Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The God-box: The Atonement (Actual or Hypothetical?)

This may seem a bit odd that I am addressing this as part of the “God-box”, I mean after all, how could one be putting God in a box by holding the popular view of the atonement among American evangelicals today – that of Christ paying for the sins of every man in the world?! Wouldn’t the view of atonement that puts God in a box be that of the “limited atonement” view?
The truth is that both limit the atonement. The “Limited” view (AKA Definite Atonement) would picture Christ work on the cross as a bridge that is narrow but spans the entirety of the gap. The “Unlimited” view (Hypothetical Atonement) can be likened to a wide bridge that goes half-way across. So both really limit the atonement, the question is which one is biblical.
If we opt for the limitation that is not Scriptural then once again we are placing God in our preconceived box. Essentially, we are opting for a god other than that presented in Scripture.
So what does the Bible say about Christ’s death? I intend to look at multiple passaged, but lets begin looking at the most well known prophecy of the atoning work of our LORD.We will look at more in following posts.  As you read the passage here are the questions I intend to see if the passages adresses and answers:
1. Why was Christ crucified?
2. What was accomplished by His death?
3. For whom was it accomplished (who is the “us” in the passage)?
Isaiah 53 (emphasis added)
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
1. Why was Christ crucified?
“he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”, Christ was crucified as the bearer of our griefs, as the hymn says “He took our sins and our sorrows, He made them His very own”. It was not His own he was suffering for, for He was sinless. As made evident when Isaiah said, “although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth”  The prophet goes on to say that, Christ was“wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities”, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. Christ was “stricken for the transgression of my people” thus making it ever more evident that Christ was suffering for the sins of others, not His own. We are told that  “it was the will of the Lord to crush him”, that all of this was part of God’s eternal plan. Even further we see that Christ was an offering for sin “when his soul makes an offering for guilt”, and just like the sacrifices of the Passover, He took on Him the iniquities of those for whome He was offered making intercession for them. “and he shall bear their iniquities”, “he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. We will address who’s sins He bore later, but for now we are just answering the first question of “why did Jesus die?” The answer in summary form is that He died in the place of transgressors as the transgressor. He died in the place of sinners to make an offering for their sins.
2. What was accomplished by His death?
It has been established by the above verses that Christ died to substitute the warranted death of sinners. He did so, taking their sin on Himself and bearing the punishment due them; but what did He accomplish by this sin bearing? Was it just the possibility of salvation for those He died for, or did He secure their salvation? We are told that “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” His chastisement was for the sins of men, and in thus suffering He brought peace, not the offer, but actually brought it. Just as when one brings peace to a heavy heart, the heart is calmed, not still in turmoil until peace is accepted. Peace was obtained through Christ’s suffering. The second half of the verse says that we are healed by His stripes. Again, there is a vast difference between being offered healing, and being healed. A physician who offers healing is not the same as a physician who actually heals.
We are told further “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” As He made the offering for guilt, we are told that He saw those who would be born out of His suffering! He knew those for whom He was dying and saw their life in His death. And incase we think there is anything left to chance we are told that the will of The LORD will be accomplished through Christ.
Isaiah continues under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied”. Here, again, we see that Christ knew exactly what He was intending and knew He was accomplishing that intention to his complete satisfaction; and we are told what that intention was that Christ aimed at when Isaiah says, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous”. Christ was dying to justify the wicked. When we look at what has been said here we see that Christ died to bring peace, heal, make righteous, and justify those for whom He was a sacrifice for; and that He actually did exactly what He intended to do!
3. For whom was it accomplished (who is the “us” in the passage)?
We are told that He bore “our griefs”, “our sorrows”, “our trangressions”, “our iniquities”,”all we like sheep have gone astray”, “the iniquity of us all” that He was “striken for the transgression of my people”, and that He “make many to be accounted righteous and bear their iniquities” and “bore the sin of many”. So who are the “us” in this passage? Who is it that this salvation is purchased for. If we let the common preconceived notion answer this question than we will take the “us all” and say that is every single person that has ever lived, since we all have gone astray like sheep. But to make the logical deduction that since every man is a sinner that merits Christ dying to save every man, would be to leave Scripture and begin to read into the text what we desire it to say. For example: we are told that He makes intercession for the transgressors. The fallen angels are transgressors as are we, but we do not find Christ interceding for fallen angels, rather we are told that He did not spare them. We understand, from the context of the passage, that the work of Christ on the cross doesn’t include every sinful creature, but only those of the race of Adam. Just as we allow the context to determine the race for whom Christ died, so we must allow it to interpret the extent for that race. And we find that it is not every individual of Adam’s decent, but rather all of a selected group out of the Adamic race for we are told that it is for the transgression of “my people”, that He made “many righteous”, and He bore the sin of “many”. By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, by keeping it in context, we find that the all who have gone astray are the all for whom Christ died. All He died for are sinful, but that does not mean that He died for all that are sinful. God didn’t spare the angels that fell, and He is under no obligation to spare us. This passage limits the group down to a predetermined number of humanity already fixed in the mind of God. This passage affirms that all who Christ died for were sinners.
We also know He did not bear the sins of everyone for we are told that His purpose would prosper, and Christ would be satisfied in having his desire fulfilled in those for whom He died being brought peace, healed, made righteous, justified; so we know that Christ didn’t intend this for every man, for every man isn’t saved. (If one poses the argument that Christ only attempted to offer peace, healing, justification, ect. See question #2 above. )
By looking @ Isaiah 53 with the three questions in mind concerning the atonement made by Jesus Christ we see that the reformed doctrine of “Limited Atonement” is in accordance with Scripture.
I am aware that this, if not something you have already considered, may seem as if there is no reason to evangelize, but let me end this post with a quote from an article by Jim Ellis.
Asumption: “Secondly, that a universal aspect of the atonement is perceived as necessary for a bona fide offer of the gospel to all men. Answer: The truth of the gospel is to be proclaimed to all men. For example, “All men are under condemnation and hell bound because of their sin. There is no escape apart from faith in Christ. By the grace of God, all who believe in him are forgiven and shall be saved. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!” Now this truth is not dependent on a universal aspect or universal intent to the atonement. In fact, the extent of the atonement and its sufficiency or efficiency have no direct bearing on the message.
According to J. I. Packer, “Preaching the gospel is not a matter of telling people that God has set His love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them. The knowledge of being the object of God’s eternal love and Christ’s redeeming death belongs to the individual’s assurance . . . which is to be inferred from the fact that one has believed, not proposed as the reason one should believe,”2.
Or, as John Owen has said,
There are none called by the gospel even once to enquire after the purpose and intention of God concerning the particular object of the death of Christ, everyone being fully assured that His death shall be profitable to them that believe in him and obey him.”3.
The preacher’s task is to explain man’s need of Christ, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself as Savior to all who truly turn to Him. If you are proclaiming a gospel message that demands a universal provision in the atonement, you are not proclaiming the gospel of the Scriptures. ”
May God be glorified.

