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Do you believe in an "unlimited" or a "limited" Atonement, and why?
Christian theologians are divided into two camps, one believing in an "unlimited atonement", meaning that Jesus "atoned for", or paid for, the sins of every human being and the other believes in a "limited atonement", or that Jesus "atoned for", or paid for, the sins of only the "elect", all those who will believe in Jesus and be saved.
When I originally began to study this subject, it was difficult for me, and the more I read what people SAID about it, the more confused I became. It was not until I decided to do an "in depth" study of what the Bible teaches, that my confusion began to clear up, as I compiled what God's Word says about the so-called "unlimited" or "limited" "Atonement".
I am continually amazed, when I meet Christian people for the first time, and they discover that I am a Bible student that loves God's Word, the number one question they ask is "What good Christian books have you read recently? Have you read "so and so" by "so and so"?
I must admit that I rarely read what someone SAYS about God's Word in popular Christian Books, because when I spend my time studying what God says in His Word, I find that I often cannot agree with much of what the popular Christian authors have to say.
Let me see if I can show you what I mean.
We absolutely must start with the definition of the word "atonement", wouldn't you agree? The "Etymological Dictionary of the English Language", by W. W. Skeat, 1879, states that the Middle English statement to set "at one", meaning "to agree" or "to be reconciled", eventually became the one word "atone".
The KJV translators used the word "atone" and "atonement" 71 times in the Old Testament, to describe the animal sacrifices, whose blood temporarily "covered" sins, but they only used the word "atonement" ONCE in the New Testament, in Rom. 5:11, where Paul states that we who believe in Christ are said to have received "THE atonement".
Next we must check the meaning of the Greek word translated "atonement" in Rom 5:11. The word translated "atonement" is the noun form of the Greek word "katallasso". Thayers Greek Lexicon states that this word literally means "to exchange", and in its Biblical context means "to be reconciled", or "restored to favor", in that, through the expiatory death of Christ, God exchanged the fallen state of sinners for a state of favor and blessing.
"Katallasso" is also found twice in the previous verse, Rom. 5:10, and again in Rom. 11:15, 1 Cor 7:11, and 2 Cor 5:18-20, where it is translated "reconciled", "reconciling", and "reconciliation" in every instance in the KJV New Testament, except for Rom. 5:11.
Rom. 5:10 - 11 KJV states: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled (katalasso) to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled (katalasso), we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement". (katalasso again) .
Rom. 5:10 - 11 teaches that, while we were God's enemies, our fallen and sinful standing with God was exchanged by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. See the "Romans 5:10-11 Insights from the New Testament Greek" for a list of some of the wonderful things Jesus "exchanged" for us while He was on the Cross.
So, already we can see that Jesus did not make this "exchange" for every human being while He was on the Cross. If He had, the fallen state of every human being would have been "exchanged" for a state of favor and blessing!
Some theologians state that Jesus "Atoned" for the sins of every human being on the Cross, but it does not become "effective" until it is "received" by the believer. This sounds good on the surface, but doesn't hold up when Rom. 5:10 - 11 teaches that, while we were God's enemies, our fallen and sinful standing with God was exchanged by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The "exchange" took place while Jesus was on the Cross.
Col. 2:13 & 14 Also teaches that God's forgiveness occurred on the Cross, not when we believe:
Col. 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
If Jesus "Atoned" for the sins of every human being on the Cross, that would also mean that He suffered for, paid the price for, and satisfied the Father, for every human being's sins, and then the ones who reject Jesus as Savior suffer eternally in the lake of fire for those same sins.
Here again, some theologians will argue that Jesus "Atoned" for the sins of every human being on the Cross, so those who do not believe on Jesus suffer for their "works" - not for their "sins".
Well, in 1 Jn 5:17, John states that "all unrighteousness is sin". So Christ rejecting unbelievers cannot do anything but SIN. The Scriptures teach that the best "works" the unbeliever can do are still "SIN", as far as God is concerned! The common Greek word translated "sin" is "hamartia", an archery term meaning "to miss the mark". The Christ rejecting unbeliever cannot even come close to "the mark" of God's righteousness!
Rom. 8:8 states: "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God".
