Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

f. ST006/6 Atonement Benefits.


The Extent and Benefits of the Atonement.

1. The Extent of the Atonement

By the extent of the atonement is meant the answer to the question "for whom did Christ die?". There are two answers given to this. There are those who say that Christ died for all and that salvation is possible for all. The Arminians are among these.

The Calvanists, however, as a result of their emphasis on the divine decrees and on unconditional election must of necessity limit the benefits of the atonement to the elect. The point at issue is not so much the extent of the atonement as the question as to whether God fore-ordained certain to be lost and certain to be saved, quite apart from any action on their part.

It this is true, then a limited atonement is obviously likewise true. Without twisting such Scriptures as John 3:16 it is impossible to conceive of the atonement from a Scriptural point of view as anything but universal.

This does not mean that all will be unconditionally saved, but that the efficacy of the atonement is sufficient for all if they will accept the provisions. Wliley lists the texts which go to show this under three heads as follows:-

  1. Those which speak of the atonement in universal terms, Miatt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 3:16,17; Rom.5:8,18; 2 Cor. 5:14,15; 1 Tim, 2:4,6; 4:10; Heb. 2:9; 10:29; 2Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 4:14.
  2. Those which refer to the universal proclamation of the Gospel, Matt. 24:14; 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; cf. also Mark 1:15; 16:16; John 3:36; Acts 17:30.
  3. Those which distinctly declare that Christ died for those who may perish, Romans 14:15; 1 Cor, 8:11; Iieb, 10:29.

There are two Scriptures which might be taken to refer to a limited atonement and need special mention. These are Matt. 20:28 and Mark 10:45 where Christ said that the "Son of man came, to give His life a ransom for many".

These, however, cannot be set against all the multitude of passages so clearly in the other direction. There are also three reasons for making them agree with the other passages. While the verses say "for many" they do not say "not for all" and "all" is "any". Secondly, the Greeks commonly spoke of "many" or "the many" when referring to "all". The kindred passage in 1 Tim. 2:6 makes quite clear what the meaning was according to the apostle, "Who gave Himself a ransom for all".

2. The Benefits of the Atonement

The benefits which derive from the atonement are usually divided into two classes, those that are unconditional and those that are conditional.

(a) The Unconditional Benefits

These are those which are given to the race as a whole without the need of faith or any other condition. There are three,

  1. The Continued Existence of the Race. It is impossible to conceive that God would have allowed the race to continue multiplying in evil, unless some provision had been made to reclaim it from its lost and sinful condition. The Restoration of all men to Salvability.
  2. The atonement provides the possibility of salvation for all men unconditionally. It means that the Holy Spirit has been restored to the race to enlighten, strive and convict, and give man His gracious aid. The Salvation of Infants. It must be frankly admitted that there is nothing stated in the Scriptures concerning this. The Scriptures are strangely silent on the matter and there has been, as a result, a great deal of discussion and difference of opinion. The nearest approach to any comment is found in the words of our Lord concerning little children, when He took them in His hands and blessed them, and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.". These words plus the words of Paul in Rome ch.5:18 "by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" seem to imply that the Arminian idea concerning infants is correct. It is generally held among them that infants are unconditionally covered by the atonement and cleansed from any indwelling depravity, should they die before reaching years of accountability. This seems to be the only view consistent with the love and justice of God. When any child actually reaches the condition of accountability is unknown to any but God Himself.

(b) The Conditional Benefits

These are those which come as a result of personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and will be considered under the doctrine of the Work of the Holy Spirit and the experience of salvation.
Dr.Pope summarizes the whole matter of the atonement in the following passage which will serve as a fitting conclusion to this section, "The teaching of the Scripture on this subject may be summed up as follows: The finished work, as accomplished by the Mediator Himself, in His relation to mankind, is His divine-human obedience regarded as an expiatory sacrifice: the atonement proper.

Then it may be studied in its results to God, as to God and man, and as to man. First, it is the supreme manifestation of the glory and consistency of the divine attributes; and, as to this, is termed the righteousness of God.

Second, as it respects God and man, it is the reconciliation, a word which involves two truths, or rather one truth under two aspects: the propitiation of the divine displeasure against the world is declared; and therefore the sin of the world is no longer a bar to acceptance.

Third, in its influence on man, it may be viewed as redemption: universal as to the race, limited in its process and consummation to those who believe." (Compendium of Christian Theology Vol. 2 p.263).

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