Each of us, in our systems of theology, encounters problem passages with which we struggle. Calvinism is no exception, especially in regards to the doctrine of particular redemption (or, limited atonement). God's Word contains several passages that seem to teach an unlimited (universal) redemption or atonement. Passages such as...
Isaiah 53:6, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
John 1:29, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
John 4:42, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
Romans 5:18, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."
Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "Christ...died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."
2 Corinthians 5:18-19, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
1 Timothy 2:5-6, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men."
These verses seem to produce a bit of a conundrum for the particular redemptionist. Yet each of these verses has a viable and satisfactory explanation.
First, each of these passages must be taken as a part of a whole. In other words, each of these verses is a part of a larger context. For example, we know that the "all" of Isaiah 53:6 is limited to those who have been justified according to the preceding verse (Is. 53:5). The same is true of the verses in Romans 5, Romans 8, and 1 Timothy 2. As for the 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 passage, "all" is defined within the verse itself...as those "who live" and those for whom Christ died and was raised again ("who died for them and was raised again").
Second, in John 1:29, John is addressing the purpose and power of Christ's coming (this is comparable to the passage in Matthew 1:21, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. He is the Savior, possessing the unparalleled ability to take away the sins of the entire world. Paul is speaking to the same issue in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19...that because of Christ's cross-work, God is reconciling those in the world to Himself. These verses cannot be speaking of universal reconciliation, because those who do not believe are not at peace with God but rather at enmity against Him (Romans 8:7). This "reconciliation" can refer only to the elect because of what it results in: "not counting their trespasses against them."
Third, in John 4:42, John is speaking to Christ's position...He is the Savior of the world. He is the only Savior this world will ever have (Acts 4:12), not that He will save every individual in it (if so, Christ has failed to do so).
The above passages are answered rather easily, yet there appears to be no easy solution to the most troublesome text of 1 John 2:2,
"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world."This verse seems to make a distinction between a limited and universal atonement, and even affirming the latter. So, how does the Calvinist respond to this apparent disconnect in his theology?
Stay tuned, the answers will come tomorrow! I feel badly for doing this to you, so I offer my humble apologies!