Eph 2: 1 - 2 teaches that before we were "quickened" to spiritual life, (the New Birth), we were "dead in trespasses and sins", and that we walked according to the spirit of the prince of the power of the air: Eph. 1:1 - 2 " And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience"
In Jn 8:21&24 and Jn 15:22, Jesus Himself spoke of people dying IN THEIR SINS. Jesus stated in Jn 8:24 "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
If Jesus said that people who would not believe on Him would "die in their sins", then how could we possibly think that Jesus was also anticipating "paying for their sins", "covering their sins", or "exchanging" the fallen state of those same people, for a state of favor and blessing, by means of His work on the Cross?
Some Bible teachers state that unbelievers are not punished in the Lake of Fire for their sins, and that Jesus paid for their sins, but their eternal punishment is totally on the basis of their rejection of Christ. But, Jesus clearly spoke of people dying in their SINS, and sin having "gravity", and that the punishment of sinners would be in proportion to their sins: In John 19:11, Judas has the GREATER sin. In Matt 23:14 we see Greater DAMNATION! In Matt 10:15 and Matt 11:22 - 24, Their judgement will be MORE TOLERABLE! And, in Luke 12:45-48 we have the illustration of the unbelieving, unfaithful servants being punished in proportion to their knowledge AND their WORKS.
Here is where most people will resort to Jn 3:16, and state that "God loves every human being".
John 3:16 "For God so loved (Aorist,Active,Indicative - at an aorist point in time) the world ("kosmos", the "world" points to the "world" of those who are presently believing, in this context), that he gave (Aorist,Active,Indicative) his only begotten Son, (the "point in time" of the Cross) that whosoever believeth (Present Active - is presently believing) in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".
Jn 3:16, does not state that "God loves every human being", as is so commonly thought from reading the English versions. Jn 3:16 in the Greek, is a promise directed to the "world" of those who are "presently believing".
This becomes crystal clear, when Jesus, who certainly ought to know, states, two verses later, in verse 18:
Jn 3:18 "He that believeth (is presently believing) on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, (notice Jesus said "condemned already" - not "loved already") because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God".
Even in the English of the KJV, how could we possibly take Jn 3:16 to be teaching that God loves every human being, when Jn 3:18 teaches that those who will not believe are condemned already?
Our God, the God of the Bible, is Sovereign, and has no unfulfilled desires:
Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the PURPOSE of HIM WHO WORKETH ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL (Greek "boule" = "decree") OF HIS OWN WILL (thelo = desires). God's DECREE, what He has stated will happen throughout history, arises from His DESIRES. What God has "decreed" is what God has "desired from His WILL", or what He "wants" to happen, and His "decree" is what IS GOING TO HAPPEN. God, of course, is a Holy God and does not cause sin or sinful acts, but He "allows" sinful creatures to do only those sinful acts that fit His eternal purposes.
Isa 55:11 So shall MY WORD be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PLEASE, AND IT SHALL PROSPER [IN THE THING] WHERETO I SENT IT.
If God "loved" every human being, and "desired" their salvation, then every human being would be saved.
If God "loved" every human being, and "desired" their salvation, then we should have ample verification from the Scriptures, and NO contradictions. But, we find that God does not love every human being, starting with Rom. 9:13 "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated". In this same context, in Rom 9:11, God's decision concerning Jacob and Esau is stated to have been made before the two were born, and not on the basis of "their will", or "their works", but on the basis of God's "election", or His "choosing out from among" the two brothers.
Psa. 5:5 states "thou hatest all workers of iniquity".
So, the Bible teaches that God does not "love every human being".
Some theologians have even reasoned that God clearly does not "presently" love every human being, just as the Scriptures state, but He DID love every human being, in eternity past, when He decreed that Jesus would go to the Cross, and that is the "point in time" that Jesus refers to in John 3:16, when they say God loved every human being.
Let's go back to eternity past, and look at the clearly revealed statements of God's will, desires, and decrees, "before the foundation of the earth":
Eph 1:4, and 2 Tim 1:9 teach that those who will be saved were chosen "before the foundation of the world":
Eph 1:4 "According as he hath chosen (Greek "eklectos") us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love".
2 Tim 1:9 "Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began".
And, conversely, we see wicked people in the 7 year Tribulation whose names were NOT Written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world and never will be, (Greek perfect tense verb) in Rev 17:8:
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, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is".
