The Danger of Following Jesus

The Danger of Following Jesus

For many years, America has enjoyed a great deal of prosperity and peace.  Often, America has been shielded from reality and from what it looks like to suffer for Jesus.  The founders of America came to this land of the free to enjoy the freedom of religion.  Although wars have been fought and blood has been spilt in other nations, the muscle of American military has often shielded the entire nation from what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel.

The original founders of America came to this land that was inhabited by a large population of Indians.  Although they had their gods, the English population that landed here in America brought their Bible and subsequently, their God with them to this new land.  For the majority of the 239 year history of America, the majority religion has been Christianity.  Everything seemed to flow from that worldview – including politics and every other aspect of life.  Being that we are a land of immigrants, we are starting to see an increasing collision of worldviews coming to the surface through politics, public schools, and the public square.  Only through the somewhat recent technology boom of constant cable television, Internet, and smart phones do we have access to more information and stories of religious persecution.  Ministries such as the Voice of the Martyrs have been committed to telling us the stories of modern day persecution.

I can remember growing up and hearing pastors and evangelists calling people to repentance on a regular basis.  Outside of a couple of occasions, I don’t recall hearing anyone come to the end of his sermon and say, “If you repent today and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – it may cost you your life.”  The fact is, the sermons that have been preached in American pulpits for the last 75+ years have been a softer message that lacks the risk of repentance.  In the most recent years, the American pulpit has been hijacked by vicious church growth techniques, psychologists, and politicians.  What it means to follow Jesus by picking up your cross and following in His footsteps of suffering has been silenced.

As a result, many American Christians don’t really know how to respond to images and video clips of ISIS beheading 21 Christians.  The images are horrid.  The threat is real, and at times overwhelming.  For the vast majority of American Christians, their comfort is tied to tanks, guns, and fighter jets that could be used to blow up the ISIS army.  However, even in recent years of blowing up many terror leaders, we are starting to learn that new ISIS types will simply arise from their ashes.  Islam is not as tame as many American politicians seem to think, and the Jihad mentality will continue until Jesus returns and forces all followers of Islam to bow before His Lordship.  Until then, what it means to be a true follower of Christ will remain risky business.  To follow Jesus has never been a safe pursuit, unless you have been shielded by American security for the majority of your lifetime like many of us have.

The danger of following Jesus will change how you preach, how you do family devotions, and how you call people to respond to the call of Christ.  Is it true that Jesus is the treasure in the field that is worth far more than anything else on planet earth?  Yes!  However, in order to obtain Jesus, we must be willing to die.  Far too many are willing to consider the financial cost of following Jesus, but they remain unwilling to consider the cost of cross bearing in a depraved world.  Before we stand before a church and invite people to follow Jesus, we should communicate to them the danger of what following Jesus means.  Sooner or later, in America, to be a follower of Jesus will not be a safe choice.  The images of ISIS beheading 21 Christians should change our method of sharing Christ this summer at VBS or in our children’s Sunday school class this coming week.  One day, not too far off into the distant future, to enter the baptistry waters will mean something far different than it did for those who grew up in the “Bible Belt” of America in the 1950s.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

In order to be fair, we should communicate the full message of the gospel – including the risk.  However, it would be far better to risk the threat of ISIS than to risk the wrath of God.  Millions of people are walking around in fear of ISIS when they have absolutely zero fear of God.  A. W. Tozer once said, “To make converts, we are tempted to play down the difficulties and play up the peace of mind and worldly success enjoyed by those who accept Christ. We will never be completely honest with our hearers until we tell them the blunt truth that, as members of a race of moral rebels, they are in a serious jam, and one they will not get out of easily. If they refuse to repent and believe on Christ, they will most surely perish. If they do turn to Him, the same enemies that crucified Him will try to crucify them.”