This may seem a bit odd that I am addressing this as part of the “God-box”, I mean after all, how could one be putting God in a box by holding the popular view of the atonement among American evangelicals today – that of Christ paying for the sins of every man in the world? Wouldn’t the view of atonement that puts God in a box be that of the “limited atonement” view?

The truth is that both limit the atonement. The “Limited” view (AKA Definite Atonement) would picture Christ work on the cross as a bridge that is narrow but spans the entirety of the gap. The “Unlimited” view (Hypothetical Atonement) can be likened to a wide bridge that goes half-way across. So both really limit the atonement, the question is which one is biblical.

If we opt for the view that is not Scriptural then once again we are placing God in our preconceived box. Essentially, we are opting for a god other than that presented in Scripture.

So what does the Bible say about Christ’s death? There are many passages, but lets take the most well known prophecy of the atoning work of our LORD. As you read the passage here are the questions I intend to see if the passages adresses and answers:

1. Why was Christ crucified?

2. What was accomplished by His death?

3. For whom was it accomplished (who is the “us” in the passage)?

Isaiah 53

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

9 And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and makes intercession for the transgressors.

1. Why was Christ crucified?

“he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”, Christ was crucified as the bearer of our griefs, as the hymn says “He took our sins and our sorrows, He made them His very own”. It was not His own he was suffering for, for He was sinless. As made evident when Isaiah said, “although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth”  The prophet goes on to say that, Christ was“wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities”, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. Christ was “stricken for the transgression of my people” thus making it ever more evident that Christ was suffering for the sins of others, not His own. We are told that  “it was the will of the Lord to crush him”, that all of this was part of God’s eternal plan. Even further we see that Christ was an offering for sin “when his soul makes an offering for guilt”, and just like the sacrifices of the Passover, He took on Him the iniquities of those for whome He was offered making intercession for them. “and he shall bear their iniquities”, “he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. We will address who’s sins He bore later, but for now we are just answering the first question of “why did Jesus die?” The answer in summary form is that He died in the place of transgressors as the transgressor. He died in the place of sinners to make an offering for their sins.