We clearly see from these verses that God made His decision about who He would "save" and who He would allow to go their own way - "before the foundation of the world". So there could be no "point in time" where God "loved every human being".
We also see men who will not believe, who God has "ordained to condemnation" - Jude 4 "Ungodly men, before of old ordained to condemnation". Did Jesus "atone" for the sins of men who were "before of old ordained to condemnation"?
We see false teachers who stumble at the Word, being disobedient: "whereunto also they were appointed" - 1 Pet 2:8 "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed". Did Jesus "atone" for the sins of men who were so "appointed"?
We see false teachers who are described as "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed", in 2 Pet 2:12. Did Jesus "atone" for the sins of these "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed"?
On the contrary, we see that God will "have mercy upon whom he will have mercy and whom he will he hardeneth", in Rom 9:14-18:
14 What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then [it is] not of him that willeth (wants it), nor of him that runneth (works for it), but of God that showeth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth.
It stands to reason that if God says "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion", and "whom He will He hardeneth", we are misunderstanding the passages that lead many to believe that God loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved. How could God "love every human being", but clearly state that He will have mercy only on whom He will?
Now, is there any doubt in our mind, that if we could go to the Heavenly throne and ask Jesus if he "atoned" for, or "covered" the sins of every human being, and "exchanged their fallen state for a state of favor and blessing", what He would say?
What then could lead great masses of people, to cling to the belief that "God loves everybody", and Jesus "atoned for the sins of all mankind", and God wants "every human being to be saved"?
The popular "Unlimited Atonement" theology is also called "Arminianism", named for Jacobus Arminius, an 18th century theologian who popularized its belief. Unlimited Atonement Theology was considered a heresy by mainstream Christianity during most of the 19th Century, but has become increasingly popular in the 20th century, to the point where it is now the central theme and motivation for the vast majority of 21st Century Christianity.
On the other hand, "Limited Atonement" theology is commonly called "Calvinism" for John Calvin, the 18th century Swiss Protestant reformer whose written works, "The Institutes of Theology", were strong on pointing out the Scriptures which teach Biblical Predestination, Election, and the Sovereignty of God. Today, the term "Calvinism", has become a derogatory term, used by those who believe that "God loves everybody" and "wants everybody to be saved".
"Arminianism", and the teaching that "God loves everybody" seems to have increased during the 20th Century at the same rate that the study and teaching from the Biblical Hebrew and Greek began to fade out.
It seems that "Arminianism", and the very widely held belief in a so-called "Unlimited Atonement", comes from a simple English misunderstanding of the words "all" (Greek word "pas"), and "world" (Greek word "kosmos"), in the following 11 passages: John 1:29, John 3:16 and 17, John 4:22, John 12:47, Acts 17:30, 1 Tim 2:4 and 6 and 4:10, 1 John 2:2, 2 Pet 2:1, 2 Pet 3:9, Heb 2:9, and 2 Cor 5:14, 15, and 19.
There are Greek words meaning "absolutely all", in the New Testament, such as the Greek words "hapas", Strong's number "537", and "hekastos", Strong's number "1538". These "absolutely ALL" Greek words are not used in the eleven misunderstood passages above. The general Greek word "pas", Strong's number "3956", is used in these passages, and "pas" is equivalent to our English "all types", "all sorts", or "all kinds" . Translating "pas" as the single English word "all" easily leads to a misunderstanding by the English reader.
The Greek word "PAS" can mean "ALL TYPES", "ALL KINDS", or "ALL SORTS", and cannot be forced to mean "absolutely all":
God could easily have had the New Testament writers use "HAPAS", for "absolutely all" in the above listed passages, but I do not find "HAPAS" even once, in the so called "unlimited atonement" passages. The English word "all" in these passages is always "pas", for "all sorts", or "all kinds", or "all types".
The New Testament authors could have used the Greek word "hekastos", Strong's number "1538" in the above passages, if they intended to mean "absolutely all human beings" . "Hekastos" is used in the Greek New Testament 83 times to express absolutely ALL, every one, and is the Greek word translated in the KJV as "every one", and "every man".
During the last century, the Christian Church has paid less and less attention to the use of the general Greek words "pas" and "kosmos"., for example, C.H. Spurgeon, in his sermon on "Particular Redemption", stated: " the whole world has gone after him" Did all the world go after Christ? "then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one". Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words "world" and "all" are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the "all" means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts --some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile".