As I look at the picture of the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS, a few of the men appear to be afraid.  I ask myself, “What were these men thinking about during their final moments of life?”  Yes, I do believe they were thinking of their families and many other things.  However, I know one thing for sure, they were counting the cost of following Jesus!  Consider the words of Christ, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  After considering the cost of following Jesus, His value far exceeds anything this world has to offer.

Holiness Is Not Legalism and Legalism Is Not Holiness

Holiness Is Not Legalism and Legalism Is Not Holiness

According to Revelation 20:11-15, God is interested in our works.  Apparently God keeps ongoing records of all of our works, including our speech (Matthew 12:36).  However, as we read the Bible, we see that our salvation is not dependent upon our works.  Our salvation is dependent upon Jesus’ work for us on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9).  So, where is the balance?

One major league problem to avoid as we live the Christian life is legalism.  Have you heard of a specific church in your community being labeled “legalistic” in their ministry philosophy?  One of the major problems with the subject of legalism is determining exactly what legalism means since there is no definition provided in the Scriptures.  The closest thing we have in the biblical text is Paul’s address to the church in Galatia.

Galatians 1:6-9 - I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Later we learn from Paul’s words that the issue involved the circumcision requirement laid down by the law:

Galatians 5:4-6 - You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. [5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. [6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul makes his point clear.  The church in Galatia had strayed from the true gospel to another gospel.  They had become guilty of mixing law and grace.  The charge by Paul was serious.  He charge the church at Galatia to let those who would preach and teach such heresy be accursed (damned to hell).  Therefore, Paul was not playing games with the issue of legalism.  On the basis of Paul’s dealings with the issues in Galatia, we can safely define legalism as an attempt to please God on behalf of law keeping.  Donald Whitney, in his article, “Discipline Yourself…Without Legalism“ has said, “Legalism is the improper emphasis on works in our relationship to God.” If a person tries to keep the law in order to please God, he will find himself disappointed and frustrated in his attempt (Romans 3:28).  This is a massive ditch that must be avoided in the Christian life.

On the other hand, we are called to be holy as God Himself is holy.  Holiness is a biblical word from which we can provide a good working definition.  For instance, when we read that God is holy, what God is communicating to us is that He is distinct and set apart from His creation.  When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 99:5, “Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” what exactly does he mean that God is holy?  He means that God is distinctly different than any other god and He is likewise separate (the otherness of God) from His creation.

The word holy is likewise used in conjunction with the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11.  The holiness of the Sabbath was in the fact that God “made it holy” by setting it apart as distinct from all other days.  As we consider the meaning and use of the word holy, we then turn to the charge of Peter to the children of God whereby he said, “since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16).  If Christians are called to be holy (set apart as distinct from the world), what distinctions must be evident in the holiness of God’s children?  That is where we often see the rub.  Some law keepers want to elevate those distinctions to essentials.  Others attempt to tear down all laws and standards while giving all allegiance to Christ in grace.

What we must realize is that an honest attempt to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength is not legalism.  A group of elders leading a church to be distinct and set apart from the rest of the world is not legalism.  In fact, we can find many warnings in the Bible regarding worldliness (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 John 2:15).  Additionally, the attempt to please God by law keeping should not be viewed as holiness.  The only means whereby a sinner is made right before God is by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 5).  Nothing that we can offer God will impress Him.  Paul and James are in harmony with one another.  Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone – according to Paul.  Faith without works is dead – according to James.  Therefore, if a person has been justified by faith, he not only has peace with God but an inner desire to strive for holiness and to serve God.

Kevin DeYoung, in his book, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness puts it this way:

“Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption. Now before you sound the legalist alarm, tie me up by my own moral bootstraps, and feed my carcass to the Galatians, we should see what Scripture has to say. . . . It’s the consistent and frequent teaching of the Bible that those whose lives are marked by habitual ungodliness will not go to heaven. To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us.”

