THE CHRISTIAN’S COMPASS.

Point Three: LIMITED ATONEMENT

Various Verses.

          Today we will look to the third point of the Christian’s compass. This is the ‘L’ in the mnemonic word TULIP. And let’s be reminded of what each letter in that Mnemonic means.

  1. T- Total Depravity: Men and women can’t save themselves because the fall that took place in the Garden of Eden was a total fall.
  2. U- Unconditional Election: If men and women are going to be saved then God must save them. Therefore, since God is the one who is going to save then He must be free to save whoever he wills.
  3. L- Limited Atonement: Since God has chosen to save certain people, then those are the people for whom Christ died on the cross. (Particular Redemption)
  4. I – Irresistible Calling: Since God chose certain people and Christ died for certain people then the Holy Spirit will call those same people into the experience and enjoyment that Christ purchased for them by His blood.
  5. P – Perseverance of the Saints: Because our salvation has its beginning in God, then He will be the One to see that it all comes to its proper conclusion. What this means is that everyone who He has chosen, and bought with Christ’s blood, and called by the Holy Spirit, will enter into the eternal enjoyment of heaven.

         

          Today’s message is really about the cross. And we know that if we are wrong about the cross then we are going to be wrong about everything else. That’s why this message is particularly important. This is #3 in our series the Christian’s compass. The main theme this morning will be, what the Bible teaches about how people are saved.  We all agree that in order to know which way we are going and whether we need to make any corrections then a compass would be very helpful. Finding our way through the Bible is no different. And if you understand these five points of the Christian’s compass, you will be able to steer your way through the Bible, because you will, at last, understand it. And all the parts will fit together in your mind.

          I have shown you that in history we have been given an easy way to remember these five points of the Christian compass. TULIP. Limited atonement, or if you prefer, like I do, another term that means the same thing, ‘Particular Redemption’. It refers to the teaching that, the people who couldn’t save themselves and whom God has chosen to save, they are the people the Lord Jesus Christ died for on the cross.

          And when He died on the cross, he didn’t just make salvation possible, he actually saved. When he died on the cross, he actually accomplished what was necessary to save those particular people. Jesus Christ died on the cross for His people. That’s the third point of the compass.

          So, the question we are going to answer today is what is the purpose of Christ’s coming? Why did he come? Why did he live? Why did he die? What did he do when he died? Did he do anything? And if we come to understand this third point of the compass, the result will be a new confidence when you say along with the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

          As with our previous sermons, on Total Depravity and Undeserved Election, we will do three things in order to understand this truth more clearly: First, we will look at what the New Testament as a whole teaches about the cross of Christ. The second thing we will do, is seek to understand some specific Bible verses that talk about this truth. And third, we will see the affect that this truth would have upon our lives when we believe it.

          So, first, when the New Testament talks about what Christ was doing on the cross it says that He actually took the place of other people. He became a substitute. Very quickly let’s just take a look at what we are told in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”. One very important thing to understand here, and anywhere else, Christ’s death on the cross is mentioned is, the language of Accomplishment. What I mean by that is, we need to understand that Jesus didn’t just make something possible, He actually took the place of other people, He became their substitute. He did something.

          Of course, now we have to answer the question, “Who are the ‘other people, ‘the unrighteous’ in the verse we just read?” And we will, but let’s continue on with a look at what the New Testament says about what Christ did on the cross first. In 1 John 2:2 we read words like this, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” What this word ‘atoning’ tells us is this, God is angry with us, (No big revelation there). But His anger does not fall on us, the sinners, because the Lord Jesus has taken that anger upon Himself.

          Think about it, God’s holy, righteous anger which would have fallen on certain people for their sins has, instead, fallen on the Lord Jesus Christ. The result is that they are rescued and saved from God’s anger, which they alone deserved. Here again, we see that the language used in the New Testament is the language of accomplishment. But we are still asking the question, “Who has had the anger of God turned away from them?” Who are those people? We will get there, be patient.

          Then in Romans 5:10 we read, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Note that I have underlined the phrases that include the word ‘reconciled’. This is another important term for us to understand when we talk about what Christ was doing on the cross.

          Of course, we all know what reconciled means in human terms. You have an argument, a disagreement with someone, you say “sorry” the apology is accepted and then everything goes back to normal. You are reconciled. At least that’s how mature individuals do it.

          But in the Bible, it is used differently. You have rebelled against God and therefore you are far away from Him. But then He brings you back. It seems similar, but it is not exactly the same. The Biblical use of the term reconciled makes it a one-sided reconciliation.

          According to Romans 5:10 we are told that when the Lord died on the cross, at that very moment, He reconciled people, He brought them back to God. Something happened, something was actually done. It is the language of accomplishment. So, who are these people who have been brought back to God through the death of Christ?

