by Pastor Emeritus Steve Swires
GOD IS SOVEREIGN. There is no room for debate on this point. It would be pure folly to imagine it any other way. God as the intelligence and power that created the entire heavens (universe) and the earth set all laws in place in order for it to exist and set its course according to His own wisdom and purpose. “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35). “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy:” (James 4:12).
CREATION REQUIRED OMNISCIENCE WHICH INCLUDES FOREKNOWLEDGE. God as Sovereign knew what He was doing when He created the heavens, earth, and man: He had a purpose and plan, and because all creation exists by His power and word, all must go according to His plan. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18). “I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10). “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:” (Ephesians 1:9).
To say that God did not know and plan the full and final outcome of His actions, or that He had to improvise as He went along to try and accomplish something worthwhile out of the way things surprisingly turned out, is to say that God spoke everything into existence, but didn’t know exactly and fully what He was saying. But, because speaking is communication of thought and all thought and speaking is defined by the ultimate source of thought and speaking: God, that would be absolutely contradictory and ludicrous. He knew exactly, fully, and completely what He was speaking into existence!
GOD HAS STATED HIS PURPOSE IN CREATING. God has revealed to man in the Holy Scriptures that His purpose for creating man is “That… he might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (v.4) as children (or sons) of God in Christ (v.5) “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (v.6) and “that we should be to the praise of his glory” (v.12). All that has ever happened or ever will happen in this world must be part of the plan to accomplish this purpose: the creation, the temptation by Satan, the fall of man, the life and death of Christ, etc., that in the fullness of time He might have many holy children in Christ that He could love and who would bring praise to His glory.
PURPOSE INVOLVES CHOICE. A necessary part of any intelligent being, of any purpose or plan, is choice. A purpose and plan is made up of choices, and God as the Sovereign Creator Lord has made choices. In saying that He has a purpose and plan for creating man He is indicating that He made choices.
Before the foundation of the world was laid, God made choices: He chose men to be gathered in Christ as sons, holy and without blame before Him in love to the praise of the glory of His grace, because His plan, His purpose, is that men might be exactly that. In Ephesians 1:4 He says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”.
This process of choosing is called election, and anything that is chosen is called elect. Any and all of God’s choices are by election, and anyone or anything chosen by God for any purpose is elected for that purpose.
GOD’S SON IS ELECT. In Isaiah 42:1 God’s Son Jesus Christ is referred to as elect: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” He was elected or chosen to be the Saviour of man before the foundation of the world. “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” 1 Peter 1:20.
ISRAEL IS ELECT. Because God chose the nation of Israel for a particular purpose, in Isaiah 45:4 (and other places) it is called God’s elect: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. A careful study of Israel in the Scriptures reveals that God’s election of Israel was earthly, as an earthly nation, to be used to the glory of God.
CHILDREN OF GOD ARE ELECT. The primary usage of the term “elect” in the Scriptures is in reference to those who have been chosen by God as holy sons of God in Christ for eternity: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31). These are the ones that fulfil God’s purpose in creating this whole creation.
It is at first amazing, but upon careful thought and understanding of the principle of God’s purpose, quite necessary, that God chose these individuals before they even existed, in fact before the world even existed. How is that possible? God’s election of certain men is based upon His creating omniscience which includes foreknowledge. 1 Peter 1:2 says that they are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: …”.
However, we must remember and understand that although they were chosen before the foundation of the world, they were not God’s elect before the foundation of the world, because they did not yet exist! An interesting, but difficult question arises: when do they become God’s elect? Since election by God was according to foreknowledge, it was applied to certain individuals at some point in the future. It could not be applied to individuals before they existed in time, but it obviously could be applied to individuals at any point after they began existence.
Here, we must try to inject an explanation of the relationship between God, eternity, and time. Our view of existence is based in time. In time, our perception of existence is only instantaneous; all other reality is either past or future. God exists in eternity and encompasses all of eternity. God is the eternal “I AM”, not the I WAS or I WILL BE. For God, all of what we know as reality is present. Therefore, Christ as God said, “before Abraham was, I am”. When God says He knows the future, or reveals the future to man, it is not a prediction by God, He knows it because every instant, every moment of it is present and known in its entirety to God.
