June 5, 2015

Romans 8 and the Extent of the Atonement: Help from John Murray

by Mike Riccardi

Redemption Acc&AppThe extent of the atonement continues to be one of those doctrinal discussions that tends to evoke more heat than light. I’ve always found it to be a shame that there is such widespread disagreement in the body of Christ concerning an aspect of theology that is so central to the Gospel itself: the atonement. While differences on the extent of the atonement may be less central than differences on the nature of the atonement, the question, “For whom did Christ atone?” is nevertheless a question that needs to be answered with biblical conviction.

Among the many texts that do get mentioned in these discussions, one text that I’ve very rarely seen discussed in personal conversation is Romans 8:28–39. And yet this text has very significant implications with respect to the particularity or universality of Christ’s redemption. Because, it seems, Romans 8 tends to get lost in the shuffle of exegetical and theological debate related to the L of TULIP, I thought I would reproduce a selection from John Murray’s classic, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, in which he demonstrates the role that Romans 8 plays in this discussion.

He asks the question, “Is there not also more direct evidence provided by the Scripture to show the definite or limited extent of the atonement?” and answers, “There are indeed many biblical arguments.” The first he addresses is Romans 8:31–39.

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There is no question but that on two occasions in this passage, explicit reference is made to the death of Christ—“he that spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all” (ver. 32) and “Christ Jesus is the one who died, yea rather is raised up” (ver. 34). Hence, any indication given in this passage respecting extent would be pertinent to the question of the extent of the atonement.

Verses 31–32: The “us” is conditioned by vv. 28–30

In verse 31 Paul asks the question: “What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” We are compelled to ask the question: of whom is Paul speaking? In other words, what is the denotation of the expressions “for us” and “against us”?

The answer is that the denotation cannot be other than that provided by the preceding context, namely, those spoken of in verses 28–30. It would be impossible to universalize the denotation of verse 31 if we are to think biblically, and it would be exegetically monstrous to break the continuity of Paul’s thought and extend the reference of verse 31 beyond the scope of those spoken of in verse 30. This means therefore that the denotation in view in the words “for us” and “against us” in verse 31 is restricted, and restricted in terms of verse 30.

When we proceed to verse 32 we find that Paul again uses this expression “for us” and adds the word “all”—“he that spared not his own Son but delivered Him up for us all.” Here he is dealing expressly with those on whose behalf the Father delivered up the Son. And the question is: what is the scope of the expression, “for us all”?

It would be absurd to insist that the presence of the word “all” has the effect of universalizing the scope. The “all” is not broader than the “us.” Paul is saying that the action of the Father in view was on behalf of “all of us” and the question is simply the scope of the “us.”

John Murray PortraitThe only proper answer to this question is that the “us” in view in verse 32 is the “us” in view in verse 31. It would be doing violence to the most elementary rules of interpretation to suppose that at verse 32 Paul had broadened the scope of those to whom he is speaking and included many more than he included in the protestation of verse 31. In fact Paul is continuing his protestation and saying that not only is God for us but will also freely give us all things. And the guarantee of this resides in the fact that the Father gave up his Son on our behalf.

Verse 32: Christ died for those who receive all things from the Father

Lest there should be any doubt as to the restricted denotation of the words, “for us all”’ in verse 32, it is well to be reminded that the giving up of the Son is correlative with the free bestowal of all good gifts. We may not extend the scope of the sacrifice of the Son beyond the scope of all the other free gifts—every one on whose behalf the Father delivered up the Son becomes the beneficiary of all other gifts of grace. To put it briefly, those contemplated in the sacrifice of Christ are also the partakers of the other gifts of saving grace— “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Verse 33: The “us” is “God’s elect”

When we proceed to verse 33 the restrictive scope becomes unquestionably patent. For Paul says: “who will bring a charge against the elect of God? God is the one who justifies: who is he who condemns?” The thought moves strictly within the orbit defined by election and justification, and the reference to election and justification harks back to verses 28–30 where predestination and justification are shown to be coextensive.

Verse 34: Christ intercedes for all whom He died for

At verse 34 Paul again refers to the death of Christ. He does so in a way that is significant for our present interest in two respects.

His appeal to the death of Christ is coordinated with the fact that it is God who justifies. And he does this for the purpose of vindicating the elect of God against any charge that might be brought against them and to support his challenge, “who shall lay a charge against the elect of God?” It is the elect and the justified that Paul has in mind here in his appeal to the death of Christ, and there is no reason for going outside the denotation provided by election and justification when we seek to discover the extent of Christ’s sacrificial death.

The second respect in which his reference here to the death of Christ is significant is that he appeals to the death of Christ in the context of its sequel in the resurrection, the session at the right hand of God, and the intercession on our behalf. Again Paul uses this expression “for us” and he uses it now in connection with intercession—“who also makes intercession for us.”

Rom 8;34Two observations bear directly upon our question. First, the expression “for us” in this case must be given the restricted denotation which we found already in verse 31. It is impossible to universalize it not only because of the restrictive scope of the whole context but also because of the very nature of intercession as availing and efficacious.

Second, because of the way in which the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ are coordinated in this passage, it would be quite unwarranted to give to the death of Christ a more inclusive reference than is given to his intercession. When Paul says here, “it is Christ that died,” he of course means that “Christ died for us,” just as in verse 32 he says that the Father “delivered him up for us all.” We cannot give wider scope to the “for us” implied in the clause, “it is Christ that died” than we can give to the “for us” expressly stated in the clause, “who also makes intercession for us.” Hence we see that we are led into impossible suppositions if we try to universalize the denotation of those referred to in these passages.

Verses 35–39: Atoning love ensures eternal security

Finally, we have the most cogent consideration of all. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35–39). Paul is here affirming in the most emphatic way, in one of the most rhetorical conclusions of his epistles, the security of those of whom he has been speaking. The guarantee of this security is the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. And the love of God here spoken of is undoubtedly the love of God towards those who are embraced in it.

Now the inevitable inference is that this love from which it is impossible to be separated and which guarantees the bliss of those who are embraced in it is the same love that must be alluded to earlier in the passage when Paul says, “He that spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (ver. 32). It is surely the same love, called in verse 39 “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus,” that constrained the Father to deliver up his own Son. This means that the love implied in verse 32, the love of giving the Son, cannot be given a wider reference than the love which, according to verses 35–39, insures the eternal security of those who are its objects. If not all men enjoy this security, how can that which is the source of this security and the guarantee of its possession embrace those who enjoy no such security?

We see, therefore, that the security of which Paul here speaks is a security restricted to those who are the objects of the love which was exhibited on Calvary’s accursed tree, and therefore the love exhibited on Calvary is itself a distinguishing love and not a love that is indiscriminately universal. It is a love that insures the eternal security of those who are its objects and Calvary itself is that which secures for them the justifying righteousness through which eternal life reigns. And this is just saying that the atonement which Calvary accomplished is [particular, and] not universal.

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Update: For the sake of capturing Murray’s argument, here’s my attempt at a summary:

(1) Based on Romans 8:32, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over will, along with Christ, be given “all things” by the Father. “All things” is understood as all the saving benefits of God’s grace. I think all sides would agree on this. Since the non-elect do not receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace (e.g., rescue from eternal punishment), they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

(2) Based on the fact that, in Romans 8:33, Paul identifies the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over to be “God’s elect,” Murray argues that Christ was not delivered over for those who are non-elect.

(3) Based on Romans 8:34, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over will also be the beneficiaries of His present intercessory ministry at the Father’s right hand. Since Christ is not presently interceding before the Father on behalf of the non-elect, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

(4) Based on Romans 8:35–39, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over enjoy the blessedness of eternal security; they cannot be separated from the love of Christ. Since the non-elect will in fact be separated from the love of Christ as they perish for their sins in hell, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

Some have responded by arguing to this effect: “Yes, Paul is speaking of those for whom Christ died in Romans 8, but he’s not speaking of all for whom Christ died. Christ died for others (namely, the non-elect) as well; but he’s just not speaking about them here. However, Paul’s universalistic language in this text rules that out. It is almost tautological to say that, when Paul speaks of the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over, He is speaking of all for whom Christ was delivered over. If Paul meant to be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died, why would he use the universalistic language, “us all”? Why wouldn’t he just say, “for us,” or something equivalent?

Indeed, it would undermine the express purpose of Paul’s entire argument in Romans 8:31–39 to suggest that the “us all” could be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died. His argument is to give encouragement and assurance to those who are beneficiaries of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by speaking of the benefits that accrue to them from His death. If not everyone for whom He died is guaranteed those benefits, why make His death the basis for his encouragement and their assurance? It would be no comfort, since the troubled saints could simply respond, “What does Christ’s death have to do with my security? He died for everyone without exception, and millions are separated from Christ’s love!” This means that the “us all” in this passage refers to everyone for whom Christ was delivered over.

So the argument can be represented this way:

(a) the “us all” refers to everyone for whom Christ was delivered over;
(b) everyone for whom Christ was delivered over receives all the Father’s saving blessings;
(c) everyone for whom Christ was delivered over benefit from Christ’s present intercession in heaven;
(d) no one for whom Christ was delivered over can ever be separated from Christ’s love;
(e) (b) through (d) cannot be said of the non-elect;
therefore (f): Christ was delivered over for the elect alone.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
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  • AK Lone Dingo

    To Read: “Perspectives On the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views”. A very helpful and readable book where good men make their case with responses from the other two. Extensive footnotes (my favorite!!!) are listed throughout.

