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October 2, 2021 12:01 am
When Jesus asked the Father to preserve His people in faith, why did He say, "I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me" (John 17:9)? Today, R.C. Sproul explains what this passage reveals about God's purpose for the atonement.
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Good God from all eternity intend to save everybody well if you from all eternity intended to save everybody when you suppose that would make everybody would be saved or else God's intent are completely frustrated by the affairs of men will of course we know that those plans are never frustrated by the affairs of men. Even when it comes to our salvation today on Renewing Your Mind were going to look at another hard saying of Jesus on the points is too limited, or particular atonement anytime. This doctrine comes up, it raises red flags for many Christians doesn't seem fairly claim that Christ died only for the elect.
God's chosen people.
Yes, this is a key teaching of reformed theology of company.
John Calvin didn't invent.
It's the teaching of Jesus himself. It's a theme that runs through the entire Bible is Dr. Singh's poem when it comes to the hard sayings of the last place we would expect to find a hard saying is in the prayers of Jesus, and most particularly when we read the magnificent account of the so-called high priestly prayer of Jesus that is recorded for us in the Gospel according to St. John in the 17th chapter of the book.
Here we have an implement opportunity to eavesdrop on Jesus as he is performing his work of intercession not only for the disciples that were his. At that time, but for all of his people who ever believe in him, I say to people. This is the only place in all of Scripture where you are mentioned specifically, not by name. When Jesus prays he prays not only for his disciples, but for all of those who will believe in him through their testimony so that in that sense, Jesus is praying for us if it be so that we have embraced the testimony of the apostles.
So what's the problem that we would encounter in such a wonderful setting as this high priestly prayer will look at that problem in just a second, but let me say another word of process before we dig into the text itself, the setting for this prayer. If you recall this on the night before Jesus was crucified.
It takes place in the upper room on the occasion where Jesus celebrated the Passover for the last time with his disciples and where he instituted the Lord's supper and so it is a particularly important occasion.
It's also the occasion where we have the most extensive discussion ever from the lips of Jesus on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
John 1415 16 very important segment of our Lord's teaching for us. But where is the hard saying let's take a look at the text now in John chapter 17. I'm going to begin at verse six. This is not the entire intercessory prayer, or high priestly prayer as it is most often called. It's the segment that contains the difficulty in verse six we read this. I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world they were yours and you gave them to me and they have kept your word. Now they have known that all things which you have given me are from you, for I have given to them the words which you have given me and they have received them and have known surely that I came forth from you and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world.
But for those whom you have given me, for they are yours and all mine are yours and yours are mine, and I'm glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world and I come to you. Holy father keep through your name those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are. While I was with them in the world.
I kept them in your name and those whom you gave me. I have kept and none of them is lost except the son of perdition that the Scripture may be fulfilled. But now I come to you and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in them, set I've given them your word in the world to say to them because they are not of the world. Just as I am not of the world.
I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world.
Just as I am not of the world, sanctify them by your truth.
Your word is truth. What's the problem with this wonderful prayer of intercession is very comforting and heartening to us to hear our Lord cleaved so passionately for the preservation of those the Father has given to the problem comes in with this one little qualifying statement that is made in verse nine.
I pray for them. That is for those whom the father had given him. I do not pray for the world.
Jesus here makes a clear and sharp distinction between those for whom he is praying and those for whom he is not pray he is not interceding for everyone, but is only interceding for the believers. For those whom the father has given to him and where this text becomes so controversial in church history is over the doctrine that is one of the most hotly disputed doctrines in Protestant theology, and in the tradition of Reformation theology and that is the doctrine called limited atonement. I don't particularly like that term limited atonement because nothing is misleading but the reason why limited atonement is called limited atonement is because the phrase starts with an L and it fit so neatly into the famous acrostic that is used to summarize the five points of Calvinism which acrostic is known as total up if we had tiny Tim here, they could tiptoe through this tool up with us and try to give us some explanation but that little acrostic to look has its roots back in the controversy that immersed in Holland among Dutch reformed people a group who had been influenced significantly by the theology called Arminianism who recalled Ramon Strawn's remonstrated or protest against certain teachings of the Reformation, focusing on the doctrine of election that was so problematical for these Ramon Strawn send a lay isolated five points that they disagreed with those five points were the total depravity of man. The unconditional election of the redeemed limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the site and so that's where we get this idea five. Not the Calvin or the reformed theologian said okay. Our theology is based on five points and spell them out. Now these are the five points of disputation that came about that. This tentative Dordrecht earlier on, but of all of these file all five points are controversial and have been controversial for centuries, but we have a whole generation of people today who identify themselves as so-called four point Calvin. This is particularly true in the dispensational community where historic dispensationalism in America has grown out of a reformed tradition and many dispensational theologians and believers would readily affirm total depravity.