God’s foreknowledge of the elect was not a prediction but full knowledge of the persons for all of their existence. Therefore, before the foundation of the world in time, God being present at every moment of the persons’ existence, could choose them at any of those moments. However, viewed from a temporal (in time) perspective they did not yet exist and in time they are not His elect until the moment that He chooses them. I can now say that I became one of the elect from before the foundation of the world the moment I was regenerated in Christ.
A PERSON CANNOT BE ONE OF GOD’S ELECT FROM BIRTH. If election is applied to a person at conception because they were elected from the foundation of the world and a person is therefore born elect, then they must be sinless from birth, because Romans 8:33 indicates that no one can lay a charge (of sin) against God’s elect: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? [It is] God that justifieth.” They are justified by God; they could never from the moment of God’s election be considered as depraved sinners.
However, Romans 3 clearly shows that all men are sinners and Romans 5:12 explains that sin entered into the world by one man (Adam), “and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”
Furthermore, already being the elect of God who fulfill the ultimate purpose of God in creation, they would never be in need of regeneration, yet Jesus said that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
SALVATION, REGENERATION, AND GRACE CANNOT BE CONDITIONAL ON PAST ELECTION. If somehow the Scriptures did allow that some totally depraved sinners were God’s elect, then they would be in need of regeneration and salvation from wrath and death. However, a person becomes a son of God by regeneration (John 1:12,13), so many of God’s elect would not yet be sons of God, but children of their father the Devil (John 8:44)! That is contradictory to the whole notion of God’s elect.
Then, too, grace, salvation, and regeneration would be based upon their past election and be a consequence of past election. If salvation is solely the result of grace received because of election since the beginning of existence, then a man is justified by election and has access to grace by election. Salvation would then be conditional upon election alone. This contradicts the word of God which says that a man is justified by faith and access to grace is by faith. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1,2). Faith, not election, is the condition in man required to have access to grace.
If salvation is a consequence of election applied at the beginning of a person’s existence, then condemnation is based upon not having been elected. John 3:18 says that condemnation is based upon whether a person believes or not: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not, is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”. It does not read, “He that is elected from birth is not condemned: but he that is not elected is condemned already because he hath not been elected.” It says that it is conditional on the man’s belief, not the election of God.
SALVATION IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF FAITH, AND A PERSON BECOMES ONE OF THE ELECT FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD UPON FAITH IN CHRIST. The word of God clearly says that salvation is through faith; it does not say that it is through election: “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8). It is argued that this verse says that faith is a gift of God and is therefore received out of grace as the result of election, but after it says “…and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” it goes on to say “not of works, lest any man should boast”. This phrase (“not of works, lest any man should boast”) refers back to the word “saved”, not to the word “faith”, and if this phrase refers back to “saved”, then so does the preceding phrase “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” refer back to “saved” and not “faith”. The main thought of the sentence is saved: “through faith” is only a prepositional phrase describing saved, as are the phrases following it. The meaning of the sentence is that salvation is the gift of God and not of yourselves, not that faith is the gift of God.
Faith by definition involves trust, and means more than just knowledge. Trust is an attitude of the heart based upon belief in the truthfulness of knowledge. Faith is then the categorizing by a rational being of a given statement as to its’ truth and trustworthiness leading to action based upon that decision. Faith is not an object such as knowledge that can be given or received. The inclination or character to exercise faith can and has been given to all men as seen in the natural faith of little children (Romans 12:3;1 Corinthians 12:8,9), but not the specific faith in any given information. If the specific faith in Christ is an object that is the gift of God, then it is not faith at all but is only imputed knowledge from God.
Although all men are born with a sin nature inherited from Adam and therefore will sin (Romans 5:12) and are alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18), according to Romans 12:3 (“…according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”), every person has also been given the ability and inclination to believe God. However, it is overcome by their nature to sin and cannot be exercised except upon hearing the word of God and being convicted and drawn by the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:14, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?… 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”). Here, Paul argues that they cannot believe and trust what they have never heard, not that they are incapable of believing or trusting.