    M. Howard Kehr

  • AK Lone Dingo

    Oh! Murray receives more than an ‘honorable mention’…

    M. Howard Kehr

  • tovlogos

    Thanks Mike — It was also good reinforcement for careful discernment in exegesis.
    “And the question is: what is the scope of the expression, “for us all”?”

    It seems obvious from the context, There’s an immediate context, and an extended biblical context, for example, victory in Christ, which is connected to the deliverance from bondage No matter how far we extend the context it doesn’t contradict the obvious meaning of “all,” “who are in Christ Jesus.” 8:1 — even though “all” experience the conflict in two natures, immediately preceding chapter 8.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    What greater confirmation that we are the objects of His love, but to hear, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” What overwhelming joy and humility that produces in us. What strength it gives us to love others. And what hope it produces in us to persevere in all things. Praise God for this indescribable gift!

  • Quite a silly argument for such a serious topic.

    ‘For us all’? That’s the crux of Murray’s argument for limited atonement? Does that mean it remains beyond the realm of possibility that Paul was reaffirming that Christ died for every single person that belongs to Him? The simplest interpretation is usually the most likely to be intended.

    More to the point, the apostle John says in his first epistle that Christ is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn. 2:2) Are you saying the Holy Spirit, in effect, moved John to write ‘not for us Christians only, but for all Christians worldwide’?

    Because the text – and the Greek – suggests nothing of the sort. It has a clear and readily apparent for those who read it as it is and not as they wish it to be.

    Never – not one time – does any NT author ever use parallel imagery that likens the Church to the world. They are always and consistently juxtaposed in contrast to one another. So to argue that John says ‘the whole world’ and means ‘the whole church’ is flagrantly inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

    Likewise, ‘For us all’, even if it exclusively refers to Christians, says nothing about non-Christians. It’s simply not there.

    ‘For us all’ vs. ‘the sins of the whole world’: any sincere effort at harmonization fails if one contends these phrases both refer to the global body of Christ.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Could John have been referring to the Jews and the gentiles in that distinction? It is clear that the inclusion of the gentiles in salvation was something even the disciples were surprised by and marveled at. Just a thought.

      • I actually share your view of John ( and all the NT authors) having Jew vs. Gentile in mind throughout their epistles.

        But if course if you take that position, you end up seriously challenging much of Augustinian/Calvinistic theology and likely have withdrawn (or been evicted) from most ‘reformed’ circles.

    • You’re a little all over the place here.

      First, this is not the crux of Murray’s argument for limited atonement. This is his discussion on one particular text that contributes to the discussion. And it doesn’t seem that you’ve grasped the argument that he’s making.

      1 John 2:2 doesn’t mean what you claim it means, but that’s a discussion for another day — a day when the post says, “1 John 2 and The Extent of the Atonement.”

      For now, let’s stick with trying to understand what Murray’s argument actually is in Romans 8. You claim it’s “silly.” Before we engage further, I’d like to make sure that you really do understand what he is and is not claiming. To that end, could you summarize what you believe Murray to be arguing? Argue for his position the way he argues. Once we can be sure you understand what he’s saying, then we can evaluate whether or not it’s silly.

      • Fair enough.

        I understand Murray’s argument as simply this: in using the phrase ‘For us all’, Paul is saying the scope of the “us” for whom the Son was delivered up must be limited to the ‘elect’ b/c (among other reasons) the death of Christ is explicitly referred to twice in the passage.

        I guess the biggest question for me is, where does any serious theologian see fit to argue this passage is expressly dealing with the extent of the atonement? Paul begins the chapter picking up where he ended chap. 7 (“law of God” vs. “law of sin”).

        He spends most of chap. 8 outlining the role of God’s Spirit (“the law of the Spirit” in v.2) in contrasting the old covenant (law) and the new (grace), a thought that continues through v. 27.

        And in the verse in question – v. 32 – if anything, Paul is making a comparison from the lesser to the greater (‘for us all’ < 'all things') and expanding the scope of "all", not limiting it as Murray is ostensibly suggesting.

        In my view, it's a silly error – yes, I chose that word purposefully 🙂 – because it strongly resembles another popular argument for the TULIP doctrine from Romans 9:18 when Paul quotes out of the Law verbatim.

        That verse – 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy', originally from Ex. 33 – has traditionally been used as exclusionary by LA proponents.

        But in context, the Lord was announcing to Moses then – as I believe Paul is to the Roman church – that He can extend (not withhold) His saving mercy to whomever He wishes, without respect of persons.

        The statement in Ex. 33:19 is preceded by several 'I will' statements, not 'I won'ts' and culminates in the Lord revealing His glory to Moses. It's in the affirmative, not the negative.

        Like I said, even if we presume Paul has the extent of the atonement explicitly in mind (debatable), that road ends up undermining what I believe to be yours & Murray's position on LA.

        I hope I've been a bit more clear….

        • I understand Murray’s argument as simply this: in using the phrase ‘For us all’, Paul is saying the scope of the “us” for whom the Son was delivered up must be limited to the ‘elect’ b/c (among other reasons) the death of Christ is explicitly referred to twice in the passage.

          I don’t think you’ve gotten it, friend. It’s not as simplistic as you make it out to be. I’ve tried to capture Murray’s argument in summary in one of my comments to Tim below. I’ll reproduce it here:

          (1) Based on Romans 8:32, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over (again, “for us all”) will, with Christ, be given “all things” by the Father. (“All things” is understood as all the saving benefits of God’s grace. I think all sides would agree on this.) Since the non-elect / unbelievers do not receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace (indeed, they finally perish in hell!), they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

          (2) Based on the fact that, in Romans 8:33, Paul identifies the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over to be “God’s elect,” Murray argues that Christ was not delivered over for those who are non-elect.

          (3) Based on Romans 8:34, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over will also be the beneficiaries of His present intercessory ministry at the Father’s right hand. Since Christ is not presently interceding before the Father on behalf of the non-elect / unbelievers, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

          (4) Based on Romans 8:35–39, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over enjoy the blessedness of eternal security; they cannot be separated from the love of
          Christ. Since the non-elect / unbelievers will in fact be separated from the love of Christ as they perish for their sins in hell, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

          To summarize, all those for whom Christ was delivered over (a) receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace, (b) are identified as “the elect,” (c) benefit from Christ’s present intercessory ministry, and (d) can never be separated from the love of Christ. Since the non-elect / unbelievers do not receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace, are not identified as the elect, do not benefit from Christ’s present intercessory ministry, and will be separated for the love of
          Christ, the non-elect / unbelievers are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

          Now again, if your position is “Christ was delivered over for unbelievers; Paul’s just not talking about that in Romans 8,” well that is an argument from silence unless other texts establish that elsewhere. Again, I do not believe other texts do establish that elsewhere.

          But even if we confine ourselves to this text, I think we can see an exclusivity to the extent of the atonement. The “multiple intentions” position would basically hold that yes, Paul is speaking of those for whom Christ died in Romans 8, but he’s not speaking of all for whom Christ died. Christ died for others (namely, the non-elect as well); but he’s just not speaking about them here. However, Paul’s universalistic language rules that out. It’s almost tautological to say that, when Paul speaks of the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over, He is speaking of all for whom Christ was delivered over! If Paul meant to be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died, why would he use the universalistic language, “us all”? Why wouldn’t he just say, “for us,” or something equivalent?

          Indeed, it would undermine the express purpose of Paul’s entire argument in Romans 8:31–39 to suggest that the “us all” could be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died. His argument is to give encouragement and assurance to those who are beneficiaries of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by speaking of the benefits that accrue to them from His death. If not everyone for whom He died is guaranteed those benefits, why make His death the basis for his encouragement and their assurance?

          So:

          (a) the “us all” refers to everyone for whom Christ was delivered over;
          (b) the “us all” receive all the Father’s saving blessings;
          (c) the “us all” are those for whom Christ presently intercedes in heaven;
          (d) the “us all” can never be separated from Christ’s love;
          (e) (b) through (d) cannot be said of the non-elect;
          therefore (f): Christ was delivered over for the elect alone.

          What specifically do you find fault with there?

          I guess the biggest question for me is, where does any serious theologian see fit to argue this passage is expressly dealing with the extent of the atonement?

          Are you basically saying that Romans 8 is not germane to the limited atonement discussion? I’m afraid this only shows your ignorance of the discussion, my friend. While I’d hope it doesn’t need arguing that John Murray himself is quite the “serious theologian,” this very issue of Romans 8:32-34, and how the priestly offering of Christ (i.e., His death) is intimately united with the priestly intercession of Christ (cf. v. 34), is a main argument in John Owen’s classic treatment of
          this issue in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. John Piper also makes reference to it in his defense of the doctrines of grace. The new book from B&H that the first commenter mentioned, Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views, has numerous references to this text in its Scripture index. You’ll find the same in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the 700-page interdisciplinary treatment of the doctrine edited by the Gibson brothers.

          . . . because it strongly resembles another popular argument for the TULIP doctrine from Romans 9:18 [sic] . . .

          I’m not sure you’re understanding the arguments quite
          adequately. It sounds like you’re mixing categories. Romans 9:15 is a text that would be used to establish unconditional election. Now, I would agree that particular redemption flows from an understanding of unconditional election, and so maybe that’s where others haven’t made that argument to you very clearly. But the point of saying, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” is to demonstrate that God is entirely free in His salvific prerogatives; He alone, uninfluenced by anything in man (cf. 9:11-13), chooses those on whom He will lavish His saving mercy. The obvious implication is He also chooses those to whom He will not show mercy, an implication that Paul makes
          explicit in verse 18, when he says—not only that God has mercy on whom He desires—but also that He hardens whom He desires. So the choice of Isaac and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau, wind up being apt illustrations.

