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Sermon #76 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: Limited Atonement
Text: Ephesians 5:30-32
Subject: Particular Redemption
Date: Tuesday Evening — August 15, 2017
Readings: Lindsay Campbell and Larry Brown
We believe (And we are not afraid to plainly state what we believe, or even slightly reluctant to do so.) in Limited Atonement. We believe that the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number,” called “his elect” in the Book of God. And we believe that, as the result of our blessed Savior’s finished work upon Calvary’s cursed tree, every person for whom he died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be saved by his grace, cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in his precious blood, before the throne of God in heaven’s glory.
The question is often asked, “Did the Lord Jesus Christ die for all men or did he die only for a certain chosen number?” “Did Christ die for all or only for God’s elect?”
Most religious people and most preachers, teachers, and theologians assert, and assert with furious dogmatism, that whether a person is actually saved or not depends not upon what Christ has done, but upon whether that person receives Jesus as his Savior.
Then, there are those who speak of the general, universal sufficiency but limited efficiency of the atonement. While Christ’s death is sufficient to save everybody, they say, it is only efficient for those who believe, making man’s act of faith, not Christ’s atonement, the effectual power of redemption, grace, and salvation. Still others rationalize that Christ died for the Adamic sin of all men, but for the personal sins of only those that believe. All such doctrine, any doctrine that suggests in any way that there is a sense in which Christ died to redeem and save sinners who perish at last under the wrath of God, is utterly without basis in Holy Scripture. You can’t find one bit of Scripture to support it.
We believe in Limited Atonement. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for and redeemed God’s elect, all the elect, and only the elect. He shed his blood for those who are actually saved by his blood. Without question everyone believes in limited atonement, in one sense or another.
Who is right? For whom did Christ die? That is the question I will answer in this message. The title of my message is — Limited Atonement. My text is Ephesians 5:25-32. I ask the question — “For whom did Christ die?” Let’s open the Book of God and see what God says in his Word. Here, you will find the answer given, not in my words, but in God’s words, written out in plain, bold letters by divine inspiration.
(Isaiah 8:20) “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Have you found my text — (Ephesians 5:25-32)? Before I read the text, I want you to listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you. — Every text of Holy Scripture, every chapter, every verse, every statement, every type and picture of redemption and atonement given in the Book of God, Old Testament and New, limits the atonement it to a specific people.
(Ephesians 5:25-32) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (31) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
That is a plain, clear, unmistakable declaration of limited atonement.
The Lord Jesus Christ died with a specific people in view, a people who had been set apart by the Triune God for salvation before the foundation of the world. Christ did not merely render them savable, but he guaranteed that they would all be saved.
Let’s look at Romans 5:19.
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
This statement sets forth the fact of man’s fall (our sin, depravity, and sinfulness) through his union with Adam. Every human being is personally guilty of transgressing God’s law, of course; but he does so because he is born of Adam.
Definite article — Why does Paul say that by one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners? Didn’t all fall in Adam? Not really. Angels didn’t fall in Adam. They fell before Adam. They fell individually. And there’s no redemption for the fallen angels in the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:16).
Listen to Young’s Literal Translation of Romans 5:19.
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted righteous.”
That definite article “the” serves as an index finger pointing out a definite class of creatures that became sinners in Adam. Who are they? They are the many in him and represented by him, Adam’s posterity, the whole human race.
So also, by the obedience of the One Man, Christ, shall the many in him and represented by him be made righteous. Who are they? All of Adam’s race without exception? No. Just as “the many” that were made sinners are those who were under Adam’s headship, so “the many” who are made righteous are those that are under Christ’s headship. Having been redeemed by his blood atonement, they are made righteous, just as he was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
That’s why the angel of the Lord said this in Matthew 1:21 to Joseph about Mary’s being with child — “She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people (not all people — but “his people”) from their sins.”
