This morning I was lifeguarding and letting my mind wander, like I do, and my mind wandered right on over to limited atonement, like it does (I’m glad the two of us are so predictable). I’ve been thinking for a few months about what comfort the doctrine of limited atonement holds for believers, and this morning I thought about something John Owen said in his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Owen said, in speaking of holiness, faith, and grace, “Now, where should a soul look for these things, but in the purchase of Christ? Whence should they flow but from his side? Or is there any consolation to be had without them? Is not the strongest plea for these things at the throne of grace, the procurement of the Lord Jesus?” (p. 307).
Indeed it is, John.
Thinking of that, I was struck by how sure the promise of holiness is to the believer, rooted in the death of Christ for him. When I’m struggling with sin and feel as though I’m fighting a losing battle, a general atonement will not help me. If Christ died for all without exception, then he has done all he’s going to do, and the rest is up to me. Even if I get some help from the Spirit, it is still my will which has to effect the benefits Christ purchased on the cross. But if Christ died for his elect, not so as to make them salvable but to actually save them, then his elect will be holy. I will grow and progress in sanctification, if I am his own, because he bought me for his own.
Of course this is not to say I don’t have choices, or that I don’t have any responsibility. It is to say, however, that even my right choices, my sweat, blood, and tears for the sake of holiness, were bought by his choice, his sweat, his blood, his tears. And that’s good news.
14 thoughts on “Double Cure”
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If I may, where does it say in Scripture that all that was purchased by the death of Christ (for those for whom he died)?
Nowhere in the Bible is a claim made, “Jesus died for [amount x] people.” However, Scripture does regularly speak about the real effect of Christ’s death. We see that Christ did not come to purchase a choice for us to believe or disbelieve the Gospel, but Jesus came to save sinners.
Luke 19:20: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Hebrews 9:12: “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
If Christ came to seek and to save the lost and secure an eternal redemption through His death on the cross, it seems that those for whom He died are those who the Father has chosen before the foundation of the world.
To “effect” something is broader than to “purchase” something. I was honing in on Owen’s language. Owen treats the death of Christ as if its a literal purchase of things. Owen has a commercial or pecuniary view of the satisfaction, rather than a penal one. J.I. Packer notes that many Puritans inadvertently blended penal and pecuniary categories.
I would say that the death of Christ effected a sufficient satisfaction for all sin, whereby the Father was now free to extend pardon to whomever he wishes, and to sincerely offer it to all men in the gospel invitation. However, the death of Christ, itself, does not effect pardon, or secure it. What it accomplished was to provide the legal platform whereby God could now extend forgiveness, in conformity to his Law. We can add to this that the “person” of Christ, as the God-Man and Messiah was rewarded with all authority on earth and in heaven. And in this sense, he sends his Spirit, to give gifts to men, to call and to save them, and so forth.
But that is a long way from Owen’s idea that the death, itself, purchases things. This of salvation, among other things, purchased by the death was a key argument in the early 17th century polemic for limited satisfaction. The problem is, nothing in Scripture supports or hints at the claim. For that reason I questioned your point.
Thanks for your time,
Thanks for your interest and comments!
I disagree with your comment, “nothing in Scripture supports or hints at the claim” that the death of Jesus purchases benefits for believers. While it is true that the statement “Jesus purchased… with his own blood” is not found in Scripture, the language of redemption (with its rich meaning involving purchase and buying) is used all throughout the Old and New Testaments. When we say that Jesus purchased benefits for the elect, what we mean is that all of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus are ours because he died. He paid for them with his blood.
And you’re probably correct in saying that the Puritans conflated or confused penal and pecuniary atonement theory; yet Scripture does the same thing when it makes statements like “the wages of sin is death,” or “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…” The Bible has no problem mixing a metaphor, so neither should we.
If I may ask David, How then do you define “purchase” “buy” or “redeem”? Obviously the Scriptures must have meant something by those terms, and so in order to continue in the discussion I think you must tell us exactly what you believe the authors meant. In their uses in common English, I do not know of a time when I went through the grocery line and purchased something, that they then decided to keep the groceries.
Secondly, you bring up that Christ’s death was penal. That is absolutely correct, yet it even furthers our point. If Christ judicially took upon Himself all of the wrath that we deserve for our sins, then the wrath is gone, is it not? I just wonder how you would explain Christ bearing wrath for people who will then receive the wrath of God in hell.