          • Mike-

            Before taking the time to respond, I’d just like to note that most of your replies to myself and others on this thread who disagree with you have been to the effect of ‘You just don’t get it’, summed up by your use of the words ‘ignorance’, ‘understanding’, i.e.:

            “I’m afraid this only shows your ignorance of the discussion, my friend.”

            “I’m not sure you’re understanding the arguments quite
            adequately.”

            And perhaps my favorite of the bunch: “I don’t think you’ve gotten it, friend. It’s not as simplistic as you make it out to be.”

            You can’t call me ‘friend’ and then suggest my understanding of theology is ‘simplistic’ in the same breath. It’s patronizing, esp. for a brother in the Lord.

            We’re all here defending our own POV and (ideally at least) doing so with Scripture. I find it quite telling that much of your apologetic involves questioning the opposition’s grasp of your interpretation of these long-debated passages.

            Believe me when I say, I understand your position. I am simply asserting that it’s not there in the text.

            Remember the explicit context from 8:1 down: death of the flesh vs. life of the Spirit: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

            Hearkening back to chap. 7, Paul is addressing that the ‘wretched man’
            does not face any condemnation, a truth evidenced upon what God has given to His own
            (the Spirit). And conversely, those who have not received the Spirit are
            not His own
            (v.9b). Simple.

            Regardless of the perceived merits to whatever other arguments there may be, this contrast is Paul’s primary thought throughout this whole chapter.

            This cannot be over-emphasized: the Spirit is spoken of 21 times in the chapter’s 39 verses. Twenty-one times! Contrast that with:

            “justified/justifies” – 3 times
            “predestined” – 2 times
            “elect” – 1 time

            Consider – If you were expounding on the nature and extent of
            salvation, is it not absurd to suggest that you would make mention of such central issues (justification/predestination/election)
            just a fraction of the amount of times you would hit on “some other
            topic” (the Spirit)?

            Even adoption & redemption (overtly salvific in content) are both tied to the Spirit: 23″ And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

            v. 15- Paul tells us specifically what God has given: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading
            to fear again, but you have received a spirit of
            adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

            v.32 – this parallel is completed: “He
            who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how
            will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

            In short, you are injecting a theological argument into this passage that is clearly not the primary topic at hand for Paul, whatever one may think about that argument’s merits.

            As for those other “side” topics, there’s plenty more to discuss obviously, but I’m trying to limit the scope of this exchange solely to what’s written in chap. 8.

          • I’m sorry guys. But I’m going to start disallowing comments that don’t specifically demonstrate how the premises summarized above (see a through f) are false, or how the conclusion made from those premises are invalid. Otherwise we’re just going to go around in circles.

  • Adam

    I am surprised that Murray doesn’t go into further detail concerning v.30 – “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

    I think one of the key issues here is the matter of calling. Of all the terms Paul uses here, the calling of the sinner appears to be the only act we as human beings can participate in as it ties in directly with the Great Commission – “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15) This naturally raises the Question: Is this the “calling” that Paul is referring to? The answer is an obvious no. If the calling of God to which Paul is referring means the preaching of the gospel, then all would be saved upon hearing the Word, for justification is the resulting action of that calling. But we know from experience that not everyone who hears the gospel responds. The calling in verse 30 of Romans 8 must mean something more, then, than simply the act of preaching the gospel. Yes, God ‘s chosen means to reach the sinner is through the preaching of the gospel, but It becomes apparent from v. 30 that those who receive it have been “called” to receive it, or as Paul says, “predestinated.”

    The resulting fruits of the atonement given in v.30 – justification and glorification – can therefore only apply to the limited number of those who have been called by God; hence, the atonement must be limited. Not everyone who hears the gospel have been called, as evidenced by their rejection of it, but those who have been called WILL be justified and glorified. Paul leaves no room for possibilities is this verse – one action indisputably leads to the next. But, if I am referring to the preaching of the gospel as God’s calling, I run into an interpretive problem in trying to account for what comes next on Paul’s roster, that being justification and glorification. To remain consistent then, and not create any contradiction within the text, I can only interpret Romans 8:30 from the perspective of limited atonement; i.e., those whose sins have been atoned for by Christ are those who have been called by God to receive the benefits of His atonement; namely, justification and glorification. If atonement is universal, and God’s call in the context of Romans 8:30 is universal, then all who are “called” through the gospel witness will be justified and glorified. But, as history bears record to, not everyone believes and receives the gospel witness. God’s call therefore, in the context of Romans 30, must limited because the atonement was limited.

    • Thanks Adam. I’d say you’re right on there.

      In Murray’s defense, he does say that he’s limiting his discussion to Romans 8:31-39, so 8:30 is slightly out of his purview on these few pages that I’ve quoted. But he does have a lot to say about Romans 8:28-30 in his book. It’s definitely worth picking up if you’ve got the time and inclination!

      With regard to calling, yes, it’s important to distinguish the general call to salvation which informs men of their duty to repent and believe the Gospel (something that we as preachers of the Gospel do issue), and the internal, effectual call to salvation (something that we do not participate in, as it is the work of the Spirit of God alone). The calling that Paul is speaking about in Romans 8:30 is the effectual call of God (note, God is the subject: “these whom He called”). Not all who receive our general call to salvation receive God’s effectual call to salvation. This is why Jesus says, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14). That is, many are called, generally and outwardly by the preaching of the Gospel. But only few are chosen, i.e., God’s elect, and thus He only effectually calls few. But all whom He effectually calls are then justified and eventually glorified.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Adam

        Mike, your comment concerning Matthew 22:14 got me thinking. If we take the words of Jesus in this text and set it against Romans 8:30, we see what it means truly to be called by God. If “called” in Matthew’s text means the same as “called” in Paul’s text, we run into a contradiction, for someone could argue that Jesus is saying the opposite of Paul and thereby create a conflict between the two texts; i.e., Jesus says those who are called are not necessarily chosen, while Paul contends they are because their end is justification and glorification. A reconciliation between the two texts can only come when we understand that when Jesus refers to those who are “chosen”, it is the equivalent of Paul’s “those whom He called He also justified.” Combining the two texts, we can then conclude that God chooses (Matt.22:14) those He has predestined to hear His EFFECTUAL call (Rom. 8:30). Hence, the chosen referred to by Jesus are the justified referred to by Paul.

  • E S Gonzalez

    I was really frustrated by how indirect this piece is. I read it thinking, “What question/argument is this article addressing?”
    “Is Christ’s love and atonement for the elect only or all of mankind?” Is that it? The jumping-off point?

    • I don’t think it’s that indirect, E S. The issue addressed is stated in the title of the post: the extent of the atonement. And the first paragraph actually asks the question: “For whom did Christ atone?” Not sure what more might have helped.

      • E S Gonzalez

        Yep, I read it again … and then wrote my second comment. I still think it could have been more plainly/simply stated (Atonement for all men or the elect?), but I got it.

  • E S Gonzalez

    I dunno man … if I’m understanding this correctly (perhaps I don’t) it sounds like a bit of a stretch to take Rom 8 to mean that the Christ’s sacrifice (and its invitation) isn’t for all men.
    John 3:16 is clear that it was/is for all men– the thing is, not all men will respond. And those who do respond, do so only because the Father has drawn them. (John 6:44)
    I agree that Rom 8 speaks to the reconciled, but the invitation was extended to the world. He bore the sins of the world on the cross as it was purposed for Him to do (John 1:29); it is counted as atonement to those who “answer,” “I believe, I repent, I accept, I give thanks, and I submit.”
    In my mind, I suppose it may be more appropriate to illustrate it this way:
    The sacrifice is a one-way street, independent, noncontingent; whereas atonement denotes a two-way street, relationship, agreement.
    The sacrifice was/is for ALL men; the atonement can only apply to those who have “done/do something WITH” (respond favorably to) the sacrifice … as the Almighty saw/sees fit to draw them.
    My apologies if I completely misunderstood the point of the post.

    • Thanks E S. I don’t think you’ve misunderstood the point of the post, but I do think you misunderstand the biblical teaching. I’ll try to address your comment as best I can.

      . . . it sounds like a bit of a stretch to take Rom 8 to mean that the Christ’s sacrifice (and its invitation) isn’t for all men.

      Here you conflate two issues. The argument is that Romans 8 teaches that the extent of Christ’s atonement is limited to the elect. It is not that the free offer of the Gospel is limited to the elect. All agree that the Gospel is to be offered freely and is offered genuinely to all without exception. But it simply does not follow that for the offer to be genuine Christ must have atoned for all without exception. Christ paid the penalty for the sins of those whom the Father gave Him (John 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:6), and not for those whom the Father did not give Him (John 17:9; cf. John 10:14–15, 26). But the Gospel is offered freely to all, even if we know that not all will accept the offer because of the depravity of their hearts (Rom 8:7–8; 1 Cor 2:14).

      So then, it’s not a stretch for Romans 8 to support a particular atonement, as Murray makes clear. If you’d like to argue with something specific he presented in the selection I quoted, I would very much welcome that interaction.

      John 3:16 is clear that it was/is for all men. . .