The lines may become blurry at times, but we must stand firm upon the Word of God.  Building fences where God has not placed a boundary becomes dangerously close to legalism.  A life of licentious behavior under the banner of the gospel is not a demonstration of freedom, but more precisely a demonstration of foolishness.  Wisdom and discernment are both key in making decisions regarding the Christian life.  We must avoid the ditch of overt licentious Christian freedom and the deep ditch of religious legalism that confuses people regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are free in Christ, but we are likewise the slaves of Christ.  A passionate holy life provides the greatest freedom in the world.  Holiness is not legalism and legalism is not holiness.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

 

Does Limited Atonement Limit Missions?

Does Limited Atonement Limit Missions?

Today is the final post in the series on the subject of Limited Atonement - the “L” in the acronym of TULIP.  The acronym serves as an overview of the teachings of Calvinism.  The subject of the atonement often becomes the catalyst for passionate debate in the evangelical community.  As a Baptist, I have witnessed divisive rhetoric in blogs, state Baptist newspapers, and in private meetings over this issue.  Some people have gone as far as labeling Calvinism as heresy.

It is not my desire to stoke old fires or create new hot debates over this issue, but I do believe it’s important to shine light on the fact that much of the negative rhetoric stems from the popular myths about Calvinism – in particular – limited atonement.

The series at a glance:

Myth #4 – A limited atonement contradicts 2 Peter 3:9 and hinders evangelism and world missions

As we have already demonstrated in this series, the teachings of limited atonement claims that when Jesus died on the cross, His death was specifically designed to atone for the sins of every person who would call upon the name of the Lord for salvation throughout time (past, present, and future).  In short, Jesus’ death was designed to pay for the sins of all of God’s elect – those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1).  According to limited atonement, the death of Jesus provided an actual atonement rather than a potential atonement.  Jesus’ death was not generic in nature.  It was designed to save His people, so when He said, “It is finished” as He died, He was making a statement about the full payment of the atonement.  Wayne Grudem defines the atonement as follows, “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 569). 

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Many people who reject limited atonement do so based upon 2 Peter 3:9.  They claim that this verse in 2 Peter teaches that God doesn’t want anyone to perish and desires all people to repent.  That is what the text says.  Most Calvinists would agree with that on a surface level.  But, as all good students of the Bible know, we must always read the Bible and interpret it within its proper context.

There are several important facts to consider when reading 2 Peter 3:9.  First, no person should ever pick one random verse in the middle of a book of the Bible without considering the surrounding context and purpose of the specific passage.  As we consider 2 Peter 3:9, we must look back at the first part of the letter.  2 Peter 1:1 reads, “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  It is clear from the first verse of this epistle, Peter is addressing his letter to fellow Christians.

Secondly, in 2 Peter 3:9, the phrase, “but is patient to you” should not be overlooked or ignored.  This phrase connects the verse back to the first verse of the epistle – “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:9 speaks of the Lord’s delay in the second coming as a merciful act (see Romans 11:25) that fulfills God’s intended plan of saving His people.  While some false teachers were suggesting that the second coming of Christ was not going to happen, Peter illustrates that the seeming delay is God’s design in order to bring in the full number of Gentile converts and all of God’s sheep.  We must be cautious not to position 2 Peter 3:9 against John 10:16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Regarding the idea that a limited atonement hinders evangelism and world missions, that’s simply not true.  The father of modern missions was William Carey.  He was a 5-point Calvinist. During a meeting of ministers, a Mr. Ryland called upon the young ministers to propose a subject for them to talk about.  William Carey stood up and offered the suggested topic: “The duty of Christians to attempt to spread the gospel among the heathen nations.”  Mr. Ryland exclaimed with a loud voice, “Sit down, young man!  When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”  This would not extinguish this Calvinistic missionary’s zeal.  His heart was set a blaze by God for the nations!

