Chapter 7: Atoned For The Elect (continued)
We will close this chapter by adding to what has been said about Christ’s dying and making satisfaction for the elect only a few remarks concerning the Arminian presentation of this matter.
First of all, it should be evident that the Arminian view of election can be of no value or help to him in the defense of a Christus pro omnibus, a Christ for all. The former cannot really serve as a basis for the latter.
Also the Arminian professes to believe in the truth of election. It is too plainly taught in the Scriptures to be denied altogether. No one who believes the Bible, and claims to derive his doctrine from the Scriptures, can simply ignore the truth that God him chosen His people from before the foundation of the world. Bid the Arminian offers his own explanation of this truth. He has his own conception of sovereign election unto salvation. According to him, eternal election is based on God’s prescience, His foreknowledge of those that would believe in Christ, and, that would persevere unto the end. He did not choose sovereignly, without respect to works. He chose them that, in His foreknowledge or prevision, He knew would accept Christ as their Savior.
But let us suppose for a moment that this view is correct. Can the doctrine of universal atonement be made to rest upon this view of election as its basis?
Plainly, this is impossible.
If God foreknew from eternity the number of them that will believe in Christ, and accept Him as their Savior, it is evident that this number is fixed. It cannot be changed. No one can add to it, nor can anyone ever subtract from it. For, either God foreknew this number with divine certainty, and then the number of the foreknown elect is unchangeably determined; or the number of them that are saved is undetermined, contingent upon the mind and will of man, but then even God does not foreknow it. But again, if God foreknew with absolute certainty the number of them that would be saved in Christ, if He had written all their names in the book of His foreknowledge from before the foundation of the world. He has that number in His mind and heart eternally, and eternally, with an unchangeable love, He loves them. He knew them as such in the hour of Christ’s suffering on the accursed tree. And Christ as the Son of God knew them. What is more, if He foreknew all that would believe and be saved through the blood of Christ, He also knew with the same divine, unchangeable certainty, all that would reject the Christ and hate Him, and crucify Him afresh. And even as He knew His own in love, so He foreknew the enemies of Christ in divine hatred. Foreknowing this, and knowing this, i.e. being unchangeably mindful of this foreknowledge in love and foreknowledge of hatred,, is it even conceivable that God gave Hits! Son unto the death of the cross for those whom He foreknew as His everlasting enemies in wrath and hatred? And is it conceivable that Christ, also foreknowing all that would not believe in Him, would, nevertheless, pay the price of their redemption for them?
It should be evident that the doctrine of an election based on the foreknowledge of God cannot possibly serve as the ground of the theory that Christ shed His lifeblood for all.
He necessarily atoned only for the elect.
Finally, it must be pointed out that the Arminian doctrine of a Christus pro omnibus, of universal atonement, is, in principle, a denial of vicarious atonement.
If Christ died for all, He died instead of no one!
And, if the Arminian will only be consistent, and carry out this doctrine to its utmost consequences, he will prove to be a modernist. History, the history of dogma, clearly proves this statement. No church can with impiety deny the doctrine of sovereign election and of particular atonement.
That is the grave danger for the church of the Arminian view.
Let us make plain the intrinsic necessity of the movement from Arminianism to modernism, from the doctrine that Christ died for all to the denial that He atoned at all, i.e. that He fully satisfied for all our sins.
What is the implication of the doctrine of vicarious atonement and satisfaction? It means: 1. That sin is guilt, liability to punishment, worthiness of God’s wrath and damnation. 2. That the justice of God must be satisfied: if the sinner is ever to be received by God in favor, be freed from the power of death, and be made worthy of life. 3. That the justice of God can only be satisfied by a payment that is made for sin, and that this payment must consist in bearing the wrath of God and the punishment for sin by an act of perfect obedience in love. 4. That, while the sinner can never perform this act of perfect obedience and satisfy the justice of God. God ordained His only begotten Son to represent them as the Christ, and to perform the act of obedience unto and in death for them, in their stead. 5. That Christ did just this on the cross. He represented us. He was our Vicar. And because He was legally before God our Vicar, He was able to take our sin, the guilt and responsibility for them, upon Himself. And He suffered and died in our stead. He fully paid for all our sins. This is simply an objective fact. All the guilt of sin of those for whom Christ died on the tree is forever blotted out. Objectively, they whom Christ represented on the cross are justified and worthy of eternal life. They can never be condemned.
