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The Case for a Definite and Complete Atonement

Category Articles
Date October 19, 2003


Francis Turretin

1.      We argue that the atonement wasdefinite, from the fact that Christ was destined to die for none but those whowere given him by the Father. All men universally were not given to Christ buta limited number only. Since, in the council of the Father which regulatedChrist’s death and defined its object, there was a designation, not only ofChrist as Mediator, but also of those for whose redemption and salvation He wasto suffer; it is plain that He could die for those only who were in this sensegiven Him. Here we may remark a twofold donation. One of Christ to men, anotherof men to Christ. Christ was given to men for the purpose of saving them andmen to Christ that through Him they might be saved. The former is referred toin Isa. 9.6 and 49.6, as well as in all those places in which He is said to begiven and sent to us; the latter is alluded to in the places where mention ismade of those given to Christ, as in John 17.2, 6,12, and 6.37. Seeing thistwofold giving is reciprocal, each of them must be of the same extent; so thatChrist is given for none but those who are given to Him, and all those aregiven to Christ for whom He is given. Now, it is abundantly plain that some menonly; and not all men, were given to Christ. This is asserted in many texts ofScripture, where those who are given to Him are distinguished from other men.’Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life toas many as thou hast given him. I have manifested thy name unto the men whomthou hast given me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me’,John 17.2,6. The Scripture designates those whom the Father gave Him by suchphrases as these: the people whom He foreknew, Rom. 11.2; heirs and children ofpromise, Rom. 9.8; the seed of Abraham, not carnal, but spiritual, both of theJews and Gentiles, Rom. 4.13, Gal. 3.18, Heb. 2.16; His people, His body, theChurch, Matt. 1.21, Eph. 5.23; vessels of mercy prepared to glory, Rom. 9.24;chosen in Christ, predestinated to the adoption of sons and to conformity toHis image, Rom. 8.30, Eph. 1.4, 5; and the posterity of the second Adam, all ofwhom are to be quickened in Christ, in opposition to the posterity of the firstAdam, in whom all die, 1 Cor. 1 5.22, 23. From all which it appears, thatChrist was not given for all of all nations, but for a limited number only.

To no purpose will our opponents reply, that ‘the giving of Christ wasconditional, not absolute; that the condition was that all who would by faithreceive the offered salvation, should be made partakers of it; and since thiswas not to be the case with all, it is not surprising that they derive noadvantage from it.’ This is a begging of the question; it is without foundationin Scripture, which nowhere mentions such a conditional giving of Christ.Though faith is proposed as a means and condition necessary to the reception ofChrist, and the enjoyment of the blessings offered in the Gospel, yet it doesnot follow that it was a condition to the giving of Christ, since faith itselfis a gift of grace and one of the fruits of Christ’s being delivered up forsinners. Further, if the giving of Christ rested upon any condition, thecondition must depend either upon God or upon man. The latter of these can beaffirmed by none but a Pelagian; if the former be affirmed, then it comes tothis, that Christ is said to be given to us as a Saviour by God on these terms,that He will bestow Him on us on condition of His working faith in us; whichfaith, however, He will not give, though He alone is able to give it. Howglaring an absurdity!

Our view is further confirmed by the connection of that twofold relation to us,which Christ sustains: the relation of a surety, and that of a Head. He is oursurety, that He may acquire salvation for us, by rendering to justice thatsatisfaction which it demands. He is our Head, in order to apply this salvationto us, by working in us faith and repentance, through the effectual operation ofhis Holy Spirit upon our hearts. Hence, as He is not given as a Head to allmen, but to His members only, or, which is the same thing, to the elect, whoare actually to partake of salvation, He cannot be the surety or sponsor of anyother than these. Of whomsoever He is the surety, He is also the head. The onecannot be extended farther than the other. This also appears from theconnection between the death and resurrection of Christ, in which there is thesame twofold relation. Since He died as surety, He must rise as Head, as thereasons for His death and resurrection are the same; nor can any reason begiven, why the ground of the one should be more extensive than that of theother. Hence it is, that the Apostle Paul speaks of these as being equal in efficacyand extent: ‘Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification’,Rom. 4.25. ‘That he died for all, that they which live, should not live untothemselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again’, 2 Cor. 4.15. Henceit cannot be said that He died for any others than those for whom He rose,because no one will be a partaker of the fruits of Christ’s death, unless byHis resurrection. But that He did not rise as a Head to confer salvation uponall, is self-evident.