William Carey left for India in 1793.  Carey once said, “I am going down into the pit; you hold the ropes.” It would be a long two years later until he received his second pack of letters from England. As he opened the letters with much anticipation, one of them criticized him for “engaging in affairs of trade.” Carey was forced to work in order to earn a living for his family as well as continue the mission work.  Nevertheless, Carey remained steadfast.  It would take seven years before he would see the first convert in his gospel mission.  Although the landscape was difficult, the task dangerous, and the encouragement was low, this man with merely a grammar school education would be used of God to shake the world with the gospel.  On Carey’s grave in India would be recorded these words – “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall.”  2 Peter 3:9 was imprinted upon the soul of William Carey.  He was a 5-point Calvinist.  I think it would be wise to say that limited atonement did not slow down or cool off this faithful preacher of the gospel.

With men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon, the idea that limited atonement hinders world missions and local evangelism is simply not true.  It’s a popular myth.  It’s a scape goat tactic employed by those who are looking for excuses in the decline among their circles of churches.  Whatever the cause of the decline, rest assured – limited atonement is not to blame.  Perhaps it’s limited interest in real evangelism and world missions?  Until Jesus does return, and we are assured that He will, let those of us who have received an equal standing by the grace of God in Christ Jesus work together to take the good news to our neighborhoods and the nations.

William Carey once said, “Expect great things from God: attempt great things for God.

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Helpful Resources:

Ligonier - Various Resources

Tim Challies - The “L” in TULIP

John MacArthur - Q&A 2010 Shepherds’ Conference

John Piper - What We Believe About The Five Points Of Calvinism

Wayne Grudem - Systematic Theology

John 3:16 and Limited Atonement

John 3:16 and Limited Atonement

This week I am writing on the subject of Limited Atonement - the “L” in the acronym of TULIP.  As you may already know, the acronym is a basic overview of the teachings of Calvinism.  The subject of limited atonement is quite controversial and is often debated with a great deal of passion and emotional mudslinging from both sides of the sovereign grace fence.  It is not my desire to create another place for such a debate, but it is my desire to look at this subject from the popular myths that exist today regarding limited atonement.

The flow of this series this week is as follows:

Myth #3 - The claim that Jesus’ death was not for the entire world denies John 3:16

Perhaps the most famous verse in all of the Bible is John 3:16.  William Hendrickson calls John 3:16 – “The golden text.”  As we look at the text, it’s quite clear as to why it is the most well known verse in the history of the world.  In John 3:16, we see the profound love of God in contrast to the promised judgment of God all packaged up in one verse.  It’s a powerful verse indeed.  Often when Bible translators start a work of translation, they will begin with John 3:16 as a starting point in their mission work.  Martin Luther called John 3:16 “the gospel in miniature.”  John 3:16 is also a very popular verse that people cling to in their opposition to limited atonement.

For instance, the longtime Southern Baptist leader Adrian Rogers once said, “There are some people who will tell you that Jesus only died for the elect. But that’s not what the Gospel of John says. It says that the only reason men are not saved is not because Jesus did not die for them, but because they didn’t believe in Him” (Faith: What it is and how to have it: Romans 10:17-21).  In the Arminian circles of the evangelical world, it’s a common thing to see people holding on to “whoever” or as the King James translates it, “whosoever” in John 3:16 as their proof that Jesus died for the whole wide world.  What exactly did John intend us to know as he wrote John 3:16?

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

First, we must note that this text is taken from a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. Jesus was instructing a gifted teacher who had come to him after nightfall to ask Jesus about His teachings.  It was at that moment that Jesus spoke those very famous words, “You must be born again.”  Jesus went on to talk about the wind blowing where it wishes and He then relates it to the Spirit of God’s involvement in salvation.  It becomes clear at that point that Jesus is speaking of the sovereignty of God in the workings of grace.

As Jesus continued to teach and explain, He made the statement that we know as John 3:16.  As we read it, we should be encouraged to see that God has loved the world.  We should be humbled to see that God loved the world by giving His Son.  The manner in which He gave His Son is quite humbling indeed.  We should be fearful as we read about unbelievers perishing.  The wrath of God is a terrifying reality.  As the verse ends, it leaves us with this faithful promise of eternal life for those who believe.  In short, John 3:16 is one of the most power packed verses in the Bible.  But, for the purpose of this discussion, does it teach “unlimited” or a “limited” atonement?

