LIMITED ATONEMENT: DOES JESUS NOT LOVE ALL SINNERS
THE CALVINISTIC DOCTRINES OF LIMITED ATONEMENT AND UNCONDITIONAL SECURITY ARE JUST DEAD WRONG AND TOTALLY UNBIBLICAL. Nothing makes the gospel of Jesus Christ more blessed or beautiful than His love for the sinner, even His love for every sinner. Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) As He preached and taught His wonderful truths, He never showed partiality. The religious crowds were His worst enemies, but the sinners heard Him gladly. Luke stated, “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)
His Gospels record the golden text of all Scripture, “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.” (John 3:16) The word world is recorded in the Gospel of John fifty-nine times and in the entire New Testament 203 times. He created the world for His glory and carefully designed mankind in His image and after His likeness. We are part of a special breed, second only to the angels, and we were clearly His joy from the moment Adam breathed his first breath.
The greatest moments of church history have always been characterized by a harvest of the lost. When the Holy Spirit breathes upon a congregation or sovereignly visits a Christian gathering, both sinners and saints are sure to weep over His salvation for everyone. I have served Him for sixty one years and never once have I seen His presence manifested without touching all but maybe one or two Christ rejecters. On the day of Pentecost the Scripture records 3,000 souls added to His kingdom. A few days later it was 5,000 and, shortly, they ceased to record numbers, but said, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14)
Study the Scriptures concerning the Father, the Lord Jesus, or the Holy Ghost, and notice the total absence of respect of persons in all their revelations or setting descriptions. When Jesus spoke of the one hundred sheep in the parable of the lost sheep, He made no allowance for one being left lost. He stated, “And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3-7)
To the Great Shepherd of the sheep, it was unthinkable to lose even one. This story reveals the heart of our Eternal Savior. The lost sheep was in grave danger and the very nature of the sheep rendered his return on his own impossible. The Shepherd Himself was risking great danger to search the wilderness but nothing else was acceptable. When the lost sheep was found, great rejoicing was the order.
Jesus ends this parable with a statement that leaves no room to misinterpret, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) Now, we add angels to Heaven’s inhabitants that are impartial over souls. Angelic activities in Heaven are always described as centering around the glory and praise of God and His holiness. What is more to His glory and praise than another sinner to repent and turn to the Creator and Savior? It is Heaven’s business to save the fallen race. And, Heaven will never cease to shout as long as the harvest continues.
The religious crowd in Jesus’ day murmured, saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2) How dare the man who many were claiming to be the Jewish Messiah sit at a table with sinners? These Jews were actually Old Testament Calvinists or Augustinians. The thought that their great theological system could dare allow sinners to approach the Messiah was ultimate blasphemy. Such a man was worthy to die by crucifixion. They did not crucify Him because He was not Jewish or because they were not looking for a messiah, but because He dared defy their narrow doorway of religious acceptance. Their elitist system was attacked and disparaged by the blessed Son of God and they were furious, “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Religion that becomes a system built with walls will always resist a religion built with doors. The church world is manifest today as many different systems and much of each system has a list of stated beliefs that are not usually bad. In fact, often there is little to find wrong with what is believed as doctrines. The problem is not what the religious crowd says in their theology, but what they do concerning a “lost world.” Most sinners are terribly out of place and unaffected in today’s church.
There is also a transition in many churches to move to the opposite extreme. Instead of high church where sinners are hopelessly lost, the new model is a “sin-friendly church,” where the whole sense of “lost” is ignored or denied. These churches deny the old-fashioned truth of repentance and the mourner’s bench is outdated and foolish. This extreme is as dangerous as the old systems of religious starch and pride. The church world just does not get the entire purpose of the New Testament, which is “salvation of sinners.” Sinners cannot be forced to believe, but they must not be ignored or uninvited. The business of the church is to make disciples and to minister to their soul once they have believed. No coercion and no rejection, but to all a genuine invitation.
The Ten Lost Coins!