The use of the general Greek word "pas" in our misunderstood passages:
Acts 17:30 "All" (TYPES) of men everywhere.
Note: The early church, for approximately 8 years, from Acts chapter 2 through chapter 10, was all converted Jews, as far as we know, and the Jewish Christians thought for those 8 years that only Jews were saved by the death of Jesus on the Cross. This is why God's Word uses "pas" to say "all types of men", Jew, Gentile, from every nation, are commanded to repent. When it was time for the Gospel to be sent to the first Gentile, the Roman Centurion Cornelius, in Acts Chapter 10, God told the Apostle Peter, three times, to "eat the unclean animals", and Peter said "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." Peter had to be told "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common". It was a huge deal for the Jews to accept Gentiles into the Body of Christ - some 8 years after the Cross. This is why there are so many statements in the New Testament about salvation being for "All TYPES", and "all SORTS" of people, Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, etc.
1 Tim 2:4 and 4:10 It is God's will that "all" ("PAS", ALL TYPES) of men be saved. If it was God's will that every human being would be saved, every human being would be saved! (Many "types" of men are listed in the context)
1 Tim 2:6 Jesus is a ransom for "ALL" ("PAS", all TYPES OF) men. Again, if Jesus "ransomed" every human, every human being would be "ransomed"! ("All types of men" here, Jew and Gentile, world wide, no "type", or "sort" of person is left out)
2 Cor 5:14 Jesus died for ALL ("PAS", all TYPES OF) men.
2 Pet 3:9 God is long suffering to US-WARD AND is not willing that any (OF US) should perish, but that "ALL TYPES" of US should come to repentance.
A "WORLD" (kosmos) of WHAT?
When we see the Greek word "KOSMOS", Strong's number "2889" in the New Testament, we must ask "a world of WHAT?", and we must determine it's meaning from the immediate context.
"Kosmos" is a very general word, and, as Thayer's Greek Lexicon states, it is an "apt and harmonious arrangement", and can be "any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort", from our "world", the universe, a harmonious arrangment of stars and planets, to a "world of iniquity", as in Jas. 3:36.
I do not find a single context where "Kosmos" is a specific word for "all the human beings on the earth". There ARE specific Greek words for "DIRT", "CONTINENTS", "COUNTRIES", "ALL MANKIND", "male human beings", "female human beings", etc., but they are not used in our misunderstood passages.
Even our English word "world" has many meanings and must be defined by its context: Cloth World, Insurance World, Music World, Motorcycle World, "you're in a world of trouble", etc..
I find that every occurrence of "Kosmos" in the Greek New Testament is a "collection of like items" and a "collection of what" must be determined by its CONTEXT.
We contend with the same problem daily, as we use the English language. Illustration:
What does BARK mean? How many meanings can you think of?
A tree covering, an indian canoe and later a type of sailing ship, the sound of a dog, to hurt your shin, to give loud verbal orders, etc.. We automatically depend on the IMMEDIATE CONTEXT to determine the meaning of the word "bark".
We have exactly the same problem with "Kosmos" in the New Testament:
In the New Testament, we find a "world" consisting of only unbelievers in John 14:17, John 15:19, John 17:9 and 14, 2 Pet 2:5, 1 Jn 3:13.
We find a "world" consisting of only believers in John 3:16, 2 Cor 5:19, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Jn 4:14.
We find the "world" of the ungodly: 2 Pet 2:5.
As the Pharisees stated, in Jn 12:19, "The WORLD (kosmos) is going after Jesus". Was every human being going after Jesus? Of course not, the Pharisees who made the statement wanted to kill Jesus, and it was just an embarrassingly large group of people in Palestine, who were going after Jesus, that is what the Pharisees are concerned about. They were concerned about the "world" of those who were "going after", or "tending to follow" Jesus.
In John 14:17, Jesus stated that the "world" (kosmos) cannot receive the Holy Spirit. The Elect of God obviously do. So this must be the "world" of those who reject Jesus, who cannot receive the Holy Spirit.