Look at the breakdown of the verse:

  • Love:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…
  • Purpose:  that whoever believes in him should not perish…
  • End Result:  but have eternal life.

Wayne Grudem defines the atonement as follows, “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 569).  It seems clear that those who believe (whoever) had been covered by Jesus’ blood.  Those who perish are those who do not believe.  The fact that they perish denotes the reality that they have not been covered by the atonement of Jesus’ death.  If they had, they would not have perished.  Likewise, if they had been covered by the atoning death of Jesus, they would have believed the gospel and been numbered among the “whoever” believes mentioned in John 3:16.

The use of the word “world” in this text does not force the improper meaning that Jesus actually gave His atoning death so that the whole of humanity would have their sins atoned for.  This is not only incorrect, it’s impossible!  When you stop and consider the reality that not one single person in hell today has had their sins atoned for, it should bring you to the realization that John 3:16 must have a different meaning than a universal atonement.  The atonement is limited to believers only.

God did love the world.  Just as the context implies, as in the days when a plague of serpents had been sent to the complaining rebellious Israelites, Moses prayed and then raised up a brazen serpent on a pole.  Everyone who looked upon that serpent would live.  Jesus said, in like manner must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  Not so that everyone may have eternal life.  Everyone who believes is the key.  Eternal life is limited to believers only.  Jesus’ atonement is limited to believes only.

Do you recall the day when you first looked upon Jesus as your Savior – slain on a cruel cross for your sin?  The great Charles Spurgeon was saved at 16 after wandering into a small Methodist chapel where approximately 15 people sat to hear an untrained layperson preach the gospel from Isaiah 45:22 one snowy Sunday morning.  Spurgeon recalls:

I saw at once the way of salvation . . . Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, Look! what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun.

God is love and He has demonstrated His love to the entire world by sending His Son to die on Calvary’s cross.  There is no mistaking His love.  However, we must be careful not to apply Jesus’ atonement to the entire world in a universal sense.  We must avoid universalism.  We must teach a biblical gospel that saves sinners – all sinners who repent and believe.  Who are the elect of God who will believe in my city?  I have no idea!  However, I know that Jesus has died for them and I must go and lift up Christ and call all people to repent and believe the good news.  You must do the same thing in your town.  We must labor together and trust that as we plant and water, it will be God who gives the increase.  Whosoever will – let him come to Christ!  As he comes in faith, Jesus’ blood will be sufficient to save.

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Helpful Resources:

Ligonier - Various Resources

Tim Challies - The “L” in TULIP

John MacArthur - Q&A 2010 Shepherds’ Conference

John Piper - What We Believe About The Five Points Of Calvinism

Wayne Grudem - Systematic Theology

Is Limited Atonement Biblical?

Is Limited Atonement Biblical?

This week, I’m writing on the subject of the “L” in the acronym of TULIP – Limited Atonement.  In the first myth, I provided some personal reflections about how I came to embrace this doctrine as it’s revealed in the Word of God.  Today, I want to point out the doctrine of limited atonement (or particular redemption; definite atonement) in the Bible.  I hear people make statements in passing at conferences or even in my circle of friends regarding limited atonement.  They often say, “I’m still having trouble with this doctrine.”  I want to say to those people – join the club!  I think we will often have difficulties with hard doctrinal truths, especially if we were raised to believe the exact opposite from the time we were children.

The flow of this series this week is as follows:

Myth #2 - To claim Jesus’ death was not for the whole world is philosophic reasoning and not truly biblical

As I begin, I want to remind the readers of this blog that I have no agenda to add more dust to the dust cloud of controversy that has been blowing in the wind for years in Baptist circles over this doctrine.  Likewise, I don’t think we should veil truths that are contained in the Bible.  Some men veil truths related to God’s sovereignty in salvation because they claim their church wouldn’t understand.  That same man will stand boldly and preach the Old Testament texts where God commanded Israel to wipe out entire cities including women and children and animals without any problem at all.  I find it troubling when preachers muzzle the Word of God.  Will people have a difficult time understanding the deep sovereignty of God?  Yes!  As a pastor I am to allow the text of God to speak and work with the people in much patience and love until they understand.