It cannot be argued that failure to exercise faith in God proves the absence of ability or inclination. Neither all men nor all creatures automatically exercise all of their abilities or inclinations, especially if they have conflicting abilities and inclinations.
FAITH IS REQUIRED TO RECEIVE REGENERATION AND MUST PRECEDE IT.
It is directly stated that regeneration as a child of God is by faith in Galatians 3:26: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
In Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” the preposition “through” indicates that “faith” the object of the preposition must precede the grace that saves. Regeneration is the beginning and guarantee of salvation, (note: salvation will be further explained below), so this indicates that faith must precede regeneration.
The promise of inheritance as born again sons of God is through faith, not preceding faith and making faith a consequence of it: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:13-16).
Faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by regeneration: “So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). Some unregenerate men do hear the word of God and believe. Regeneration then follows as a work of the word of God which was received in faith: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Peter 1:23). The receiving of the word in faith must come before the work is done by it.
Again, God has given every man (including all unregenerate) the ability and inclination to believe: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). Regeneration is not required (as some argue) before a man is capable of faith.
It is clearly, irrefutably stated that the unregenerate man’s faith gives him access to saving (regenerating) grace, not the other way around: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” ( Romans 5:1).
The Scriptures also state that the unregenerate heart is purified by faith (the regenerated heart needs no purification): “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9). “To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18).
Then, the Scriptures tell us that the unregenerate, unjust man is justified by faith: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28). Justification must precede regeneration, because once a man is regenerated with the sinless seed of God, he needs no justification. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1John 3:9).
Scripture nowhere says that you must be born again before believing God, nor does it say that there never has been an unregenerate man believe God. Not one line of scripture.
CHOSEN TO SALVATION DOES NOT MEAN OR IMPLY ELECTION TO REGENERATION. What about the Scripture that says that some are chosen to salvation? “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This verse is addressed to regenerate believers in the church at Thessalonica. A lack of a full understanding of the doctrine of salvation is a common cause of misunderstanding this verse. Regeneration is the beginning of salvation, but salvation is not complete until the final resurrection when they receive salvation from the flesh and it’s corruption. Consider these verses: Romans 13:11 “And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Not yet received by believers.) 2 Timothy 2:10 “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.” 1 Peter 1:5 “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Revelation 12:10 “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” It is the believing, regenerate elect who are chosen to obtain salvation ready to be revealed in the last time at their resurrection.
SALVATION WAS PROVIDED FOR ALL MEN IN THE ATONING BLOOD OF THE SON OF GOD. God as the one who ordained (planned and arranged) the sin, fall, and death of man (as shown above) must be the author of sin and death, yet that is completely inconsistent with the very essence and primary attributes of God, His righteousness and holiness. The only way this could be reconciled would be for God Himself to make full payment for the sin and death so that the fall might be fully nullified. The final outcome of the equation must be either balanced or positive; everything that was subtracted must be added back equally or exceedingly. Again, the Scriptures indicate that He did just that, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9). “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:6). “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.” (1 John 2:1,2).
In some circles, there is much boasting about believing the “doctrines of grace”, yet these same men usually insist that the grace of God in providing the atoning blood of Christ is limited to the few elect. However, the word of God argues that if one man’s (Adam’s) sin brought sin and death upon all men, the extent and provision of the grace of God must exceed the extent and provision of the sin and death of Adam lest God’s grace be inferior to Adam’s selfishness, and the righteousness and resurrected life of Christ must exceed the sin and death of Adam lest the righteousness and life of Christ be inferior to the sin and death of Adam. “But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as [it was] by one that sinned, [so is] the gift: for the judgment [was] by one to condemnation, but the free gift [is] of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5:15-18).
All descendants of Adam are equal in their sin (Romans 5:12). Since Christ died for the elect “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) and they were no different as sinners from any other sinners, there could be no distinction as to which sinners He died for. Neither can there be a difference in the offered righteousness of God. “Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:22). The blood of Christ was shed and offered to both those who believe and those who do not, and the free gift of righteousness and eternal life was offered to both.
Since grace that brings salvation appeared as an offer to all men (“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” -Titus 2:11), the blood of Christ had to be shed for both those who receive it and those who do not in order that the offer might be genuine. There is no difference in the offer; there is only a difference in the receiving of the offer. It is only upon “all them that believe”. Those who reject the offer and believe not, then, are “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Romans 9:22) and must be rejected by God.
