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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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    The Intention(s) of Christ in the Atonement

    Christ died for the elect in a way that he did not for the non-elect. It could be argued that there are at least two intentions in Christ's work of the atonement. The first one is for the elect, in whom God has decreed that the atonement is certain and eventual, therefore it is necessary that it will be applied on His people at a time of the Spirit's choosing. The second is for the non-elect, who receive non-redemptive benefits. These may include not immediately receiving (a putting off of) God's just wrath, but the redemptive benefits of the atonement will only be heralded in the divine command but never actualized in the non-elect. This is why the Bible proclaims that we freely hold out the gospel to all unbelievers and tell them that Christ died, not for all men, but for all sinners who would believe (John 3:16). The redemptive benefits are only for believers. All who believe will have the benefits of the atonement applied to them and be justified, but since no one naturally fits this description, the only persons who come to Christ are those who are God's elect, regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto faith. This means that we are wholly dependent on the work of Christ for our redemption, which includes our ability to have faith in the Redeemer. Since we do not have the power in ourselves to do anything apart from the work of God's Son on the cross, He also gives, as one of its benefits, the Holy Spirit for our conversion (1 Pet 1:3). God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Our redemption in Christ is the wellspring out of which flows regeneration, faith, repentance, justification and sanctification. So although the atonement may have more than one intent, its central purpose is for the redemption of elect (Titus 2:14). In other words, Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect.

    Those who say they believe the doctrines of grace, but not particular redemption, carve out the Person, heart and source of grace in these doctrines. For without the particularly of the death of Jesus Christ, all of the other doctrines of grace become mere impersonal abstractions. Jesus Christ must be at their center or not at all. What do I mean by this? For example, if one claims the the atonement is not particular, but that irresistible grace is, then where does the grace come from which makes irresistible grace particular? From Christ or from some generic grace apart from Christ? If from Christ, then you already affirm particular redemption and the impersonal abstraction of four-point calvinism is overthrown. If not from Christ, do you then believe there are redemptive benefits to be had apart from Christ? It is impossible, in other words, to believe in irresistible grace without acknowledging that all spiritual/redemptive blessings (including irresistible grace) flow from one source: Christ.

    To show that this doctrine has biblical authority have a look at the following: The Jewish high priest in the Old Testament prayed for the Israelites on the Day of Atonement. He approached the Lord wearing the names of the twelve tribes when bringing the sacrifice. Likewise, before His death on the cross, Jesus also prays a "high priestly prayer" for His people in John 17. Notice that in verse 9, Jesus (as high priest) prays an exclusive prayer for certain people and not others: 'I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours." Then soon after in verse 19 when praying for the same persons the Father has "given" Jesus, He prays: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." So Jesus only sanctifies Himself for those the Father has given him, meaning these are the very ones He dies redemptively for. In short, Jesus prays for the same persons He dies redemptively for. Only those God has elected in Christ from eternity are given the grace of regeneration that they might believe. And this regeneration is among the redemptive benefits of Christ given to the elect alone - for he purchased with his blood people OUT OF every tribe, nation, tongue and people (Rev 5:9).

    John Hendryx

    Posted by John on August 14, 2009 11:37 AM

    Comments

    Our soteriology would certainly have gaping holes in it if we held to universal redemption. Excellent points.

    As to Christ dying in "some way" for the non-elect, I'm not sure about this. Certainly there is a universal grace that grants all people life for a time, temporary comforts, etc., but is Christ's death necessarily tied to that?

    May I nitpick? I think the following statement does not sufficiently disprove the combination of particular irresistible grace and non-particular atonement:

    "if one claims the the atonment is not particular, but that irresistible grace is, then where does the grace come from which makes irresistible grace particular? From Christ or from some generic grace apart from Christ? If from Christ then you already affirm particular redemption and the impersonal abstraction of four-point calvinism is overthrown. If not from Christ, do you then believe there are redemptive benefits to be had apart from Christ? It is impossible, in other words, to believe in irresistible grace without acknowledging that all spiritual/redemptive blessings (including irresistible grace) flow from one source: Christ."

