Securing Our Faith, III
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).- Matthew 1:18–21
In addition to being found explicitly in many passages of Scripture, particular redemption is also a logical conclusion drawn from other clear teachings of the Bible. For example, if God elects only some individuals unto salvation (Rom. 9:13), then it makes no sense for Jesus to die for all men without exception. If He did, then some people go to hell even though their sins have been paid for.
Arminians counter this by saying that though Christ has made atonement for all, His death does nothing for us until we have faith. Ultimately, they believe it takes Christ’s work plus belief to get atonement for our sins. But does this really magnify the glory of God? If Jesus’ death by itself is not enough to cover our transgressions, then we have a deity who is frustrated when men whom He hopes to save will not add the merit of their faith to Christ’s death. This hardly sounds like the Lord of Scripture (see Job 42:2, for example).
If we have to add our faith to the atonement to make it effective, then it is possible that when Jesus died, there was a chance no one would believe and be saved. However, many passages, including the text for today’s study, affirm that Jesus does save His people. Yes, faith is needed for salvation, but a particular atonement does not need faith to complete it; rather, it guarantees faith in those for whom it is intended (Tit. 3:4–7). Christ’s death for His people inevitably produces faith, by the Spirit, in those for whom He died. The elect then demonstrate that their sins have been paid for through trust in Jesus.
In the end, both Arminians and Calvinists believe in a limited atonement. Arminians limit the effectiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice with the “power” of their faith, and God’s desire is routinely frustrated. But for Calvinists, the Father and the Son limit the effects of Jesus’ death to His people alone, and therefore their salvific intentions are always satisfied. Calvinism clearly brings more glory to the Almighty.
The history of the people for whom Christ died begins in Genesis, and we have much still to cover in our walk through the book of beginnings. Monday will begin a year devoted to the second half of this book as we continue to unfold the history of redemption.
Whenever we are faced with competing options in theology, it is helpful to consider which view gives more glory to God. Generally speaking, Arminian theology exalts the will of man, while Calvinism desires to elevate the glory and sovereignty of God. The Lord’s glory shines most brightly in particular redemption where His will to save His people is not frustrated. Commit yourself to seek that which brings glory to God and resolve to glorify Him in the coming year.
Passages for Further Study
1 Cor. 1:30
Heb. 9:11–14; 13:12