The Pastor\’s Pen

An Independent Baptist Preacher\’s Musings and Observations

Atonement – Limited or Universal?

Posted by Pastor Szekely on December 1, 2006

Calvinism says that the death of Christ was only for those God has sovereignly elected, and not for the ones who were selected, or chosen, to go to Hell…that would be limited atonement.

Now before we go on, we need to understand what atonement is and what it means. Atonement means at-one-ment! To be atoned is to be reconciled unto God through the substitute sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Calvin denounced the universal offer of the Gospel, or Christ’s atonement made possible for all. He said, “When it appears that when the doctrine of salvation is offered to all for their effectual benefit, it is a corrupt prostitution of that which is declared to be reserved particularly for the children of the church”{Institutes, Book III, chpt 22}.

Basically, Calvin’s limited atonement may be stated in this way: Christ did not die for all, just for the ones God chose before the world began. Friends, such language IS NOT in the Bible, and this philosophy is in clear contradiction to many plain Scripture texts…for example:

1 John 2:2, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world“.

1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

1 John 4:14, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

John 4:42, “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

1 Timothy 4:10, “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” (NOTE: If this last phrase in verse 10 wasn’t given {“specially of those that believe”}, it could be viewed that all are saved rather than only the ones who believe!)

The Lord Jesus Christ IS the Saviour for the whole world. No man will ever look at Jesus Christ and say, “You did not want to be my Saviour“. Jesus came to be the Saviour for all men, and not just for a select few.

There are so many other verses {Hebrews 2:9, John 3:16, etc.} that preach that Christ’s atonement was for all if they only would receive, if they only would believe. But let me draw your attention to Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all“.

Now that we’ve read the verse, read the following illustration: A famous English preacher spoke in an English town, then rushed to catch his train for London. A sinner who heard him preach felt that he must immediately settle the matter of salvation. so he followed the preacher to the train. Just as the train pulled into the station, he took hold of the preacher’s lapel and said, “I want to be saved! Tell me how!”

The minister said, “I must catch this last train to London. Do you have a Bible?” “Yes, I have one at home”, said the anxious inquirer. “Then go home and find Isaiah 53:6. Read it carefully. Go in at the first ‘all’ and come out at the last ‘all’, and you will be saved.”

The preacher rushed away, and the anxious sinner was left alone. He went back to his home, and opening his Bible, he turned to Isaiah 53:6. “What did the preacher mean”, he wondered…”Go in at the first ‘all’ and come out at the last ‘all’, and I will be saved”? He found the verse and read it carefully.

“All we like sheep have gone astray”. “Well”, he thought to himself, “I can certainly go in at the first all. I have gone astray. I am a poor, lost sinner.” Then he read to the last part of the verse, “And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”. He said to himself, “If I come out at the last ‘all’, I must believe that all my sins were laid on Christ, that He took my place and paid for my sins. And if I rely upon that, I will be saved. That’s what the preacher meant!”

He then trusted Christ and was saved. He believed that he was a sinner, and that all his sins had been laid on Christ.

Calvinism says that the death of Christ was only for those God had sovereignly elected. Basically, Christ did not die for all, just for the ones God chose before the world began. Again, such language is not in the Bible and it contradicts many plain Scripture texts we’ve just read.

Limited Atonement = Calvin’s way of rejecting the universal offer of the Gospel

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14 Responses to “Atonement – Limited or Universal?”

  1. Kathy said

    Pastor Szekely,
    Thank you so much for doing this TULIP explanation from a non Calvinistic perspective. Your time is greatly appreciated. Could I have your permission to copy and print what you have written for my personal use?

    Blessings,
    Kathy

  2. Kathy said

    Here is more than you ever wanted to know. LOL!

    Wow! I was looking at the pictures on your churches website. There was one that mentioned something about Liberal, KS. It is a small cyber world. My husband Bob and I lived in Ulysses, KS about an hour from Liberal for 25 years. We have friends that attended Fellowship Baptist. They had a flourishing Christian school on their campus at one time.
    We live in California now due to Bob’s job. Knowing you’re from the Midwest makes my finding this blog seem like a divine appointment. California is ahem…interesting to say the least. It doesn’t snow here; that’s not natural. I found your blog out of frustration looking at others and not being able to find a non Calvinist perspective. So I typed “I am not a Calvinist!” in Google and up popped your site. Thanks again for spending your study time blogging this refutation of Calvinism for me and the women I am working with. They are probably hitting your blog counter pretty hard lately.
    I am on vacation from my own blog right now getting caught up on next semesters stuff for our homeschooling.

