The doctrine of Limited Atonement in the framework of Reformed/Calvinist thinking seems to spark some very troubling takeoffs from Biblical truth. R. C. Sproul speaks of it as being limited to those who believe, which is correct Bible truth. Springing out of that position, however, is the concept that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world but only for those who believe in Him. That obviously false concept is assumed because they cannot understand how Christ’s death for the whole world’s sins does not result in everyone being saved.
That teaching directly contradicts the Scriptures. For one, 1 John 2:2 says clearly, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
They also confuse John 3:16, saying that Jesus died for the “world of believers only.” That verse goes on to say, “whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Their misinterpretation brings them to conclude that if Jesus died for the whole world, then the whole world must be covered in the atonement. And they argue, “How can such be in heaven without repenting, for you say they are forgiven?”
In Romans 5, we find several answers to that difficulty. Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Continuing in Romans 5:8, Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
It looks like one must believe in Christ before he is redeemed from his ungodliness in order for Christ’s death on the cross to be available for him—an obvious contradiction of events. The Word is that Christ died for mankind while they are sinners. One of the final sayings of Jesus from the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Would God not answer a prayer from His Son?
Romans 5:18 gives us the answer, that Jesus made available the gift of salvation by His death. Accepting that gift is the choice mankind must make: “Therefore as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through One Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”
That gift of salvation is not automatically applied, for God’s plan is that man can choose or not choose to be saved. Any other interpretation of an “applied salvation” does not match the revealed whole counsel of God, which clearly shows that man must make a choice.
One of the arguments made by the Reformed/Calvinists that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world is that He did not pray for the world in His John 17 prayer. John 17:9 says, “I pray for them [the disciples]. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” What is He praying for the disciples? Would He pray that for the whole world out there? Not hardly. He would pray for the world’s salvation, but His disciples were already saved!
Further, in John 17:20-21, He does pray for those of the world whom the disciples will reach with the gospel: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may know that You have sent Me.”
To believe and teach that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world is a huge departure from the truth of Scripture. It denies the clear recorded Word of God, and it denies the sovereignty of God in Christ. It also demands that mankind must believe in Christ before he knows about Christ. The Word says Christ died for man while he was still a sinner and ungodly.
Next in TULIP is the ‘I’ for irresistible grace. It would be good if Sproul had some Scriptures to direct one’s thinking, on Biblical terms, how that feature fits into God’s plan. It is clear that God’s grace can be resisted, for the Word declares that “the road to destruction is broad, and many there be on it.” So, what does it mean?
We go back to the “total depravity” topic and how conviction of sin occurs in a person. Romans 3:20 says, “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” and the embedded knowledge of right and wrong in the person’s conscience, and there is conviction.
Sproul says for man to respond to God from his totally depraved condition, he must be “regenerated” before he can be saved. Or, as he puts it, “regeneration precedes faith.”
Titus 3:5 speaks of regeneration being involved, but at the same time, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” The miracle of the new birth, “born again,” also testifies to the instantaneous and combined effect of all the elements in the conversion experience.
The theory that “God did it, and I had nothing to do with it” seems to permeate throughout the TULIP scenario when God is giving man the benefit of choice all along. John 6:44 explains how irresistible grace actually happens: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” It appears that God’s foreknowledge provides the target for His irresistible grace, and that brings man to exercise his choice.
That brings us to the final letter of TULIP, “Perseverance of the Saints.” Or, “once saved, always saved,” simply put. That was the point of division in the early 1600s, and that basic Baptist belief faced off against the believers that one can lose his salvation if not careful to obey the commandments of God. They are known as the Armenians.
The Bible is heavily supportive of the certainty of our salvation once a person experiences the new birth as reported in John 3:3-5, for once born, who can be unborn, even by deciding to be so?
The passage in John 6:37-40 fixes one’s eternal destiny with certainty according to the will of God: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” On this, there can be no argument.
In summation, the whole counsel of God has Scriptural answers for how these truths fall into place logically and understandingly. The Bible definitely lists being chosen, elected, and predestined by God’s action in time. His foreknowledge is an attribute of His eternal being, but it alone does not result in actuality. When someone accepts Christ in answer to His invitation, he confirms his election, being chosen and predestined. That is why the Apostle Paul declared in 2 Timothy 2:10 as he did: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
This is a point of difference that exists between Reformed/Calvinists and those who believe the whole counsel of God. The parable in Matthew 22:1-14 is summed up by the Lord with this: “Many are called, but few are chosen,” and the parable shows that the gospel is offered to all, but few accept its free gift. Revelation 3:20 spells it out plainly: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and live with him and he with Me.” Notice the pronouns used in this passage—they are to the individual person.
A basic truth often overlooked is in 1 Corinthians 6:17: “Those who belong to the Lord have become one spirit with Him.”
It appears that the Reformed/Calvinists have taken on doctrines that are beyond TULIP, such as “kingdom now,” “replacement theology,” declaring that the Millennium period of a thousand years is going on now, that Jesus is ruling the earth from heaven, and the prophecies of Revelation and Paul’s prophecies of the end times are merely myths and allegories.
True Bible believers do not create doctrines that are not in line with God’s plan as laid out in the inspired Word.
Their belief that Christ’s coming into the world cancels all prophecies prior and begins a “kingdom now” that erases all Scriptural guidelines for the end times. They believe this new plan erases God’s plan for the Jewish people, and all of God’s promises to them have been given to Christ and the church, as “replacement theology” claims. But God has never made a promise that He did not intend to keep. His eternal character will not permit Him to do so.
For their belief, the Second Coming of Christ will be at the end of the Millennium, whenever that happens to be completed. Must we be reminded constantly the words of Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent; has He not said, and will He not do?” “Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” says Solomon in Proverbs 9:10b. Thus, there will be a rapture when the current and likely “falling away” has brought mankind down to the Antichrist’s immoral level and God removes the One who restrains that evil.
It is rather uncanny how a person reaches true happiness when he realizes his absolute spiritual poverty (the first B-attitude) and hungers for righteousness (the fourth B-attitude), and gets for his search man’s own understanding, not God’s. Proverbs 3:5 spells it out: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” –Such as “Kingdom Now” and “Replacement Theology,” which are man-made doctrines.
The Apostle Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:32: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
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