Let us clearly understand this, for the truth of vicarious atonement means exactly this.
Suppose that one hundred people owe a debt of one thousand dollars each to a certain creditor. And imagine that some millionaire, loving those people and understanding that they have nothing to pay their debt, approaches their creditor and pays him one hundred thousand dollars to cancel the debt of the one hundred. Are not ail the one hundred debtors debt-free? Can the creditor ever exact another payment from them? You agree: their debt is paid once for all; no payment can be demanded of them anymore. Suppose their benefactor announces to the one hundred debtors that he fully paid all they owed their creditor; and suppose again that they do not believe him; does that make any difference as to their debt-free state?You say: of course not, for their being free from all debt does not depend upon their believing the fact of its having been paid, but simply upon the act of their benefactor by which he satisfied the demands of the creditor. Their benefactor vicariously satisfied the righteous demand of their creditor, and for ever paid all their debt in their stead. Suppose that the law of the land is that any debtor that does not pay his debts can be sentenced to jail; can the one hundred for whom their benefactor paid, ever be so sentenced, whether they believe or disbelieve that their debt is paid? Of course not. They are free from punishment.
Now let us apply this illustration to the vicarious atonement and satisfaction of Christ according to the Arminian view that Christ died for all. What follows? You answer: if Christ really satisfied for the sins of all men, if He really paid the debt for all, it must follow that all are objectively justified before God, and that all are saved. And you are right. For their justification, the cancelling of their debt with God and their eternal righteousness does not at all depend upon their faith in this objective justification, but only on the objective fact of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, their benefactor. Suppose they do not believe that Christ’s sacrifice atoned for their sins; does that make the fact of none effect? Of course not. Can God! justly demand payment for their sins from them? No; the punishment for sin is born once for all, and all are free and worthy of life.
Vicarious atonement necessarily implies that all for whom Christ atoned are absolutely, objectively, for ever free from the guilt of sin, and worthy of eternal life.
If, then, Christ vicariously atoned for all men, all are saved, and all will have eternal life.
But the fact is, and even the Arminian must face it, that all men are not actually saved.
The Arminian proposition, therefore, must be, and actually is: Christ died for all men, but all men are not justified and saved.
What follows from this Arminian proposition as to the value and power of the death of Christ? This, that although He died for all men, He did not vicariously atone for all, for if He had all men would be justified before God and be worthy of eternal life.
And, therefore, the man who teaches that Christ died for all men must deny that Hiss death has the power of vicarious satisfaction. He must invent other theories of the death of Christ, such as the governmental, the moral, the mystical conception, which we already discussed:, and exposed as false and contrary to Scripture.
And thus, Arminianism is, in principle, nothing ,but modernism.
The doctrine of universal atonement is very dangerous for the Church of Christ in the world.
And this also holds- for the camouflaged Arminianism that professes to believe in sovereign election, and in particular atonement, but presents the gospel as a well-meaning offer of salvation on the part of God to all men without distinction. God’s well-meaning “offer” of salvation cannot possibly be wider in scope than the objective satisfaction and justification of the cross of Christ. And those that preach a well-meaning offer of God to all men, must and will ultimately embrace the doctrine of universal atonement also.
Let us contend for the true faith, and by God’s grace keep ourselves far from all these Arminian corruptions!
Chapter 8: Christ Our Intercessor.
In the eighth chapter of his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes: “who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” vs. 34.