    Thanks again!
    Kathy
    http://www.redeemedheartsministries.org/divinechats

  3. Bro. Szekely said

    Hi Kathy…thanks for your replies!

    You are welcome – it means so much to me that what is given may be a help…and yes, you may freely copy and print what you’d like!

    I’m very glad the Lord brought you to my blog! It is a small world, isn’t it! We had gone to Liberal, KS & Fellowship Baptist Church for a couple of men’s meetings, and that church truly blessed us while we were there. We had a great time. I can understand about California being…shall we say…interesting. I’m sure not all of California is, but when I was in the Air Force, I had the opportunity to be in San Diego for a week…and…wow. I’m thankful there are those who are waving the Blood-stained Banner for the Lord on the Left-Coast! And I do feel for you that you can’t experience the snow. As you may know, we seem to complain about it out here, but when it comes, it’s awesome!

    I checked out your blog briefly…next week when I get some free time, I’ll go back. I know you’re on vacation with it, but I’ll hit it from time to time…thanks for recommending mine to the women you are working with. I do pray it will be a help. I’ll get I – Irresistible Grace & P – Perseverence of the Saints posted shortly…

    Lord bless you and yours, Kathy!!!

    Bro. Szekely

  4. Bro. Szekely,

    Is there anyway around limited atonement?

    All the names of those God foresaw would accept Him or those He chose [which ever you choose to believe] were written into the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8] before the foundation of the world. As soon as the Book was written, did this not limit atonement to those that are written and therefore exclude all others making it impossible for them to be saved? I find no place where new names are written.

    If desired, my whole context can be viewed here: http://servantssalute.blogspot.com/2007/01/is-there-any-way-around-limited.html

    Tim

  5. Bro. Szekely said

    Tim,

    Rev 17:8, “…and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world…”

    You are saying [supposing] from this text [I’m gathering] that the phrase “from the foundation of the world” refers to the “they that dwell on the earth”. Tim, I believe that this phrase describes “the book of life”, and not those who “were not written in”. It is “the book of life from the foundation of the world”.

    Now why does this even matter here? Just think on this for a moment:
    1) The Book of Life was from the foundation of the world.
    2) How about this – ALL NAMES OF EVERYONE EVER were written in that book from the foundation of the world…mine, yours, everyone.
    –Now I know that Scripture says that there are those who are “not written in” the Book of Life. So what does that mean?
    –I believe it to mean this, Tim: there will be those whose names will not be written in OR will not be found in that Book…why not – because they’re names will have been BLOTTED OUT:

    Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”
    Exodus 32:32-33, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. (vs33) And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”

    Tim, Scripture tells us that people are in “the Book” until they are blotted out of “the Book”. And the reason a person is not found in, or written in, this Book is because they have been blotted out of it…and they’ve been blotted out because of their sin debt…a debt for which they never trusted Christ to be their payment and propitiation. I like what you said in your comments, “I find no place where new names are written”…neither do I.

    So Tim, this is how I “get around limited atonement” [as per your words]. Christ’s atoning sacrifice was for all, it’s universal, but not all will repent and believe…and their names will not be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

    Let me ask you this in closing: How do you reconcile the fact that names written in the Book of Life are being blotted out? Who were they? Why were their names in the Book and now blotted out?

    …look forward to hearing from you.

    Bro. Szekely

  6. The verse [Rev. 17:8] says, “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world”.

    I do find it interesting that you “believe that this phrase describes “the book of life”, and not those who “were not written in”. It is “the book of life from the foundation of the world”.”

    For the moment I will consider your belief that “ALL NAMES OF EVERYONE EVER were written in that book from the foundation of the world…mine, yours, everyone.”

    If this be true, then when does someone’s name get blotted out? The scriptures clearly teach that we are all born in sin [sinners] that we are condemned already because we believe not [John 3:18], and that no one can be saved without faith in Christ Jesus.