Thirdly, you will have to find a point in Scripture not only where the “redemption” is divided into one potential and one actual, but also where a potential redemption is spoken of at all.
Sorry this comment wasn’t clear enough, I admit I didn’t spend much time examining all of your positions.
You say: I disagree with your comment, “nothing in Scripture supports or hints at the claim” that the death of Jesus purchases benefits for believers. While it is true that the statement “Jesus purchased… with his own blood” is not found in Scripture, the language of redemption (with its rich meaning involving purchase and buying) is used all throughout the Old and New Testaments.
David now: Sure, redemptio language is used in Scripture, but two things 1) it speaks of persons, not things. 2) Salvation or faith are never described as being purchased.
In the early 17th C, one of the big arguments for limited satisfaction worked on that assumption. It argued like this: Faith is infallibly purchased for all whom Christ died. Faith is not given to all men, therefore, Christ did not die for all men.
The problem with that line of argument is twofold 1), nowhere does it say faith is something purchased by the death of Christ, 2) nowhere does it say “all for whom Christ died” faith is infallibly purchased.
Redemptio language in Scripture speaks more to deliverance. Israel was redeemed from Pharaoh, that is delivered. Pharaoh never received a payment from Moses or God. When Paul uses the language of redemption or bought, it is deliverance from bondage to serve a new Lord.
The idea that faith, salvation and things are purchased is a hang-over from medieval merit language.
You say: When we say that Jesus purchased benefits for the elect, what we mean is that all of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus are ours because he died. He paid for them with his blood.
David: Where does it say he purchased benefits? Can you point me to a Scripture or argue a warranted inference?
You say: And you’re probably correct in saying that the Puritans conflated or confused penal and pecuniary atonement theory; yet Scripture does the same thing when it makes statements like “the wages of sin is death,” or “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…” The Bible has no problem mixing a metaphor, so neither should we.
David: I am not sure how the Isaanic reference implies a mixing of metaphors.
But as you say, the operative word is “metaphor.” The traditional case for Christ purchasing faith uses the idea of purchase concretely not metaphorically. Andrew Fuller made the same observation back in the 18thC and he was spot on.
Anyway, thanks for time, and sorry for the delay.
You ask: If I may ask David, How then do you define “purchase” “buy” or “redeem”? Obviously the Scriptures must have meant something by those terms, and so in order to continue in the discussion I think you must tell us exactly what you believe the authors meant. In their uses in common English, I do not know of a time when I went through the grocery line and purchased something, that they then decided to keep the groceries.
David: Sure, modern scholarship now generally believes that NT redemption language was used to denote deliverance, not purchase by way of transaction or payment. And the idea of “price” speaks to the great cost of the life of the Son.
Part of the problem is that this harkens back to the devil-ransom theory: the devil was paid off. That idea, as noted above, is part of the Medieval way of seeing merit and works. By “works” one purchased salvation. In the 17th C, what was seen as metaphorical by the early Reformers, was adopted as a concrete descriptor of the mechanism by which Christ’s death saves a person. Adopting pecuniary categories shifted the focus or locus of efficacy away from the effectual call, to the death of Christ in and of itself. It was said to ‘self-apply’ or ‘secure it’s own application.’ That’s fine in pecuniary transactions. I pay off Smith Jones’ debt, the debt is ipso facto discharged, by the act of the payment itself.
It’s a nifty argument but shallow and untrue to the biblical representation of penal obligation.
You ask: Secondly, you bring up that Christ’s death was penal. That is absolutely correct, yet it even furthers our point. If Christ judicially took upon Himself all of the wrath that we deserve for our sins, then the wrath is gone, is it not?
David: There is an example, the efficacy is all shifted back to the death and the ipso facto aspect is implied. The answer is no. The living unbelieving elect are under and subject to the wrath of God in life.
This is the big question. Eph 2:3 Roman 1:8, for example. Or the nature of justification. Upon faith, a man is “justified” from the wrath of God, as he is, judicially, transferred out of the state of wrath and into a state of pardon.
The wrath, therefore, is only removed at the time of faith. Faith, then, is the necessary precondition, causa sine qua non, of justification. So it is not the case that all efficacy is located in the death itself.
You ask: I just wonder how you would explain Christ bearing wrath for people who will then receive the wrath of God in hell.
