Note: The following is edited from a personal letter written to a young believer on March 4, 1969, and drafted into an article format.
By particular redemption we mean that Christ’s death was to redeem the elect in particular; or, that Christ’s atonement was limited to the elect only. It makes sense, too. Notice these three alternative positions advanced by John Owen:
We know that only sin carries a man to hell, and deliverance from sin is by Christ’s death, or redemption . . . Christ dying for sinners. Now there are but three positions possible if we are consistent.
(1) Christ died for all the sins of all mankind . . . and if this is so, then all mankind MUST be saved, for they have then no sins left for which to answer; or,
(2) Christ died for some of the sins of all mankind . . . and if this is so, then all mankind still have some sins yet for which they must answer and therefore all mankind are eternally lost; or,
(3) Christ died for all the sins of some men
. . . which position we hold; i.e, that Christ died for ALL the sins of all His people, and they, therefore, cannot be condemned for sin, seeing that Christ bore their sins for them, and hence they are free from condemnation due them for these sins. That is a reason the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1. “There is therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are IN CHRIST JESUS, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
And again he says in Romans 8:33,
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s ELECT? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for US.”
In particular, look at Isaiah 53, which is a chapter concerning Christ’s death and suffering. Read the whole chapter, but notice these verses closely: “Surely He hath borne OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” (Verse 4).
“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.” (Verse 5)
Notice all these personal pronouns. Christ’s suffering is for those enabled by free grace to identify spiritually with those for whom He died. It does not say “Their” griefs or “their” sorrows, but it is limited in each and every case. Watch this in verse 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;” that is, “all of us” rather than “everybody.”
Take time now to read that whole chapter and see just how limited each pro-noun is. The whole chapter shows Christ dying only for those termed “us”.
Notice the Angel’s message to Joseph at the time of Mary’s conception of Christ.
Who is Christ to save?
Everyone, or “His people”?
“And she SHALL bring forth a son, and thou SHALT call His name Jesus: for He Shall save HIS PEOPLE from THEIR sins.” (Matthew 1:21).
When Christ sent out the seventy evangelists, He did not tell them to “win the world for Christ” but, rather, notice the limitation: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the LOST SHEEP of the house of Israel.’ (Matthew 10:5-6)
Even Christ’ command to sinners is limited:
Notice in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that LABOR and are HEAVY LADEN, and I will give YOU rest.”
Only those who are laboring under the Spirit’s application of the mortifying law; or such as are heavy laden with the guilt of sin and condemnation are intended here. There is no invitation to all to come to Jesus.
Consider two passages of Scripture, the first of which Predestinarian Baptists quote a good bit; and the second on which the Arminians harp on a great deal. Compare them with Matthew 20:28. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life a RANSOM FOR MANY” (not everyone); and, “Who gave Himself a RANSOM FOR ALL, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:6).
Now, one passage says Christ gave His life a ransom for many, while the other says He gave it a ransom for all.
These passages, if understood as the world presents them, are a contradiction. Yet we know they cannot be. There are two ways to view these texts consistently.
First, consider the “ransom”. We know in nature what the word means. If someone kidnapped your baby sister, and told the family to leave $5,000 as a ransom, then IF the kidnapper were honest, when the ransom was paid the child would go free. Therefore, if Christ gave His life a ransom for all mankind, then Divine Justice would require the universal salvation of all men, and none could be lost.
On the other hand, if He gave His life as a ransom for many, then many are set free … hence, limited atonement.
The other way to answer this is to believe both Scriptures in harmony. They are both true; all is an INDEFINITE pronoun and limited to those ransomed. So we read the passages “Christ gave His life a ransom for many” of all mankind; or Christ gave His life a ransom for all of the many for whom He died. In both cases, His death is limited for the elect only.
We say that Christ died for those whom He characterizes as “sheep”. Those for whom He did not die He characterizes as “goats.” In Matthew 25:32-34, Christ said: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another as a SHEPHERD divides His SHEEP from GOATS: And He shall set the SHEEP on His right hand, but the GOATS on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”
This was the same “time” they were “chosen in Him from the foundation of the world …” (Ephesians 1:4)
For His own purpose in His death, Christ said: “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed FOR MANY for the remission of sins.”
Again, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life a ransom for MANY.”
In the tenth chapter of John, Christ is very specific in stating for whom He would die. “I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth His life for the SHEEP.” (verse 11)
“I am the good Shepherd, and I KNOW MY SHEEP, and AM KNOWN of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so I the Father and I lay down my life FOR THE SHEEP.” (verses 14-15).
That He does not consider all men to be His sheep, the same chapter proves by Christ declaring: “But ye believe not, BECAUSE ye are NOT of MY SHEEP, as I said unto you, MY SHEEP hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE; and THEY shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck THEM out of my hand.” (Verses 26-28).
This is the reason that multitudes do not hear Christ. They are NOT His by electing grace, and He doesn’t give them spiritual ears with which to hear His voice.
“Why do ye NOT understand my speech? Even BECAUSE ye CANNOT HEAR my word.” (John 8:43)
“He that IS OF GOD HEARETH God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, BECAUSE YE ARE NOT OF GOD.” (John 8:43 and 47).
These are plain English words, sufficient that all men with an elementary knowledge of English should be able to clearly see. And in this we marvel, that such simply stated sentences are hid from the best and most educated minds in the world. If such things were written in a daily newspaper applied to natural things, all would understand them. Yet, when the wise, prudent, and educated gentleman stands in a pulpit, he takes complete leave of his senses and goes absolutely berserk! What a wonder!
The truth that Christ died only for the elect, motivates us to a higher level of worship than that of the world. The Arminians (those that believe salvation is by works of various kinds, chance, luck, and or cooperative endeavors with God) believe that Christ died for all, and would have us “win the world for Christ.”
