‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ [Ephesians 5:25-27]
For fifty years I have believed that the Bible teaches the limited design of Christ’s atonement, that is, that his purpose in dying was to effectually save every one of his people from their sin, taking them to heaven, and transforming them into his likeness for evermore. I remember half a century ago being part of a group of students discussing animatedly the purpose of the death of our Lord, and then we’d gone on to a meeting in which we had sung, ‘Lo! He comes with clouds descending once for favoured sinners slain,’ and at that line I had a moment of recognition and turned and exchanged a little smile with a student called David. We had been asking, ‘For whom had Christ died?’ and we had just been confirmed in the answer as we sang to one another these words, ‘for favoured sinners slain.’
We could ask the question in this way; ‘On the cross whom is Christ saving?’ and the answer is, ‘All who are saved.’ Then we ask, ‘Did he do that on purpose, or was it an accident?’ We can only say, ‘He did it on purpose.’ That is limited atonement; Christ purposefully shed his blood on Golgotha as the Lamb of God and effectually saved all for whom he died.
Every building has a design. You go to the architect with your plan; it’s for a conservatory, or a single bedroom flat, or perhaps a four bedroom detached house, or even a 75,000-seat stadium. That is what you want and the architect must plan and accomplish your end. His work will be limited by your purpose. Every work of engineering has a plan, and in the engineering of redemption God had a plan when he sent his Son into the world, didn’t he? It was the outworking of the covenant of grace he had made with Abraham, that Abraham’s seed would be vast, blessing all nations of the world, every one of them receiving the Holy Spirit. God is going to accomplish that plan through his Son Jesus Christ.
1. The Old Testament Knew Only a Limited Atonement
The Old Testament only knew a limited design to sacrifice and atonement, didn’t it? There was no universal purpose in the Mosaic sacrifices was there? The Egyptians who worshipped their gods, and the Babylonians similarly sacrificing to their idols, and the Assyrians, and the Canaanites, and the Medes, and the Persians prostrating themselves before figures of stone, gold and silver – none of them had their sins purged away by the Jewish sacrifices made at that altar erected outside the tabernacle and later at the temple in Jerusalem. Only Israel’s sins were pardoned on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sacrifice. Only the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were carried upon his breastplate. You look in vain for the names of Egypt, or Babylon, or Assyria and the rest. Full atonement was limited to the repentant, obedient, sacrificing people of God wasn’t it? Were all who died in Noah’s flood covered by the altar that Noah built and the sacrifice he made after the flood waters went down? Not at all! Just the eight who believed and got into the Ark were saved. The rest died because they rejected the message he had preached to them of the Seed of the woman who would come in the fulness of time and save sinners. Gentiles like Rahab and Ruth needed to turn from their gods and put their trust under the wings of Jehovah. Naaman the Syrian leper needed to consult the prophet of God and dip seven times in the Jordan to be cleansed. Jonah was sent to Nineveh not to confirm that the sacrifices the Ninevites made to their idols had atoned for their sins but to urge them to repent and call upon the name of the Lord.
In the 39 books of the Old Testament there is one strong exhortation and that is that the people should come and reason with God as he pleads, ‘Be willing! Be obedient! Make sacrifice for your sins as I have made provision! Do you scorn the blood of sacrifice? Apply yourselves to the means of atonement, and then, though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’ Whose sins were atoned for? Was it all the physical descendants of Abraham without exception? Is that right? No. It is wrong.
The false prophets were descendants of Abraham, and the people who worshipped the Baals, King Ahab and Jezebel, the drunkards and the sluggards, the liars and the careless ““ they also were circumcised sons of Abraham. Did they all have atonement for their sins merely because Abraham was their great-great grandfather? You’d better not believe it or such faith will take you into presumption and that is a step from hell.
Atonement was for those who took a lamb without spot and blemish and led it to the altar where they in faith put a hand on its head and then handed it over to the priest to be slain and have its blood sprinkled on the altar. Only such a person could have any assurance that his sins had been atoned for.
