I rarely if ever get involved in theological wars between a Calvinistic and Arminian debate. There was a time when I did, and I used to argue passionately for the Arminian position and indeed I still strongly hold to that belief system. In general I avoid such debates as it creates of polarisation of sides between Christian believers: Whereas I believe we are all united in Christ and are on the one side.
This morning I am going to break this self imposed rule and principal of which I normally blog and give my thoughts on the Calvinistic sola of Limited Atonement from within the framework of Romans 5.
Most if not all adherents of the doctrine of Limited Atonement state that Christ only died for the elect. The elect being all who have faith in Christ. Within this doctrinal framework is the belief that it is God whom gives the believer the grace to believe, while he withholds grace to believe from non believers. And its within this schema that the doctrine of Limited Atonement logically progresses in that if God limits his grace to believe to a few, God limits salvation to the few and therefore Christ only died for the few. And if Christ only died for a few, his atoning work is limited to the few.
However, in Romans chapter 5, the Apostle Paul clearly will not allow us to hold the view that Christ only died for a few. He pushes and labours the point that through the sin of one man (Adam) death entered the world. All people he says are affected by death. All are affected by the sin of this one man. He says,
Romans 5:15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.
It’s important to note that contextually ‘the many’ means all. Elsewhere Scripture tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore we can replace this term with ‘all’ and in doing so the end of the verse reads…How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to all.
There can be no logic or Scriptural warrant to suggest that when Paul says: ‘How much more,’ he really means that the offer of much more to all is only to a few. Cleary in this verse Paul is saying that though death has triumphed and affected all through sin – God has triumphed even more so with the gift of eternal life for all.
I want to make it clear that I am only speaking here about the offer of the atoning work of Christ. I’m not taking a universalist stance and strongly believe that while the grace of Christ is for all, its accessed by us having to embrace and believe in his grace for us. A discussion perhaps for another day.
There is no limitation in this verse. The offer of grace is open to all. It is a genuine offer of salvation for all. It is an effective offer of salvation for all. And Christ is not limited to some, but is for all.