The Good Shepherd
In John 10:11, the Lord Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” The Bible portrays all of God’s elect as sheep. Hence, the Lord says to the Pharisees in verse 26 — “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” He didn’t say because you don’t believe, you’re not of my sheep. Rather he says, the reason you don’t believe is that you’re not my sheep.
Our text, Ephesians 5:25, makes it clear that the sheep are his church, the whole body of God’s elect. It reads, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Remember the Lord gave his life for the sheep.
The sentence continues in the next two verses. — “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
The Spirit of God here tells us that all those Christ loved and for whom he gave his life will not only be saved, but will be sanctified and glorified as well. That’s limited atonement. — Atonement limited in…
Atonement and Love
You cannot separate the sin-atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ from the love of God. The atonement of Christ is the revelation of the love of God (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10). The atonement reaches as far as the extent of God’s love. So, if the atonement is universal, the love of God is universal. If the atonement is limited to specific, chosen sinners, the love of God is limited to specific, chosen sinners. The two cannot be separated.
Indeed, many go around telling everyone they meet, “God loves you.” You read bumper stickers, billboards, and church signs everywhere that say, “Smile, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Preachers tell sinners, “God loves you so much that he gave his Son to die for you. Won’t you let him save you?”
But what does the Book of God say about his love? God tells us plainly that his love is limited to his elect alone (Psalm 5:5; Romans 9:13).
(Psalm 5:5) “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”
(Romans 9:13) “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
No, God does not love everyone. He hates the wicked. And the redemption of the Son is limited to those God elected in love and predestinated to salvation in love before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-7). — But all are wicked, you say. — Not God’s elect, not in Christ! In Christ, God’s elect are redeemed, justified, righteous, sanctified, holy, glorified, and saved from eternity (Romans 8:29-30; 2 Timothy 1:9). As such, they are accepted, beloved, and blessed in Christ from eternity!
(Ephesians 1:3-7) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
But what about verses like John 3:16, Romans 8:32, Hebrews 2:9, and 2nd Peter 3:9? One of the problems with this generation of ignorant religious know-it-alls is that their brains are infected with versitis. — They pick a verse here and there, rip it out of the context of Holy Scripture, and say, “There, you see, the Bible teaches” this or that heresy. Obviously, we cannot look at all the passages people point to to deny the gospel and teach that Christ’s death really accomplished nothing. But we will look at those four texts so commonly misinterpreted by will-worship Arminians.
(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” — World doesn’t mean everybody in the world (Luke 2:1). God love his elect throughout the world. God loves the world of his elect.
(Romans 8:32) “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” — (Who is the “us all” here? Read the next verse.) (33) “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” The “us all” are…
Š God’s Elect!
Š The Justified!
Š Those Who Cannot be Condemned!
Š Those Who Cannot be Separated from Christ!
Š Those Who Cannot be Separated from the Love of God!
(Hebrews 2:9) “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” — (Every man mentioned in the passage, all of them and none but them!) — (10) “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (11) For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (12) Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. (13) And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. (14) Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (15) And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (16) For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (17) Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
(2 Peter 3:9) “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” — Read verse 15, and you will see that the longsuffering of God is salvation!
(2 Peter 3:15) “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.”
Meanings of Christ’s Death
Just what did the Son of God accomplish by his death upon the cursed tree? The Word of God speaks about the death of Christ in four distinct ways.
1st — Our blessed Savior was our penal Substitute. As such, he made a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews 9:26 states, “but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Now, if the Lord Jesus put away sins by that sacrifice, he made a substitutionary sacrifice for sins.
If the Lord Jesus Christ had substituted for all without exception, then all must be saved without exception. Conversely, since not all are saved, he must have substituted for only those who have been, are, and will be saved.
Hundreds of years before the death of Christ, God the Holy Ghost spelled out in Isaiah 53 that which was drawn up in the covenant of grace before the foundation of the world.