It is amazing to me, that we are very familiar with words that have multiple meanings, and must be defined by the context, but we tend to force one particular meaning, that we LIKE, on Bible words like "world" and "all". Our interpretation of EVERY verse in the New Testament must harmonize with, and cannot contradict, the teaching of the whole New Testament.
We cannot force the Greek words "pas" and "kosmos", translated "all", and "world", to mean "every human being", if we do, we cause the Scriptures to contradict themselves.
As Jesus stated in Jn 8:24, "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins". So, if we try to make ANY passage teach that Jesus "atoned" for the sins of every human being, we contradict Jesus.
Jesus prayed in John 17:9 "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine". How could Jesus state that "God so loved the world" in John 3:16, and then turn around and state that He was "not praying for the world"? John 3:16 speaks of the "world" of those who are "presently believing", and, in John 17:9, Jesus speaks of the "world" of "those who will reject Him" and will not believe in Him.
There cannot be contradictions in the Scriptures. Where we see "apparent" contradictions, it is because of our misunderstandings. As Jesus stated in Jn 10:35 "the Scripture cannot be broken". When we think we see a "contradiction", it is because we do not understand what is being stated. Usually, in passages where there are "apparent contradictions", we find great truths!
From my study of the Scriptures, I must believe in a so-called "Limited Atonement".
My understanding of the so-called "Limited Atonement" position is as follows:
1. Jesus "atoned" for the sins of the elect only while he was on the Cross. The Greek word "katallage" translated "atonement" in Rom. 5:11, means to reconcile, or EXCHANGE a fallen relationship for a sinless, peaceful relationship.
2. Election is a sovereign act of God, for His purpose, and according to His will, and occurred in eternity past. The Greek word for election, "eklectos", means to pick out or choose out for a purpose and pass over others.
3. Election took place and was , in eternity past. Rom 8:28-30, Eph 1:4,5, and 11, and 2 Tim 1:9.
4. God reveals Himself to every human being, in PHYSICAL terms, in the way He chooses, and to the extent that God can say they fully know (have full condemning knowledge of) His truth, from observation of the physical universe, and have no excuse:
Rom 1:18-20 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."
Psa 19: 1-4: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world".
Rom 2:14 and 15: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." (Speaking of "Old Testament regeneration", where God "regenerated" or "made spiritually alive" many gentiles, world wide, and made them His children, during the Jewish Age.)
5. The perishing know God's truth from observing the physical creation, and turn it into a lie, and God allows them to choose their own way, and they have no excuse. Rom. 1:18-32.
6. God, at His own time and place, quickens (gives life where there was no life) (the new birth) the elect, and the gospel is then the "good news" of what has happened to them. (John 5:21 "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.)
7. The Bible word "salvation" is not a "point in time", but the process of the elect experiencing the benefits of being a child of God, after the new birth, and after believing on Jesus as their personal Savior. ( In 2 Tim 2:10, Paul states "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory).
8. True Biblical witnessing, evangelism, and missionary work then is to give the good news of salvation to the elect of God, as God "enables" them to believe, through the new birth. It is only after the new birth that the elect are able to believe the "good news", 1 Cor 1:18 and 2:14, and 1 John 5:1.
9. "Limited atonement" glorifies God, and acknowledges that He is "in charge", as the Scriptures state. On the other hand, "Arminian theology" places man in control of election and salvation, reduces the work of Jesus on the Cross to having made salvation "possible" for all those who will believe, and places God in the position of an "observer", who is agonizing over how many people He can manage to get "saved" .
PASSAGES THAT SUPPORT A LIMITED ATONEMENT:
As you study your Bible, look for the passages that unambiguously teach that Jesus died for His people. Here are a few:
Matt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save HIS people from THEIR sins.
Matt 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Not all)
Acts 2:38, 39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (because of) the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, [even] as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Again, not all)
Luke 10:21, 22 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Jesus rejoices in the teaching of His Father's sovereign election)
All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and [he] to whom the Son will reveal [him]. (Jesus himself rejoices at the thought of Godís sovereignty in salvation)
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep". (Not all mankind, but HIS SHEEP) Jesus told some Pharisees, in John 10:26 and 27: "ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me".
John 17:1-3 "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him POWER OVER ALL FLESH, that he should give eternal life to AS MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM". (Power over all flesh, but only the Elect get eternal life. The verb "hast given" here is in the Greek Perfect tense, meaning past completed action. The Father gave Jesus the Elect in eternity past, in the Divine Decrees.) "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent".