Atonement was limited to the one who sought it in God’s way – not the careless; not the scorner; not the godless and unrighteous who were too mean and unbelieving to offer a lamb, who never made a sacrifice. Those people had to bear the weight of their own sins. They carried that guilt throughout their lives. Those who were merely the physical descendants of Abraham bore it to the throne of judgment and answered to God for it. No one and nothing had made any atonement for their sins. They had no provision by a sacrifice and by divine pardon. Their sins were all un-redeemed; they all stood naked, in their guilt before God; they answered for all their sins.
2. The New Testament Knows a Purposeful, Definite Atonement
Consider in the very opening chapter of the New Testament, Matthew chapter one, the statement made there by the angel of the Lord to Joseph about the child that Mary would soon bear, ‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). Why the incarnation? To save his people from their sin. Why the virgin birth? To save his people from their sin. Why that life lived under the law of God? To save his people from their sin. Why the death on Golgotha’s cross? To save his people from their sin. Why the resurrection? To save his people from their sin. Why does he continue to make intercession for us? To save us from our sin. Why has he gone to prepare a place for us? To save his people from their sin. As he said in Matthew 20:28, ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ He gave his life for many, yes for a company of people more than any man could number.
Or again consider the words of exhortation to the elders in Ephesus in that moving farewell address of Paul. The apostle tells them, ‘Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). Get out of your house and go searching for the sheep when they’ve gone astray. Why? Christ bought the church with his own blood. Feed them with the purest doctrine and holiest truths. Why? Christ bought the church with his own blood. Pray for them all without ceasing. Why? Christ bought the church with his own blood. Be an example to them in godliness and loving kindness. Why? Christ bought the church with his own blood. They are a purchased people, that is, a redeemed people and the price paid was not silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ.
Again, think of the people whom Jesus was conscious God had given him in a glorious donation of grace before the foundation of the world. He refers to them in John chapter six and verse 37, ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me.’ He could see them coming to him, every single one of them; none would be lost! That was his confidence, and for those people he interceded; John chapter 17 and verse 9, ‘I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.’ There are some people for whom Christ does not pray. Think of it! Doesn’t that give you a chill of fear, that you could be going through life without a mediator with God, no high priest, no one interceding for you, no one saying, ‘Father I plead my sacrifice for that woman. May it not be in vain.Bring that woman safely home. She is going through such difficulties; Satan is giving her such a hard time; she is beset with doubts and her faith is failing, but I am praying for her, Father, that she will not give up.’ Is Jesus Christ praying for you? How do you know? One way only, that your hope is in the blood of Christ. In other words, if I should ask you why God should let you into heaven to be with him for ever then you would reply, ‘Because the Saviour died to make atonement for my sins.’ Right! Then for you the risen Saviour ever lives and he makes intercession for you. It is a limited intercession if you believe the words of Jesus, ‘I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.’
Or again, let us consider the words of our text in Ephesians chapter five and verses 25 through 27: ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ Notice three things about these words:
i] Christ loved the church.
Who was the object of Christ’s love? The church, that is, all the believing, repentant people of God, those who will be saved, those whom the Father had given to him. ‘Christ loved the church;’ those are the exact words of Scripture, aren’t they? All the Old Testament believers who made atonement for their sins did so by the sacrifices of bulls and goats and lambs and pigeons just as God prescribed. They knew perfectly well that the blood of an animal couldn’t cleanse their souls of their guilt. They knew it was a picture, a figure pointing to a great divine atonement that one day would be proved by the promised Seed of the woman, their Messiah, the seed of Abraham. But they faithfully did what God told them, putting their hand on the head of the sacrifice. The Messiah loved them for doing that.
He also loved all the people who after his death would entrust themselves to him and would be saved. Saul of Tarsus, that cruel torturer and persecutor of the church who was converted, said it like this, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.’ It was such a personal love. Christ did not love some amorphous blob! His affection was not focused on a crowd, on his fans! He loved his own people passionately. He knew everything about them. They were all individual men and women to him, no two of them identical, and he loved each one of those different personalities. He was their lover and their bridegroom, as you sing it in those familiar words from ‘The church’s one foundation’:
‘From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride.
With his own blood he bought her
and for her life he died.’