      First of all, I want to note that this post is not about John 3:16, but Romans 8:31–39. I’d really like to keep the discussion focused on that narrow scope, because otherwise it gets entirely out of hand and unmanageable in a blog comment thread.

      But because I think you’re genuine in your presentation and demonstrate teachability in your comment (unlike others), I’ll address it in a way that I hope is helpful to you.

      I disagree that John 3:16 is “clear that it [i.e., Christ’s atonement] was/is for all men.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” That sentence does not demand that “world” be interpreted to mean, “Every human being in history who ever lived.” It may very well be interpreted as “all without distinction”—i.e., the world as opposed to Jews only—rather than “all without exception”—i.e., every single individual. I tend to the think the best option for the interpretation of “world” in John 3:16 is a reference to fallen humanity in general. God manifested His love to fallen humanity by sending His Son to die, so that the believing ones would be saved. It does not follow that because God’s love is manifest to the world in the sending of His Son, that His Son died for all without exception. That’s a presupposition that we bring to the text, and which is not borne out by the rest of Scripture.

      Secondly, note John’s own “particularism” in this very verse. Christ’s sacrifice is for “all the believing ones.” That’s the way the original Greek literally reads the phrase which is sometimes translated “who(so)ever believes.” Pas [all] ho pisteuwn [the believing (ones)].

      So again, to summarize, nothing in John 3:16 states that Christ atoned for the sins of every single individual without exception. There would be all sorts of problems understanding it in such a way. Not the least would be, Was Christ paying for the sins of those sinners who had already died and were paying for their sins in hell? Why would He be doing that? To give them an “opportunity” to repent? Such an opportunity has passed, for they were already undergoing judgment.

      An even greater problem would be that by saying that Christ atoned for people who will finally perish in hell, you limit the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice while trying to delimit the extent. If Christ can atone for my sins and I can still go to hell, then something other than Christ’s atonement is responsible for my salvation. That is a very, very scary place to be, and is entirely out of accord with what Scripture teaches on the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. I’ll return to this as I address more of your comment.

      I agree that Rom 8 speaks to the reconciled, but the invitation was extended to the world.

      Again, this statement doesn’t take into account that one can believe both (a) that Christ paid for the sins of the elect alone, and (b) the free offer of the Gospel is made to all without exception. Particular redemption does not rule out a universal invitation. I don’t know who the elect are, so I invite everyone to believe. When people believe, they give evidence that they are those whom the Father chose, for whom the Son died, and whom the Spirit regenerated.

      He bore the sins of the world on the cross as it was purposed for Him to do (John 1:29)

      I think you need to be more careful in the way you employ John 1:29. Again, you assume a particular interpretation of “world” (i.e., all without exception) which you do not argue for biblically. “World” could understood to mean “all without exception,” but it could also be understood to mean “all without distinction,” and you have to argue as to why the latter isn’t a satisfactory understanding of the verse.

      As to why I think “all without exception” isn’t a satisfactory interpretation, it has to do again with how such a position would limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement. If Christ “takes away the sin of the world,” and yet some in the world still perish in hell, how is it that their sin was taken away? At this point, you don’t really believe that “takes away” means “takes away.” You think it means, “offers to take away,” or “potentially takes away.” But that’s not what it says. The atonement that Christ’s death achieved was not merely an offer or a potential. Christ’s death actually secured the salvation of those for whom He died.

      . . . it is counted as atonement to those who “answer,” “I believe, I repent, I accept, I give thanks, and I submit.”

      Those are a lot of “I”s. This is the problem with your position. You make Christ’s atonement entirely powerless to save apart from the will of the depraved sinner. Redemption for the forgiveness of sins is in Christ’s blood (Eph 1:7), not in the sinner’s willpower. Under your theological scheme, the decisive factor in salvation is the sinner, not the Savior. That is terribly problematic in view of what Scripture teaches.

      It doesn’t mean He didn’t pay for the other 25– they just haven’t responded like the other half.

      First, you imply here that Christ will make a payment for sins that is eventually wasted. Christ pays for 50, but He only gets 25. That is to devalue the blood of Christ. But not one drop of the Savior’s blood will be shed in vain.

      Second, here again you make the decisive factor of salvation out to be the sinner’s response, rather than the Savior’s accomplishment. That is an entirely man-centered, Christ-debasing view of the atonement. It doesn’t do justice to the fact that all sinners are totally depraved apart from Christ, and will never “activate” the atonement by their response (again, cf. Rom 8:7-8 and 1 Cor 2:14).

      Now, you made reference a couple of times to the fact that those who do respond respond because of the Father’s drawing them. I’m glad you make that distinction. But here’s the problem: the Persons of the Trinity is entirely united with one another in their saving purpose. Christ is not trying to save more or less people than the Father is trying to save, and the same with the Spirit. The Father has chosen some, not all, from the foundation of the world. The Spirit regenerates some, not all. To say that Christ atones for all, and not some, is to put the Persons of the Trinity entirely at odds with one another; it is to be forced to say that the will of the Son is not the will of the Father, which is heresy. Again, the Father gave particular people out of the world to the Son (John 6:37, 39; 17:6), and it is for these that Christ lays down His life (John 10:14–15, 27).

      You might say, “Well yes, but it doesn’t say that He didn’t lay down His life for others,” but that is to argue from silence. And it would also be to ignore the fact that Christ explicitly says He does not intercede as a
      priest for any except those whom the Father gave Him (cf. John 17:9). When you couple this with the reality that the high priest always intercedes only for those for whom he has made an offering, we may rightly conclude that just as the high priestly ministry of Christ’s intercession was limited to those the Father gave Him, so also is His high priestly ministry of His sacrificial offering limited to those the Father gave Him (see also Isa 53:12). Which is actually Murray’s point in this post (cf. Rom 8:32–34).

      I know this was a lot, but I hope it was helpful for you to see that there are biblical and theological issues at stake which you may not have been aware of. If you’re able to, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Murray’s book, as he concisely and helpfully explains the other issues related to this topic. This explanation from John Piper is also helpful. If you were looking to go quite a bit more in depth, I would recommend getting From
      Heaven He Came and Sought Her
      , edited by Jonathan and David
      Gibson.

      • E S Gonzalez

        1- Sorry, I can see how my typing ” … John 3:16 makes ‘it’ clear that …” might have led you to think that I was talking about atonement; I wasn’t. I was talking about His sacrifice.
        God gave His Son for the world. God gave His Son bc He loved the ppl–wretched as are–of the world, even those who will reject His grace. You disagree with my reading/understanding?
        2- I dunno … it seems to me you’re interpreting or INCLINED (not yelling, just can’t employ italics fr my cell for emphasis, *smiling*) to interpret “world” as more exclusive than it is. “Fallen humanity” does, in fact, describe/define “every human being in history who ever lived,” no?
        Christ’s sacrifice is for all; the believing ones will reap the reward of that sacrifice.
        If I, Doc, write you an Rx you don’t fill , it’s no less an Rx I offered you because you didn’t believe it to be the answer to your disease, and so didn’t fill it, no? That’s the way I’m seeing this.
        3- “So again, to summarize, nothing in John 3:16 states that Christ atoned for the sins of every single individual without exception. There would be all sorts of problems understanding it in such a way.”
        I agree, and am a little bummed that my words would have you understand I meant otherwise.
        I wrote, “For whom did Christ atone? The elect.
        For whom did Christ DIE/LAY DOWN HIS LIFE?
        Every-stinkin’-body! Lol”
        I essentially separated (or thought I did/meant to) atonement and sacrifice. That came through, right?
        4- I appreciate your correction of my misuse and misunderstanding of John 1:29.
        5- “Those are a lot of “I”s. This is the problem with your position. You make Christ’s atonement entirely powerless to save apart from the will of the depraved sinner.”
        You made your point, but you did so unfairly. Of course, redemption is in His blood alone, but we have to “take and drink.” Surely, you understood what I meant. We still must DO (repent and believe) something to be saved. Not cool.
        6- Yes, I can see now the problems with my illustration. I feel awful *tears* that it–however unintentionally– reflected such a depreciative view of Christ’s blood and a fragmented one of the Holy Trinity. I LOVE the Lord and my experience with Him has been one marked by tenderness and merciful patience, so I hate that I even suggested He’s anything less than the awesome, sovereign, orderly, powerful, amazing God that He is!
        7- After all this, He’s mercifully led me to one verse that settled the matter entirely: Matthew 26: 28 … “For this is My blood of the new covenant which is she’d for MANY [not ALL] for the remission of sins.”
        Thanks … goodnight.

        • . . . might have led you to think that I was talking about atonement; I wasn’t. I was talking about His sacrifice.

          I’m not sure how you can separate Christ’s sacrifice from His atonement. That’s a distinction without a difference. You see, Christ’s laying down His life was not merely a sacrifice in some general sense; it was a sacrificial offering. The sacrifice which Christ made was the sacrifice of Himself on the altar of God precisely in order to atone for the sins of His people (Heb 9:26; cf. 9:11–28). The sacrifice was an atonement. To try to separate them is biblically unwarranted. Is there any biblical text that you can think of that would warrant distinguishing “sacrifice” from “atonement”?

          God gave His Son for the world. God gave His Son bc He loved the ppl–wretched as are–of the world, even those who will reject His grace. You disagree with my reading/understanding?

          Yes I do disagree, if by “world” you mean that God sent Christ to die for every individual in the history of the world without exception. Which it sounds like you do. Unfortunately, your reply doesn’t address the extensive argumentation I gave in my previous comment as to why interpreting “world” in that fashion does grave injustice to the nature and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. If you’d like to engage further, please take the time to answer those arguments before moving on to others.