After Jesus shared the great parable of the Shepherd and His flock of 100 sheep. He proceeds to deepen His redemptive commitment to the whole world. He tells a parable that is far reaching. “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it. And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:8-10) This woman was wealthy. Her ten silver coins represented all of that wealth and she was certainly content. But, she lost one coin, only one coin, and everything changed. She was rich, but not wasteful. She still had nine coins, but the one missing suddenly became her whole focus. How could she rest when one of ten could not be found? She lit a candle and began to sweep the whole house. She sought “diligently” with great effort and was evidently uncomfortable. She was absolutely unwilling that one coin would be lost. She was clearly willing to leave the nine coins in a safe place until she could find the lost one.
With great joy she found the lost coin and called for a celebration. Her neighbors and friends were called and invited to join in the celebration. Her words were spiritually explosive. “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” The whole subject is one lost coin, which represents one lost soul. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ makes His great truth come alive. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)
This lesson is so breathtaking. The message is clear. No one, not even one out of ten, can be considered expendable. The first parable was one out of one hundred. Now, the message is one out of ten. The next parable reveals the same love for one of two.
The One Lost Son
In the parable of the ninety and nine, where one sheep was lost, the Lord revealed how He reached across His perfect holiness and purity without becoming defiled and rescued that one lost lamb. While this parable reveals His unquestionable love for the lost sinner, it is also an incredible message to the church. After a soul has been redeemed, we must not ever forget from where it came. If we ever become too holy to go into the wilderness in search of the missing, we have left His holiness for our own self-righteousness.
His parable of the ten coins shows the discomfort that must characterize His saints. We are sent into the highways and hedges to search for that which is lost. Comfortable Christianity is non-existent in His revelation.
But, now He shows us something of His beautiful striving with the rebellious and the wayward. The prodigal son knew the comforts of His Father’s love and left for the worldly pleasures with full consciousness of what he was leaving. Note these great descriptions, “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry.” (Luke 15:11-23)
This young man was characterized by the worst case of rebellion and thanklessness. Sin made him insane and vile, but he was never so darkened that he could not come to himself. When he did awake from his stupor, he immediately remembered the father’s house and knew he was welcome to return. This prodigal son never doubted that he had an invitation to go home. He did not wonder if he was elected to go home or if he had been disowned. He gave those pigs a permanent wave and started the long journey back to the place where love was the welcome mat. Apparently, he had never heard that most sinners have no hope.
As you read this Biblical picture, it is alive with an unquestionable sense of impartial invitation. The elder brother represents the elitist Jews that rejected everyone but himself or herself. They were never happy with the Lord Jesus’ open door policy. The Father’s heart and attitude was a different story. His invitation was so real and pure that He saw the prodigal son coming home “when he was yet a great way off.” His heart was never callous towards his son in sin. Understanding the power of the human spirit, there is no question but that this prodigal felt the call of His father before he ever climbed out of that pigpen, where he “ate the husks that the swine did eat.” This Father had never lost hope and his son had probably never forgotten the look of the Father’s face as he “took his journey into a far country.”
The Bible is filled with the story of our Father “striving” for the return of His creation to His fellowship. As one writer stated, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the unseen guests at the funeral of every lost soul.” If not one hair can fall from one living soul without His knowledge, how could you believe that one sinner could be lost without His tears? The tears He wipes away in Heaven may well include His own.
This great story of the returning prodigal forever helps in establishing His undying love for the lost. Couple this with the shepherd (one lost sheep), the woman (one lost coin), and, now, one lost son, and you have total evidence that He is not a respecter of persons. He did not choose only a few out of the masses. Nobody ever appealed to Him that He did not stop and listen.
“Limited atonement” as championed by the Calvinists is better fitted to Dagon, Aturia, Diana, or one of the other false gods. These gods were selfish, self-serving, and dark in their character. Our God is the (six days) Creator that loves His entire family of His human creation. We were created for His glory and anybody that spends eternity in hell will do so because they reject the glorious provisions of the cross of Jesus Christ. To relegate hell and all its inhabitants for eternity to a dark decision made by God the Father from the beginning of creation is to attack His character and to render Him as despot. It is not His will that one sinner perish in eternal flames. The Calvinist’s doctrine of “Limited Atonement” is one of the most unreal and dark theological ideas ever to be preached in a pulpit. Jesus loves every man and woman, every sinner or saint, and you can be saved for eternity.
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