One time I had a discussion with some of the guys about being what I call a 4 and a half point Calvinist. I’ve been given some grief about that term, but I have my reasons for sticking with it. Here is an email that I sent to some of the guys (that contains portions of another email correspondence with a good friend of mine) a long time ago that explains why I call myself a 4 and a half point Calvinist (in case any one wondered or even knew that that’s what I consider myself to be…which most people probably didn’t on either account…but hey, it’s my blog):
Here’s a part of my discussion that I had with a friend on the subject of Limited Atonement. And so it is my contention that Christ died for all generally, but in regard to the specific benefit of his atonement (salvation), he only died for the elect. Perhaps it’s a case of semantics, but for now, I’m sticking with my position that I am, in fact, a 4 and a half point Calvinist.
My Friend Stated And Asked:
(You said lost people) have been allowed to experience life. They’ve been allowed to experience marriage, and child birth. They’ve been allowed to experience blessing. Some have been allowed to experience healing. All of that would never have been possible if Christ hadn’t died on the cross.
Can you explain that some more? I don’t follow how that would never have been possible w/o Christ dying on the cross.
My Response Was As Follows:
First we have to establish the fact that Christ’s sacrifice does, in some way, effect everyone. 1 Timothy 4:10 speaks volumes here: ” For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (ESV). It’s Interesting that Paul distinguishes between “all people” and “those who believe.” As Millard Erickson puts it, “Apparently the Savior has done something for all persons, though it is less in degree than what he has done for those who believe.” In other words, it seems that God can be considered a savior of some sort even for those who don’t believe. If God can be considered the savior for those who don’t believe then what kind of salvation is Paul talking about? It’s obviously not a spiritually redeeming salvation because based on what we know about the Gospel, we can conclude that those who don’t believe will go to Hell if they’re lost when they die. So then what other kind of salvation is Paul speaking of? I contend that it’s a salvation in a general sense in that they are not immediately punished. Those who are lost, and who are going to remain in their lostness are still allowed to live their life on earth and are allowed to experience that life. They don’t even deserve that, but they get it.
Next I want to give a specific example of how even the lost benefit from the atonement. This one is specifically regarding God’s allowance for them to experience blessing. But before we even start there, we need to examine a few things. First, what were the effects of the fall of man? When Adam fell, I think you and I would both agree that not only did that allow sin into the world but that it also had other effects. It fractured the entire world (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:20-23). One of the effects that it had, other than allowing sin into the world, was sickness and disease. Next, what were the effects or benefits of the atonement? Again, I think we would both agree that salvation was the main benefit, but there were other things accomplished because of the death of Christ. We know that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom giving us direct access to God through Jesus Christ (prayer). Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 8:17 indicate that Christ not only took on the sins of the world, but also sickness and disease. And so it’s there that I want to camp out for a minute. Isaiah 53:4 says this: ” Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” The word there for “sorrow” transliterates as chali. The predominate meaning of that word is “physical sickness.” Now there are a few reasons that lead me to believe that Isaiah is using this word here to connote just that, physical sickness. However, I’ll just mention the best one (the others have to do with an exegetical analysis of that word in relation to how Isaiah is using it in the context of that passage). It has to do with what Matthew said regarding the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and all of the ill people who were brought to Jesus later that evening. Matthew said that that was the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Isaiah 53:4. Here, specifically Matthew says this: “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’” Matthew gives us confirmation, then, as to how Isaiah was using that word. He meant it in it’s most common way, physical sickness (in fact Matthew uses the word astheneias, which is a Greek word that refers to physical sickness as well). So it appears that when Christ died on the cross, he would not only take on the world’s sins, but also their sicknesses and diseases. So what happens when a lost person gets sick or gets a disease, but then is healed? I think we would both agree that the healing is a blessing that comes from God. I’ll finish this point with a quote from Erickson (once again, I’m sticking to my philosophy that if someone has already said it better, then just steal from them): “Jesus healed during his ministry on earth and he heals today. That healing, however, is not to be thought of a manifestation or application of a vicarious bearing of our sicknesses in the same fashion that he bore our sins. Rather his healing is simply a matter of introducing a supernatural force into the realm of nature. In a general sense, the atonement cancels all the effects of the fall.” In other words, when God heals, regardless of whether or not it’s a saved person or a lost person, he is bestowing upon that person a benefit or blessing that could only have been possible because of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.
Finally, we have to examine the eternal nature of the plan of salvation and the fact that Christ dying on the cross was the plan from the very beginning. This was something that God set out to accomplish in eternity past (John 6:37-39; John 17:24; Ephesians 3:11; Titus 1:2). Robert Letham has a great book called “The Work Of Christ.” In it he makes a great statement regarding the eternal nature of Christ’s atonement. He says, “…while God was under no compulsion to save us (salvation in its entirety is an act of his free and sovereign grace) yet, having decreed salvation, there was no other way compatible with his nature by which we could be saved.” In other words, once God decided in eternity past how he was going to bring man back to him, there was no plan B. Now I’ll be the first to admit that no one knows all the details of the mechanics at play here. In other words, however the fall fits into all of this as far as God’s plan is concerned, we do know that he knew it was going to happen (and I would argue that at the very least, he set in motion events that would precipitate the fall of man) and that there was going to have to be a way to fix it all. He, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the fix was Jesus Christ and the blood that he would shed on Calvary. All of this was established in eternity past. So the question is: What if Christ, for whatever reason, had decided in eternity past that he wasn’t going to do it? It is my contention that if Christ had decided that, then that would have been it. Game over. And not only would there never be a chance for people to come to Christ, there also would never be a reason for life in general. Thankfully for our sake, and even for the sake of the lost, that was not the case.