Therefore they are compelled to work; whereas we are compelled to worship. We know that our salvation is wholly the work of God and therefore we are motivated to fall at His feet and worship Him for His infinite kindness and mercy in saving whom He will. On the other hand, workers have no motive to worship, nor time to do so; but only to continue their struggle to earn salvation and blessings in absolute futility.
That Christ did not die for the whole world is evident from the above Scriptures (and many other). That He, there-fore, does not require us to “win the world for Christ” is consistent with the above, and also Scriptural.
Christ said “My Father heareth me always.” Therefore if He willed the salvation of all, He merely has to pray or intercede for the world as He did for His people. Yet hear Him in John 17:9 “I pray for THEM: I pray NOT for the WORLD, but for THEM which Thou hast GIVEN me: for they are thine.”
Who then is it for whom lie intercedes?
He said for “them”.
So let’s go back to the earlier Scripture in John 17, and see who they are. “As Thou hast given Him power over ALL FLESH, that He should give eternal life TO AS MANY as Thou hast GIVEN HIM.” (verse 2).
And again, in verse 6: “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou GAVEST ME (election) OUT of the WORLD. Thine they were, and Thou GA VEST THEM ME; and they have kept Thy word.”
If Christ “wanted” to save the world as modern religionists preach, this is indeed a strange way of doing it. His Father gave Him “power over all flesh”, yet it was for the salvation of those His Father gave Him “out of the world”; which expression proves some were left “in the world.”
In fact, if the object of Christ’s death was to “give all men a chance” to be saved, then again lie goes about it in a very contradictory fashion which would defeat His own design, by the way He acts upon the world with this power over all flesh. “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they BELIEVED NOT on Him: that the say-ing of Esaias the prophet might be FULFILLED, which he spake, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report? And TO WHOM hath the arm of the Lord been REVEALED? Therefore, they COULD NOT BELIEVE BECAUSE that Easias said again, ‘He (God) hath BLINDED their eyes, and HARDENED their hearts; that they SHOULD NOT SEE with their eyes, nor UNDERSTAND with their heart, and be CONVERTED, and I should heal them.” (John 12:37)
Can you see the glaring contradiction?
As the world concludes, He will have all men see, yet blind them; have all men believe, yet harden their hearts; have all men converted, yet prevent it Himself by such powerful actions upon them. And this is done by Him who has “power over all flesh!”
So how can we say that God “wants” all men to be saved in the face of such preventive measures actively worked upon them by God Himself?
Many will contradict the above with John 3:16
Briefly, let us look at it again. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE (not “offered”) His only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH!! (and no one else) in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That text does not teach either a universal salvation, nor a universal chance system. God actually GAVE, not offered, His Son that BELIEVERS only should not perish but have everlasting life.
It offers no hope to unbelievers at all!
Again, plain English words are found in the text before us. Consider, if you will, that if one “offers” you something, you may “accept” or “reject” it; but if someone “gave” you something, then you “received” it. It is a gift. This text says that God “gave” His only begotten Son. Thus, for Him to be “given”, He must have been “received” as a gift!
The only sense in which Christ is offered is when “He gave Himself an offering unto God” as a sacrifice for our sins; and His Father accepted the sacrifice of Him.
It is sufficient to point out that the word is translated from “Cosmos”, an orderly arrangement; and this all the ministers who go through theological training know. They willfully preach the contrary, for that is what they are hired to do.
But Old Baptists are not hirlings — we accept no man’s salary so we can speak without fear or favor of man. The Jews often used the word “world” for the Gentiles, for themselves exclusive of others, and for the creation. “He was in the world (universe), and the world was made by Him (all things), and the world KNEW (rational creatures) Him not” (John 1:10).
John 3:16 is the same world found in Romans 1:8 “First, I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is spoken of throughout the WHOLE WORLD.”
Surely none should be so bold as to affirm that the world mentioned in John 3:16; or the “whole world” mentioned in Romans 1: 8, is the same found in Revelations 12:9: “And the Great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the WHOLE WORLD.”
Or found in 1 John 5:19: “And we know that WE are of God, and the WHOLE WORLD lieth in wickedness.”
How plainly, the we are of God is one group separate and apart from the whole world!
Always take Scriptures in their context. If someone throws a half-Scripture at you, the safest place to start is in the preceding verses. Arminians cannot help misquoting and misapplying Scriptures and taking them out of their contexts. In almost all Scripture the truth is found in what that particular Scripture teaches. Notice these three things about Scriptures:
1. Who is speaking.
2. To whom is the writer speaking.
3. Then, what is he actually saying?
If you miss the first two, it will change the third one, usually into error or confusion.
Here is an example of such:
“Judas went out and hanged himself . . . Go ye out and do likewise . . . and whatsoever ye do, do quickly.”
All three segments of that sentence are Scriptures. They have one thing in common: They are taken out of context. Thus, every single passages used by the world to set forth Christ as wanting to save all mankind, are done in this fash-ion. Behold!
“God is not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentance.” This is NOT what the Scripture teaches, though most assume it does!
The text: “God is longsuffering to USWARD, not willing that any (of us, of course) should perish, but all come to repentance.”
Now we hold that the death of Christ ACTUALLY took ALL the SINS of ALL the ELECT away from them, and Christ actually bore the real and legal penalty for these sins, so that God will not charge the elect with them.
Otherwise, there is no meaning at all to “Christ died for our sins.”
If He bore them, and died for them, how can we also die for them?
If we have to die for the same sins for which Christ died, then the debt is doubly paid!
God is just as well as merciful, and He will not punish His only begotten Son meaninglessly.
This then is what we mean by LIMITED ATONEMENT or PARTICULAR REDEMPTION.
By Stanley C. Phillips