Unconditional election averages will raise in furtherance of the saints do when they choke on this, this and how this so-called limited atonement and the problem here is that limited atonement seems to suggest that Jesus did not die for everybody, but he did not die on the cross for the sins of the whole world, but the only died on the cross for the elect for a particular specified group of people whom God had chosen from the foundation of the world and that the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross was intended and designed simply to redeem them not just anybody indiscriminately. Now those who object to limited atonement want to insist that the purpose of the cross was to make salvation possible for every person in the world and the Jesus really did die on the cross for all the sins of all the people of all time in the world. Now, before I responded that, let me say that I mentioned in passing that I wasn't all that enamored by the term limited atonement because it's somewhat misleading. I would rather use the phrase particular redemption now to understand this controversy. Let me mention another one that is closely related to it, but is not the same controversy and that is the debate over universalism and what is called particularism. Universalism and particularism universalism as the word suggests teachers that all human beings ultimately are saved and the basis of their salvation is the person and work of Christ. The atonement that Christ made on the cross guarantees the salvation of every human person particularism is that view that teaches that not everybody is saved, but only those who have faith in Christ. Only believers say no and the historic debate between Arminianism and Calvinism were between dispensationalism and reformed theology, and so on Arminianism. Dispensationalism strongly and consistently affirm particularism and deny universalism reformed theology dispensational theology Arminian theology all agree that not everybody essay because it seems abundantly clear in Scripture that there will be people who will be an L and who will be lost in the final analysis now again this is not the debate over limited atonement, but all sides agree that in some sense there is a limit to the atonement of Jesus Christ that they all agree that the atonement of Jesus Christ is not secure.
The salvation of all people. Now, recently I gave an examination to my seminary students in one of the questions on the test had to do with the doctrine of the atonement and the meaning of the atonement of Christ on the cross and I noticed that several of the students in answering the question in general about the atonement raised in their essay answers.
They raise the matter of limited atonement and the vast majority of them defined limited atonement in this popular way they said limited atonement means that the atonement of Jesus Christ is sufficient for all but efficient only for some now what does that mean well, that means that the value of the sacrifice that Christ made was certainly valuable enough to atone for all the sins of all the people who have ever lived, so that there is no dispute about the sufficiency of his merit or of his value of his death.
But then the atonement only brings about the effect of salvation for those who embrace it in faith.
And so it's only efficient or effective for the believer now. Please don't misunderstand me. I don't disagree with my students.
I agree with them completely that the atonement of Jesus is sufficient for all, and efficient for some but that's not what limited atonement is all about.
That's not what the controversy is all about, because Arminianism dispensationalism and reformed theology all agree that the atonement is sufficient for all but efficient only for those who belay the deeper question that is behind this controversy is simply the question of the design of the atonement, namely what was God's purpose in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross did God from all eternity intend to save everybody well if he from all eternity intended to save everybody when you suppose that would make everybody would be saved or else God's intent are completely frustrated by the affairs of men, or if it was God's purpose to save the whole world than that purpose was frustrated and God's plan of redemption would be a failure in the assumption that the person in the reformed tradition makes here which I don't think it's a gratuitous assumption is that when God has a plan and a design and a purpose it doesn't fail, he brings to pass what he intends to bring to pass.
And this is nowhere more true than with his plan of salvation. If it ends up in the final analysis that somebody goes to Helen that not everybody essay that can only mean that that was never God's intention to save everybody but it was his intention to save some people in this world and we talk about in this and mean it's been a means is something that is used in order to accomplish the end to get to the goal to get to the purpose now the question is this is the cross of Christ. The end of redemption or a means to the end.
That's the issue. If it's an end and that means all God ever intended to do was to make salvation possible by providing a Savior and then leaving the consequences and the results of all of that up to us or is the cross the means that God employed to accomplish his eternal purpose of saving his people reformed theology says the latter says that the whole purpose of Christ's coming in the world was to save the elect. The whole purpose for Christ going to the cross, according to God's eternal plan was to save the elect and that when Christ died he laid down his life for his sheep. He did not lay down his life for everybody that the atonement that he made. He made for his sheep and that those who are not his sheep do not participate in that atonement and he never intended for them to participate in that atonement because he wasn't dying for them with them in view know that sounds harsh.