ANSWERS TO SOME OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF A UNIVERSAL ATONEMENT
1. It is a sensual doctrine because it appeals to the fleshly mind of man. Almost immediately as the sound of definite, particular redemption reaches the carnal ear and registers in the carnal mind affected with a carnal heart, the carnal heart influences the carnal tongue to cry a carnal, “unfair”!!
It is universally true experience that people upon hearing the proposition that God only provided atonement and salvation for a few and left the majority of mankind without hope or possibility of atonement and salvation cry unfair. Anyone with a rational mind must call a limited atonement unfair, because it is by definition unfair, unfair meaning “characterized by partiality or prejudice; not fair or just”, just meaning “Fair and impartial in acting or judging” and impartial meaning “Not favoring one above another;” (Funk & Wagnalls). For God to provide atonement for only a few while condemning the rest is certainly to show favour to one above another and to treat them unequally and must involve partiality towards the ones chosen for whatever supposed reason or right attributed to God. Face it, arbitrarily giving eternal life in heaven to some and eternal death in a lake of fire to others is not treating them equally, impartially, or fairly!
The question is whether God could and would redeem only a few and condemn the rest. Of course God as Sovereign has the right and power to do whatever and however He wishes, but His wishes are always limited by His character. He must be consistent!
One essential characteristic of God is that He is just. “[He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.” Deuteronomy 32:4. Therefore, God must and will always treat equal beings equally, justly, impartially, and fairly because He is just in His character.
The only way then for a just God to treat men unequally would be for them to be unequal. Do the Scriptures then teach that God has made us and declared us unequal?
First of all, God declares that all men are equal in the flesh: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” Acts 17:26.
Secondly, God declares that all men are equal in their depraved nature (soul): “What then? are we better [than they]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” Romans 3:9; “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23.
Finally, a just God must pass equal condemnation upon all men, and God declares that all men are equal in their spiritual condition (i.e.: dead): “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Romans 5:12.
Therefore, if a just God provides atonement for some men, it must be equally provided for all men, the word of God declaring that He did just that: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9; “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Timothy 2:6.
Men would be fools if the Scriptures said that “he gave himself a ransom for only a few” to wrest the Scriptures and say that God actually meant “He gave himself a ransom for all”; the converse is then true, it is foolish to wrest the Scriptures, however educated or subtle a man may be and regardless of how much he may wish they said otherwise, and insist that God meant “only a few”.
If “all men” didn’t really mean all men, or if in verses referring to Christ’s atonement it only means “all of the elect” then Romans 5:18 (“Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.”) teaches that judgment only came upon the elect to condemnation; they would be the only ones who are condemned and need an atonement!
2. It manifests a disunity among the Trinity in that the Son is trying to save everybody when the father covenanted with Him to save only the ones He chose before the foundation of the world.
Although the Scriptures do teach that the God-head desires to save everybody, (“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4; “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9) the doctrine of a universal atonement in no way demands or implies that the Son is “trying” to save everybody contrary to the purpose of the Father. It is entirely consistent for God to desire to save all men and to give His Son to redeem all men in order to save some. A merchant may desire many pearls and buy many oysters in order to obtain one pearl.
3. It is dishonouring to God’s justice knowing that God poured out his wrath upon his only Son for us, once for all making full atonement.
Is it not possible that two pay the same debt, or for two to pay for the same crime? Certainly! The travesty of justice, however, lies with the one who refuses the payment already made, rejecting the mercy and grace of God, and insists on paying it himself. It would only be a travesty of God’s justice if God made that decision.
Because it is the one who actually owes the debt that insists upon paying it, Christ’s payment being substitutionary, God’s justice demands that the one initially owing the debt be allowed to pay it. Christ’s payment of the debt was not because He owed it but because of the mercy of God.
The Scriptures clearly teach that the wrath of God abides upon some men not because God made no provision for their atonement, not because Christ did not die for them, but because they have not believed on the Son. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18.
How could a man be condemned for not believing on the Son as his Saviour if that very Son did not die for him and is not his Saviour? That’s absurd!
