Despite resistance to the Biblical teaching that Christ did not die merely to make salvation possible, but to reconcile God and man, and to put men in actual possession of eternal salvation, Arminians themselves limit the extent of the atonement. That is the irony of their theological position. What Arminians condemn, they embrace. Consider the evidence.
Typically, an Arminian will say that Christ died for all sins of all people, except for the sin of unbelief. With that affirmation of faith, an Arminian has limited the atonement. If Christ died for all sins of all people, why would He not also die for the sin of unbelief, which is the greatest of all sins?
The conclusion of the matter is that Arminians deny what they affirm, and then affirm what they have denied. They deny belief in a limited atonement, and then affirm that Christ limited his atonement work to exclude the sin of unbelief for multitudes, which becomes the basis for which they shall eternally perish.
“We are often told that we limit the Atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved.
Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not.
The Arminians say, Christ died for all men.
Ask them what they mean by it.
Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men?
They say, “No, certainly not.”
We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular?
They answer, “No.”
They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if”, and then follow certain conditions of salvation.
We say, then, we will just go back to the old statement,
Christ did not die, so as beyond a doubt, to secure the salvation of anybody, did he?
You must say “No”; you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace, and perish.
Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ?
Why, you [my Arminian brother].
You say that Christ did not die so as to infallibly secure the salvation of anybody.
We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.”
We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.
You are welcome to your Atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Particular Redemption, Sermon 181 in the New Park Street Pulpit)
In the effort to reconcile God’s sovereignty with human responsibility there is a great antinomy, or mystery. This mystery is recognized by all, which is why the discussion must continue.
If a person truly believes that man’s free will is the ultimate determining factor in salvation, why then does the Arminian pray for the conversion of others? If God is not able to change His own creation, overrule the will of the ungodly, and is at the mercy of a person’s free will, why pray? Why evangelize?
However, if God is sovereign, if God does have an elect people, if God has determined that faith will come by the hearing of His Word, then there is a great motive to evangelize the lost. In the day of salvation, God will be thanked for His mercy and grace.
Let the Church believe in the great doctrines of grace, and then go forth to evangelize as sinners are invited to the Savior. Upon conversion, the most wicked will sing of God’s amazing grace, as John Newton did, who was more than a Calvinist. He was a good Christian man who loved to see souls saved, and was humble enough to warn other Christians to be careful of spiritual pride.
In 1762, John Newton wrote these words.
“To be enabled to form a clear, consistent, and comprehensive judgment of the truths revealed in the Scripture, is a great privilege; but they who possess it are exposed to the temptation of thinking too highly of themselves, and too meanly of others, especially of those who not only refuse to adopt their sentiments, but venture to oppose them.
We see few controversial writings, however excellent in other respects, but are tinctured with this spirit of self-superiority; and they who are not called to this service (of writing) if they are attentive to what passes in their hearts, may feel it working within them, upon a thousand occasions; though so far as it prevails, it brings forcibly home to ourselves the charge of ignorance and inconsistency, which we are so ready to fix upon our opponents.
I know nothing as a means more likely to correct this evil, than a serious consideration of the amazing difference between our acquired judgment, and our actual experience; or, in other words, how little influence our knowledge and judgment have upon our own conduct.
This may confirm to us the truth and propriety of the apostle’s observation, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”
In the continuing controversy on the atonement, let those who believe in the doctrines of grace proceed with humility, while showing grace towards others during discussion, all the while maintaining a love for the lost.