The meaning is, that however important it may be that Christ died, and that, therefore, there is no power anywhere in the universe that is able to condemn us, it is of still greater importance that He is risen again, that He is exalted at the right hand of God, and. that in heaven He makes intercession for His people with the Father. In fact, His death would be of no avail, could be of no benefit to us, had He not also risen again, for His resurrection is God’s own seal upon His vicarious sacrifice and perfect obedience. And again, the power of His resurrection would never become a power of salvation for us, had not the risen Christ also ascended up to heaven, and were He not at the right hand of God, ever living to make intercession for us. What we need is the living Christ to save us. We do need the Christ crucified, who was delivered for our transgressors, the Jesus for us. But no less do we need the Christ exalted, the living Christ who has the power to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death, and to make us actual partakers of eternal life, the Christ in us. Even as it belonged to the office of the typical high priest of the old dispensation to sacrifice in behalf of the people, but also to pray for them, and: to bless them with the blessings of Jehovah their God, so it belongs to the high priestly office of our Savior, not only that He brings the perfect sacrifice in their stead and in their behalf, but also that He intercedes for them, and makes them partaker of all the spiritual blessings of grace.
The work of Christ is not finished on the cross.
It is true that just before He died the Savior cried out: “It is finished.” But this next to the last cross utterance dare not be interpreted: as signifying that all that pertains to the work of salvation, as far as our Lord was concerned in it, was now accomplished, and that henceforth He can rest and wait for the fruit upon His labors. The outcry must rather be understood as having reference to His suffering, to the perfect sacrifice which He was to bring on the cross. In His flesh He must suffer death in all its horrible darkness. He must taste the depth of ‘death before He gave up the ghost. He must bear the full burden of the wrath of God against the sin of His people. There was, therefore, a measure for His suffering. And that measure was now filled. Whatever He had to suffer in the flesh had been born to the end. Obediently He had entered into the nethermost parts of the earth. Of this He is conscious even at the cross. The head of the serpent had been crushed. He may now give up the ghost, confident that He shall presently enter into the glory of His resurrection. And with a view to this accomplished sacrifice He cried out: “It is finished.”
But His work as Savior is not ended with His death on the cross.
He arose, and He entered into the glory of the Father, not merely in order to enjoy His own glory, but that the salvation He merited for His people by His perfect obedience might become the possession of all the Father had given Him.
Nor do the blessings of righteousness and life come into the possession of sinners merely by His being proclaimed and preached in all the world, and. by men’s accepting this Christ as their personal Savior.
Nor again may the matter of salvation be presented as if Christ is the mediator of atonement and reconciliation, on the basis of whose perfect sacrifice we obtained the right to righteousness’ and life, and that now it is God, apart from Christ, who makes us partakers of the benefits of Christ.
On the contrary, all the work of salvation is accomplished and perfected through Christ as the Mediator. Out of God and through Christ we receive all the blessings of grace. He is not only the Mediator of reconciliation, but also the Mediator of the application of this salvation to us, of our actual deliverance from the dominion of sin and death, of our regeneration and calling, our faith and justification, our sanctification and perseverance, our perfection and glorification. This truth is expressed in the confession that Christ is our intercessor with the Father. As the High Priest of His people He is ascended into heaven, entered: into the true holy of holies, ever lives to make intercession for them, in order that He may bless them with all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places which He merited for them by His perfect sacrifice and obedience.
Thus the Heidelberg Catechism teaches us.
Speaking of Christ as our only High Priest, the instructor not only mentions the perfect sacrifice of His body, whereby He has redeemed us, but also emphasizes that He “makes continual intercession with the Father for us.” And to this continual intercession of our only High Priest we must now pay particular attention.
Scripture very frequently refers to this prayer of Christ in our behalf.
It teaches us that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, and that He is not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but Who is in all points tempted even as we are, though without sin. And it is exactly because of the presence of this great high priest in the inner sanctuary of God that we may come boldly unto the throne of grace, confident that we will obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.. He is the forerunner, who entered: into the holies for us, there to remain a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. . In distinction from all priests that were before Him, “this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” . And “we have an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” . “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” . While, therefore, we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, and while, moreover, we have in that holiest an high priest over the house of God, we may surely draw near, and ourselves enter into the sanctuary, with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith. . “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” . Who then is he that condemneth? Christ has not only died, He is also risen, He is also at the right hand of God, He also makes intercession for us. .
Hence, according to Scripture, Christ is not only our High Priest in that He redeemeth us by the one sacrifice of His body, but also in His continual intercession, which has its answer in His blessing us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.