It is not the doctrine of a universal atonement that dishonours God’s justice, but rather the proposition of a limited atonement as already shown above.
4. It makes one believe that Christ’s atonement did not include the sin of unbelief. If Christ was truly their substitute for all their sins past, present, and future (as both positions agree), and justice was truly satisfied, then they should not have any charges against them (Rom.8:33; 2 Cor. 5:19).
If true, this would also apply to all of the elect before they believed, because the argument here is that they could not have any charges against them including unbelief because the charges had been paid for. If the atonement is applied at some point later in life, then the person for whom the atonement was provided is charged with the sin until the point in his life that the atonement is applied. The real issue then is whether the atonement must be applied at or before conception.
5. It leads one to think that all the world will be saved. If Christ was really the propitiation for the sins of the whole world then none can be condemned. If most are condemned, then Christ was not much of an Advocate, and his propitiatory work was not successful.
The doctrine of a universal atonement would only lead one to believe that the whole world will be saved if proven essential that the atonement be applied to all for whom it was provided. Is it essential?
We certainly have many illustrations in common every day experience to the contrary. Many a cook has provided and prepared food for more than actually eat it.
The Lord Himself gave us a parable of the Kingdom in Luke 14 showing the same response to His provision. “16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one [consent] began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” Notice that provision was made for many that when bidden would not come.
It is amazing that anyone would say “If Christ was really the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” when the scriptures plainly say, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. This is a blatant denial of the truthfulness of God’s Word! No doubt anyone who disagrees with the Word of God can deny it and insist that it really means the opposite (such as insisting that John 1:1 really means that the Word was “a” god as the Watchtower crowd does), but those who do make themselves into gods with the ultimate final authority resting in themselves! That the Lord actually meant the whole world couldn’t be any more plain, because He specified “whole” world. Also, if “whole world” can mean anything other than whole world, what did he mean in John 5:19 “[And] we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.”? Only the elect lie in wickedness?
The propitiatory work of Christ in paying for the sin of the world was fully successful for the purpose of satisfying the holiness and justice of God who ordained the sin of the world requiring full payment, as well as the ultimate purpose of God in the whole creation: the birth of many sons into the family of God. “For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 2:10.
6. It displays the immutable, eternal love of God as powerless to save simply because it is said by the universal atonementist that God loves every person without exception, yet we know from the Scriptures that most go to hell. “Beloved of the Father”, though tortured they be; He loves them with an everlasting love so cannot hate them now! What comfort is the love of God to me if He loves those whom He ‘s executing righteous wrath upon just as much as He loves me? What comfort is it to us if He loves those who were before fitted to destruction? We believe the love of God to be eternal (Jer. 31:3), immutable (Mal. 3:6), and distinguishing (Jn.17:23; Rev. 3:9).
Apparently, the conclusion here, is that God in His distinguishing love only loves those whom He chose to save, and with His eternal unchanging love has always loved those and only those, and that His love is irresistible and overpowering.
What about Israel? The verse in Jeremiah sited was specifically addressed to Israel. “Thus saith the LORD, The people [which were] left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; [even] Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, [saying], Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:2,3.
To be consistent, since the Lord plainly declared that He loved Israel with an everlasting love, one must then agree that: 1) All of Israel have been chosen to be saved, 2) God has always loved and will always love Israel, and 3) God has drawn Israel with an irresistible overpowering love.
However, the Scriptures show that 1) not all of Israel is chosen to be saved, “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:” Romans 9:27. 2) God’s love for Israel is changeable, “Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.” Jeremiah 12:8, “All their wickedness [is] in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes [are] revolters.” Hosea 9:15, and 3) God’s love for Israel was neither irresistible nor overpowering, “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? [Was] not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,” Malachi 1:2. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not!” Matthew 23:37. The Old Testament is one long history of Israel’s rejection of the love of God.
The example of God’s love for Israel teaches us several things. God most certainly can and has loved a large group, most of whom are never saved. It is then entirely possible and consistent for Christ to declare “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a) meaning all men in the world, though only a remnant of the world is ever saved.