          . . . it seems to me you’re interpreting or inclined to interpret “world” as more exclusive than it is.

          Well, “it seems to me” is not an argument, and to claim “more exclusive than it is” is to beg the question, and assume that it actually is less exclusive than I say it is. You can’t merely assert these things; you need to argue them from Scripture. As I said above, please engage the arguments I made with Scripture if you’re going to engage further.

          “Fallen humanity” does, in fact, describe/define “every human being in history who ever lived,” no?

          No, but perhaps the fault is mine for not elaborating further on this. My comment was already horrifically long, so I probably spent too little time explaining what I mean here.

          In John 3:16, I believe John is saying that God saw the plight of fallen humanity considered as a whole. And in seeing that His image-bearers—the pinnacle of His creation considered as a whole, as a “world” (not making any comment on any particular individual—seeing that they could do nothing for their sin and were headed for eternal punishment, He showed love to the mass of humanity considered as a whole by sending His Son to die for innumerable souls out of that world; namely, those whom He had chosen (Rom 8:29–30; Eph 1:4), would give to the Son (John 6:37, 39; 10:27; 17:9), whom the Spirit would regenerate, and thus who would believe.

          This fits with the praise given to the Lamb in Revelation 5:9: “Worthy are You . . . for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Certainly it would be fitting to call people “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” the “world,” since people all throughout the world are the beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice. But if your theory of the extent of the atonement were correct, it would make no sense for John to say that Christ purchased men from every nation; instead, he would have simply said, “You purchased every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” But of course He didn’t. He purchased people from or out of every nation—indeed, only “the believing ones” that John mentions in John 3:16.

          Christ’s sacrifice is for all; the believing ones will reap the reward of that sacrifice.

          This simply restates your position, and doesn’t deal with the objections I raised in my previous comment. I refer you there, while reminding you of the main point: this means that Christ’s sacrifice is impotent, gets wasted, is made subservient to the will of the sinner, and is dethroned as the decisive factor in the determination of salvation and replaced by man’s choice.

          If I, Doc, write you an Rx you don’t fill, it’s no less an Rx I offered you because you didn’t believe it to be the answer to your disease, and so didn’t fill it, no? That’s the way I’m seeing this.

          I understand your position; I simply don’t agree that that’s the picture Scripture presents. The picture is more like this. If the doctor invites you to come to him to receive a remedy for your disease, but knows infallibly that you, in the stubbornness of your heart, will always refuse to come to him because of your irrational hatred of doctors and modern medicine, his offer of that remedy is no less genuine even if he hasn’t written that prescription for you. Again, there is no contradiction between a particular atonement and a universal offer of the Gospel. Perhaps some may not understand how those logically cohere, but that doesn’t mean they don’t. We must be careful to subjugate our reasoning to the revelation of Scripture, rather than forcing the latter to serve the former.

          I wrote, “For whom did Christ atone? The elect. For whom did Christ DIE/LAY DOWN HIS LIFE? Every-stinkin’-body.” I essentially separated . . . atonement and
          sacrifice. That came through, right?

          Here again, refer to my opening remarks in this comment. It is biblically impossible to separate atonement from sacrifice.

          4- I appreciate your correction of my misuse and misunderstanding of John 1:29.

          I’m glad to hear of this. You confirm my suspicions of your own teachability, and that is refreshing. I would encourage you, then, take the lesson from the implications of misunderstanding John 1:29 and see how they are the very same for misunderstanding John 3:16. An unlimited extent of the atonement always requires a limitation in the efficacy of the atonement efficacy. We need to avoid this; and it is not avoided by attempting to drive a wedge between atonement and sacrifice, again, as I argued above.

          You made your point, but you did so unfairly. Of course, redemption is in His blood alone, but we have to “take and drink.” Surely, you understood what I meant. We still must DO (repent and believe) something to be saved. Not cool.

          I don’t think I was unfair. I understood you to mean what you wrote. If you meant something other than what you wrote, I think the burden is on you to make yourself clear before you make accusations of unfairness.

          Either way, the issue isn’t just semantics. Your theological position, if carried to its logical conclusion and made to be consistent with itself, does in fact make the atonement powerless apart from the will of the sinner. It means that Christ’s death didn’t actually atone for anyone; it is merely a huge mass of potential salvation, which potential can only be realized by the will of the sinner.

          Of course, the benefits of the salvation that Christ infallibly secured on the cross are applied when sinners repent and believe. But your doctrine of atonement confuses redemption accomplished with redemption applied. Hence why Murray’s book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, is one that I’d recommend to you as something that will serve you quite well.

          . . . I LOVE the Lord and my experience with Him has been one marked by tenderness and merciful patience, so I hate that I even suggested He’s anything less than the awesome, sovereign, orderly, powerful, amazing God that He is!

          I don’t doubt this one bit, and I appreciate your interacting here. I hope this has served to sharpen us both, to help us better understand what God has revealed in His Word
          about this very important doctrine.

          Blessings!

  • Ira Pistos

    Thanks Mike for this article. It is compelling.
    In your introduction, you comment that it is a shame that there is such disagreement within the body of Christ. I agree with you there. The reason may be that it is simply terrifying. I mean throat choking terrifying.

    We, within the body of Christ, faced with the possibility that we may only think that we are within the body of Christ, are terrified.

    We know that we can not earn salvation. We know that we can not be “good” enough.
    We read our Bible and are not scholars. We simply believe, the evidence within scripture is sufficient. When we don’t understand a passage in our Bible we must quake for fear that it is because the Spirit is not in us.

    In my fear there is nothing I can do. I can not fake it by trying to be better because salvation is not within my power. If When I fail, when I’m not doing better as a natural byproduct of the work of the Spirit, does that mean I do not have the Spirit?
    I pray and confess that I am unworthy and know that I can do nothing to attain my own salvation. Even my devout prayer avails me nothing.

    That we have these fears I’m expressing in the first place is cause enough to have the greater fear.

    My thanks for the article is sincere.

    • Hi Ira. Thanks for your comment.

      Let me encourage you, friend, that the lack of understanding of a particular teaching in Scripture is no reason to question our salvation. It’s only reason to recognize that we continue to need to be taught, sharpened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit working through His means of grace. In God’s mercy, one of those means of grace is the interaction we have with one another in the body of Christ, especially teachers who have been gifted by God to understand these things and to communicate them to others so they can understand them.

      Also, if two professing Christians disagree on a particular doctrine, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one of them is not a true Christian. Surely, that may be the case, as Matthew 7:21-23 makes plain; self-deception is a real and, indeed, a terrifying reality. But disagreement among brothers and sisters isn’t a reason to assume self-deception on someone’s part. We’re all growing; we’re all in process; we all live with our remaining flesh and do what we can to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13). And yet we’ll still groan until we experience the redemption of our bodies from the presence of sin entirely (Rom 8:23).

      I pray your fear is a healthy reverence that drives you to examine yourself, but that also drives you to Christ to see Him as the One who has obeyed in your place, precisely where you have failed. One of the glorious implications of the doctrine I’m defending in this post and in these comments, is that perfect righteousness has been accomplished for us, outside of us, in the Person of Christ. As long as we abandon trust in our own righteousness, and trust entirely in His, God graciously counts Christ’s own righteousness to be ours, and God blesses us with a perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and with an assurance of salvation that allows us to serve in freedom (1 John 5:13-15).

      Grace be with you!

  • Archepoimen follower

    Mike,
    While I agree that this passage is specifically talking about those who were called and therefore Christians and not the world, I fail to see how this passage argues for limited atonement. In fact, I believe Murray and you have made a category error in your exegesis of this verse. While Paul clearly equates the ‘all’ in this verse to those who were called, there is no legitimate reason to suppose that the called and predestined are the ‘elect’ as understood within Reformed soteriology. The passage excludes being used to argue that ‘all’ here means everyone in the world but that does not necessarily mean that it confirms limited atonement. This is an either/or category error which precludes the excluded middle from consideration.

    We can believe that God is faithful and means what He says throughout scripture! He is not a God of confusion. He can mean that He has called some and still desire that all be saved. He can command believers to share the Good News with everyone, even while it is the Good News itself that reveals who He has called!

    He is not subject to our theological construct, instead we are subject to Him and His revealed Word,

    In Him whose Grace is sufficient even for me,

    Tim

    • Hi Tim. Thanks for your comment. Please be patient with me, brother, as I attempt to respond thought by thought.

      While Paul clearly equates the ‘all’ in this verse to those who were called, there is no legitimate reason to suppose that the called and predestined are the ‘elect’ as understood within Reformed soteriology.

      Really? Even though Paul himself equates the “us” (v. 31) and “us all” (v. 32) with “God’s elect” (v. 33)? In fact, I don’t know how Paul could have made himself any plainer. Perhaps a “theological construct” of your own is
      preventing you from allowing the plain sense of the passage to speak, my
      friend.

      The passage excludes being used to argue that ‘all’ here means everyone in the world, but that does not necessarily mean that it confirms limited atonement. This is an either/or category error which precludes the excluded middle from consideration.

      What do you think that excluded middle is?

      The either/or, as I see it, is a biblical either/or: Either Christ died to pay for the sins of all men without exception, or He died to pay for the sins of the elect alone. As you admit, this passage shows that Scripture can use universal language (like “all” and “for us all”) with regard to the scope of Christ’s death, that nevertheless does not mean “all without exception,” but “the elect alone.”

