Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Limited Atonement: Ministry Implications

Particular redemption is the doctrine concerning Christ’s work on the Cross indicating that Jesus died to actually secure salvation, which is certainly applied to a particular people, in contradiction of the view of Unlimited atonement or General redemption, which indicates that Jesus died to make salvation possible for each and every person ever to live. (Particular redemption is commonly referred to in a rather negative form- "Limited atonement"- as one of the 'five points of Calvinism,' which are summary statements of the Canons of the Synod of Dort.)

Recently I was involved in an email discussion about how holding to the doctrine of Particular redemption would actually impact ministry of the Word in the local congregation. Below are some of my thoughts on this subject:
First- The doctrine of Particular redemption impacts whether the Cross is exalted as God's sure victory over the alienation and hostility of individuals to Him (as seen in Colossians 1:21-22; see also verses such as Romans 6:6), or whether an additional work is required for this victory to be declared.
Second- The doctrine of Particular redemption impacts our understanding of the basis for God's choice of certain individuals to be saved. Namely, does this choice made by God have a specific reference to the Cross (as Scripture teaches in passages such as Revelation 13:8 and 17:8)?
Third- Flowing from the points mentioned above, the doctrine of Particular redemption also impacts whether the Cross is exalted as the basis upon which God grants spiritual life to His chosen people (as Scripture teaches in passages such as Romans 8:1-9). In thinking about this point, we should also consider the specific connection Jesus makes between His gospel work and the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 16:7.
Fourth- The answer to the question of whether God actually reconciled a particular people to Himself through Christ's work on the Cross or only made a potential reconciliation universally available impacts whether the Cross is exalted as the surety for the ultimate blessing and preservation of God's people (as the Apostle teaches in Romans 8:32; see also Hebrews 9:12).
And so we see that the "L," so far from being a dispensable point of ivory tower theology, is actually at the heart of the God-exalting Doctrines of Grace. Through contemplation of the doctrine of Particular redemption, we come to a greater realization of the accomplished, efficacious work of our Lord in offering up the ultimate sacrifice for a particular chosen group of undeserving sinners.

In conclusion, a right understanding of the work of our Lord on the Cross will help to ensure that we maintain a Cross-centered ministry, discipling others to lead (as C.J. Mahaney has so wonderfully written about) Cross-centered lives. Those that believe in an Universal atonement do not consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people for whom Christ died to be a necessary consequence of the sacrifice the Lord has made on our behalf. And so, I would assert, the danger in a ministry founded upon this wrong view of the Cross would be that there would be a tendency to "move beyond" the Cross- to focus on other areas of God's work in our lives without specific reference being made to the Cross, rather than knowing, as Paul wrote, nothing "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). And I would further assert that we magnify God's glory most when we affirm with Luther that CRUX SOLA EST NOSTRA THEOLOGIA- "the Cross alone is our theology."

[The above blogpost was originally published on 9/7/06.]

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