    In the case of the blotting out of names from the book [i.e. Rev 3:5], I believe Romans 8 clearly shows eternal security, whereas I consider the only names in the book are those which are Christ’s. I believe in the context of Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22, that whereas Rev. 3:5 says “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” both Matthew and Mark reveal “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”. The elect will over come, not by their own strength, but by the power of God working within us, and therefore impossible to be blotted out – the verse says “if it were possible”.

    As for all names initially being in the book from the foundation of the world, I can hardly reconcile to scripture when if we are born sinners by what means do we blot ourselves from the book? More sin?

    John 6:37, I believe, is a clear testimony of God’s plan. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

    I trust and believe that ANYONE in the world that comes to Christ, He WILL SAVE. Without a question, I believe this.

    I just also believe the first part of the verse, that only the ones the Father has given Him will come.

    As for your questions:
    “How do you reconcile the fact that names written in the Book of Life are being blotted out? Who were they? Why were their names in the Book and now blotted out?”

    I don’t see a single scripture that describes one name actually being blotted out and above I cover Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, and Romans 8 where I believe in eternal security of the believer.

    This is the “Lamb’s Book of Life”, not simply a book of life. Scripture also declares from the foundation [beginning], Christ is the Lamb slain [] and foreordained [1 Peter 1:20], the kingdom for the saved was prepared [Matthew 25:34], the elect were chosen in Christ by the Spirit [Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13].

    With the Lamb slain, the elect chosen before the foundation, it follows suit that this Lamb’s Book of Life are the elect in the Lamb. What did Christ say? “I lay my life done for the sheep” [John 10:15].

    Further evidence that these in Christ’s [the Lamb] book is only the elect is that He was always looking for sheep, never goats. He looked for the lost sheep of Israel [Matthew 15:24], the lost sheep outside of Israel [John 10:16], and said the sheep hear His voice and He knows them [John 10:27] – contrasted to those He proclaims “I never knew you”. He never says, “I used to know you.”

  7. Bro. Szekely said

    Sorry, Tim, for the slow reply…I’ve not been feeling well today…I think it’s the flu…anyway…

    First of all you asked, “…when does someone’s name get blotted out?” See, I think you think that a person’s name is written in the Book of Life at salvation…Is that what you believe? Can you show me when our names were written down in the book?

    –What if that book is the record of the beginning of everyone’s physical life? If a person dies in their sin without ever trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, then they are blotted out; however, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” Rev 3:5.

    I think we differ on when a person’s name goes into the Book of Life. If the name is written down at salvation, I would agree it’s there forever! But I do see names being blotted out…how can that be? And how many “books of life” are there, and why? Isn’t the Lamb’s Book of Life THE Book of Life? If not, then what is it, and why 2? And what was Moses talking about, what book was he talking about in Exodus 32:32-33, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. (vs33) And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”

    You don’t see any names being blotted out…I do because I have to say that the 3 descriptions of a book of life, with names being blotted out due to sin (per Exodus), must be one in the selfsame book. How do you describe these books?

    –In closing:
    Rev 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works…(vs15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” They were not found in the Book of Life because their sins (according to their works) blotted them out. The lived in the physical, did not repent and believe on Christ, and their names were not found.

  8. SRGROFF said

    Excellent Bro. Szekeley!!

  9. Bro. Szekely said

    Thanks, my brother…Lord bless!

  10. Bro. Szekely,

    Sorry you haven’t been feeling well. That is never any good. I pray that you will recover soon.

    ———-
    [1] “I think you think that a person’s name is written in the Book of Life at salvation…Is that what you believe? Can you show me when our names were written down in the book?”

    I believe that a person’s name is written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world, just as it says in scripture when we are chosen.

    Revelation 13:8 shows us the Lamb [Christ] was slain before the foundation of the world: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

    ** Granted this verse could be taken to say “names not written in the book of life [of the Lamb slain] from the foundation of the world” or “names not written in the book of life, [of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world]”.

    Ephesians 1:4 says “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world”.

    Revelation 17:8 shows us anyone that’s name was not written in the book from the foundation of the world will wonder and worship the beast: “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, [whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world], when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” ** This book was written from the foundation.

    I do not believe the name is written when someone is saved. I believe as above in scripture when one is chosen in Christ [the Lamb] from the foundation of the world, they are put in the Lamb’s book at the foundation of the world. Just as Christ came in due time, so then is one saved in God’s time.