The term “limited atonement” answers the question, “For whom did Christ die?” It seems obvious from several texts in the Bible that Jesus’ death was to secure the salvation by paying the atonement price for a specific people.  Listen to Jesus speak in John 10:14-16 – “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Jesus said explicitly, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”  He didn’t say that He would die for the sheep and the goats.  He specifically referenced the sheep.  He went on to point beyond the Jews to another fold – specifically Gentiles.  We know how sheep and goats are referenced in the Scriptures.  Sheep are the children of God and the goats are rebels who receive the judgement of God (Matthew 25:31-46).  Jesus’ death was specifically designed to pay for the sin debt of His sheep.

As we consider the atonement, Wayne Grudem has offered the following definition: “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 569).  If Jesus earned the salvation of sheep and goats (all men) by dying a death that assured a full atonement from sin for every person, no person would ever go to hell.  The atonement was designed to cover the sin debt of every person who would ever call upon the Lord for salvation.  Who are those people?  They are the elect of God.  They are the ones chosen by God, out of sheer grace and mercy, before the foundation of the world.  God’s choice was not based on any foreseen merit or goodness in them.  It was by mere mercy that God saved wretched sinners.

Additionally, we could go to one of the most famous chapters in all of the Bible regarding Jesus’ death.  What does Isaiah 53 teach us about Jesus’ death?  For one, it says that it pleased the Father to crush His Son on the cross.  Jesus took the wrath that we deserved upon Himself as He died.  If we are not careful, we will become so overwhelmed with God’s love for us that we will overlook the way the chapter ends.  Some people cling to Isaiah 53:6 as their proof text that Jesus died for “all.”  However, they often stop with verse six and miss the truth in the last six verses of this chapter.

Isaiah 53:10-12 - 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, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. [11] Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. [12] Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

A couple of times, the prophet Isaiah specifically says that Jesus will bear the iniquities of a specific group of people.  There is no doubt that Isaiah is referencing a certain group by his choice of language.  He clearly says, “he shall bear their iniquities.”  We know that Isaiah could have used the word “all” to reference the entire world, but instead he speaks of “many” and “their” as opposed to “all” in reference to Jesus’ death.

The claim that limited atonement (that Jesus died for a specific people) cannot be supported by the Bible is simply a myth.  As we consider the death of Jesus, it should not lead us to a fight over Calvinism or Arminianism or Molinism or whatever feather of doctrine you embrace.  The death of Jesus should humble us.  Who is man that God is mindful of him?  Why me?  As I consider that God has saved me by crushing His Son on the cross, it brings me low to the ground.  I have nothing in my hands to offer God.  He alone has come to me.  He alone has saved me.  He deserves to be praised.  To Him be all honor and glory forever and ever!

Why are you a Calvinist?  Is it because it’s cool in certain circles?  Why are you an Arminian?  It is because it’s acceptable by the majority in your circles?  Why are you a Molinist?  Is it because you feel tension related to God’s divine sovereignty and you want to evade that tension?  Wouldn’t it be better to just hear God thunder His truths from the pages of the Bible?  Whatever God’s Word says, that’s what I want to believe.  Don’t embrace a system or build your position based on what the “trends” are around you.  Turn to God’s Word.

Nothing in my hand I bring (not my will, not my work, not my baptism, not my faith, not my religious acts, not my good deeds), simply to the cross I cling!

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Helpful Resources:

Ligonier - Various Resources

Tim Challies - The “L” in TULIP

John MacArthur - Q&A 2010 Shepherds’ Conference

John Piper - What We Believe About The Five Points Of Calvinism

Wayne Grudem - Systematic Theology