Monday, January 17, 2011

The verse that makes you a Moderate Calvinist

After studying out of Arminiasm I took hold of the idea for awhile that Christ offers no benefit or atonement for the non-elect, that He came for His church, His bride, and has nothing to do with anyone else, except to pour wrath on them.  John Owen popularized this by taking the most famous verse that speaks to universal atonement John 3:16 and made all mean elect.  But does this idea hold up?  Is it indeed the case that Christ only dies for His sheep and makes no atonement of any kind for the reprobate?  To answer, we look to this verse.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised."

For the love of Christ controls us
The us is the apostolic authorityBecause of God's boundless, inexhaustible love Paul is driven to evangelize everyone and anyone- in stronger language he is bound to it, he must do it, 1 Cor 9:16. 

Because we have concluded this

This is connected with the controlling power: if Christ has come to die for any and all men, then Paul has no grounds to exclude anyone, and must preach to everyone.  The hypers assert that since we don't know who the elect are we must preach to everyone, but that's not what the text says next. 

that One has died for all, therefore all have died

Paul assumes the case of dying for all, and then draws the conclusion based on it.  If it's the case that Jesus died for the sins of all, then their sins are perfectly well paid for.  Or stated more simply: because Jesus did what He intended to, and died in power He certainly paid for every sin.  The sinful record no longer now stands against men, their continued obduracy does.  Their record is clear and will not be charged against them Mark 3:28-29, unless they decided to reject the cross of Christ.
By saying all have died, Paul is not making a reference to the elect as having died to sin permanently and irrevocably, as that is the sense we think of as life.  More on this below.  He is not speaking of faith, or the work of the Spirit, or of regeneration, as the idea of application of this sacrifice is foreign to the text at this point.  The hypers see that Christ achieves effectually everything He intended to, and then insist that the only thing He intends to do is save the elect.  In other words they come with preconceptions and read it into the text. That is what it's not saying. 
Paul instead speaks of all men dying as all men being purchased by a new master (like 2 Peter 2:1).  They have died to their independent rule, their old life, their old ways.  They may persist in their death state, or dead state, but we conclude this: that they are dead, the record of their sins perished with Christ.

And He died for all that those who live might not live for themselves
The first purpose of Christ's death was to conditionally put to death the charge that God the Father holds over all men because of their sinful hearts and deeds.  The second was to sanctify His electI'll skip going into this in detail since it's obvious that Christ came to save the elect by having them obey Him forever, but it's worth noting that the elect live, which is different than dying. 

But for Him who died and for their sakes was raised

This modifies the second point previously asserted, that Christ died so the elect may be sanctified.  Paul now calls out that while it may be true Christ died for the world of men, He rose for the elect.  The highs and hypers assert that Christ died so that He could effectually save the elect; the moderates assert that He rose for the sake of the elect.  The difference is not in the death of Christ, it's in His resurrection.  It's not in the atonement it's in the application thereof. 
I'm still not convinced.  How can you assume that all means the world, and not the elect?  
The argument Paul asserts is that the atonement was universal, or for all, although only a part of the whole will enjoy it's benefits.  All die, some live.  The argument could be stated as follows:
Christ has died for all men so that some of those men whom He died for might live for Him. 
Which is pretty much identical to the text.  But if we replace the word all with the world elect as the hypercalvinists suggest we get the following:
Christ has died for all the elect, therefore all the elect have died.  And He died for all the elect that some of them might live for Him.  Some of them?  That would imply that some of the elect don't have salvation.  Backed into a corner  now it's time to admit defeat. The only view that holds up is the moderate understanding.


Ryan said...

The text doesn't say that only some of those for whom Christ died will live, and Murray points out that in texts like Romans 6:8, life with Christ is correlated with death with Christ; not all [without exception] live with Christ, so not [all without exception] die[d] with Christ.

Also, have you read Dr. Gary Long's exegesis of 2 Peter 2:1? He convincingly argues it is not a reference to Christ's sacrifice.

Phil said...

I have, and I found James Richards more convincing still

I'm open to listening about my interpretation of what exactly all died means; I'll be the first to admit that I may have gotten it wrong, unless of course the proposed viewpoint is all means the elect.
Since I just dealt with the problem that poses when Paul grabs a subcategory off the first one and states that only that subcategory will rise.
The verse resists you.

Phil said...

Long makes me extremely suspicious. Bought should rather be acquired. And created is just another way to say acquired, so the best reading would be "God who created them".
In the same way brother means cousin, so the papists were right, Mary was a perpetual virgin!