David: Sure, thats called the double-payment argument. It’s a flawed argument. It only works on the assumption that the satisfaction of Christ works like, in a concrete way, a pecuniary or commercial payment. Owen, for example, uses the sin = debt and God = creditor metaphor all the time. If you read C Hodge, tho, he debunks the double payment argument on its head. I will point you to my index on this and you can scroll down and read C Hodge: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7323 or you can read Dabney or others.
You ask: Thirdly, you will have to find a point in Scripture not only where the “redemption” is divided into one potential and one actual, but also where a potential redemption is spoken of at all.
David: Well clearly Redemption has a twofold aspect. You must even concede this. If Redemption is deliverance, then both propositions are true even on the terms of strict TULIP theology: 1) By the death of Christ, all the elect have been redeemed. 2) Was not subjectively redeemed until the time of faith.
What this means is that redemption has a twofold element. There is the aspect of the price paid, and the aspect of deliverance effected. By “price paid” I mean, and so does modern scholarship, the idea of the life of Christ laid down at great cost, not the idea of a literal payment made to someone. For this, 1 Tim 2:6, Christ is the ransom [price] for all men. And yet, as to subject appropriation or application, this only happens at the time of faith.
So where I sit, 1 Tim 2:6 and 2 Pet 2:1 speak of the objective aspect of the ransom accomplished.
You say: Sorry this comment wasn’t clear enough, I admit I didn’t spend much time examining all of your positions.
David: No worries. If you read nothing, at least read what C Hodge has to say on the double-payment idea. He rightly shreds it.
We know from Scripture that Christ’s blood was the blood of the New Covenant (Matt 26:28) and that Christ’s death inaugurated the New Covenant from Hebrews 9. Not only does Jesus at the Lord’s Supper say the blood was shed for many for the FORGIVENESS OF SINS (which implies faith for salvation), but also reading in Jeremiah 31, quoted in Hebrews 8, clearly Christ’s blood brings about faith, for it speaks of everyone knowing God. Therefore, if Christ’s blood was shed for you, your sins are forgiven, and you know God.
To put it simply 🙂
What does it say that the blood of Christ “brings about faith”?
As I see it, the efficacy of the NC is not that all for whom Christ dies will be infallibly brought INTO covenant (or something like that), but that those in Covenant will be infallibly brought to complete salvation. The point of contrast is that the OC high priest had to repeat his sacrifices, and that he was a sinner himself. Christ, being perfect, only needed to offer himself once, for all time, upon which he effectually intercedes for those who “draw near to God” (Heb 7:25, 10:1 etc).
So where exactly does it state or imply that the blood brings about faith?
Sorry to be a bother on this, but it seems to be this is a sort of urban-legend theological claim that exists without justification in some circles.
It seems as though those on the Double Payment/Double Jeopardy Fallacy page mention Christ’s death as a payment ONLY. First, can you explain what that means? I never understood that idea in the Unlimited Atonement sense. I mean, I get what they are saying, but I don’t know how they would describe Christ’s work. For example, does God pay Jesus back for those sinners who don’t believe? Does Jesus wait to pay God until they believe?
Second, What about the propitiatory aspects? Or the judicial aspects of the atonement?
Also I obviously, along with every Christian, believe that God justifies people on the condition of their faith.
You ask: It seems as though those on the Double Payment/Double Jeopardy Fallacy page mention Christ’s death as a payment ONLY. First, can you explain what that means?
David: Sure. There are two types of satisfactions.
Smith owes Jones $50. Brown pays Jones the sum of $50 in behalf of Smith. Smith’s debt is ipso facto, immediately, discharged. It would unjust for Jones to then approach Smith demanding $50 from Smith.
Smith has been caught speeding. The Judge fines him $100. Brown, pays the bailiff $100 in behalf of Smith. Neither Bailiff or Judge could then go to Smith directly and demand a subsequent payment of $100.
In both analogies, a subsequent payment cannot be demanded because of the very nature of pecuniary, aka monetary, aka commercial satisfactions. In pecuniary satisfactions, the payment is the exact thing demanded in the debt, pound for pound, coin for coin.
In penal satisfactions, normally, no one else can stand in, and make a “payment” in your behalf. Penal satisfactions have to do with criminal law, pecuniary satisfactions have to do with civil law.
In the case of penal/criminal law, you are required to make satisfaction in your own person. Smith murders Jones (evil debt-correct that he was ;-), Smith must make satisfaction in his own person. But here the Judge can add any extra conditions he or she wishes.
