Est. May 2008

26 January, 2014

For All, Or For A Few?

Christian Post has an article up regarding a recent debate between two theologians on whether Christ’s death on the cross was for all mankind or for only the elect.

The speed-bump most people hit right off the bat is the idea of election; here’s a good explanation of the term:
In Christian theology, election refers to God's choosing of individuals or peoples to be the objects of his grace or to otherwise fulfill his purposes. Most often God's election is associated with his choice of individuals unto salvation. The Calvinist view of election (also known as unconditional election) teaches that in eternity God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.  (Theopedia - Election) (emphasis mine)
We can see that in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:3-4, ESV; emphasis mine)
There are other references to this calling, or choosing: Jesus’ own words in Matthew and Luke, and in John.  Paul writes of this calling in Romans1 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; 2 Thessalonians; 2 Timothy;  the author of Hebrews writes of it, too; then there’s Peter in his first and second epistles; and Jude.

As we’ll see in a moment, God calls His predestined people.

Now, if God has already made His sovereign, predetermined choice of who is saved and who is not, not based on anything any man has done or will do, then the idea of man working cooperatively with God in his salvation is a non-starter – yet this is one of the things brought up by Dr. Brown in this article:
Brown argued that the New Testament repeatedly says we are justified by faith, and not by Christ's death only. "So there is human participation."
But how can humans participate when ‘none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’ (Romans 3:10-12)?  They can’t … unless God does something to them.

What does God do?  This:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)
And all this ‘before the foundation of the world’.

Take a look at what happens when you try to incorporate the idea of human cooperation in salvation:  Dr. Brown quotes 1 Timothy 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.’ (emphasis mine)’; a bit later he says:
The sovereign God, he added, decided to create the world while foreseeing the results. "I have no problem with foreknowledge and free will ... But God set things up so that there would be a people who responded to His call to be His, and many who would not." (emphasis mine again)
God wants everyone to be saved … but He also set things up so that not everyone would be saved. 

That makes absolutely no sense.

The other thing Dr. Brown tries is defining the word ‘world’.  He maintains there are places in the Bible (specifically John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; and 1 Timothy 2:3-6) where the word ‘world’ means the ‘entire globe’.  Dr. White questioned him on this, and …
White responded by asking if the word "all" is used without distinction in the Bible. God demonstrates His love toward the entire created order in His Son Jesus Christ, but even John 3:16 limits who benefits from Christ's death, for those who believe, he said. (emphasis mine)
And it’s not just John 3:16 that does this: here are 6 other Scriptures where ‘world’ doesn’t mean the ‘entire globe’ – and those were easy to find. 

Revelation 9 through 20 also evidence that Christ’s death was not for all mankind.

So when Dr. Brown tells us "The testimony of the Scripture is overwhelmingly clear that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, so as to pay for the sins of every human being who's ever lived”, I don’t find his claim compelling.  IMO, there’s much more ‘overwhelming evidence’ of the opposite – that Christ died for the elect, and not for everyone on the planet.

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