He was desperately in love with them. He had been given them by his dear Father. What a precious gift and so he would look after them; he would do nothing to lose a single one of them. He would live to make a robe of righteousness like a bride’s robe with which he would cover them from head to foot. He would die to make full atonement for their sin that they might go at last to heaven saved by his precious blood. Why did he do all this?
Because of his immeasurable love for his people, all of whom had been loved with everlasting love. How glorious is the love of God! God’s own infinite, eternal and unchangeable love, and it is focused upon favoured sinners. Remember it is love! It is not just his mercy, and kindness, or even his forgiveness that Paul is speaking about here but the passionate affection, the undying love of Christ for his own people. There can be no greater blessing than to feel one is loved by God. But Paul goes on . . .
ii] Christ gave himself up for her.
He did not say to an angel,’Gabriel, or Michael, give yourself up as a sacrifice for those people whom the Father has given to me.’ He did not address men and women saying, ‘Favoured sinners, my Father has given you to me, but you need to make atonement for your own sins. You have to suffer exhaustively for your sins until they are all paid for. You must all go to a place where you will submit to suffering until you have earned the right to come to heaven.’ No! There is nothing like that. Not angels and not men and women were asked to give themselves up. It was Christ who humbled himself! He chose to drink that cup. It was Christ alone! He loved favoured sinners and he gave himself up to this fallen world, to constantly contradicting sinners, so wearingly and wearying. He gave himself up to the utter loneliness of his last hours when God and men forsook him. He gave himself up to the whipping, the 39 stripes making a lattice work of his back, criss-crossing in ugly, raw, bleeding welts. He gave himself up to carrying his cross, to being stripped and nailed through his hands and his feet and lifted up, hanging suspended by those nails in the blaze of the middle eastern sun until it turned dark, facing the chanting mockery of the mob. He gave himself up to enter the anathema of his Father’s wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. He gave himself to the abandonment and the dereliction. He gave himself up to death. He did it and he did it alone.
There was none other good enough. There was no other way. God must maintain the righteousness of his nature, always to be absolutely fair and straight.
But God’s heart longs to forgive, to pass by the transgressions of those he loves and pardon them all. How can it be done without God compromising his own integrity? This is the way. Christ Jesus, the Son of God stood in man’s place. He gave himself so freely; he humbled himself upon Mount Calvary instead of man. He drank that cup of agony and damnation that was being brought to us. He drank all the suffering and misery and anguish such as only God knows, as he is the only one who knows what sin deserves, and Christ gives himself to bear the eternal torment of every one who shall at last stand in heaven justified. His death buys their redemption. He drank all the dregs in a great draught of love. He drank damnation dry when he gave himself up for us.
iii] Christ made her holy.
You see what is the purpose of his loving her and of his giving himself up on the cross for her? Paul says, ‘To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ This was Jesus’ purpose in dying the accursed death of the cross and this is what Jesus had achieved when he finally shouted out ‘It is finished.’ He had finished doing all this for his people. If Christ had loved her, and if he had given himself up for her then this was the necessary effectual consequence, that those for whom he’d died could not be anything but holy; they were cleansed by the word; they were presented to Christ radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish; they were righteous and blameless. If Christ had died in the place of a sinner then this is what must happen to him.
Do you understand what the death of Christ accomplishes? It is not that Calvary makes atonement possible. It is that Calvary makes atonement effectual; it is an accomplished atonement. You understand the difference between a possible deliverance and an accomplished deliverance don’t you?
There is a chain of life-savers sitting on their high seats along the beach, one every hundred yards. See their presence there stretched out along the shore, sitting with their tanned bodies and sunglasses, looking out to sea, their life-saving certificates nailed to the side of their chairs. They are saying ‘The lives of all swimmers in difficulty may be saved.’ So will no one drown? Of course people are still going to drown; the presence of the lifeguards on their seats makes life-saving only possible. To actually save a life they must jump out of their seats, run along the beach, dash into the water, swim out to the drowning man and deliver him, keeping his head above water, bringing him to the shore and give him the kiss of life and artificial respiration. That is accomplished salvation. Their being there on the high chairs and looking out to sea presents to the drowning man only the possibility of salvation.
