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The Two Sides of Reconciliation

The gospel of Jesus Christ, as we have painstakingly pointed out, is a coin with two sides. One side of the gospel coin is the PROVISION side, the good news that God in Christ has provided a remedy for our sin. The other side of the gospel coin is the APPROPRIATION side, the good news that God in Christ has provided for sinners the means to appropriate the sin remedy by a simple look of faith to the One Who died for them and rose again the third day. The provision side is encapsulated in: “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Those scriptures would most certainly include Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

We have also pointed out that Calvinism, in gospel-deficient fashion, is philosophically bound to limit the gospel to one side of that coin, the appropriation side. For the Calvinist, the gospel essentially consists in one scripture: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with declaring that promise of appropriation to a sinner. Here's the problem: A sinner CANNOT appropriate what God has not provided! If Calvinism's theory of Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption) is true, then there are some for whom God made no provision for sin in the death of his Son. Therefore the promise of appropriation given in Acts 16:31 CANNOT apply to them. If Jesus did not die for your sins, God CANNOT save you despite ANY attempt on your part to appropriate salvation. No provision, no appropriation...period. This is not rocket science. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, the apostle Paul wrote in eloquent terms about the two sides of reconciliation. In this passage we find yet again another truth that totally destroys the entire system of Calvinism. Paul writes: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (5:14). With the phrase “we thus judge”, Paul employs basic yet unassailable logic pertaining to the death of Christ. His argument is based on an Unlimited or Universal Atonement. “If one died for all, then were all dead.” Can we agree that the first “all” and the second “all” both refer to the same group of people? Paul certainly thought so. Intellectual honesty demands it. If the Calvinist chooses to limit the first “all” to “all of the elect”, then he must also argue that the second “all” does as well. In other words, if Christ died for the elect only, then only the elect were spiritually dead. It is clear that Paul did NOT subscribe to a Limited Atonement. He was NOT a five-pointer, as I have heard some Calvinists ludicrously argue. 

The verb “constraineth” means “to hold together” (so that nothing falls away from the whole). The idea of compression or pressure is in view. The verb was used to describe the constraint that farmers would apply to their animals in order to administer medications. Paul uses the present tense to convey continuous, ongoing action. The love that constantly motivated the apostle and his co-laborers was that shown by Christ in his death for ALL, for EVERY sinner, for ALL who fell with Adam when he sinned. 

The phrase “we thus judge” is an aorist active participle; literally translated, “ones having judged” or “ones having come to a reasoned conclusion.” There was no theological debate among the apostles about the scope of Christ's death. That issue was settled. It was fundamental to the gospel. One cannot limit the atonement without limiting the gospel, which is why Calvinism, or Reformed Theology, is gospel-deficient. No preacher of a Limited Atonement has any right to call himself a gospel preacher. He is, in fact, a half-gospel preacher – bidding lost men to appropriate a salvation for which God may or may not have made provision. But this is exactly what many seminary Presidents and professors are training their students to do. Why not call them half-gospel seminaries and thus become theologically consistent and intellectually honest? 

The verbs “one died” and “all were dead” are both aorist active in tense. The aorist tense is punctiliar and signifies a point in time. A literal translation of “then were all dead” is “then all died.” It is a reference to the point in time at which humanity died spiritually, not necessarily to their subsequent spiritual state. That point in time is determinable by Romans 5:12: “Wherefore as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” The verbs “death passed” and “all have sinned” are both aorist active tenses. The phrase “all have sinned” is literally “all sinned” at a point in time. When Adam disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, ALL of humanity sinned with him. As a consequence, death passed, at the same point in time, upon ALL of humanity. All men sinned and all men died in Adam. Christ died for all of them. 

Paul's entire gospel enterprise was driven by the reasoned conclusion that Christ had died for ALL who died in Adam. In order for the Calvinist to argue for a Limited Atonement, he must of necessity argue that only the elect sinned with Adam. You'd have to question the rightmindedness of any man that would attempt to make that argument. Expositor R. C. H. Lenski is spot when he writes: "The Calvinistic efforts to limit this word to 'all of the elect' constitute one of the saddest chapters in exegesis. The scriptures shine with the 'all' of universality, but Calvinists do not see it. Their one effort is to find something that would justify them to reduce 'all' to 'some'." Lenski adds: "The real assurance for me that Christ died for me is this alone, that he died for absolutely all" (Interpretation of I & II Corinthians, p. 1029). 

Reconcile is the verb katallasso, meaning “to bring into equal value or exchange two entities that were at variance.” The word was used of coin exchanges where equal value was in view. Paul said: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (5:19). That is, on the PROVISION side of the gospel, God did his part in dealing with our trespasses. The atoning blood of Christ was the propitiation (satisfaction) for the sins of humanity. Our sins were dealt with in full. 

Sinful men are admonished: “Be ye reconciled to God” (5:20). The verb is passive voice, which signifies that sinners must allow themselves to BE reconciled by God. God does all the reconciling. Man does not and cannot reconcile himself to God. Sinners must be MADE the righteousness of God in Christ (5:21). It takes God's perfect righteousness to reconcile a sinful man who is at variance with God. When a man submits himself to the gospel, which is the APPROPRIATION side, he simply comes to the Father through the Son with empty hands, confessing that Christ is Lord and trusting Jesus to perform the work of salvation, doing for the siner what he cannot do for himself. Faith is NOT a work. Saving faith is the appropriation of the great reconciliatory work that God performed in Christ on the sinner's behalf. If God didn't PROVIDE it, the sinner can't APPROPRIATE it!


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