          Then in Galatians 3:13 we read, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole. I’m sure we are all very familiar with that word, ‘redeemed’. We should also make note of the language here as well. This passage tells us that while Christ was dying, he actually redeemed certain people.

          He wasn’t just making redemption possible. Redemption means that Jesus bought us with His blood. We weren’t just brought back to God, but he bought us back. And because the language of accomplishment is used, we ask the question, “So, who was bought at the cross exactly? Who was Christ redeeming?”

          So, by now we realize that the Bible always uses the language of accomplishment. It is very important for us to know the difference between two words. One is potential and the other is accomplishment. Potential language is used when referring to something as having been made possible. The language of accomplishment is used to describe and talk about something that has actually been done.

Next, we will look at a few specific passages and it will become clear, Who Christ is a substitute for. Who He is atoning for. Who He is reconciling back to God. Who He is redeeming.

Many, many times people, and even other pastors have said to me, “Of course you believe in Limited Atonement, you also believe in Election and that is just the logical outcome”. Of course, what they are saying is true. After all, it is logical after having understood that God chooses certain people to save that He would then actually save them. But that is not why I believe in it and it should not be the reason you believe in it either. We should believe in it because it is actually taught in the Bible.

Let’s go to Matthew 1:21. We have all read this verse a countless number of times especially during Christmas time. It is the angel of the Lord speaking to Joseph about Mary and what will happen to her, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (this name means Saviour; when you think about it that would have been an unusual name for someone who could have lived and died and not saved anyone wouldn’t it). “You are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Christ has a people, and he has come to save that people from their sins. Who are that people?

For the answer to that question, we can turn to John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Now let’s read verse 15, “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep”. Jesus died for the sheep. And now verse 26, “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep”. Certain people don’t believe in Christ because they are not His sheep. And that of course means that there are those who do believe because they are His sheep. You don’t become a sheep based upon whether you believe or not. But whether you are a sheep or not will decide if you believe or not. And Jesus died for the sheep.

Acts 20:28, Here is the apostle Paul talking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood”. What did God the Son, purchase? Who did he purchase? He purchased the church of God. And as we learned in our series “What is the Church?”, the Church of God (big C) is the whole number of all the elect from the beginning of the world to the end.

Romans 8:31, We’ve already seen in verse 29 how Paul said that “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

Now he says here beginning in verse 31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?         Now some of you may say, “Ah Hah! Pastor Don doesn’t it say here that, “He gave Him up for us all”? Yes, but who is the ‘all’ referring to? Verse 33, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies”. This is why it is very important to read all verses in their context first, before making them say things that might lead people along the wrong path.

Let’s take a look at Romans 14:15, “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died”. That’s another word used in the New Testament for someone who is a Christian, ‘the one for whom Christ died’. I don’t think I have heard anyone here including myself refer to a brother or sister with those words. Give the Bible to Evody, because he’s one for whom Christ died. Go ask David, or Brian, or Godfrey, or Jaqueline, or Jenipher they are all ones for whom Christ died.

2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, (and I can hear you thinking again, Ah Hah! Gotcha! See, one died for all! But you should always keep reading) and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”. This passage is saying that there are certain people who have died to their previous way of life because now they live for Christ. And these are the people who Christ died for.

Turn to Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Jesus Christ loved the church and gave himself for it”.

Just two more passages I want us to look at. One in Hebrews 2:9. We will read the whole paragraph because, once again, this is one of those verses that people take out of its context and then say to me, “See, the Bible teaches the opposite” Then I show them that it doesn’t. So, from verse 9 through verse 13, “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Who are the ‘everyone’ he refers to in verse 9? They are the ones ‘God has given me’.  And finally, 1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”. This reminds us that Love isn’t measured by how much we love God but by His love for us. And the measure of His love for us is that Christ bore the anger for which our sins deserved. You can’t know you are someone for whom Christ died unless, today you are someone who loves God. But you will not find any comfort in your love for God. Because your love is weak and poor. You will only find comfort in God’s love for you. By now I hope you see that to reject this truth of Particular Redemption means you will actually be rejecting the Word of God. And I know that even when we nod our heads in agreement there is still something that we can’t seem to shake. And that is the word ‘world’. Some of you are thinking right now about verse such as John 1:29 when John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, ““Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Let me ask you, “do you believe that everyone in the world has had their sins take away by the lamb of God?” Of course, you don’t. This word ‘world‘ is used in many different ways in the New testament and many times it is used to refer to every kind of person. For example, He just doesn’t take away Jewish sins (and that was John the Baptist’s audience), or just Samaritan sins (Jesus did that at the well in John chapter 4), we see in many places He also takes away the sins of Gentiles. He takes away the sins of people from all walks of life.                        In fact, Jesus is the only one who takes away the sins of the world. When you start to see this word in those terms then you begin to know Jesus as the one who not only paid for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.