So for example, in criminal law, the judge may exact a just and equivalent payment, but also demand that the criminal go to rehab, or attend classes, or obtain professional counseling for a specified period of time. These extra conditions and be over and above the demanded satisfaction.
To extend a metaphor Dabney uses. A poor brother borrows money from a rich farmer, but in due time is unable to pay. The other brother steps in and offers to work for the farmer for a period of time, in order to pay off the first brother’s debt. The farmer agrees, but given the nature of this arrangement, he can add conditions, he can “re-term” the original arrangement. He adds that the other brother must seek professional help to deal with his gambling addiction. The older brother will work at the farm as a mechanic for 3 months. However, if the younger brother refuses to get professional help for his addiction, the farmer will exact payment from the younger brother, directly. The younger brother will have to make satisfaction in his own person, and in this case, debtor’s prison.
With the case of sin, satisfaction and Christ, we are “like” that. We have sinned and are now subject o a penal obligation (metaphorically, a debt) to God. Christ steps in and offers a new arrangement with the Father. Now tho the obligation is “re-termed.” Christ in his own person will satisfy the demands of the law, by sustaining a just equivalent to the law’s demands, but now also a condition is attached: namely faith. If the sinner refuses the condition, then the Father will demand the original payment from the sinner directly.
Further, in all this, it is not as if sin is transferred to Christ. When theologians speak of sin being imputed, they mean Christ is treated “as tho” he had sinned, and so as tho he were a sinner he bears the full weight of the law against sin. All the while we remain sinners, literal and actual sinners, subject to the curse of law in life, until conversion.
So in life, I am subject to curse and wrath of divine law, for being an actual sinner, even tho Christ was punished “as” “tho” he was a sinner. Nothing is transferred. Thus, Christ can suffer for a man, and yet that man suffer in his own person for his own sin, in life before conversion, or even in death if he remains unrepentant.
The double payment argument only works on the assumptions that the satisfaction of Christ works exactly like a pecuniary satisfaction, no more, no less so.
Does that help any?
You say: I never understood that idea in the Unlimited Atonement sense. I mean, I get what they are saying, but I don’t know how they would describe Christ’s work. For example, does God pay Jesus back for those sinners who don’t believe? Does Jesus wait to pay God until they believe?
David: Well Christ makes no literal payment. There is no transaction, no transfer of anything. Christ is treated as tho he was a sinner and so received the actual curse of the law, all the while he was a totally innocent holy person. We on the other hand are treated as sinners because we actually are. The problem with double-payment argument is that it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a penal satisfaction.
In penal satisfaction, there is no wasted payment.
5 men are due to suffer the same punishment for their various crimes (sins). Let’s quantify that for the purposes of analogy. Each man us due to receive 10 floggings. A man steps in and bears the punishment due to any one man. He does not have to receive 50 floggings, only 10. What he sustains, by way of his vicarious satisfaction is sufficient for all 5. If 3 of the men reject the work of the substitute, nothing is wasted. It is not as if the man suffered 50 or 45 or 30 floggings, *more* (or *less*) than the number of those actually saved. Make sense?
Christ suffered the just equivalent of the curse of the law that stands against any given man, namely death. If Christ suffered death for 10 people all due to suffer death, he does not have to die 10 times, or die bigger or more than any one man. His suffering one death is sufficient for all 10. If 6 of those men reject Christ, his suffering was not wasted, because it is not numerically quantifiable at all. His suffering was deemed a just equivalent of infinite value, whether for one man or two, or millions or billions. If a millions reject Christ, nothing is wasted.
You ask: Second, What about the propitiatory aspects? Or the judicial aspects of the atonement?
David: What about them?
You say: Also I obviously, along with every Christian, believe that God justifies people on the condition of their faith.
David: If the double payment argument is correct, faith becomes irrelevant. If Owen’s trilemma is sound, my faith, your faith, any elect person’s faith is irrelevant, as a payment has been made and *received*, so how God hold any elect person *as if* no payment has been made for them? They must be born into this world ipso facto free of divine wrath. And given that, why does God delay so long in the justification of so many? That would be unjust. Imagine you are in jail. A relative comes and pays your fine or bond, but the judge decides to keep you languishing in jail for years, that would be unjust, right? The double payment argument, if sound, proves too much.
Hope that helps. Any questions feel free to ask.
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