John 17:9 "I pray for them: (The Elect) I pray not for the world", ("world" of those who will not believe) "but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine".
1 Pet 2:7-9 "Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye [are] a chosen (elect) generation,(offspring or family) a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light". ("They" were appointed to remain in their disobedience - you are Elect).
Rom 9:14 - 16, "What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy". (Again, God does not have mercy on the whole human race, but clearly "on whom He will")
At this point, many Bible teachers would say, well, "election" is just based on God's "foreknowledge". God looked down through time to see who would believe in Jesus and who would not, and those who will believe are God's "elect". This line of thought, again, places "salvation" in the hands of man, and man "elects" himself.
We have a very important statement in Acts 2:23, concerning the "foreknowledge" of God. This passage speaks of Jesus going to the Cross, and states: "Him being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God". "Council", in this verse, is the Greek word "boule", meaning "decree", and "foreknowledge" is "prognosis", or "to know before". These two impersonal nouns are connected by the Greek conjunction "kai", our English word "and". They are also in the same case, and "boule" is preceded by the Greek article, and "prognosis" does not have the article. This construction means that the "decree", or "determinate will" of God is not separate from the "foreknowledge" of God, but that the "foreknowledge" of God ARISES from His decree.
The major significance of this passage is that it reminds us of the fact that nothing can be "foreknown", until it is first made certain by the "decree" of God! There is nothing to "foreknow", until the immutable decree of God makes it certain. The decree of God, in eternity past, makes His plan, including "election", certain in every detail, and the "foreknowledge" of God is the knowledge of what the decree made certain.
Everywhere we see the "foreknowledge of God" mentioned in the New Testament, we must remember that God does not make any decisions according to His "foreknowledge", but that His "foreknowledge" is the RESULT of His decree.
The Bottom Line:
The Greek word translated "atonement" in Rom 5:11 in the KJV and "reconciled" in every other occurence, is a form of "katallasso". Thayers Greek Lexicon states that this word literally means "to exchange", and in its Biblical contexts means "to be reconciled", or "restored to favor", in that, through the expiatory death of Christ, God exchanged the fallen state of sinners for a state of favor and blessing.
If the work of Jesus on the Cross "atoned" for every human being, "covering" their sins, and "exchanging" their fallen state for a state of favor and blessing, then every human being, in the end, would be a child of God, and there would be no need for a Great White Throne of Judgement, or a Hell. But, on the contrary, the Scriptures state that some men were "appointed to condemnation", not written (prographo - permanently not written) in the Lamb's Book of Life from before the foundation of the world, and that those who will not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are "already condemned".
So, I must believe in a "Limited Atonement", as Matt. 1:21 states "he shall save HIS people from THEIR sins.
When I really think about it, I would rather trust my loving Heavenly Father, who knows everything about every person who will ever live, to decide who becomes a child of God, and who He will allow to choose their own way, than to trust the eternal destiny of my children and loved ones to their own decision.
Now that I know all this, I cannot tell unbelievers that "God loves them". Telling an unbeliever that "God loves them" may not actually be true, and does not reflect what the Word of God teaches, and may cause the unbeliever to think that he does not need Jesus, if God already loves him!
If Arminian, "unlimited atonement" theology is correct, and we become children of God by "asking Jesus into our heart", or "believing in Jesus", and anyone in the whole human race can become a child of God, if they will just "believe", like we did, then we DO have something to boast about! We are "smarter" than unbelievers! We have something that they don't have, and they could have salvation if they would only "believe" like we did! This theology may produce big Churches, but we must study to show ourself approved, and decide for ourself if it is true to God's Word.
I CAN confidently state that God loves those who love and believe in Jesus!
And, I CAN confidently tell every human being that anyone who wants to be "saved" and trusts Jesus as their Savior will be saved, as Acts 16:31 states "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved".
I can confidently quote Rev. 20:15: "whosoever was not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire".
I must believe God's Word, whether I "like" it or not, and let God be God, and trust that, knowing all things about every human being, He always makes the right decisions, and is righteous, and has a Divine Purpose in every detail of His Creation.
Rom 10:9-13 states: "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved".
Now, that is Good News.
Written in Christian Love,