And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).
This is a favorite passage of the universalists, who teach that Christ died for all men. It is no wonder that this passage comes up time and time again in the debate over the extent of the atonement of our Lord.
The debate is very old. It began at thee time of Augustine who lived in the latter part of the 4th and early part of the 5th centuries. Augustine insisted on a particular redemption; i.e., that Christ died only for the elect. The Roman Catholic church repudiated this doctrine of Augustine (even though Rome has canonized him and claims him as one of the holy fathers). They insisted on a universal atonement to protect their precious doctrine of human merit.
For this doctrine a monk of the 8th century rotted in prison, put there by the Roman Catholic authorities. The monk's name was Gotteschalk, and he was martyred for defending the doctrines of Augustine, including particular redemption.
This was one of the great issues at the time of the Reformation. The fact of the matter is, many would-be experts on the Reformation to the contrary notwithstanding, that all the reformers, without one exception, believed in particular redemption.
This was the great battle during the Arminian controversy in the Netherlands. The Arminians denied this truth and spoke of a Christus pro omnibus, a Christ for all. They made salvation dependent on the will of man, you see. They made salvation available to all by a universal atonement, but made the actual realization of salvation dependent on the will of man. The Canons of Dordt were written to set forth the truth over against these God-denying doctrines.
This has been the great battle of the ages, for it is a battle that rages between those who hold to the heresy that salvation is, in some measure, dependent on the will of man, and those who hold to the truth that salvation is by grace alone, a grace that is sovereign and particular.
Those who would maintain that salvation is dependent upon man, teach many other man-glorifying doctrines, equally heretical. They teach that man is not totally depraved, that God's election is based on foreseen faith, that grace is given to all men (common grace), that grace is resistible, that God desires to save all men, that a man can be a child of God for a time, but lose his salvation through his own disobedience, and that Christ died for all men to make salvation dependent upon man's choice. This is the heresy of human merit, human works, human glory.
Those who maintain that salvation is by grace alone, maintain all the other truths of grace. They teach that God sovereignly and eternally chose His people in Christ without any regard to works. They teach a sovereign reprobation, according to which God determines that He will manifest His righteous justice in the eternal punishment of the wicked in the way of their sin. They teach that man is totally incapable of doing any good, not even able to will the good. They teach that Christ died only for His elect, that grace is given only to the elect; and is absolutely irresistible; that once a child of God, always a child of God - even when the elect fall into grievous sin, for God will bring them to repentance. They teach that God desires the salvation of the elect only, and that His purpose is always accomplished.
To return to I John 2:2, those who teach that Christ died for all men actually destroy the cross of Christ and make His perfect sacrifice of no effect. They teach that, although Christ died for all, all are not saved. Hence, the cross cannot, of itself, save. The cross of Christ and His atoning work are ineffectual. How dreadful! If that human philosophy be true, then no one is saved. It has been rightly said that a "Christ for all" is a "Christ for none." But then we are yet in our sins.
It has been argued that, although in one sense Christ died only for the elect, in other senses Christ died for all men. The Marrow Men, for example, said that Christ died for the elect, but is dead for all men. Whatever that distinction may mean, the fact is that the Marrow Men taught that in some sense Christ's atoning sacrifice was for all men. In this way the Marrow Men made room for the well-meant offer of the gospel and its pernicious error that God wills that all men be saved.
Others have argued that Christ died for all men in the sense that His atonement is sufficient for all men. It is efficient only for the elect, but sufficient for all. Those who hold to this view even appeal to the Canons of Dordt as if they taught the same. The article appealed to is II,3. It reads: "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."
Some, who want to cling to a last strand of universal atonement have even expanded this statement of Dordt to mean that Christ's atonement is sufficient for all men; that it is intended for all men; and that it is available to all men. It is efficient only for the elect. This is an Amyrauldianism which, though born in France in the school of Saumur, had devastating influences in England and the British Isles. It was a view even represented at Westminster, although it did not prevail there.
But our space has been filled for this issue, and we will hold further discussion to the next issue.
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 9
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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