David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: redemption

Definite Redemption

Many Christians hear the phrase limited atonement and just cringe. “What a repulsive idea! How could you even propose such an idea?” The term “limited atonement” within Calvinism is very misleading though. I instead prefer the term definite redemption, or definite atonement. First of all, many against Calvinism imply we are stating Christ’s death couldn’t have saved everyone, that we are “limiting” it’s power by making this assertion. This is just wrong. Christ’s blood possesses infinite value because He is God and He is infinite, eternal. His blood has infinite worth, able to cleanse trillions upon trillions, infinite numbers of sins and sinners. Could His death and resurrection have saved everyone? Absolutely! What are we talking about though in terms of the limit? It’s very simple. It’s not talking about the worth of Christ’s blood, but the scope of who it’s applied to. What was the intention of the cross? To make everyone savable (a possible salvation if the hearer adds a response of faith to the call of the Gospel (a faith produced by their unregenerated human nature)), or to render certain the salvation of specific people, namely His children, the chosen, the elect? Was it to cover all sins except unbelief or to cover all sins including unbelief (i.e. rendering certain faith and repentance)? IF our doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, stating that God, from eternity, from before the foundation of the world, chose specific individuals without regard to their future works, faith, repentance, looks, smartness, or any other thing (hence the word unconditional), but that He chose them simply because of His eternal love (to which we humbly, undeservingly, and contritely answer, “Praise God!”), then what was the intention of the death of Christ? To make salvation merely possible or to make it certain? That is what this doctrine is about. I believe John Piper is very helpful on this …

“The term ‘limited atonement’ addresses the question, ‘For whom did Christ die?’ But behind the question of the extent of the atonement lies the equally important question about the nature of the atonement. What did Christ actually achieve on the cross for those for whom he died? …

… Which of these statements is true?

1. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.

2. Christ died for all the sins of some men.

3. Christ died for all the sins of all men.

No one says that the first is true, for then all would be lost because of the sins that Christ did not die for. The only way to be saved from sin is for Christ to cover it with his blood.

The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God’s punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

(Taken from “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” – John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church Staff – This sums up what I believe pertaining to Calvinism as well)

11-Part MP3 Audio Series on Calvinism by John Piper

Understanding Justification: Central to the Believer’s Relationship with Christ

On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of any who would believe in Him. He atoned for their sin and wickedness, having become a perfect sin sacrifice, He turned away the wrath of God, He then died, and rose from the grave, conquering sin, death, and hell, that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life in Him. Within the work of the cross though, there is a giant, eternal, judicial act that occurs where the Father declares the believing sinner righteous in His sight, having the very righteousness of Christ imputed to him or made the sinners’ own. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and on our worst day or our best day (morally speaking) we can do no better than what Christ has already done at Calvary. This is justification. It is finished. I cannot make this any clearer.

A problem that I see amongst many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is the problem of sinning (which we all do), but then feeling totally unworthy to even approach the throne of God to confess those sins for fear of His wrath or disapproval. And in not approaching Him they then fall into more sin and thus the cycle continues, turning into a works-based approach to God. At the heart of this though is a misunderstanding or a lack of understanding (and believing with their hearts) in the justification that occurred at Calvary. At the cross, Christ became the believer’s sin substitute, he literally turned away the wrath of God, and the righteousness Christ earned has now become our own. At the cross, the Father declares the sinner to be righteous, because of Christ. So when we sin, that sin is covered by the blood of Christ. And not only so, but God couldn’t be more pleased with you, even in the midst of that sin, at that very moment! When the Father looks at you, even in the midst of your sin, He sees Christ! That is absolutely remarkable! You couldn’t have done any better than Calvary. It is through the lens of the cross of Christ that we view ourselves in relation to God now. As Romans 8:1 says firmly and confidently, “There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ.” Justification lies at the heart of the Gospel and is something we must grow in our knowledge of and belief in (by God’s grace) to even defeat the very sin that hinders us in approaching God.

Now, so that people reading this don’t go and take this to mean something it doesn’t, I want to clarify this point. Though the believing sinner is declared righteous in the sight of the Father based upon the free grace that comes from the cross of Christ, this does not mean that we continue the pursuit of sinning just because the Father declares us to be righteous. It means the opposite in fact. Because Christ has done this for us, how can we not but turn from our sin in great thanks? We are to never say in our hearts, “Well, because God sees me as He sees Christ, I can do whatever I want. I’m saved right? And my sin is covered … so why not?” I want to warn those of you who think this at some level: you may be in danger of having never possessed authentic, God-wrought faith to begin with. Why is this? If you claim faith in Christ, believing Him to be the only Son of God who became your sin substitute (the Gospel), and then continue living your life in a sinful, rebellious way, showing no real change, you may still be under the condemnation of God, not possessing true faith that saves. It is like saying, “I’m going to turn to the right,” but instead you continue straight ahead as if your words mean nothing. Your words don’t line up with your actions. It’s not about perfection though, because we all know, based on personal experience, that we all sin, every day, and fall short of the glory of God continually. It’s not about perfection, but it’s about direction. Do you struggle with your sin? Or do you pursue sin, unrighteousness and rebellion as if you were an unbeliever? Does your life look any different than that of the unbelieving world? You may need to check your faith for authenticity. It is a very dangerous thing to acknowledge salvation in Christ and yet show no change in your life from before your alledged salvation experience. You and those around you can have no confidence that you are saved if you live your life as if an unbeliever. It may be that you are one. The mark of the believer is one of change, but not perfection. It has been said many times, “Once saved, always saved.” But I prefer the phrasing I read off one of the articles on Monergism.com, “Once Saved, Always Changed.”

