,
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do,
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers, or sighs, or tears,
Can ease my awful load.
Thy work alone, my Saviour,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest,
And set my spirit free.
No other work save Thine,
No meaner blood will do;
No strength save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.
Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
I bless the Christ of God,
I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart
I call the Saviour mine.