The Particular Nature of the Atonement: A Thought on What it Meant and What it Means, Part TwoThursday, June 02, 2005
Yesterday's post raised the question of what the limited nature of the atonement meant when it was raised in Scriptures. Today's second post will apply it to us today.
But before I apply it, let me throw out one other set of texts which came to mind today as I was driving. The coupling one key phrase in two particular texts draws the same conclusions as yesterday's post from Isaiah.
The first text is in Ephesians 1:4 where we learn that God chose us in Christ 'before the foundation of the world.' This means that before Genesis 1:1, God had already chosen or selected or elected whom He would save and make His own.
The second text is Revelation 13:8 where we learn that Christ was the Lamb slain 'from the foundation of the world.' This means that before Genesis 1:1, God had already finalized His plan to crucify His only Son.
From the second text, notice that there is a group whose names had not been written in the Lamb's book of life. This means that there was a group whose names had been written in the Lamb's book of life. The text also implies that this book of life which belongs to the Lamb is inseparably tied to the Lamb Himself. If He was slain from the foundation of the world, before the beginning of time, then His book of life had already been written at the same time.
Coupling this key phrase in both verses leads us to the conclusion that the ones God chose in Christ in Ephesians 1:4 are the ones written in the Lamb's book of life in Revelation 13:8. In both texts, the timing is before Genesis 1:1, before the beginning of time. The only viable conclusion seems to be then, that those for whom Christ was slain from before the foundation of the world are the ones God had chosen from before the foundation of the world.
Now, with that supplemental introduction consider the rest of this post as well as the next which are as vitally important to the doctrine called 'limited' or 'particular atonement'.
What It Means
For Believers: This should be a comfort and a humility to you!
To take that truth away is to take away the truth that as a believer you were most definitely in the mind of God when Jesus was suffering and dying. This truth should comfort you because you can rest fully assured that when Jesus said His work on the cross was finished, your own salvation as a believer was finally and ultimately procured.
In the words of Jesus,
“no man will be able to pluck [you] out of My hand…My father who gave [you] to me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck [you] out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:33-35.
“If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God's right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ?... I am sure that nothing can separate us from God's love…Nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! ” (CEV).
If you are a believer, then comfort yourself everyday with this truth – you were chosen by God to be loved by the Son and justified by the Father, once and for all, when He suffered and died. And what is more, since this suffering and dying was something planned before the foundation of the world (see Acts 2:23), you were actually loved and justified even then (See Ephesians 1:4-5)! Just sit back and chew on that for a while! What noteworthy or exceptional thing about your life was there for Christ to love you and die for you?
Remember, just as there were multitudes of persons who were justified by Jesus at the cross, there were multitudes who were not, and never will be. So why were you chosen? What’s so special about you? Why should Jesus bear you in mind as He was suffering, and not someone else you know who has already died rejecting Him? That, my friend, is a question to which you will never have the answer. And that, beloved, should humble you. It is called grace, and He freely gives it to whomever He wills, without revealing to us the reason why. Matthew Henry stated it best:
“There are many whom Christ justifies, not all (multitudes perish in their sins), yet many, even as many as he gave his life a ransom for, as many as the Lord our God shall call. He shall justify not here and there one that is eminent and remarkable, but those of the many, the despised multitude” (commenting on Isaiah 53:11, emphasis added).
Let the limited nature of Christ's atonement for you comfort you and humble you today. Tomorrow's post, the final in this series, will examine the difficult subject of how the limited nature of the atonement applies to unbelievers. I'm sure there'll be many foaming at the mouth over that one tomorrow!