However, as believer’s, when we do sin, as a great friend of mine (Jon Dansby) put it, “We have the best theological view of ourselves in the midst of our sin.” When you are sinning, what do you have to offer God? Absolutely nothing. You are morally bankrupt. You’re a sinner through and through, and you know it. We are morally corrupt and defiled in our natural state, and this sinning could not make that any clearer. We trample on the glory of God every day with our sinning and our wicked hearts. And we deserve the hottest corner in hell for our actions against an infinitely glorious Creator, with whom there is no sin or unrighteousness. He would have been perfectly just to send us there for eternity with no mercy. Romans 3:9-18 comes alive in the midst of our sinning and is made to ring true of all of us. If we were to just leave it there, without any hope of being saved from this plight, then yes, we should all fear the eternal wrath and condemnation of God, and recoil in anguish at what befalls us, and we should mourn our eternal souls. But the doctrine of Justification comes in with mighty power and states that you the believer, a mere unworthy worm of a sinner, are declared by the great Judge, that could have poured out His wrath rightfully on you, to be righteous, because of the work of Christ on the cross. Because of His work, He has now, even in the midst of that sinning, imputed the righteousness He earned to you. What a great and glorious thing! What a great exchange! He took your sin from you, nailing it to the cross, and then gave you His righteousness! How glorious! What a great and wonderful, loving, merciful, kind, just God!

This is the hope that we exult in in the midst of sinning: that God declares sinners to be righteous through the cross of Christ. Understanding the judicial act that occurred at the cross and applying it to our lives is a life-long process of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray for all of you, even those who don’t believe, that God would grant to you repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and in His wondrous work at Calvary.

God is so gracious

I was just considering what a great and wonderful God we serve (we who believe in Christ that is). Words cannot sum up how wonderful He is. First of all, He secured our eternal destinies by His blood out of pure love, from no other motivation other than to glorify Himself and show His immmense love toward us. By making a sacrifice at great expense to Himself, He secured our salvation so that we could spend eternity with Him, forever enjoying His presense, the way it was designed to be before the fall. I am so amazingly grateful not so much for material blessings (though I am greatly thankful for that), but more, I am so grateful that Christ purchased me on the cross with His blood. I would be totally lost, a ship without a rudder had it not been for His eternal sacrifice paid for by Christ bearing the wrath of God in Himself. He is so wonderful, majestic, creative, beautiful, glorious, powerful, sovereign, loving, kind, just, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnivorous (jk), patient, kind; He is everything I am not. Jesus Christ is what makes me whole. I praise God that He chose to save sinful, loathsome me from an eternity without Him. He is my all in all, my great Comforter. He is pure and holy, beyond expression. Praise God that Jesus Christ didn’t simply die but that He also rose from the grave by the power of God! With this wonderful hope in Christ, we will be raised to kingship to reign with Him for all eternity, forever glorifying the God of grace. And not only do we receive all of these eternal blessings (many not yet experienced to their fullest), but we get to experience them now (to a degree)! That is just wonderful and drives me to the cross to constantly experience His forgiveness and pardon based upon His finished work. Thank You, Father, that You did not abandon me to my sin, allowing me to pursue the desires of my heart to their fullest, thus hardening me to a life of sin and eternal damnation. Praise You God that You sought me and changed me when I was not seeking You. Praise You that You are the almighty King that for whatever reason (pure love) You decided to rescue me from my sin, myself, and the result of that life, hell. Jesus You are everything to me, and I pray You would pour out Your Holy Spirit in me that I may show you to all I come into contact with, that all may see and know that You are Lord, the Sovereign King, through which the whole world came into being. I love You. God is so amazingly gracious …

Isaiah 53:4-6

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:4-6 (In Context)

I just love going back to the Old Testament and seeing Christ spoken of so clearly. This is the very Gospel in the Old Testament, that our Messiah would suffer so greatly on our behalf. I find it interesting to see how the writer talks about how He carried (past-tense) our sorrows, how he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Christ’s sacrificial death spans and pierces through time. When He died, He died with supreme, sovereign intentionality, to purchase those those the Father had chosen in eternity past, before the foundation of the world, His children (John 17). Christ’s atonement was to bring glory to God and to purchase salvation for the children of God, Jew and Gentile. The Holy Spirit then applies this work of redemption to the children of God in time. One of the cool things though is that the work of Christ was clearly perceived by the prophets several hundred years before Christ was born, this piece of scripture being a clear picture of this. How cool is that? They saw the work of redemption that was coming, not necessarily knowing all the particulars, but nevertheless seeing the Work of works. Thank God for Jesus, that He would put on human flesh, live a perfect life unto God, die on the cross for our sins, and rise from the grave, that any who would believe in Him would be saved. It’s just simply amazing, the very thing that brings life, and meaning to life. If you’re depressed, look to the cross of Christ; if you think more highly of yourself than you ought, look to the cross of Christ; if you have huge decisions to make, look to the cross of Christ and base them upon and as a result of His work. Are you worried or anxious? Look to the cross of Christ. There is nothing better than personal communion with the God of all time, the Sovereign King, the LORD of lords. Go to Him and look to Calvary where He was “crushed for our iniquities” and that “with His stripes we are healed.” Sin has ruined everything, Christ and His work can fix anything.

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