      If your position is that Scripture, elsewhere, also teaches that Christ died to pay for the sins of all men without exception in addition to dying to pay for the sins of the elect, well then you’ve got to make that case biblically. Otherwise it’s just an argument from silence to say, “Well yes, this text teaches particularism, but it doesn’t necessarily rule out universalism.” In any case, it’s my position that that case cannot be made—that the other passages of Scripture usually marshaled in support of that thesis are improperly interpreted and taken out of context. You may disagree, but again, we’ve got to have that conversation; we can’t simply argue from silence.

      Let me try to summarize Murray’s argument, as it doesn’t seem that many are grasping it.

      (1) Based on Romans 8:32, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over (again, “for us all”) will, with Christ, be given “all things” by the Father. (“All things” is understood as all the saving benefits of God’s grace. I think all sides would agree on this.) Since the non-elect / unbelievers do not receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace (indeed, they finally perish in hell!), they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

      (2) Based on the fact that, in Romans 8:33, Paul identifies the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over to be “God’s elect,” Murray argues that Christ was not delivered over for those who are non-elect.

      (3) Based on Romans 8:34, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over will also be the beneficiaries of His present intercessory ministry at the Father’s right hand. Since Christ is not presently interceding before the Father on behalf of the non-elect / unbelievers, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

      (4) Based on Romans 8:35–39, Murray argues that all for whom Christ was delivered over enjoy the blessedness of eternal security; they cannot be separated from the love of Christ. Since the non-elect / unbelievers will in fact be separated from the love of Christ as they perish for their sins in hell, they are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

      To summarize, all those for whom Christ was delivered over (a) receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace, (b) are identified as “the elect,” (c) benefit from Christ’s present intercessory ministry, and (d) can never be separated from the love of Christ. Since the non-elect / unbelievers do not receive all the saving benefits of God’s grace, are not identified as the elect, do not benefit from Christ’s present intercessory ministry, and will be separated for the love of Christ, the non-elect / unbelievers are not included in the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over.

      Now again, if your position is “Christ was delivered over for unbelievers; Paul’s just not talking about that in Romans 8,” well that is an argument from silence unless other texts establish that elsewhere. Again, I do not believe other texts do establish that elsewhere.

      But even if we confine ourselves to this text, I think we can see an
      exclusivity to the extent of the atonement. The “multiple intentions” position
      would basically hold that yes, Paul is speaking of those for whom Christ died in Romans 8, but he’s not speaking of all for whom Christ died. Christ died for others (namely, the non-elect as well); but he’s just not speaking about them here. However, Paul’s universalistic language rules that out. It’s almost tautological to say that, when Paul speaks of the “us all” for whom Christ was delivered over, He is speaking of all for whom Christ was delivered over! If Paul meant to be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died, why would he use the universalistic language, “us all”? Why wouldn’t he just say, “for us,” or something equivalent?

      Indeed, it would undermine the express purpose of Paul’s entire argument in Romans 8:31–39 to suggest that the “us all” could be referring only to a
      subset of those for whom Christ died. His argument is to give encouragement and assurance to those who are beneficiaries of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by speaking of the benefits that accrue to them from His death. If not everyone for whom He died is guaranteed those benefits, why make His death the basis for his encouragement and their assurance?
      So:

      (a) the “us all” refers to everyone for whom Christ was delivered over;
      (b) the “us all” receive all the Father’s saving blessings;
      (c) the “us all” are those for whom Christ presently intercedes in heaven;
      (d) the “us all” can never be separated from Christ’s love;
      (e) (b) through (d) cannot be said of the non-elect;
      therefore (f): Christ was delivered over for the elect alone.

      We can believe that God is faithful and means what He says throughout scripture! He is not a God of confusion.

      Absolutely. Nothing I’ve said here would argue against this. Nobody argues that God doesn’t mean what He says throughout Scripture, or that He’s a God of confusion. Now, we may disagree as to what we understand God to have actually said, but we need to have that discussion. To imply that my position questions the faithfulness of God—and that without even arguing for it!—is not very charitable.

      He can mean that He has called some and still desire that all be saved. He can command believers to share the Good News with everyone, even while it is the Good News itself that reveals who He has called!

      I have no disagreement with this as you’ve stated it. Nothing in the theology of particular redemption is at odds with what you’ve stated here. Because of that, I’m uncertain as to why you’d write it. Perhaps it’s because we might be using the same words but meaning different things. Just in case that’s so, I want to comment on this for the sake of clarity.

      With regard to “calling some” and “desiring all,” I agree that there is a desire on the part of God for none of His creatures made in His image to die in sin (cf. Ezek 18:23; 33:11 [incidentally, I do not believe 1 Tim 2:4 or 2 Pet 3:9 are passages that support this truth, but I think the Ezekiel passages do]). But of course, we have to be faithful to grapple with the fact that the God who says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked elsewhere says He does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6) and that He will accomplish all His good pleasure (Isa 46:9–10), and yet the wicked do perish. Unless we are prepared to permit contradictions in God and in Scripture, or perhaps prepared to throw up our hands in apathy as to how to understand God’s Word at this point, we have to reconcile these two truths in a way that is faithful to all of Scripture.

      And that seems to be most faithfully done by acknowledging multiple aspects of God’s will—i.e., that He can desire things in different ways, such that even His “desires” are ultimately submitted to His sovereign will (see
      here for more on that
      ). God submits His desire to see none of the wicked perish, to His sovereign will to save only those whom He’s chosen. So, while the revelation of God’s desire in Ezek 33:11 communicates the compassion of God’s heart, it most certainly does not allow for impotence on God’s part, or that man and not God is the decisive factor in salvation (which would be represented in such statements as, “God has done all He can do in Christ and now waits for the sinner to respond”).

      With regard to the Good News revealing who God has called, again, I agree, as long as by “reveal” we actually mean “reveal” and not “establish.” I think you agree with this, but again I just want to make sure. When someone repents and believes the Gospel, they give evidence of their election; they do not establish their election. Faith is a response to election and calling; election and calling are not a response to faith. As long as we understand that, I have no problem with what you stated, and nothing in the theology of particular redemption would be at odds with that.

      I hope you made it to the end, brother! I appreciate your comment and am thankful that it’s pushed me to further articulate what I believe God is saying to us on this vital issue. I truly do hope it proves to be beneficial to you.

      • Archepoimen follower

        Mike,
        I also appreciate your response. So I will also take the time to address your responses where I would argue that we do indeed have a different understanding of what scripture teaches.

        First though, I would like to more fully express my thought on God being faithful and saying what He means. After reading the article and your response to the comments my point was intended to address the concept that because the Holy Spirit through Paul limits the “us all” in Romans to the elect that the “world” in John must not mean the world! Therefore, rather then questioning your motive, I was actually addressing your theology. Subsequently, I want to be specific that my intention was not to impugne you but challenge your understanding of the texts.

        I find your response to my acknowledging that “us all” in the Romans passage as specific to the “elect” but not as necessarily you or Reformed believers do, equally condescending and not very charitable either. I am gonna guess that you were responding to your belief that I took a “pot shot” at you.
        Rather than a “theological construct” of my own making, I would argue it is in fact what has been revealed in scripture. So yes we have a different understanding of redemption, not whether God has predestined some to salvation and others to destruction, but rather, whether His desire as revealed in other passages includes saving all. I do not feel compelled to have to reconcile everything that God has said into a specific systematic theology. Rather, I will take Him at His word in each instance. Please do not take that to mean I don’t believe you also do not strive to take God at His word. I am following your blog because I know you and the other authors are brothers in Christ who desire to please Him and often help me be more like Christ!

        I did indeed understand Murray as you further explained, I just disagree with some of the particulars, No pun intended, but funny anyway!

        I do wonder why you would feel the necessity to insure that I mean what I say about God’s Word revealing those who have been called? Is it impossible for me to believe that God calls us before the foundation of the world and reveals those who have been called through His Word without being Reformed? These truths seem to be revealed clearly in His word!

        Finally, and probably the area we seem to be farthest apart is whether because Paul argues in Romans 8 that Christ died for believers that excludes His death from being for others as well. Your position that no middle exists is the very point I was challenging. To argue as you did that my position was one from silence does not prove that no middle exists. Your position seems to be that God could only have sent Jesus to die for the Elect alone or for everyone, this is not so! God could have and I believe did in fact send His Son to die for BOTH the Elect and the world as revealed in Romans 8 and John 3. Additionally, your conclusion that Christ died for the elect alone is the logical conclusion if your point (a) is correct which is the very point in contention.

        • . . . that because the Holy Spirit through Paul limits the “us all” in Romans to the elect that the “world” in John must not mean the world!

          But see, that is a misrepresentation of my position. I do not claim that “world” must not mean “world.” I claim that “world” can legitimately refer to all without exception or all without distinction. You assume it’s the former; I’ve argued it is the latter. The kind of theology that shallowly marshals proof texts as if there was no need to argue for a particular meaning is not the kind of discourse that’s going to advance the discussion.

          So if you’re going to continue to simply assert your view, go ahead and make your case: How can Christ die for (atone for) the sins of the non-elect, propitiating the wrath of the Father, in such a way that those people still do not have their sins atoned for, nor the Father’s wrath propitiated against them (without making man the decisive, determining factor in salvation)? What exegetical argument would you make to conclusively prove that “world” in John 3:16 should be interpreted as “every single individual who ever lived”? Do you mean to say that Christ died for those who had died and were already suffering in hell? Why?