We have a fire-brigade in the town. There are twenty men and two fire engines and the firemen are all qualified in rescuing people from danger. So will no one die in a burning house? Of course they will die unless that possible salvation is transformed into accomplished salvation when the men slide down the pole and get into their suits as they clamber onto the fire engine and drive off, the warning siren of a fire-brigade speeding along sending the cars to the side of the road that they might hurry past. Then they get to the burning house and they train their hoses on it, and put their ladders against it entering it and rescuing the children from the burning building. Then it is not just the possibility of salvation that they are offering to the people of the town; it is the accomplishment of salvation.
Again, I can use the illustration of a local hospital in the same way. People are still going to die of curable diseases though there is a 240-bed hospital full of trained physicians and nurses and expensive equipment within half a mile. That building, and the qualified personnel with all their skill are there. The drugs and the X-ray machines are also there, but they simply make deliverance from death possible; they must be applied to you or you will die.
So it is with the redemption of Christ. What he has done is not to plan and build a vast redeemability plant – ‘Golgotha Redeemability Incorporated.’ It is not that everyone in the world has been placed in a redeemable state through Calvary. Rather what Paul is telling us in our text is that Christ’s dying love for us has actually made all those for whom he died ‘holy’ men and women, that is, they are now a people set apart to God. That is what our text says. Christ has cleansed all of them by the washing with water through the word. They are clean in God’s eyes however filthy they’ve been. Christ has presented them to himself as a radiant church. Christ has so effectively redeemed them that they are without stain, or wrinkle, or any other blemish but he has made them all utterly holy and blameless. That is what the atonement of Christ has achieved – according to the Bible, not according to my theories or my theology, but according to the plain claims of Scripture. We are pleading with you to face up to what Scripture teaches.
The cross of Christ has obtained eternal redemption for all for whom Jesus died (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus has got it! The eternal redemption of favoured men and women is all in the hands of Christ who has all authority in heaven and earth. God has given him a name above every name. Where would be a better place for our redemption? It is all in the hands of King Jesus.
Again, Paul reminds Titus of this in chapter two of the letter that he sent to him and verses 13 and 1, writing of ‘our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’ That is what the cross of Jesus Christ has accomplished; he has not made possible a redemption from all wickedness. He is not now anxiously watching to see whether one or more will respond. He has in fact actually redeemed us from all wickedness, and purified for himself a people eager to do what is good. That is the achievement of the blood of Christ. Then you must ask the question, ‘for whom has he done this?’, and the answer Paul gives Titus is ‘a people that are his very own.’ They are the ones who live a new life. They are the ones who have been redeemed from wickedness. They are the ones who have been purified, who are now eager to do what is good. They are the ones who will one day be in heaven, saved by his precious blood.
So here is the plain teaching of the New Testament concerning the accomplishment of the dying of Jesus. If Christ has actually died in my place on Golgotha then he has once and for all dealt with all the sins of my life, of my heart, and my nature; my original sins and my actual sins; my sins of omission and my sins of commission. They have all been nailed to that cross in Christ. Think of every sin that you are aware of, and if you are in Christ then he was made that sin for you. Take all the sins that you cannot be aware of now, and yet when he gave himself for you he was giving himself for those sins too. That means henceforth I cannot consider or acknowledge my sins in isolation. I can think of them only as they have been made Christ’s. They are no longer mine alone, in this sense, that I will never answer for Christless sins to God, because Christ has comprehensively answered for them already. There are no un-dealt-with sins for the people of God.
It is a magnificent and even an incredible concept, that our sins no longer control or modify our relation to God today. It is as if they weren’t there. There is no guilt at all; there is no defilement at all; there is no blame at all; there is no shame; it does not exist; they have all been removed by God and laid on his Son. He has been made sin for me. He has taken our sin, our past sin, our present sin and our future sin and he has put it all away for ever. So we are washed; we are clean; we are as Paul says so astonishingly in our text, ‘without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’
I am not sure that my conscience believes it. I am not sure that there is not in me something that wants to cling in self-pity to some remnants of my guilt so that I wallow in my past, and turn my eyes on my yesterdays and tell people how badly I have lived, and so can feel sorry for myself. I am pleading with you to let the truth of these words be the whole truth about the way things are between you and God today. There is no barrier whatsoever; there is no impediment; there is no closed or limited access.