          Also, when we are reading the birth narrative, we read that the whole world had to be taxed. Surely that doesn’t mean the whole world, only the Roman Empire. And the Pharisees said angrily in John 12:19, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” Well, they couldn’t have meant every single person, because they weren’t following Jesus.

          So far, we have seen the terms which the NT uses when it speaks about the cross. It’s always something which was accomplished. And we have just seen how very clearly the Bible teaches this truth.

Now we will see the concrete effects of this truth on our lives. When we come to believe what God’s Word teaches about the cross, when we come to believe in Particular Redemption. Two wonderful things happen. First, we are overcome by a sense of the greatness of the love of God. You see under the system of salvation taught by Arminius you have to believe that Christ died for an anonymous group. He wasn’t thinking about anyone in particular and now you have to claim your share in what He did for everybody. This means He didn’t love you, did he? He just died for some anonymous group.

But when you come to understand the truth of Limited Atonement of Particular Redemption you come to believe that he died in my place, he died for my sins. Even mine, he died for me. So, you can say the Son of God loved me and He gave Himself for me. You can say that because one of the things He purchased at the cross was faith. I couldn’t have faith unless he had purchased it for me.

The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. And the moment you believe in particular redemption then all the worship songs we sing here at UCC are transformed. Because now they are referring to what He did for me. They become personal. And if God has not withheld the greatest gift then surely, he is not going to hold back anything from me. This truth of particular redemption is so wonderful.

And the person who believes in Particular Redemption, soon finds himself asking the same question that King David asked in psalm 116, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” How shall we say thank you? The answer is found in Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”. That’s the first thing that happens you become a worshipping Christian because the cross becomes personal.

Secondly, embracing these wonderful biblical truths encourages us to boldly and clearly declare the good news of the gospel. Because we understand that the effectiveness of our evangelism is not in our presentation or in the audience’s ability to understand it or their desire to believe it, but, instead, rests solely upon an all-powerful God who has determined that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be saved.

Actually, all Christians believe in some sort of limited atonement.  The question we need to answer then is, does God’s sovereign grace and purpose determine the ultimate success or failure of the redemptive work of Christ, or does the will of man decide whether God’s intentions and purposes will come to pass?                                      Those who don’t accept this truth of particular Redemption will argue that we can’t tell anyone that Christ died for them and so our evangelism is limited. Or they will say if only the elect are saved then why should the gospel be preached at all.    

          The Bible also answers these objections. According to Romans 1:16 and 10:14-17 we can see that the Gospel is to be preached to everyone because that is how God wants to save those He has chosen.       Also, each individual doesn’t need to hear that “Christ died for your sins,” specifically. All they need to hear is that Christ died to pay the penalty for their sins and provide a way for sinners to be reconciled to a Holy God. The conclusion of this Gospel message should be, “Believe in Him, and you will be saved

Let’s close our time in His Word by going to Matthew Chapter 11 and listen to our Lord and saviour Himself. Here God talks to his father in front of others and then he talks to the people around him. This is true gospel preaching because it is from the lips of our saviour himself. Matthew 11:25, Jesus admits in this prayer that God is sovereign, and that he is Lord everywhere and he has hidden truth from certain people and revealed it to others. Jesus believes in God’s election. “Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do”. God elects, He chooses for reasons which are only known to Him. It is nothing to do with the nature or merits of the people He chooses.

He then continues by saying, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”. You can’t know God except through Christ, and you can’t know God unless Christ reveals Him to you. He’s got to will it. So, your salvation is completely in His hands.

Then in verses 28 – 30, Jesus gives the freest invitation of all, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Some people will tell you, “You’re going to be saved anyway. The followers of Arminius’s teaching say it’s all up to you. But the person who believes in the third point of the Christian Compass, Limited Atonement also known as Particular Redemption, says there is grace and kindness enough in God who has done and is doing everything that is necessary.

 

 

Let’s Pray,

 

Father, we thank you for this great Biblical truth that Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, took our place on the cross as our substitute. And there, He atoned for us, he voluntarily and willingly took upon himself the full weight of God’s anger against our sin. He reconciled those who were far away by bringing us back to the Creator God the Father. And because of the work he accomplished on the cross we are redeemed, we are saved, and we enjoy a new life in Him, and we look forward to the life we will have with the triune Godhead eternally in heaven. Lord, please break down the barriers that we have erected against your truth the barriers of pride and selfishness that prevent us from acknowledging the great doctrines of Grace. Bring us to the place where we can worship you in Spirit and in truth. Lord, we confess that we have placed too much emphasis on worshipping you in Spirit only and not according to the many other truths that you reveal to us through your Word. Give us the strength to repent and follow the guiding compass of Your Word in order that our lives will honour and glorify you. We pray through the name of Jesus, Amen.