    ———-
    [2]” What if that book is the record of the beginning of everyone’s physical life?”

    I believe that one of the books will be a book of their works which will be opened and judged as they are condemned to hell/lake of fire for all eternity. But not the same as the Lamb’s book of life. Books are opened and the Book of life.

    ———-
    [3] “I do see names being blotted out…”

    All due respect Bro. Szekely, but there is not a verse in the Bible that I can find that actually shows a blotting out of someone’s name in the entire Word of God. Can you give me the name or the verse that says so and so was blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life?

    We have is a desire to be blotted out by Moses for the sake of others and that God said He would blot out the sinner [Exodus 32:32, 33], yet we must remember we are all sinners and do sin until we put on incorruption. But it could be argued that this is the “book of the living” Psalm 69:28 (not the Lamb’s book of life) for the fact that the OT has God blotting out people’s/nations names from under heaven, but even though Israel sins, He chooses not to blot out their name.

    We have a guarantee from God that He will not blot out the faithful [Revelation 3:5], but I have shown ample proof that the elect will over come by the power of God in my last post.

    We have a warning of our part [not our name] being blotted out if we take away the words of His prophecy in Revelation 22:19.

    With all the scripture, we still have [or I don’t see] where it says, “God blotted out _____ from the Lamb’s book of life.”

    ———-
    Let me ask a few questions:

    [1] Ephesians 1:4 says “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world”. Would you agree that all Christians [elect] have been chosen whether by [a]God’s election or by [b]God’s foreknowledge of those who He foresaw would accept Him from the foundation of the world [a & b determined by your view of foreknowledge]? If so, would that not limit salvation to only those which God foresaw would accept Him?

    [2] Christ said: “I lay my life down for the sheep” [John 10:15]. Christ always separates the just and the unjust, the wheat and the tare, the sheep and the goat. Christ is never looking for a goat, only sheep. ** see my above post ** What is the difference between a lost sheep and a goat and if goats are lost people why is Jesus not laying down His life for them?

    [3] You write “They were not found in the Book of Life because their sins (according to their works) blotted them out.” I ask, if indeed we are all born sinners and indeed we all sin – from birth till today. John 3:18 says we are already condemned because we do not believe in God, so what exactly does it take to be blotted out of the Book?

    [4] John 4:37 says “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Does the Father give Christ everyone? [a] If yes, then why doesn’t everyone come? [b] If no, then is not salvation limited? It can’t be [c] people come without the Father giving them, because John 6:44 says “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”.

    Thanks for your correspondence.
    Tim

  11. Oops #4 ref. should be John 6:37 and not John 4:37.

  12. Bro. Szekely said

    G’day Tim! Thanks for praying for me…I’m starting to feel much better!

    I noticed in your post that you believe a name is written down in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Then, those people have to be saved because you also believe in irresistible grace…you quote Eph 1:4, but you only quote the first part of the verse: ““According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…” But what about the WHOLE verses?

    Question: Does Ephesians 1:4 say anything about man being chosen or elected for Heaven or for Hell? NO…it says that before the foundation of the world, God has chosen His children to be holy and without blame before Him in love.

    For fear of me repeating myself from other posts, please read my post on unconditional election.

    Finally, Tim, I want you to know that you can be a Baptist without being a Calvinist or an Arminianist. I don’t subscribe to the last two philosophies, and I’ve made that plain in other posts as well. What did “the Faith” do before Calvin? What did Calvin and his followers do to faithful believers? Just like Luther and Zwingli, they persecuted the fathers of our faith.

    Please check out history, Tim…the Baptist Faith of today has been around since Christ, because it is “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”. I know that there are those who call themselves Baptist, but they are no more Baptist than a dog is a cat. Where did Calvin get his philosophy? History tells us that he basically regurgitated the philosophies of Augustine, a revered Catholic…so why are we Baptists following after a philosophy that had it’s beginnings with a Catholic? Some may say, “Well, Truth is Truth”…but Augustine and Calvin (in my view) have perverted the Truth.

    Thank you for reading my blog, Tim…I pray it may be a help to you. G’day!

  13. Glad you are feeling better Bro. Sekely.

    I noticed you didn’t answer my questions, but that is okay.