It has all been forgiven; it has all been forgotten. There are people who cling to faith in the fantasy dark land of ‘purgatory’ where they themselves are going to deal with the pollution of their sins. There they are going to handle their outstanding sins until they are all finally dealt with. A result of that error is that it actually encourages them to sub-Christian living, a little less dedication, a little less commitment, a little less sanctification because they feel they themselves will have to deal with those sins and their consequences after they die. Ultimately they are going to be delivered from them by their own sufferings. So they are not perturbed to let out the occasional swear word and blasphemy, and display carelessness about the Lord’s Day, and the odd explosion of anger and the occasional drunkenness and some sexual sins. They shrug because they’ll have to face up to the consequences of their own sins on the fantasy island of purgatory. I am telling you that the only purgatory there is either in this world or the next is the Cross. Only there are our sins dealt with; only there you will find the blood of Christ. God has made no plans for a purgatory.
I am saying that the sins of all the people of God – as many people as there are sands on the seashore – have all been forgiven; he has borne them all, every speck, every spot, every such thing has been dealt with by Christ there. There is absolutely nothing left, do you know it? There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The single determinant today of your relationship with God is what happened on the cross. Nothing else matters; nothing else is relevant. There are only two factors in the equation, what God did and how Christ responded. God made Christ sin and he received that sin lovingly. And how you feel about your life, and how sometimes you doubt, and what you are doing for Jesus, and how you fail – that is not remotely relevant to Golgotha. The one thing that matters is that Christ loved us and gave himself for us there. And I don’t for a moment believe that the heart that knows that will take advantage of it and go from this meeting to get drunk or steal or deceive or live a life without law because the cross won’t let you.
I believe on the contrary that if substitutionary atonement has no place in your thinking, if you are living your life with the smallest consideration of what Jesus Christ did for you on Golgotha, and if you are feeling that God still has things against you, then that often serves as some unconscious grudge against God, that somehow justifies you from being less than perfect and permits a relapse here and a shortcoming there. I want to know in the depths of my heart that when God made Jesus Christ sin for us that Christ made a good and decent and proper job of that sin, that he dealt with it all 100%, that he cleared it all away, that he experienced its hell in my place, that he entered its outer darkness instead of me so that I shall never, never know the unquenchable fires. When God comes to me searching for my sin he finds it on the Cross of Jesus condemned and covered, and on that fact is my whole confidence of forgiveness grounded.
He does not find on Calvary the possibility of redemption; he finds redemption accomplished.
3. The New Testament Declares a Cosmic Atonement
In the Old Testament there was an atonement limited to the Jews. They alone made sacrifice for their sin by the spotless lambs which they chose whose throats were then cut. No atonement outside Israel under the old covenant; none at all; the nations were in darkness and in the bondage of Satan, but what a difference when the Messiah came! John the Baptist announced the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth like this, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ No longer is there redemption only for believers in Israel, but through Jesus Christ sinners in every part of the world are going to have their sins taken away.
i] So sometimes in the New Testament the word ‘world’ refers to the vast Gentile world where the good news of the cross of Jesus was going to take away the sins of many.
ii] Sometimes the word ‘world’ refers to the moral wretchedness and depravity of men and women. Remember John’s great words to his readers, in his first letter and the second chapter, ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eye and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world’ (1 John 2:15, 16). What is the world? It is not an arithmetic concept, it is a moral concept. It does not refer here to every single person without exception from Adam until today. It does not refer to the more than 6,000 million people living on this planet today. It refers to a fallen rotten age in rebellion against God and characterized by the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. If you love the things this sin-crazed world loves – that which is seen in all the world’s media and talked of with such giddy excitement by sinfully disturbed men and women – then the love of God is not in you. You are acting and speaking and enthusing just like the people of the world who have rejected God. Yet we are told – hear me – Oh ‘Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!’ (Isaac Watts) – that God loved the world.
