The Effective Sacrifice of Christ

One problem with the statement we have been discussing is that is so vague and imprecise as to defy belief. For example, its authors affirm that “the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.” I am scratching my head, wondering what they could possibly mean by such a statement. I can understand how they could believe Christ’s sacrificial work is available for every person, but to say that “the penal substitution of Christ is the only effective sacrifice for the sins of every person” can only be interpreted as universalism. I.e., because of Christ’s sacrifice, everyone will ultimately be saved. If every person is not ultimately saved, Christ sacrifice for every person was not effective. The words “penal substitution” clearly indicate that he suffered the penalty for sin in the place of someone, and the words “effective sacrifice for the sins of every person” indicate that Christ’s death actually accomplished satisfaction for their sins. Perhaps I am just delusional, but it appears to me that if Christ’s sacrifice was both substitutionary and effective for every person, then every person would be saved. Do they truly believe Christ satisfied God’s righteous demands and obtained the eternal redemption of every sinner? If God’s demands have truly been satisfied, how is it that his wrath will come again on those who have rejected the gospel? Does God exact payment twice for the same sins? Augustus Toplady wrote,

If Thou hast my discharge procured
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand

And then again at mine.

I wonder what they meant when they denied “that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” Did they mean that if all sinners were to believe the gospel, all would be justified by the same work of Christ? If so, I would agree since Christ’s death was of infinite value. But if that is what they meant, why didn’t they just write that. Did they mean Jesus was doing his very best to save sinners though he knew full well were going to perish in their unbelief? At the very least they should understand that God knows who will believe and who will perish in a state of impenitence and unbelief.

The question I would ask them is, if Jesus died for these who will perish, what did he accomplish for them? Did his death render sinners any more guilty or responsible than they were before? Do they imagine that God at least owed these people a chance and that Jesus’ death would somehow give them that chance? The real issue in this debate is not “For whom did Jesus Die?” but “What did he accomplish for those for whom he died?” If the work of Christ accomplished no more for believers than it did for those who will ultimately perish in their sins, then we cannot rightly refer to his death as a saving work. If his death didn’t save everyone for whom he died, it didn’t save anyone for whom he died.

When the church used to sing hymns instead of trivial ditties, we sang these words,

“On the cross, he sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and set me free”

Could any sinner who refused to trust Christ alone for salvation ever rightly sing those words?
Never! These words belong only to those whom the Father gave to the Son before the foundation of the world.

Consider C. H. Spurgeon’s words on this subject:

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? The answer ‘No.’ They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, ‘No, Christ died that any man may be saved if’—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to 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 that Christ so died that he secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are 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.

Let me leave you with three questions that need to be answered.

1. The New Testament Scriptures make it clear that all for whom Christ died, died in him and with him to the reigning power of sin. The apostle wrote, “hereby we thus judge that if one died for all, then all died.” If he died for all without exception, why have not all without exception died to the reigning power of sin?

2. Paul also makes it clear in Romans eight that if God gave up his Son unto death for us, he will also, along with him, freely give us all things, including our final glorification. Does that promise of final glorification belong to those who persist in their rebellion against God and die in unbelief?

3. Throughout the passage beginning in Romans 8:28, the Apostle has referred to the God’s work of salvation for believers. He has consistently referred to believers as “us,” “we,” “us all,” etc. In verse 34 he tells us Christ intercedes for us. He writes,“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Notice the words “it is” are in italics and have been supplied by the translators. Another and perhaps better way of understanding this verse is to take it as an interrogative statement. In which case we would supply the word, “shall” in place of “it is..” We would then read the verse as follows: “Who is he who condemns? Shall Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us?” The Apostle is not suggesting that none will wish to condemn us as believers. Certainly the avowed enemies of our souls would delight in doing so. His meaning is that no one will be able successfully to condemn believers in God’s presence. Indeed, the only one who has a right to condemn us is the Lord, Christ. Shall He condemn us; He who died for us, is risen for us, who is at God’s right hand for us, and who is making intercession for us? The answer is obvious. It is unthinkable that He who gave His life for us and now, based on the sacrificial offering, pleads our cause from His honored position at the Father’s right hand would seek to demonstrate our guilt.

The two priestly functions of offering sacrifice and intercession are always taken together in the Scriptures. On the Day of Atonement, the function of the high priest was two-fold; he first offered the sacrifice in the outer court, and then he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat in God’s holy presence. The sacrificial offering in the outer court corresponds to Jesus’ once offering Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God. The act of blood sprinkling in the most holy place corresponds to His continual intercession for us at the Father’s right hand. It is significant that the high priest presented the blood of the sacrifice in the most holy place for no one other than those for whom he had offered the sacrifice in the outer court. These two acts were co-extensive. If we would learn for whom Jesus offered Himself on the cross, we need only discover for whom He makes intercession at the Father’s right hand. These two acts are also co-extensive. If He offered Himself as a sacrifice for all without exception, then He must intercede for all without exception. But, how do the Scriptures answer the question, “ For whom does Jesus, our Great High Priest, intercede?” In the passage we are examining, the answer is quite clear; all we need to do is discover to whom the word “us” refers in the passage. Only a person with an extreme bias could deny the word consistently refers to those whose glorification God decreed before the world began.

Does Jesus intercede for those who will perish in unbelief?

Unless and until you can answer these questions, please don’t talk about Jesus dying for all sinners whether they believe or not.


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