          These are questions that need to be answered. To say, “I do not feel compelled to reconcile everything that God has said into a specific systematic theology,” simply won’t cut it. I’m not asking you to eliminate all mystery from the Bible. But I am asking you to deal with the implications of your asserted
          interpretations. To be unwilling to do that is to abort the task of interpretation before you can give any meaningful synthesis of what Scripture actually says. As Carl Trueman recently wrote, “To move from exegesis to doctrinal synthesis is not necessarily to subjugate exegesis to the logic of an independent system.” In fact, that move is absolutely essential if we’re going to say anything meaningful to the people of God about what God has revealed about Himself and the nature of His salvation.

          I find your response to my acknowledging that “us all” in the Romans passage as specific to the “elect” but not as necessarily you or Reformed believers do, equally condescending and not very charitable either.

          I must have misunderstood you then. You wrote, “The passage excludes being used to argue that ‘all’ here means everyone in the world . . . .” I thought you were conceding that, in Romans 8, it’s plain that Paul is speaking about the elect alone, and not all without exception. Having conceded that, you then argue that perhaps Scripture elsewhere speaks of Christ dying for more than the elect, but you seemed to grant my point about Romans 8. All that to say, I really wasn’t intending to be condescending there.

          Rather than a “theological construct” of my own making, I would argue it is in fact what has been revealed in scripture.

          Except you haven’t argued that. You’ve just asserted it. I think it would be helpful if you could answer the questions I mentioned above, and also the questions I asked “E S Gonzalez” earlier on in the thread.

          So yes we have a different understanding of redemption, not whether God has predestined some to salvation and others to destruction, but rather, whether His desire as revealed in other passages includes saving all.

          So, I think it would be helpful, then, if you could explain how these statements don’t bring us to a contradiction in Scripture:

          (a) God accomplishes all His good pleasure (Isa 46:9–10), doing whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6);
          (b) God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:23; 33:11);
          (c) The wicked die;

          As I said above, it won’t do to simply say, “I can’t reconcile everything in Scripture.” Note again that I’m not asking you to eliminate all mystery for the Bible, but I am asking you to account for the theological implications of your asserted
          interpretations. If what you believe is the “plain sense” of Scripture leads you to apparent contradiction, you either have to demonstrate how that is only an apparent contradiction and not a real one, or you have to consider whether what you thought was the “plain sense” really
          is the plain sense. Especially when there is another brother who can make sense of the data via his doctrinal synthesis.

          I do wonder why you would feel the necessity to insure that I mean what I say about God’s Word revealing those who have been called?

          You may have misunderstood me here. I was just saying that I agreed with everything you had said as it was stated. But since I agreed, I wondered why it was necessary for you to say it. Either you believed that my position contradicted it, or maybe you and I could say the same words but mean different concepts by them. To eliminate any ambiguity, I just wrote out what I thought those sentences meant to make sure we were on the same page.

          Is it impossible for me to believe that God calls us before the foundation of the world and reveals those who have been called through His Word without being Reformed? These truths seem to be revealed clearly in His word!

          Well, since unconditional election from before time began is a staple of Reformed doctrine, to affirm one is to affirm the other. For someone to affirm one and deny the other makes me curious as to whether they’ve adequately understood both.
          Maybe it would help if you just stated your theological commitments. Do you hold to Reformed soteriology? Which of the “points” of the TULIP acronym would you subscribe to? Which do you reject?

          Finally, and probably the area we seem to be farthest apart is whether because Paul argues in Romans 8 that Christ died for believers that excludes His death from being for others as well.

          Again, you misrepresent my argument. This is not me saying something as shallow as, “Ephesians 5 says Christ died for the church, so therefore He could not have died for anyone else!” There may be 5-pointers who argue that way, but you’ll not find that argument in this comment thread. I don’t believe that speaking about the elect in one verse necessarily rules out a universal aspect in other texts. I just believe that there are no other texts, when interpreted properly and in their context, that actually assert a universal aspect to the atonement.

          To argue as you did that my position was one from silence does not prove that no middle exists.

          I know, but that wasn’t the mechanism I was relying upon to prove that no middle exists. I was simply saying that an argument from silence is not an argument; it’s a logical
          fallacy, and nevertheless it seems to be a staple in the articulation of your position. I’m trying to alert you to the fact that this is an undesirable position to be in, and it should cause you to reflect upon whether your position is as strong as you believe it to be.

          Your position seems to be that God could only have sent Jesus to die for the Elect alone or for everyone, this is not so!

          No, my position is that Romans 8 limits the Father’s delivering over to the elect alone in such language as excludes Him being delivered over for all without exception. I argued for this exegetically, and you haven’t engaged a word of that argumentation. Here it is again:


          But even if we confine ourselves to this text, I think we can see an exclusivity to the extent of the atonement. The “multiple intentions” position would basically hold that yes, Paul is speaking of those for whom Christ died in Romans 8, but he’s not speaking of all for whom Christ died. Christ died for others (namely, the non-elect as well); but he’s just not speaking about them here. However, Paul’s universalistic language rules that out. It’s almost tautological to say that, when Paul speaks of the “us all” for
          whom Christ was delivered over, He is speaking of all for whom Christ was delivered over! If Paul meant to be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died, why would he use the universalistic language, “us all”? Why wouldn’t he just say, “for us,” or something equivalent?

          Indeed, it would undermine the express purpose of Paul’s entire argument in Romans 8:31–39 to suggest that the “us all” could be referring only to a subset of those for whom Christ died. His argument is to give encouragement and assurance to those who are beneficiaries of the atoning
          sacrifice of Christ by speaking of the benefits that accrue to them from His death. If not everyone for whom He died is guaranteed those benefits, why make His death the basis for his encouragement and their assurance?

          So:

          (a) the “us all” refers to everyone for whom Christ was delivered over;
          (b) the “us all” receive all the Father’s saving blessings;
          (c) the “us all” are those for whom Christ presently intercedes in heaven;
          (d) the “us all” can never be separated from Christ’s love;
          (e) (b) through (d) cannot be said of the non-elect;
          therefore (f): Christ was delivered over for the elect alone.

          A passing mention of John 3 doesn’t deal with that argument, especially when an alternative understanding of John 3 has been offered that doesn’t contradict any of what has just been presented. Without doing violence to the text or context of John 3, “world” can be interpreted in a manner that is entirely coherent with the particularist position, and with the rest of Scripture. Such an interpretation solves more problems than the multiple intentions view solves, not the least of which are the truly substitutionary and efficacious nature of Christ’s atonement—both of which are undermined by inserting a universalistic intention in the atonement.

          Besides, Scripture never speaks of the death of Christ as merely making a “provision;” it only is spoken of as an actual accomplishment. For there to be a universal aspect to the atonement, the only way to avoid universalism is to say that some aspect of Christ’s death is “provisional” or “potential,” and yet there is no text that ever describes Christ’s sacrifice in those terms. I cannot see how this is anything but fatal to your position.

          . . . your conclusion that Christ died for the elect alone is the logical conclusion if your point (a) is correct which is the very point in contention.

          Correct; it is the very point in contention (though it’s not merely a “logical” conclusion but a conclusion drawn from exegesis). But you say that as if I merely asserted point (a), and didn’t actually argue for it. I did argue
          for it exegetically. So now if you’re going to contend that it’s not true, you need to engage it. Show me how point (a)—or any other of the points listed there—doesn’t follow from the exegesis of Romans 8:32–34 that I’ve provided.

  • Circumnavigator

    Panal Subsitutionary Atonement through vicarious redemption. Amen brethren in Christ.

  • There’s a lot in this thread to consider. Let’s take a “sabbatical” from the conversation for the Lord’s Day and let these thoughts simmer. We’ll re-open the thread on Monday.

  • E S Gonzalez

    Despite my last comment, I grieved most of the weekend over this article. It nagged at me and consumed my mind and heart.

    I asked myself, “How then would we answer an unbelieving seeker who asks, ‘Did Christ die for my sins?’?
    ‘That remains to be seen.’??”

    This teaching DEVASTATES the hope of the Good News … since, by this doctrine, it’s only “Good News” if you’re among the elect. (and, of course, I have no way of knowing whether a person is among the elect when I share that Christ MAY have died and atoned for his/her sins)

    THAT gospel does not save. THAT gospel is discouraging and alienating, and, for me, nauseating.

    I fumbled about in my previous comments, trying to make sense of what you were saying and, quite honestly, feeling a bit pressured by you to accept your conclusion/interpretation … and, now, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    I don’t agree that His blood is wasted bc of those who regrettably choose hell. That’s a sad discounting of those who say, “Thank You Lord.”

    ****I find it curious also that Murray makes his argument from Rom 8, which doesn’t even address atonement. That’s going beyond what’s written.

    And then YOU say we mustn’t introduce any other Scripture into this discussion; but the TOPIC we’re discussing cannot be “rightly handled”–for lack of a better phrase–without examining all the Scripture that speaks directly to it.

    “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT IN ORDER that the world MIGHT be saved through Him.” (thereby providing the OPPORTUNITY for man to be saved and reconciled)

    If we just read the Word, setting Murray aside, do we arrive at the same conclusion? Limited atonement? Honest (rhetorical) question.

    If yes, the next question would be: WHO limits it? God or man?

    THIS, I think, is the point of the “great divide.”

    I say man; you say God. We disagree.

