Rejecting the Mere Possibility of Your Salvation
The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11, 15), the ones He knows by name, and who He calls to follow Him (Jn 10:3). Does Jesus know the people He died for? Does He know the number of His flock? Will He find the lost sheep? Will any of His sheep be lost at the end of the age? Is there any uncertainty with God?
There are some who teach this error: 1. God ordained His Son to die on the cross, accruing the merits of atonement with God (this is true); 2. God did not decree to apply Christ’s perfect redemption to any one person; 3. God left salvation, as a chance, that created an uncertain possibility of salvation; 4. God turned salvation over to man, in order to save himself, by the means of faith that he self-generated.
The error in the previous paragraph may be stated another way: there is a perfect supply of salvation for all people (universal redemption), but the demand for salvation is as uncertain as sinful man. Therefore, demand (application) could possibly range from zero people to absolutely everyone who ever lived.
If it is zero saved, then Christ actually died for no one (blasphemous error). If it is absolutely everyone, then universal redemption has led to its logical end: universal salvation (everyone is saved). Avoiding logic that leads to an unbelievable conclusion, the false teacher must accommodate his desired system. Thus, his salvation economy is controlled by man. If man wants salvation, he can take it, or leave it whenever he wants. Is this what Jesus was teaching in John 10?
There is a number of reasons we must answer “no” to general atonement (Christ died for everyone) and conditional redemption (man controls his salvation by his own choice) being the teaching of Scripture.
First, general atonement rejects the biblical teaching of God the Father’s predestination of His elect people (Rom 8:30; Eph 1:4–5). In God’s eternal purpose for our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 3:11), He decreed to crush His Son, but in the same statement, declared, “He (Christ) will see His (seed) offspring (Is 53:10).” The prophet Isaiah, seven hundred years before Messiah’s arrival, preached this prophecy showing us a vicarious (substitutionary) atonement, both achieved and applied by Christ to a definite people. Simply put, Christ died, and the elect that His Father gave Him, were direct beneficiaries of Christ’s meritorious work on the Cross. He saved us (Titus 3:5), not, “He made salvation possible for us.”
Second, salvation does not belong to man (conditional); rather, salvation belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). He elects His people (Father). He redeems His people (Son). He applies salvation by baptism and permanent indwelling (Spirit). God is not a God of chance. He does not produce uncertain scenarios, mere possibilities. His decree of salvation is definite in every aspect. God does not create a perfect supply of good, and then leave it on the shipyard dock, to maybe, or maybe not receive distribution. Totally depraved humanity is in no position to choose or not choose what God has sent to His decreed recipients. God has guaranteed delivery of this transaction. It is not only a vibrant economy, but also a perfect economy.
Third, the merits of Christ actually reach their decreed beneficiaries. Did Christ die, and then some, for whom He died, end up eternally lost? The false teacher affirms this! Is Christ a failed Savior? Do we say, “He saved Himself, but can He not save others?
The transfer of Christ’s merits, on the Cross, is an ordained work for the Holy Spirit to accomplish. Christ’s perfect work of redemption is complemented by the Holy Spirit’s perfect work of application.
The Spirit, according to Jesus, is like the wind, going wherever He wills to go. It is God’s will for His church to be called and gather to Himself. He has made “faith” the means by which we see the application of the Spirit’s work, like leaves rustling in trees display the invisible wind.
Faith is not a self-generated work of man. One cannot just turn faith on, and then turn it off again, like a light switch, in the hand of one willing to flip the switch. Rather, faith is a gift of God brought to the elect soul (Eph 2:8–9), by the grace of God (Spirit indwelling). Just as God ordained the vicarious work of Christ on the Cross (Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world), He ordained the giving of faith to the beneficiary (names written in the Lamb’s book of life from before the foundation of the world), who is the elect soul, who believes in Jesus upon receipt of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Pet 1:3; Phil 1:29).
Here is the formation of the holy catholic church. Christ’s redeemed people, with Christ living in them, who is the Author and Perfecter of their faith. Who are these redeemed, indwelt, believers? They are God’s eternally elect people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9).
In conclusion, we reject that Christ died for all people everywhere; rather, He laid down His life for the church He loved from eternity (Eph 5:25). He eternally decreed salvation for His chosen people, from beginning to end. He knows each one of them by name (Jn 10:3). His love for each one is everlasting.
We reject that God gave control of salvation to man. Man is not sovereign, nor does He choose salvation by His individual will. If a man has faith unto salvation, having received the merits of Christ, then it is faith that serves as evidence that God saved this man. Faith flows to Christ’s redeemed by the pipeline of grace. Nothing can separate a man from faith in Christ because Christ has chosen to permanently abode within that man (Rom 8:9, 11; Heb 13:5).
Christ Jesus, our Lord, actually died for His people who are actually saved. His was a definitely ordained sacrifice in the place of, and on behalf of, a definite number of assured beneficiaries. There is no chance, no mere possibilities, no conditions required of man, and there is no general atonement. Christ mediated the covenant of grace by serving as the High Priest, representing His holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), and offering up Himself as the perfect, substitutionary sacrifice, for those God decreed to save, in the wisdom of His eternal counsel, according to His eternal good pleasure.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 18, 2021