    In time we have associated doctrines with people [i.e. Calvinist or an Arminians]. But need to always remember to separate the doctrine from man. What one defines as Calvinism and/or Arminianism comes from what each of those individuals [or camps] believed when it was brought to discussion.

    We can no more say that Calvinism is right/wrong because of the actions of Calvin that we can of Arminisanism due to the actions of Arminius. The names simply associate a doctrinal belief.

    It is the same as calling oneself a Baptist [which I am], a Catholic, a Mormon, etc. These names only distinguish our beliefs. The names alone do not make us right or wrong. A Baptist pastor could sin the greatest sin for the whole world to see and that would not make Baptist doctrines wrong, just his personal actions wrong.

    Is it better to be known as a Baptist or as a Christian? When I say I am a Baptist, that doesn’t make we saved, that gives someone an idea of where I stand on biblical issues. But even Baptist are divided on some issues.

    We can’t just attack and/or deny a doctrine based on the actions of a man. We must believe or disbelieve a doctrine based solely on the Word of God. I say this because most of the time when someone wants to discount a doctrine [i.e. TULIP], the first thing they want to do is discount a man [i.e. Augustine – Catholic, Calvin – killed Servetus]. If we follow that pattern, we would have no doctrines at all for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. A Catholic is wrong, not because they use the name Catholic, but because they believe infant baptism removes original sin which is not scriptural [along with other issues]; even as a Mormon is not wrong by name, but by his unbiblical doctrines they follow. A name only associates a belief and/or idea.

    Spurgeon is indeed a well known name for he did mighty things for the cause of Christ, yet he classified himself as a Calvinist.

    Where we disagree is that you believe the doctrines began with Catholics, whereas I believe they were taught by John the Apostle and Paul. Baptist history contains a lot of Calvinists in it ranks; including some of the first missionaries. Don’t let anyone ever say a Calvinist doesn’t believe in preaching the gospel to everyone – Spurgeon did it and those before and after do it. There are Hypers – but every group has those.

    My point was never to prove or preach Calvinism [TULIP] here, but only the point that it appears [to me] that we all seem to limit atonement in our beliefs, even though we don’t preach it out loud. For I have heard people [non-Calvinist] say that Christ indeed died for the elect, but the elect are all the ones that God foresaw in time that would come to accept him [this belief is not Calvinist, whereas Calvin said God “hand picked” ones]. If indeed God died for the ones that He foresaw in time would accept Him that, my friend, is still limited atonement.

    At least we can agree that by grace God sent His Son Jesus Christ that we may be saved through Him by faith.

    Thanks for your time.

    Tim

  14. Bro. Szekely said

    Tim, thank you for your post.

    [1] You’re right…I didn’t answer your questions because I’ve answered them in previous blog posts…did you read the one on unconditional election? Probably not, but that’s okay. There’s where you would have received your answers to your questions.

    [2] You said, “In time we have associated doctrines with people [i.e. Calvinist or an Arminians]. But need to always remember to separate the doctrine from man.” My question is, “How can we”? Knowing the man, who he is, and from where he got his doctrine are inseparable things. You and I would not follow the doctrines of Joseph Smith…because they are the doctrines of JOSEPH SMITH. I agree that names alone do not make us right or wrong…I never said that they did. I call myself a Baptist because that is supposed to mean something. I heard a man say once that he was a Baptist because it was the “closest thing” to N.T. Christianity…I think a true Baptist is practicing N.T. Christianity.

    [3] You wrote, “For I have heard people [non-Calvinist] say that Christ indeed died for the elect”. I believe Christ died for all. Atonement is unlimited, for “whosoever will”, my friend. And I believe that God accepts/receives the ones who repent and believe on Him. Atonement is for all:

    1 John 2:2, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world“.

    1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

    1 John 4:14, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

    John 4:42, “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

    John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

    1 Timothy 4:10, “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”

    The Lord Jesus Christ IS the Saviour for the whole world. No man will ever look at Jesus Christ and say, “You did not want to be my Saviour“. Jesus came to be the Saviour for all men, and not just for a select few…but to a Calvinist, it must be so.

    [4] Lastly you wrote, “At least we can agree that by grace God sent His Son Jesus Christ that we may be saved through Him by faith.” I agree…but that “we” to me is “whosoever will”.

    Thank you for your time as well, Tim ~ Bro. Szekely

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