(Isaiah 53:4-11) “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
Every statement there is talking substitution. Christ our Surety is that Man of whom David spoke in Psalm 15:4. — “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not!” The chastisement that has brought us peace with God was not upon us, but upon him. “Your sin,” as Martin Luther said, “can’t be in two places at one time. It’s either on Christ or on you.”
And Isaiah does it say that with his stripes, we may be healed if we cooperate? No, it doesn’t say that. “With his stripes we are healed!” It’s an accomplished work. His substitutionary sacrifice is forever a gloriously effectual atonement for our sins! — The cross of Christ shall never be discovered a miscarriage! — “He shall not fail!” — “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied!”
If a woman goes through labor and birth pains, she would be most heartbroken if her baby were a stillborn. She will be satisfied only if and when her baby is seen. Now, if you believe in universal atonement, you are saying that Christ may miscarry, that he travailed for everybody but he can’t get anybody born. I won’t have it.
Let me assure you that every soul for which the Lord Jesus Christ travailed in birth pains on the cross of Calvary will be born whole. In this Exodus as it was with Israel coming out of Egypt, you will not find “one feeble person among their tribes” (Psalm 105:37). That’s what we mean by limited atonement.
2nd — Our Lord Jesus propitiated for his people. We read in 1st John 4:10 — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The death of the Lord Jesus Christ means that he reconciled his people to God. He appeased the righteous wrath of God. He removed all the enmity between us and God. As a result, those who had formerly been under the wrath of God go free.
Now, I ask you: Did Christ’s death reconcile Esau to the Father? Did the Son of God snatch Korah, Dathan, and Abiram out of hell? Did He remove the enmity between God and those Pharisees whom He called “hypocrites,” “serpents,” and “vipers”? If you answer from the Bible, your answers can be nothing else but “No.”
3rd — The Son of God redeemed his people, all his people, and none but his people from the curse of the law. — “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). “Redeemed us” means…
Did Christ redeem Judas Iscariot from the curse of the law? You know he didn’t. Of Judas, he said in Matthew 26:24 — “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” But he did redeem his people!
Christ Jesus my discharge procured,
The whole of wrath divine endured:
The law’s tremendous curse He bore;
Justice can never ask for more.
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then demand the price from me,
For whom Christ died at Calvary.
Be still, my soul, and find sweet rest –
The merits of my great High Priest,
His righteousness and precious blood,
Have satisfied the Holy God.
I’ll trust Christ’s efficacious blood,
And never fear the wrath of God,
Since Jesus Christ has died for me,
And lives for me to intercede!
4th — The atonement of Christ is followed by the Spirit’s mighty operations of grace in regeneration and effectual calling, giving chosen, redeemed sinners life and faith in Christ. In his first epistle, the apostle Peter addresses believers as the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
As the atoning work of Jesus Christ was limited in design by the purpose of God in election, so the regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit is limited by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God never regenerates except those that were purchased by the Son and chosen by the Father. And he always regenerates those who are chosen and redeemed.
Intercession by Christ
Let me call your attention to one more thing, and I’ll be done — In Hebrews 7 we read that Christ, our High Priest in heaven, is always interceding for us. But our Savior tells us, in John 17, that he only makes intercession for his redeemed. There he says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (v. 9).
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? The intercessory work of Jesus Christ is always based upon his atonement, just as the intercession of the Old Testament priest was based upon the sacrifice (Numbers 6:24-26). Therefore, if Jesus Christ does not pray for the world, the world can never be saved.
LIMITED ATONEMENT is the most blessed revelation of God in the Book of Holy Scripture!
Limited Atonement means that I cannot perish, no matter what! Limited Atonement means that God’s elect, throughout the world cannot perish, no matter what!
(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Limited Atonement means that we can know for sure that once all of his lost sheep have been brought back to the fold, Christ will come back to complete our salvation, and we will be with him and be like him forevermore!
(Ephesians 5:25-32) “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. —— (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. —— (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
Yes, we believe in, rejoice in, preach, and give thanks to our God for Limited Atonement!