Siloam's Pool
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Hey guys! I am honored that you would take the time to read this blog. I hope that what I have to share will be worth your time. You may ask yourself, "What's up with the title of this blog?" The title Siloam's Pool comes from John 9:7. There was a man who came to Jesus who was born blind. As Jesus and the disciples passed by the man, Jesus used this man's condition to teach an important spiritual lesson to his followers. Jesus affirmed that the man had been born blind in order that God might be honored through this man's life. Then Jesus said in a dramatic statement, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:4-5). He then told the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The name "Siloam" means "sent." The man went and washed and came back seeing. It is my hope that through this blog, that perhaps someone might see as a result of the truth that is shared here. I will do my best to honor your time. God bless!

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09
Is Christ's Atonement Limited or Unlimited
October 9, 2008

 

            There is much debate over whether Christ’s atonement is limited or unlimited. Many of the dividing lines on this issue can be found in reference to reformed or non-reformed theologians. For those of the former standing, many are of the opinion that the atonement is limited. For those of the latter, the atonement is a general atonement that pays for the sins of the entire world. At the heart of the debate lies the issue of election. Does Christ simply pay for the sins of the elect or does he pay for the sins of all people? If the latter, then does this view lead to universalism?
 
            Grudem highlights the difficulty of this argument and the implications that it has for the church. He mentions that reformed thinkers argue that if the atonement is unlimited, then there is no payment left for sin; however, non-reformed thinkers argue that if the atonement is limited, then the gospel must also be limited (Grudem, 594-595). Also at question is the possibility of wasted blood.
 
            I personally believe that the atonement is unlimited in its scope. Some argue that if it is unlimited in scope, then there is no longer a penalty for sin (Grudem, 594). I believe that there is no problem in reconciling these two issues, because the ultimate sin, the unpardonable sin, is the rejection of the gospel. That rejection is what condemns us (John 3:18), and I believe that Thomas was right in saying that “Christ died sufficiently for all, but effectually for believers only (Nelson, 125).” Holding to a general view of the atonement does not mean that there are no longer penalties for sin. It means that the payment for our sin has been effected, but it is not applied until we actually accept it. I can have a hundred dollar bill ready to give to a person, but unless they accept that gift, it is not theirs. I think the fact that God has already paid for the sin debt of everyone only makes us even more guilty should we reject the gospel. After all, John 3:17-18 says that we condemn ourselves already by our unbelief. There also is no wasted blood in that the blood that redeems us is also the blood that will seal our doom should be not “plunge beneath the cleansing flood.” Christ blood stands as a testimony for or against us.
 
            Opinions are great, but they are just opinions. One always needs to go to the Scriptures to make a stance on a doctrine. Grudem points to several Scriptures that are used to support the doctrine of limited atonement. John 10:11 refers to Christ laying down His life for His sheep. He also argues that Romans 8:32-33 make the point that God gives all things to a specific group of people, the elect. Ephesians 5:25 makes the reference to Christ giving up His life for the church. John 17:9 records Jesus praying for those the Father had given to Him. Grudem also cites many other references that seem to have the same thrust, that of Christ dying for a specific group of people (Grudem, 595).
 
            These Scriptures are often used to support the viewpoint of a limited atonement; however, they fall short of proving this view. They do seem to indicate that Christ has died for a specific group of people, but they do not limit his death only to that group. It seems that Christ’s death is being applied to those of the elect in these passages, but nowhere does he limit Christ’s death only to those elect.
 
            Nelson points out several key texts to consider in taking the viewpoint of the general view of the extent atonement (Nelson, 127). First, John 3:16 clearly has the whole world in view when it speaks of God giving up His Son for all mankind. In the ransom passage of 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Paul refers to Christ dying for all people. In 2 Corinthians 5:19, Paul says that we are to be ambassadors to the world and that God is reconciling the world to Himself through us. Hebrews 2:9 says that Christ tasted death for everyone. Nelson points out that the most determinative of texts on the general view of atonement are those of 2 Peter 2:1 and 3:9 where Peter is specifically speaking of those who are unbelievers and God’s desire that none of them should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and that many of the false teachers denied the Master who had bought them (2 Peter 2:1) (Nelson, 130).
 
            Looking at the Scriptures, it seems that the scale is tipped in the direction of the general view of atonement. The reformed view fails to exclude those who are not considered the elect, even though the Scriptures cited do refer to Christ’s specific atonement of the elect. The general view of atonement presents some very convincing arguments from Scripture in that many of those who are false teachers are said to have been bought by their Master and that Christ reconciled the whole world to Himself. A person’s view of the scope of the atonement really boils down to what they believe about the doctrine of election. If God died only for the elect whom he predestined to faith in Christ, then it is easier for a person to believe that Christ death only paid for the sins of the elect and not those of the whole world. However, if a person believes that free will has a greater force on a person and that God died for all of mankind and is not willing that any should perish, then it becomes clear that the atonement must be general in scope.
 
            I do believe that Grudem makes a great distinction in finding common ground on the subject. He points out that there are some points of agreement that both sides agree on. First, neither holds to universalism. No one is saying that all will be saved, but only those whose faith is in Christ. Second, both sides agree that the gospel is a free gift of God to all mankind. Neither believes that a person who comes to Christ would be turned away. Finally, both sides agree that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Regardless of one’s view of the extent of the atonement, it is essential that a person hold to these three principles. It is also essential that we seek to fulfill the great commission and share the gospel with those that are lost. This issue should not divide us, but should foster great discussion and help us grow in our faith in the Lord.
 

 
***References to Nelson and Grudem are from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and Dr. David Nelson's The Disign, Nature, and Extent  of the Atonement. Articles available by request.

 

 

           
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