It is also quite possible and consistent for God to love the world, yet that love turn to hatred and rejection of those individuals who refuse His everlasting love. Malachi 3:6 sited above declares that the Lord changes not, not that His love or hatred for a person cannot change. If God’s love/hatred cannot change, then He must hate every man because He declares “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” (Psalms 5:5) and all men are workers of iniquity at least at some point in their lives. My greatest joy, my hope, my endless thanksgiving is that although I was a worker of iniquity, condemned and hated as an enemy of God, that hatred has changed to love.
Some would wrongfully conclude that if God’s love/hatred for a person can change, then no child of God is secure in His love. The error is in not understanding that the child of God has received unchangeable eternal life and is in an unchangeable relationship with God the Father, and therefore can never be separated from the love of God. “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39.
And, yes, God’s love can be resisted. In fact, the very nature of love is that it cannot be forced upon another and that it can be resisted. Many a man has tried to force his love upon a beautiful woman, yet all of his force and power, his charm and proof of his sincere love cannot guarantee her acceptance and appreciation of his love. She might well be classified as a fool, ungrateful, selfish, or whatever, but she has that power to resist his love. So may the worker of iniquity in his great folly, unthankfulness, selfishness, pride, etc. reject the glorious love of God. However, it is then perfectly right that the Holy, Righteous God will execute his righteous wrath upon the ungrateful, unthankful, selfish rejecter of His love.
Finally, we must ask, how could God possibly command us to love our neighbour as our self, when He could have loved every man but wouldn’t do it Himself? How could Jesus Christ utter such words when in His own heart He did not love his neighbour as Himself? Or how could He command us to love our enemies and those that hate us when He wouldn’t do it?
I would find no comfort in believing that God loved me as a worker of iniquity, and gave His Son to die for me, but my neighbours, some of my family, my friends, the people I’ve given my life to preach to, whom He commanded me to love, whom He Himself put a burning love for in my breast, He has always hated and will always hate, refusing to give His Son to die for their sins or to offer them the salvation He gave me! I find the whole prospect repulsive! It would appeal only to my old selfish, prideful, unregenerate heart.
7. It mutilates the doctrine of God’s hatred. It assumes that God hates the sin and loves the sinner, but the Scriptures declare in no uncertain terms that He hates them both.
What?! Cannot God love sinners? “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God plainly declared that He loved us while we were sinners, does that then imply that He loved our sin? No! God hates all sin! “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Psalms 45:7. God most certainly can love a sinner and still hate his sin.
8. It subtly robs glory from God and gives it to Satan and ourselves. For if Christ died for all without exception, but Satan takes most of them captive at his will and they end up in hell, then it must be admitted that Satan successfully resisted God’s will and thwarted His purpose. And that God supposedly did what He could for us and the rest (our decision) is up to us, then we ought to get a little glory too, for if we had not chosen him He would not have had the pleasure of saving us.
God has revealed to man in the Holy Scriptures that His purpose for creating man is “That… he might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (v.4) as children (or sons) of God in Christ (v.5) “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (v.6) and “that we should be to the praise of his glory” (v.12). All that has ever happened or ever will happen in this world must be part of the plan to accomplish this purpose: the creation, the temptation by Satan, the fall of man, the death of Christ for all men, the taking captive by Satan at his will of the masses and their rejection of Christ, that in the fullness of time He might have many holy children in Christ that He could love and who would bring praise to His glory. There is no giving of glory to Satan for being used of God to accomplish His purpose.
Neither is there any logical argument that a man must receive glory for choosing to receive the free gift of God. If Bill Gates suddenly lapsed into a philanthropist and walked to the slums of Seattle and offered a cheque for a million dollars to all of the homeless derelicts, the derelicts who accepted would not deserve or receive any glory for accepting the cheques, Bill Gates would get all of the glory.
However, men who believe that of the billions of men, they are one of the few whom God loved and gave His son to die for and gave them eternal life making them heirs of God, while hating and offering nothing to everyone else, condemning them to eternal torment, certainly would have something to be right proud of and glory in!
9. It causes the unrepentant sinner to think that if God is going to save him, he has to let Him. The doctrines necessary to the universal atonement scheme make him think he has the power to repent and believe when he feels like it. Universal atonementists make him think things are not so bad because God loves him in his rebellious state.
