By the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, all creation was redeemed from the bondage of evil and each soul was offered redemption from the bondage of sin. As this impacts the souls of mankind:
Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
- Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:29, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; Rom 3:21-25, 5:12-18; Eph 2:8-10; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:14-15)
See also Sections 2.22, 8.6, 8.9 and 8.11 of Theology Corner.
This is a core belief of Wesleyan/ Arminian theology. Reformed theology has a different take. It teaches that salvation from the consequences of sin is not offered, but is, in fact, assigned to a select few called the elect of God who were chosen before the universe was formed. The others, called reprobate, were unconditionally condemned to Hell. In other words, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is limited in scope. Jesus died on the cross only for the elect.
The idea that the substitutionary atonement was made only for a few and those few alone are saved, cannot be found in Scripture. Rather, this idea is a product of the intellectual gymnastics of Augustine and Calvin. It goes something like this:
- God is holy and sovereign. No one can stand against His will.
- Man is evil and helpless before God.
- No man can be saved unless God changes his will, intellect, and heart. Man is converted, not because he wills, but he wills because he is converted. Regeneration precedes faith!
- Not all men are saved which means God chose only certain elect men for regeneration.
- It is inconceivable that Christ should die for anyone other than the elect; otherwise, His mission is a failure.
- Therefore, the atonement must logically be limited in scope to the elect.
Limited Atonement is only one link in the logically tight system of Reformed Theology which, in its entirety, can be substantially abbreviated by the five points of the TULIP:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the saints
The T indicates the total depravity of man. The "U" indicates the elect of God were unconditionally selected for salvation before the world was formed. The "L" means Jesus died only for the elect; the sins of the non-elect (or reprobate) are not covered by the substitutionary atonement. The "I" suggests the elect cannot resist the grace of God even if they choose to do so. The "P" reinforces the inevitability and permanence of salvation for the elect.
Wesleyan/Arminian Theology and Reformed Theology are diametrically opposed. Nevertheless, certain recent theologians (i.e., T. C. Oden, Systematic Theology) seem to seek some kumbaya moment of reconciliation so that each side can claim to be at least partially correct; this might allow the possibility of at least some semblance of Christian unity. Unfortunately, the two theologies are mutually exclusive. If one is true, the other is not only false, but diabolically false. The following three questions will illustrate.
When Isaiah says,
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6)
he confirms that the iniquity of all those who have gone astray has been laid on Christ. Does ‘all’ mean all persons or all elect persons? Is this verse written to all mankind or only to the elect of God? If it is written only to the elect, then why is God deceiving us by concealing that fact?
Many Scriptural passages make it the duty of men and women to believe in Jesus Christ. The inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God places all mankind under the penalty of guilt and death for rejecting the Gospel message. For example,
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (John 3:36)
Does ‘whoever’ mean anyone of the human race or anyone of the elect. If ‘whoever’ refers only to the elect, then the verse is meaningless since none of the elect can reject Jesus Christ. If ‘whoever’ includes the non-elect (reprobates), why would God cruelly imply they could accept the impossible invitation to believe?
Many passages confirm that the failure of man to obtain salvation is entirely the result of his own opposing will and wholly his own fault.
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev 22:17)
Once again, does ‘whoever’ mean anyone of the human race or anyone of the elect. If ‘whoever’ refers only to the elect, then the verse is meaningless since none of the elect could reject the water of life. If ‘whoever’ includes the non-elect (reprobates), why would God cruelly imply they could accept the impossible invitation to drink?
If ‘all’ and ‘whoever’ refer only to the elect, then God is a deceiver and a trickster who delights in the confusion and suffering of mankind. The theology implicit in the Calvinist’s response to all three questions, is that God is going to afflict reprobates with evil, in this world and for eternity in hell, for reasons known only to Himself. Perhaps He is self-glorified by the manifestation of evil or perhaps He is merely amused as the souls of reprobates descend into hell. Who could know the mind of such a God? Proponents of this theology reason that God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. But are you inclined to worship a God who is somehow self-glorified or amused by deliberately bestowing fear, hopelessness, decay, violence, disease, suffering, death and irreversible, eternal damnation on most of mankind? Does Scripture attribute unmitigated evil to the immutable will of a God so loving that He offers to purify each of us by imputing our iniquity to Himself? Could it be that the proponents of this theology are attributing Satan's evil to God as a slight twist on the assertion of their predecessors who attributed God's goodness to Satan (Mat 12:22-32)?