2. What was accomplished by His death?

It has been established by the above verses that Christ died to substitute the warranted death of sinners. He did so, taking their sin on Himself and bearing the punishment due them; but what did He accomplish by this sin bearing? Was it just the possibility of salvation for those He died for, or did He secure their salvation? We are told that “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” His chastisement was for the sins of men, and in thus suffering He brought peace, not the offer, but actually brought it. Just as when one brings peace to a heavy heart, the heart is calmed, not still in turmoil until peace is accepted. Peace was obtained through Christ’s suffering. The second half of the verse says that we are healed by His stripes. Again, there is a vast difference between being offered healing, and being healed. A physician who offers healing is not the same as a physician who actually heals.

We are told further “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” As He made the offering for guilt, we are told that He saw those who would be born out of His suffering! He knew those for whom He was dying and saw their life in His death. And incase we think there is anything left to chance we are told that the will of The LORD will be accomplished through Christ.

Isaiah continues under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied”. Here, again, we see that Christ knew exactly what He was intending and knew He was accomplishing that intention to his complete satisfaction; and we are told what that intention was that Christ aimed at when Isaiah says, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous”. Christ was dying to justify the wicked. When we look at what has been said here we see that Christ died to bring peace, heal, make righteous, and justify those for whom He was a sacrifice for; and that He actually did exactly what He intended to do!

3. For whom was it accomplished (who is the “us” in the passage)?

We are told that He bore “our griefs”, “our sorrows”, “our trangressions”, “our iniquities”,”all we like sheep have gone astray”, “the iniquity of us all” that He was “striken for the transgression of my people”, and that He “make many to be accounted righteous and bear their iniquities” and “bore the sin of many”. So who are the “us” in this passage? Who is it that this salvation is purchased for. If we let the common preconceived notion answer this question than we will take the “us all” and say that is every single person that has ever lived, since we all have gone astray like sheep. But to make the logical deduction that since every man is a sinner that merits Christ dying to save every man, would be to leave Scripture and begin to read into the text what we desire it to say. For example: we are told that He makes intercession for the transgressors. The fallen angels are transgressors as are we, but we do not find Christ interceding for fallen angels, rather we are told that He did not spare them. We understand, from the context of the passage, that the work of Christ on the cross doesn’t include every sinful creature, but only those of the race of Adam. Just as we allow the context to determine the race for whom Christ died, so we must allow it to interpret the extent for that race. And we find that it is not every individual of Adam’s decent, but rather all of a selected group out of the Adamic race for we are told that it is for the transgression of “my people”, that He made “many righteous”, and He bore the sin of “many”. By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, by keeping it in context, we find that the all who have gone astray are the all for whom Christ died. All He died for are sinful, but that does not mean that He died for all that are sinful. God didn’t spare the angels that fell, and He is under no obligation to spare us. This passage limits the group down to a predetermined number of humanity already fixed in the mind of God. This passage affirms that all who Christ died for were sinners.

We also know He did not bear the sins of everyone for we are told that His purpose would prosper, and Christ would be satisfied in having his desire fulfilled in those for whom He died being brought peace, healed, made righteous, justified; so we know that Christ didn’t intend this for every man, for every man isn’t saved. (If one poses the argument that Christ only attempted to offer peace, healing, justification, ect. See question #2 above. )

By looking @ Isaiah 53 with the three questions in mind concerning the atonement made by Jesus Christ we see that the reformed doctrine of “Limited Atonement” is in accordance with Scripture.

I am aware that this, if not something you have already considered, may seem as if there is no reason to evangelize, but let me end this post with a quote from an article by Jim Ellis.

(http://www.the-highway.com/sufficiency.html)

Asumption: “Secondly, that a universal aspect of the atonement is perceived as necessary for a bona fide offer of the gospel to all men. Answer: The truth of the gospel is to be proclaimed to all men. For example, “All men are under condemnation and hell bound because of their sin. There is no escape apart from faith in Christ. By the grace of God, all who believe in him are forgiven and shall be saved. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!” Now this truth is not dependent on a universal aspect or universal intent to the atonement. In fact, the extent of the atonement and its sufficiency or efficiency have no direct bearing on the message.

According to J. I. Packer, “Preaching the gospel is not a matter of telling people that God has set His love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them. The knowledge of being the object of God’s eternal love and Christ’s redeeming death belongs to the individual’s assurance . . . which is to be inferred from the fact that one has believed, not proposed as the reason one should believe,”2.

Or, as John Owen has said,

There are none called by the gospel even once to enquire after the purpose and intention of God concerning the particular object of the death of Christ, everyone being fully assured that His death shall be profitable to them that believe in him and obey him.”3.

The preacher’s task is to explain man’s need of Christ, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself as Savior to all who truly turn to Him. If you are proclaiming a gospel message that demands a universal provision in the atonement, you are not proclaiming the gospel of the Scriptures. ”

May God be glorified.

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