The Scriptures definitely do teach that every man has the power to choose to repent and believe. God has commanded them to do just that: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:” Acts 17:30; “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15. If God commanded them to do it, then it is certainly possible.
What kind of man would kidnap a person, knock him out cold, tie him up, then hold a gun to his head and yell at the still form, “I’m giving you to the count of three to get out of my sight or I will blow your brains out!”
What kind of God would create man, ordain his sin and death, make him incapable of the simple act of believing a truth, then command the helpless victim, “repent, and believe or I’m casting you into a lake of fire” knowing full well that He Himself had made it impossible for him to do anything of the sort! Dare we accuse God of being a fool? Dare we accuse God of such cruelty and injustice? And how could God tell a man whom He refused to redeem to believe the gospel, when there is no gospel for him, but only bad news? And how could Christ be such a fool or so cruel as to command his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, when there is no gospel for most of those hapless creatures, and how can a man with an honest heart tell another man that there is good news, knowing full well that it is very unlikely he is one of the few elect making it a lie?
The doctrine of a universal atonement says to the lost man that things are bad: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3. However, it does not say to the majority of men, “things are so bad that you can’t repent like I did. Too bad, there is no hope or possibility of salvation for you.”
10. Universal atonement, of necessity, must disregard the many Scriptures which speak of atonement in the restrictive sense (restricted to the elect only) . Christ is said to have died to “justify many” (Isa .53:11, 12; Matt. 20:28; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:28); for “his people” (Isa. 53:8; Matt. 1:21; Lule. 1:68-77); for those the Father gave Him in eternity past (Jn. 6:39, 40; Jn. 17:2); for His “sheep” (Jn. 10:11, 15, 28; not all are His sheep verse 26); for His “friends” (Jn.15:13, 14); for His “elect” (Rom. 8:32-35); for “the children of God scattered abroad” (Jn.11:52), and for his “church” (Acts 20:28).
The doctrine of a universal atonement in no way disregards any scripture. It clearly agrees with and teaches that Christ died to justify many, that He died for His people, for those that the Father gave Him, for His sheep, for His friends, for His elect, for the children of God scattered abroad, and for His church. It teaches that he died for all of those “And he is the propitiation for our sins:” i.e. all of the above, plus the rest of mankind: “and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.” 1 John 2:2.
When the Scriptures speak of the atonement of the elect that in no way proves or even implies that the atonement did not also include others. It is easily proven mathematically that a set that is a subset of a larger set can be referred to without eliminating all that is not in the subset. In other words, if Christ died for set A and set B is a subset of A, then proving that Christ died for subset B in no way proves or implies that Christ did not die for all of set A!
11. Universal atonement forces Bible words such as “all”, “whosoever”, “every”, and “world” to always mean “everyone without exception”. It is granted that in some very few cases atonement seems to be universal; but an examination of it in its context will dispel all doubt as to its extent. It is much easier for those holding to a limited atonement to explain the so-called “universal” passages than it is for those holding to a universal atonement to explain the restrictive ones!
We have already examined most of the relevant passages above and it is obvious that the words are always used to indicate a universal atonement. There is not one single verse in the entire Bible that comes close to saying that Christ only died for the elect. If it existed it would no doubt be heavily quoted and referred to incessantly by the limited atonement crowd. It is conspicuously absent. They on the other hand build their whole argument by trying to prove that the Scriptures don’t actually mean what they obviously say.
I would ask one simple question, what does the phrase “all men” mean in this verse, “Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18. If “all men” refers only to the elect, then judgment only came upon the elect to condemnation and they are the only ones who need atonement, but if “all men” refers to all of those in the one who offended, then the free gift actually came upon all men! If they receive it, they have eternal life, but if they do not receive it they will abide in death.
12. Universal atonement teaches that Christ died for all alike. The only difference between a saved man and a lost man is that the saved man believed. Therefore believers are mislead to look to their sincerity of heart for assurance of salvation. They are directed to look to see how much understanding they had when they believed. We are taught rather from Scripture to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet.1:10), and that being called we were called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28), which cannot fail (Isa. 14:27).