    So to take it one statement at a time:

    "...where does the grace come from which makes irresistible grace particular? From Christ or from some generic grace apart from Christ?" The choices offered here are not the only possibilities to consider. I think the view of most 4-point Calvinists is that, while atonement is "offered" to all, the additional, necessary grace (but not additional mercy or payment) is from the Father and Spirit drawing the person to Himself, that they might believe and be saved... or something to that effect (correct me if I'm wrong).

    "If from Christ then you already affirm particular redemption" unless it is _also_ (not instead) from the Father and the Holy Spirit that one is finally saved, right? All Three cooperate in one's salvation.

    Maybe someone can correct me?

    Enough nitpicking from me. The second paragraph does sufficiently prove limited atonement, imo.

    Jason,

    Are you saying that it might be possible to support an argument in which the Trinity does not work in harmony with one another in the work of redemption? That The Father elects a particular people, but the Son dies for a general people and the Holy Spirit again draws a particular people?

    It asserts the in the Biblical text that all Spiritual/redemptive blessings find their origin in Christ. (Eph 1:3, 4). There is nothing, that is, no benefit we have that does not derive from Christ so a four-pointer would be hard pressed to argue that any redemptive grace can be had apart from Christ. Irresistible grace is part of the work of the atonement ... not some generic grace from the Father apart from Christ.

    @John H

    No, I was just nit-picking a seemingly assumptuous argument. Granted, I agree with what the argument was for, but disagree with the quoted section's logic because it (appears to) assume fewer "options" than exist.

    Jason,

    Well the uncomfortable option certainly exists for the four-point Calvinist to make the claim that the benefits of the doctrines of grace (such as irresisible grace) can be had apart from the work of Jesus Christ, but, thankfully this seems to be an option none of them are willing to take. In other words, because they will not go this far, most 4-pointers are simply inconsistent Calvinists since they actually believe in limited atonement without knowing it. As soon as someone says they affirm irresistible grace, it means they already believe in Limited Atonement since they are actually the same thing looked at from a different angle.... effectual grace being a part of the work of Christ.

    Fact is, I have yet to meet one four-pointer willing to take up this challenge. All of them have, so far, had to acknowledge that irresistible grace is a redemptive benefit and must come from Christ. The point of this line of argument is to drive them to the realization that this is the precarious position they must take if they continue to reject particular redemption... the precarious position being that they can find saving grace outside of Jesus Christ.

    I do not believe that a regenerate Christian would dare affirm that they have any redemptive benefits that are separate from the work of Christ. Too close to a denial of the faith altogether.

    Ah, good points, especially on irresistible grace implying limited atonement. I think I understand what you're saying.

    I don't suggest that four-pointers would "make the claim that the benefits of the doctrines of grace (such as irresisible grace) can be had _apart_ from the work of Jesus Christ" (emphasis mine). Instead, I understand the four-pointer stance to be that the benefits can be had with the drawing of the Father and Spirit _plus_ (not instead of) the work of Christ. That is the alternative not mentioned in the original quote.

    Jason,

    The drawing of the Father and the Spirit plus the work of Christ (as you say) being needed in irresistible grace is actually the traditional Calvinist position, where the Trinity works in harmony. I am not saying the four-pointers do not also affirm this, I am rather saying that they are inconsistent on this matter whenever they reject limited atonement.

    For you cannot believe irresistible grace and simultaneously reject limited atonement --- An impossible supposition. Because if you affirm irresistible grace, since it is a redemptive grace given only to the elect, then you must affirm limited atonement, for the work of Christ MUST be the source of this grace. The reason the Father and the Spirit draw is because of the work of Christ. No redemption without it, including the redemptive blessing of irresistible grace.

    It is a given that all four-pointers affirm irresistible grace. So my point is to show then by this that they actually affirm limited atonement without knowing it, for Christ's atonement is absolutely necessary for irresistible grace to exist to begin with. Therefore Christ died in a redemptive way for the elect (to purchase irresistible grace), that he did not for the non-elect.

    Hope this clarifies.
    John

    Crystal clear! Thanks for putting up with me.

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