Last time, we made the argument that universal atonement is a problematic position to take for several reasons. We reasoned from the Scriptures that affirming universal atonement, while also maintaining the doctrine of election, disrupts the perfect harmony that exists within the Trinity. If the Father elected someone whom the Son did not provide atonement for, then the Son failed in His propitiatory mission. If the Son provided atonement for someone whom the Father did not choose, then the Father failed in His electing purposes. Therefore, the people whom the Father elects and those whom Christ provided redemption for through His blood must be one in the same. While this argument is helpful in addressing the question of for whom Christ died, there is another fundamental problem with the common objection raised against limited atonement that we began to address in our last post. The objectors assume that God must open the possibility of atonement to every single person in order to be loving. But is this reasoning biblical?

Blue mountains with clouds and series tiltle superimposed

When it comes to the atonement of Christ, there are certain essentials that all true Christians must be in agreement on. For example, we must believe that Christ actually died on the cross and reject any opposing heresies (a popular one being the swoon theory: a belief that Jesus did not really die on the cross but rather became unconscious and was later resuscitated). We must also agree that Christ’s death was a legal transaction, in that a double imputation took place between Christ and the sinner, for as the Scripture says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Adding to our list of essentials, we must also believe that Jesus died the death we deserved, and became our substitution, a view of the atonement known as penal substitutionary atonement. We must embrace the voluntary nature of Christ’s sacrifice, while rejecting any claims that downplay or deny it (i.e. “Jesus was a victim”, “Jesus died merely as an example of suffering”, etc.). And finally, we must affirm that the atonement of Christ was a complete removal of sin, and not a mere covering of sin as the Old Testament sacrifices were.

The book of Leviticus, and quite frankly the entire Levitical system, can be summed up in a three-word sentence: God demands perfection. He demands perfect sacrifices, a perfect priesthood, perfect worship, perfect purity, perfect justice and righteousness, perfect observance of the ceremonies and festivals, and perfect civility. The children of Israel were indeed to “…be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 11:44,45, 19:2). To be holy is to be set apart, and God set apart His people Israel from every other nation in the world. Why? Because it is through them that the Abrahamic Covenant will be fulfilled, all made possible through the person and work of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13-14, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”.