The doctrine of a universal atonement agrees that men are to make their calling and election sure. In fact, only if man has a choice in the matter can he do that. If some men are elect regardless, and the rest are damned regardless, then they would have neither the power nor the reason to make or do anything regarding their calling and election.
However, if election is of believers only, the Scriptures are correct in admonishing men to make their calling and election sure by examining whether or not they have truly believed. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. Why condemn a position that encourages men to obey the Scriptures?
13. Universal atonementists alienate themselves from that which was first delivered unto the saints, and from the first true Church which held to particular atonement, and align themselves with the doctrine of the Mother of Harlots.
As already shown above, a belief in a universal atonement is to accept the doctrines first delivered to the saints and recorded in Scripture. Then, a more careful study of history reveals that the Lord’s true churches have generally held to the doctrine of a universal atonement.
Maxwell recorded in the early 1600’s in his book “The Churches of The Valleys of Piedmont” the history of the Waldenses (an ancient group of Anabaptists) in Switzerland. In the book are printed several of their confessions of faith, giving the general time and occasion of their original publication. The earliest confession does not include a limited atonement or other Calvinistic doctrines, while the last one does. It is interesting to note that this was after Calvin came to Switzerland, that they also departed from their earlier stand of non-violence, and the remnant finally joined up with the followers of the murderer Calvin who openly denounced and opposed the Anabaptists.
Calvin himself admitted that these doctrines were not original with himself, but were from the teachings of Augustine who is to this day readily claimed by the Mother of Harlots as one of their “church fathers” and was not a Baptist.
It is also interesting to note in Cathcart’s encyclopaedia of the Baptists (published over a century ago) that in England in the early 1600’s when it finally became possible to admit to being Baptist without being burnt at the stake, over 100 Baptist churches suddenly appeared, most of which were distinguished as believing in a universal atonement, the first and earliest confession of faith being that of the “Universal Baptists”. There did follow churches that held to a “particular atonement”, but the doctrines of Calvin were being preached throughout much of Europe by then. There have then existed among the Baptists down to this day men and churches holding to both positions.
THE SCRIPTURES TEACH THE PREDESTINATION OF ALL BELIEVERS TO BE FULLY CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST: NOT THE PREDESTINATION OF SINNERS TO REGENERATION. Again, in Ephesians chapter 1, the central passage dealing with the Sovereign God’s purpose in creating, mention is made that He has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children”. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5). It is argued that this is sure indication that God has chosen to predestinate some people to be born again, but that is not what it says or implies at all.
A more careful study of “who” is predestinated to “what”, reveals that it is “us” (believers) who are predestinated “unto the adoption of children”. What do the Scriptures say that “the adoption of children” is? The redemption of the body, not the regeneration of the spirit! “And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23).
Adoption is not to be confused with regeneration (the new birth). When a person receives Christ as Saviour by faith, he becomes a son of God by birth: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13). Then, he is predestinated to the adoption of children which will take place at resurrection. At that time, when his salvation is completed as mentioned above, he will be completely “conformed to the image of” Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29).
Then, upon being fully conformed to the image of the Son, the child of God receives his full inheritance in Christ: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Ephesians 1:11). That the born again child of God will be resurrected fully conformed to the image of Christ and receive an inheritance with Him is without question. He is predestinated to it! As a guarantee and part of the inheritance he receives the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of adoption.” “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”(Romans 8:15). The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, is the earnest, the down payment, on the promise. “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22).
CONCLUSION. The obvious and simple conclusion, then, is that God had a plan: that in the fullness of time He might gather together in Christ many holy children in love. His plan was in omniscience and in His foreknowledge in eternity He knew all who would believe in Christ as Saviour at the moment they would believe, and in His sovereignty chose those who believed to be His sons. Out of the millions of men that would be born, He knew the few who believed and chose those few. Then, in the process of time, God gave His only begotten Son for the sin of Adam and all in Adam, and proclaimed the good news to all men that if they would only believe, they would be born again. When those whom God knew would believe actually did believe, they became God’s elect sons by new birth in Christ the only begotten Son. At that moment they received the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the inheritance they are to receive when their salvation is complete and they are resurrected with a new body, finally fully conformed to the image of the Son.
Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Amen!