    As I’ve found is the case with many doctrinal disagreements, Scripture can be used to defend both sides. Also, as I’ve observed is the case with doctrinal disagreements, one side will typically pick apart the Scripture offered by the other side to imply that the text means more/less/something other than what it is straightforward and plain in saying.

    Sadly, in this case, I believe that the “limited-by-God” side is doing this with the words “world” and “all” in the passages the “limited-by-man” side offers.

    The LBM side doesn’t handle the Scripture offered by the LBGod side in the same way, as we see and understand them to apply to those who–having been drawn by the Father to the Son’s keeping–ACCEPT the OFFER of salvation.

    I resubmit that MAN limits the atonement by freely choosing to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. I resubmit that the atonement is INCLUSIVE in its INVITATION but exclusive in its application.

    The invitation is extended to ALL, but only those who respond in faith to the Gospel, as they are drawn by the Father, have the work of the atonement APPLIED to their condition.

    For my part, I offer the following: Isa 53:6; John 3:16-17 ; John 6:51; John 12:32; Rom 3:22-25, 5:6, 5:18; 2 Cor 5:19; 1Tim 2:5-6, 4:10; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2.
    (“But E S you also previously offered Matt 26:28 in concession to the “limited-by-God” side.”
    I did. And I’ll have to grapple with that and resolve it for myself–trusting the Holy Spirit to make all things plain (John 14:26, 15:13; 1John 2:27)– but after very prayerfully re-examining all the other Scripture I’ve included above and given the clarity and simplicity of our amazingly loving and merciful Gospel message, it doesn’t jibe that THIS one verse trumps all the others–from this SAME book–to substantiate the Christ-died-only-for-the-elect position.)

    • E S, I think you’re allowing your emotions to dictate your interpretation here. You make some seriously uncharitable and unjustifiable claims, which really only demonstrate your not being familiar with the discussion. We haven’t broken new theological ground in this post or in the comment threads; these discussions have been going on since the Reformation, and all responsible
      parties in the discussion recognize that each view can be held by orthodox, evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ.

      I’m going to try to respond to your very emotionally-driven comment, but then I’m going to ask that you confine yourself to answering the specific questions and arguments that were addressed to you. If you can’t do that, you’re not advancing the discussion, adding only heat rather than light
      which is not profitable, and so I’d ask you to step away from the discussion.

      I asked myself, “How then would we answer an unbelieving seeker who asks, ‘Did Christ die for my sins?’?

      We would answer like this: “Christ has paid for the sins of all those people who, by the grace of God, repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for righteousness before God. If you turn from your sins and trust
      Christ, yours sins will be forgiven.”

      That is not inconsistent with the doctrine of particular redemption. Here’s why: only the elect will repent and believe. God grants repentance and faith only to those whom He’s chosen before the foundation of the world. When someone repents and believes, they simply give evidence that they are one of those whom God is chosen. Since Christ has paid for the sins of the elect, no one who repents and believes in Christ will ever find that there is
      not payment for them.

      However, your position faces a larger problem. If Christ died for all without exception, what does it mean to tell an unbeliever that Christ died for their sins? It might sound nice; it might touch the sentiments of the unbeliever. But if you limit the efficacy of Christ’s death as you do—saying that those for whom Christ died may very well still perish in their sins—you don’t actually mean that Christ died for their sins in such a way as to actually pay for them—to actually secure their salvation. What do you offer an unbeliever by saying Christ did something for them that He did for those who still perish in their sins?

      Any way you slice it, the decisive factor in salvation in your system is not Christ’s death, but the sinner’s will. The problem with that is: the sinner’s will is depraved, spiritually dead, hostile to God (Eph 2:1–3; Rom 3:10–18; 8:7–8; 1 Cor 2:14) and cannot choose to “activate” Christ’s
      atonement. The only way anyone can repent and believe is by the sovereign quickening of the Holy Spirit, giving the gifts of repentance and faith (cf. Eph 2:8–9; Ac 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25).

      In other words, if the only way anyone repents and believes the Gospel is a result of the gifts of repentance and faith being given by the Holy Spirit—again, only to the elect whom God chooses to give the gift of
      salvation to—then every objection you have to particular redemption you must also have to unconditional election. God isn’t off the hook, even if Christ atoned for all without exception, because the Father didn’t choose for all without exception, but only some.

      So we could make the same inflammatory, erroneous argument against the doctrine that the Father only chooses some for salvation that you make against the doctrine that the Son only atones for some: “This teaching DEVASTATES the hope of the Good News, since, by this doctrine, it’s only ‘Good News’ if you’re among the elect.” So E S, I ask you: do you deny the doctrine of particular election as well as particular redemption? Did the Father elect everyone or only some? If only some, how does this not
      devastate the hope of the Good News?

      In fact, my friend, it doesn’t devastate the hope of the Good News. And neither does the doctrine of particular redemption. All who repent and believe will find forgiveness of their sins in the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s blood. That statement is true even if the Father has elected only some and the Son has only atoned for those same some.

      THAT gospel does not save.

      This is a serious claim, and you should really examine yourself here. Are you saying that since I preach that Gospel, no one can get saved by my ministry? Are you saying that since I believe that Gospel, that I myself am not saved?

      These are hasty words, E S. Please take some time to cool off and repent of such unfounded accusations.

      I don’t agree that His blood is wasted bc of those who regrettably choose hell.

      OK, but “I don’t agree” is not an argument. It’s just an assertion with nothing to back it up. Please explain to me how, if Christ sheds His blood in order to save all people from hell, and some in fact do go to hell, that His blood is not wasted or rendered ineffectual.

      ****I find it curious also that Murray makes his argument from Rom 8, which doesn’t even address atonement. That’s going beyond what’s written.

      No indeed it isn’t, because Romans 8 does address atonement. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all . . . .” God not sparing His Son, but delivering Him over for us all is most certainly speaking of God’s delivering His Son over to wrath as an atoning sacrifice for the world. Would you not agree with this? If not, what does this sentence mean?

      And then YOU say we mustn’t introduce any other Scripture into this discussion; but the TOPIC we’re discussing cannot be “rightly handled”–for lack of a better phrase–without examining all the Scripture that speaks directly to it.

      That’s not it. You haven’t offered any response to a single argument presented on the basis of the text we’re dealing with. Why should I go through the many other texts on this issue with you, if you won’t even
      faithfully address one of those texts which I’ve attempted to address with you? What gives me hope that when I show you how an interpretation of another text is false, that you just won’t jump to yet another text and start all over again.

      That kind of discourse is not how anything gets solved. No single blog post or comment thread can adequately address every text on any given issue, so we must limit our scope. Romans 8 is a formidable text in support of particular redemption, as I’ve demonstrated in the comments and then appended to the original post in an update. All you have to do is demonstrate why my/Murray’s handling of this text isn’t sound. To date, no one has done that.

      “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT IN ORDER that the world MIGHT be saved through Him.” (thereby providing the OPPORTUNITY for man to be saved and reconciled)

      No. Again, you equivocate on the meaning of “world” and assume your interpretation of all without exception. All of the arguments I’ve presented against John 3:16 and John 1:29 would apply here as well. Please
      refer to them and actually answer them.

      If we just read the Word, setting Murray aside, do we arrive at the same conclusion?

      Yes, because Murray’s reasoning is simply restating the Apostle Paul’s reasoning in Romans 8, just adding clarification. And in fact, many theologians have arrived at the very same conclusion on this text and on this doctrine—both those who came before him (e.g., John Owen) and after him (e.g., John Piper).

      If yes, the next question would be: WHO limits it? God or man? THIS, I think, is the point of the “great divide.” I say man; you say God. We disagree.

      I’m glad you admit this, but I don’t think you really grasp the implications of this concession. In saying that man limits the atonement, you are exalting sinful man over holy God. You are making the depraved sinner sovereign and the sovereign God subservient. You give to man a position the Scriptures never afford him. Again, see passages such as Romans 3:10–18; 8:7–8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1–3.

      As I’ve found is the case with many doctrinal disagreements, Scripture can be used to defend both sides.

      Scripture can be mishandled by one side. You can’t say that Scripture defends both sides unless you believe there are contradictions in Scripture.

      Also, as I’ve observed is the case with doctrinal disagreements, one side will typically pick apart the Scripture offered by the other side to imply that the text means more/less/something other than what it is straightforward and plain in saying.

      Of course we have to do that, because Scripture is being mishandled on at least one side of the debate (maybe both). Since Scripture never contradicts itself, if both sides are using Scripture to affirm contradictory positions, at least one of the sides is wrong and needs to be shown why. This is the nature of biblical discourse.

      For my part, I offer the following: Isa 53:6; John 3:16-17 ; John 6:51; John 12:32; Rom 3:22-25, 5:6, 5:18; 2 Cor 5:19; 1Tim 2:5-6, 4:10; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2.

      But see, I’ve read all those texts, E S. I know that they’re in the Bible. So just citing the references isn’t doing anything to advance the discussion. You’ve got to handle those texts. And as I’ve shown you that your understanding of John 3:16 and John 1:29 do not actually affirm what you claim, so also I can do (and have done, with others) with the other texts. But if I went ahead and did that with the other texts, you would simply find other reasons to dismiss them and move on to other texts, like you’ve done here with Romans 8.

      If you’re serious in your desire to understand those passages in their context—and not taken out of context to support your prior-held position—I would recommend that you see the treatment of those texts in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her by Jonathan and David Gibson.

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