2. The same doctrine is established by the connection between the atonement andthe intercession of Christ. As they are both parts of His priestly office, theymust be of the same extent; so that for all for whom He made satisfaction, Heshould also intercede, and not make atonement for those who will never have aplace in His intercession. The object of His propitiation and of His appearancein the presence of God must be one, since the Apostles Paul and John representtheir connection as indissoluble, 1 John 2.1, 2, Rom. 8.34. That He does notintercede for all, but only for those who are given Him by the Father, ChristHimself expressly declares: ‘I pray not for the world, but for those whom thouhast given me out of the world’, John 17.9. When it is so much more easy to prayfor any one than to lay down life for them, will any one say that Christ woulddie for those for whom He would not pray? Will they say that at the very momentbefore His death He would refuse His prayers on behalf of those for whom He isjust about to shed His blood?

The objection which the Arminians offer is frivolous: ‘that there is a twofoldintercession of Christ: one universal, which is made for the whole world, ofwhich intercession Isaiah speaks, 53.12, and agreeably to which He is said tohave prayed for His murderers, Luke 23.34; another particular, which is madefor believers only, which is spoken of, John 9 and Rom. 8.’ The objection restsnot on any foundation, either in Scripture or reason. As Christ is always heardand answered by the Father, John 11.42, if He prays for all, all will be saved.The doctrine of universal intercession is not taught by the Prophet Isaiah,where he says, ‘he made intercession for the transgressors,’ Isa. 12; for it isnot said that He made intercession for all, but for many whose character isdelineated by the prophet, in a preceding verse, as those who shall bejustified by Christ. It is not said, Luke 23.4, that He prayed for all thosewho crucified Him, but for those who knew not what they did; and we are assuredthat these obtained pardon, no doubt the fruit of the prayer which Christoffered up on the cross to the Father, Acts 2.3. Nor if Christ, through theimpulse of humane affections of love, prayed for those who perished, is it tobe considered that the intercessory prayers, which He offered as Mediator andin the discharge of His special office, are to be extended to others than theelect given Him by the Father. To the elect Christ Himself restricts Hisintercessory prayers.

3. The inseparable connection between the gift of Christ and the gift of theHoly Spirit bears the most conclusive testimony to the definite atonement. Asthese two gifts, the most excellent which God has bestowed on us, are always inScripture joined together as cause and effect, John 16.7, Gal. 4.4, 6, Rom.8.9, 1 John 3.24, they must be of equal extent and go together; so that the Sonis not given to acquire salvation for any others than those to whom the Spiritwas given to apply the salvation procured. No reason can be assigned why thegift of the Son should be more extensive than the gift of the Holy Spirit. Itis plain that the Holy Spirit is given to none but the elect. Hence, if therebe any harmony between the work of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit, in theeconomy of salvation, Christ was given to die for the elect, and for them only.Pertinent to this purpose is the argument of the Apostle Paul, in which, fromthe giving of Christ, he infers the communication of every blessing. ‘He thatspared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall henot with him also freely give us all things?’ Rom. 8.32. The apostle reasonsfrom the greater to the less. Surely He who gave His Son, which incontrovertibly was the greater gift, will not refuse to give us faith and all other saving blessings, which are the less; and this the rather, becauseChrist, by delivering Himself up, has merited for us, together with salvation,all those gifts. Whence the conclusion is inevitable: either all thoseblessings shall be given to the reprobate, if Christ died for them; or if theyare not given them, which is granted by all, then Christ did not die for them,i.e., He did not die for all. This is not answered by alleging that the apostlespeaks of Christ’s being given in a special manner to the believers. For, aswas said above, the supposition of a universal giving is gratuitous, andnowhere countenanced in Scripture; and since faith is a fruit of Christ’sdeath, it cannot be a condition antecedent to His death. Further, since, accordingto the order which is laid down by our learned opponents themselves, the decreeconcerning Christ’s death was antecedent to the decree relative to bestowingfaith; it is inconceivable how at one and the same time, and in the self-samesimple act, Christ could be delivered up for all, and for some only.

4.      Another argument is, thesuperlative love of Christ towards those for whom He died. He loved them withthe most ardent affection. Greater love has no one, than that one should laydown his life for his friend, John 15.13. In the same exalted strain does theApostle Paul extol the love of Christ: he speaks of it as truly wonderful and unheard of among men. ‘Scarcelyfor a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would dare even to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yetsinners, Christ died for us’, Rom. 5.7, 8. But this cannot be said of all men,and every man.

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