Thoughts on the Way Home

Friday, January 18, 2008

Particular Atonement in Romans 8

I agree with the five points of Calvinism, even "Limited Atonement." I have tried to be thoughtful and unbiased about these beliefs, but much to the chagrin of other brothers and sisters along the way, I still think a "particular" or "definite" view of the atonement makes the most sense and more correctly summarizes all of what Scripture says about the death of Christ.

It's not as if I'm still under the false assumption that four-pointers are less committed to God's sovereignty, or somehow less bold. Sadly, I used to believe that. Now I know better. Believers that hold to an unlimited view of the atonement (that is, in terms of recipients, not efficacy) usually do so out of strong convictions. I no longer look down my nose at four-pointers (actually I try not to look down my nose at anyone, but sometimes that's hard when you're 6'3''). ;)

Anyways the reason I'm blogging is to say that I was present to hear a really excellent sermon last Sunday from Charles and learned that Romans 8:32 teaches the idea of "limited" or particular atonement. The sermon can be heard at If you plan on listening to the sermon, just keep in mind, it was only one point in the sermon, so you'll have to be patient until you get to it.

The passage says:
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
Here is what I hadn't thought about before. Think about who the "us" is in verse 32. Who was Christ "delivered over for?" Us. That is, those who are called of God, "called according to his purpose" (8:28). So here is a verse that specifically mentions the death of Christ in the context of predestination. Christ was delivered over for the predestined.

The more you think about it, the more the logic begins to solidify. Is he really saying Christ died for those called of God? Could he not be saying that God does call only some, but Christ still dies in the same way for all? Answer: no. Think about it, if Christ here is pictured as dying in the same way for all, then Paul's argument totally unravels. He is saying that because Christ died for you, you can be sure that you will given everything you need to make it to heaven, and that nothing will separate you from the love of Christ. But how does the fact that Christ died for me secure that? I can think of a lot of people that Christ "died for" (in the general sense) that still went to Hell! How is that comforting?!

But that's just it, Paul is not talking about the death of Christ in the general way that sometimes the bible does, as an offer available to all men. He is talking about something special for the elect.

His whole purpose so far is to explain to the Romans what Charles has been calling the "golden chain" of salvation. First, God foreknows or (sets his love on) a people, then he predestines that group to be like Christ, then he calls them out and draws them to salvation, then he justifies them, then he glorifies them. That's the chain. And his whole point is this. In this unbreakable chain of salvation that God has put together, he has already done the hardest part. He has already delivered over his Son on behalf of this chosen people. The great sacrifice has already been made. Therefore, if God would be willing to go this far to bring about our salvation, he will certainly not fail to follow through with any of the minor details that are needed to bring you into glory!

So here, God's loving act of delivering over Christ, must specifically be in reference to his doing so for the sake of the elect, and not for everyone generally, because Paul is definitely saying that these people that Christ died for will be saved. Romans 8:32 then, is yet another verse clearly referring to the special purpose of God in Christ dying for the elect. It fits the use of the pronoun "us" and it totally fits his argument of the security of our salvation from the chain that God has purposed to complete.

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I'm told Murray makes a big point of this in his Redemption Accomplished and Applied. I've never read it though.

Anyways, as much pressure I get being a five-pointer sometimes, it's nice to have another verse to help people come to see the whole counsel of God, when it comes to the truth about our Lord's atonement.

Surely, as a guilty, fallen sinner, if there is one thing to know and pursue knowing more, it's the redemption found in Christ.