There are few historical voices outside of the Scriptures that have influenced my thinking, theology, and preaching more than that of Charles Spurgeon – the late-19th century Calvinist considered to be the prince of preachers. It has become my habit as I prepare messages each week, to determine the direction that the message will go, and then look to Spurgeon’s sermon on that particular text for further insight.
Another blog I read, The Pyromaniacs, dedicate some space each week to excerpts from his sermons and teachings. This week’s topic covers his understanding of the theology of Particular Redemption or more commonly Limited Atonement (the L in TULIP). This doctrine is one of the most disputed, and most difficult to latch onto, but one of the most beautiful when fully understood.
The Arminian holds that Christ, when He died, did not die with an intent to save any particular person; and they teach that Christ’s death does not in itself secure, beyond doubt, the salvation of any one man living. They believe that Christ died to make the salvation of all men possible, or that by the doing of something else, any man who pleases may attain unto eternal life; consequently, they are obliged to hold that if man’s will would not give way and voluntarily surrender to grace, then Christ’s atonement would be unavailing. They hold that there was no particularity and speciality in the death of Christ.
Christ died, according to them, as much for Judas in Hell as for Peter who mounted to Heaven. They believe that for those who are consigned to eternal fire, there was a true and real a redemption made as for those who now stand before the throne of the Most High.
Now, we believe no such thing. We hold that Christ, when He died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly, and beyond a doubt, be accomplished.
We measure the design of Christ’s death by the effect of it. If any one asks us, “What did Christ design to do by His death?” we answer that question by asking him another—”What has Christ done, or what will Christ do by His death?” For we declare that the measure of the effect of Christ’s love, is the measure of the design of it.
We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the atonement, can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold—we are not afraid to say that we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne.
We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.
I realize that this doctrine is a difficult one for even Calvinists to grab onto (hence guys who would deem themselves 4 or 4.5 pointers). However, my question is, how could a non-believer face the penalty that Christ has allegedly died for? He can’t. An understanding of particular redemption helps to explain that Christ’s death only atones for the sins of those predestined to salvation. I can’t understand how any other understanding of limited atonement works.