What we are told never to love, God loved, and so loved it as to send his own Son to die for ‘the world.’ Oh what a good thing that he loved the world! There would be no hope for any of us if God had not loved us worldlings and sent his Son to deal with the sins of the world! So sometimes the word ‘world’ refers to an ethical state of sinful darkness and rebellion against God.
iii] Sometimes again the word ‘world’ refers to the creation. God loves the world he has made. He will not give it over to the devil to turn into hell. Some sinners are going to be lost, and yet the world is going to be saved. There is going to be a new heavens and a new world and righteousness is going to characterize it because Christ has dealt with cosmic sin when he hung on the cross. He has de-sinned the cosmos by his precious blood, so powerful is the sacrifice of the Son of God who made the world.
iv] Again sometimes the ‘world’ refers to the blessings of common grace which have come to all mankind through the love of God in Christ, blessings which continually fall upon all men and women, even sinners who go to the grave rejecting Christ. Yet these men and women show family love, and moral rectitude, and participate in caring ministries, and make our lives rich by their cultural, creative, medical and teaching skills. All this comes to them from God via his Son Jesus Christ and through the great work of atonement he has done. Christ by his precious blood has bought the blessings of common grace for a groaning world so that we might preach the gospel to all men.
v] Sometimes the word ‘all’ means all kinds of men and women. Think of Titus chapter two: ‘for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (Titus 2:11). There were millions of men who lived and died without ever hearing of the grace of God bringing salvation. But to all kinds of men that grace has appeared. No longer is there Jewish exclusivity but now all men, rich and poor, with all colours of skin, all nations and tribes, to them all the gospel has been preached and people of every kind or personality have been changed by the grace of God. God commands all men everywhere to repent.
Do you see how you have to look at the context of New Testament words like ‘all’, ‘everyone’, and ‘the world’, and see what makes sense of that verse?
There is one thing concerning which there can be no argument, that the blood of Christ is powerful to save the very worst of men, the chief of sinners. It makes the foulest clean. It makes scarlet sins whiter than snow. We can never limit the power of the blood of Christ can we? If Christ has died for them then they are eternally saved. Then the only alternative interpretation is that we must limit the design and purpose of the atonement, that it was the people of God in all their billions that Christ loved and made atonement for on Calvary’s cross.
4. The Grievous Error of a ‘Universal Atonement’
I was recently reading some words of a preacher preaching a universal atonement. He was trying to impose that faulty logic, that philosophical system, upon the New Testament. This is what he said, and it made me quite ill to read it. The speaker was a man named Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the American mega-churches and a leader in the Emerging Church movement. He said this:
When Christ died on the cross he died for everybody.
Every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every people group.
Jesus said that when he was lifted up, he would draw all men to himself.
All people. Everywhere.
Everybody’s sins on the cross with Jesus.
Forgiveness is true for everybody.
And then Bell goes on . . .
And this reality extends beyond this life.
Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is full of forgiven people.
Heaven is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.
Ours or God’s.
I find that so shocking because what good does this man think the blood of Christ has done for him or for anyone? He thinks that the blood of Christ actually saves no one from hell. Jesus can die for you but you can still go to the place of woe. The damned in hell were as much an object of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness as the saved in heaven, and so for all those in hell Christ died in vain, so ineffectual was Jesus’ dying. He loved them; he gave himself for them and yet they ended up in the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet. Such an atonement I despise. I reject it. As Spurgeon once said, ‘I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.’ What a religion that magnifies the will of man above the power of God! What saves from hell according to Rob Bell? It is man’s choice with his free will that did it. That man was a smart cat! That’s what made the difference. He got to heaven because he made a good choice, and he will have eternity to preen himself on that. Heaven was not decisively gained by the blood of Christ but by human decision.
We have been taught by the Spirit and by the Bible of the power of the blood of God the Son who gave himself up that we saved sinners might be his bride. Jesus died to ‘to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’
That is what the dying love of Christ has accomplished. If he died to redeem a sinner by hanging in the place of a sinner, propitiating the wrath of God towards a favoured sinner, reconciling God to us by his royal death, then we shall never perish; not one of all these blood-bought sinners shall end in hell. The blood of Christ will forbid it.
Dear dying Lamb Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
Men and women, cling to the Bible’s teaching on the limited and definite and effectual purpose of the blood of Christ. That will then be your comfort both in life and in death.
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