That's a hard sigh and that's what brings us back to the 17th chapter were here in John's Gospel, we see Jesus speaking repeatedly of those who have come to him in faith who were given to him by the father. It was the father who gave Christ a body of children if you will a body of believers so that the son of God would see the travail of his soul and be satisfied.
Can you imagine Jesus is going to the cross, offering atonement to the father and then hoping that somebody will make use of it, but yet theoretically realizing that he could have died completely in vain that he could've offered himself on the cross and it's theoretically possible.
If you deny this concept of a particular redemption that nobody would ever come to Christ and that he could've suffered all of this for nothing, but that's is not the purpose of God. God wouldn't hear of such a thing. God sent his son to the cross to make an atonement that would work and that would do the job and Christ offered himself as an oblation to satisfy the demands of God for those that the father had given him. Jesus also mentions here in John 17 that all but the father had given him, came to him and he goes on to say what that not one of them was lost except whom Judas, who was the son of perdition and elsewhere in the Scriptures. Jesus makes it clear who was never ever a believer. He was the son of perdition from the beginning. So in reality how many of those whom the father has given to Christ are lost nine and the reason why we take such comfort in the intercessory work of Christ is that Christ not only atones for the sin of his people. He not only lays down his life for his sheep. But then he prays daily as our high priest NSR intercessor for our preservation that not one of his people for whom he has died will ever ever be lost and I take comfort in that.
Knowing that if I have faith in reason I have faith is because of the gift of God because God for reasons unknown to me has given me to the son, and that God will not allow anything to snatch me out of his hands, that I have a priest who is entered into the holy of holies who has made an atonement who had sprinkled his own blood on the mercy seat of the covenant throne of God and who presents that oblation to the father in my behalf and in your behalf that I may never ever be lost and so the point is, what was the ultimate purpose of Christ's death, God's purposes do not fail his plan is effective when Jesus set out to do was to save his people and he accomplished his mission and he did it perfectly and effectively for all who were given to him by the you know when we think in human terms of fairness, the doctrine of particular atonement can seem harsh, but we see it through the lens of Scripture, we can see God's justice and mercy working hand-in-hand.
You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday as Dr. RC Sproul wraps up his series on the hard sayings of Jesus.
If you've missed any of the series along the way.
Let me encourage you to contact us and request a digital download of all five messages will send it to you for your donation of any amount to look at her ministries. Our number is 800-435-4343 but you can also give your gift and make your request online and Renewing Your Mind.org and we do appreciate your generosity. Thank you for supporting the work of wood in her ministries, understanding, hard sayings of the Bible can take some work.
That's what this series is designed to address and we also will let you know about ask Ligon near in a world where many turn to Google to find answers. Ligon here is providing Christians and inquirers with real-time answers that are faithful to the historic Christian faith. Ask Ligon here is an outreach that allows us to serve Christians with trustworthy answers to pressing questions about faith and life wherever they live in the world.
If you do have a theological or biblical question. Just go to ask.Ligon here.org was a mention. This doctrine of particular or limited atonement can seem unfair to many Christians you may be struggling with it yourself. We certainly understand that in RC understood that too and I think that's why he wanted to share this particular courtroom daily thought with you before we go. Perhaps you are troubled by the idea of some kind of limit to the atoning work of Christ.
There is no limit to the atoning work of Christ and its benefits for you if you are a believer and there is a serious limit of the benefits of the atonement to anyone who is not a believer in so again I remind you that the difficulty here is not whether everybody is saved or not everybody is saying. I think we would all agree that if God purpose from all eternity that all mankind would be saved, then all mankind would be say he certainly has the power and the authority to save the whole world. If he is pleased to do that for reasons we don't know.
That was not his plan that was not his desire, his desire was to save some and thereby show his mercy and his grace into Passover others and thereby the show his justice and his holiness, and in both cases, those who were saved and those who are lost, the glory of God is made manifest in his holiness and greatness is vindicated so that God displays in the cross both his justice and his mercy that it was his plan from the beginning to save some and the point is that those whom he intended to save he say and that is the occasion of our rejoicing. Indeed, it is well from the hard sayings of Jesus, we turn to the hard sayings of the prophets, and we hope you'll join us for the beginning of that series next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind