Posts Tagged ‘particular redemption’

Revelation 5, the Christology of Heaven (S. Lewis Johnson)

September 10, 2014 3 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Revelation series, a few observations concerning the great throne room scene of Revelation 5 – the Christology of Heaven.

The three-fold praise in heaven gives a natural three-point sermon:

  • The Song of the creatures and the elders (Rev. 5:8-10)
  • The Shout of the angelic host (Rev. 5:11-12)
  • The Saying of “the whole creation” (Rev. 5:13-14)

Revelation 5 references the atonement and that satisfaction that Christ has rendered in His death on the cross.

this expression that, “the lamb of God was slain and has purchased”, is a reference to his penal death, that is he died under the penalty of the sins of men, further that it is a substitutionary death that we should have died, but he died instead of us. He died as our representative. He died as our covenantal head. Incidentally, Bach makes that point over and over in the St. John Passion, of how He was bound that we might not be bound and so on. And then also it is a satisfaction that is the Lord Jesus Christ in His sacrifice in His blood has satisfied the claims of a holy and righteous God against us. And as Anselm pointed out, it was something we must do — but we did not have the power to do and someone else, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the one who has done it for us. … It is good news that men who cannot save themselves do have a Savior to whom they may appeal and expect to find full, free forgiveness and justification of life. So it is a penal substitutionary satisfaction, and I would like a minor emphasis this morning, we don’t have time to deal in detail with this, to say that also it was a particular redemption.

The ninth verse: “For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood.” (ESV: for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God):

Most of the translators supply the words either “men” or “some”. Luther supplied the German word Menchen, which means something like mankind, but it’s a supply because of the partitive construction in the original text. Take my word for it. It’s true. After forty years of teaching New Testament Greek exegesis. Jesus, I assure you there is no doubt about it whatsoever, it is a partitive construction. That is, a reference is to some out of the whole, a part out of the whole. So he does not say he has redeemed to God by Thy blood, every kindred tongue and people and nation, but “out of every people tongue and nation.” In other words, there is a selection, a part of the whole that is the object of the redeeming work.

That verse 9 means more than simply talking about the fact that some should be lost, is seen in the very next verse: “And hast made them unto our God kings and priests.”

In other words, everyone who is the object of the purchase is also effectually made a king and a priest, and surely you’re not going to be universalists are you? No, you know that that is not true. So everyone who has been purchased has also been made a priest and a king, and I won’t say anything more about it. I don’t want your blood to rise, become hot and angry because there are other things that are very important in this great passage, but I want you to think about it. It’s evident then, I think that what John says is harmonious with a particular redemption.

Another observation: the angelic hosts know where to put the crown: they don’t put it on man, but on the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ask those angelic hosts how men are saved, and from their own language that they would say, “The glories that men who are saved have are not due to the individuals. They are due to the lamb who was slain,” or if you were to say to the elders and the living creatures, “Where did the faith come from by which this vast multitude was saved? Did it come from them?” they would say, “No a faith did not come from them. It was the gift of God.” For after all the apostle wrote, “No man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.”

The John Bunyan Conference Atonement Series: S. Lewis Johnson’s Last Teaching Series

January 25, 2012 4 comments

Among the full collection at the SLJ Institute, I’m now listening to a series I had often heard about, SLJ’s atonement series from the John Bunyan Conference.  Following are my general observations after listening to the first nine of the 18 messages.

As a set of messages from a conference, it’s quite different from the standard lecture series at Believers Chapel.  These messages were given in 1997, when Dr. Johnson was 81 years old, three years after his last messages taught at Believers Chapel.  The series is a topical one, with what at first seems a rather eclectic selection of passages unrelated to each other.  Yet all have in common words such as “all”, “all men” and “saviour.”  The audio quality, while good overall, isn’t as consistent as the recordings at Believers Chapel — minor things like variation in the speaker’s volume.  For the sixth message (1 Timothy 4:10),  S. Lewis Johnson read a paper he had previously written — a delivery style that takes some getting used to.   More than with any other series, too, this one includes far more biographical details, especially concerning Johnson’s years at Dallas Theological Seminary, including the reason (view of the atonement) that he resigned from DTS in 1977.  It is also fun to hear him tell stories from those days, including his reflections on Lewis Sperry Chafer and Dallas Seminary’s early practice  concerning solicitation of money, a view shared in common with 19th century missionary George Muller.

Among the passages considered are these:

Several of these passages are well-known ones considered “key” to the atonement issue, with words that could be said to support universalism — except of course for the well-known principle of interpretation, that scriptures must not conflict with each other; from the overall teaching of God’s word we know that not everyone will be saved.  Another common view is the Amyraldian view, or the four-point Calvinist (without the “L” of limited atonement):  that the intent of the atonement is for everyone including those who do not come to faith.

Following is a summary listing of ten reasons in support of Particular Redemption, given during the seventh message.

1.  The statements of Scripture are of that character.  The language of conditionality, the language of potentiality, the language of possibility is not found with reference to the atonement.

2.  The argument from definite expressions, so beautifully set out in A. Hodge’s Christian Theology, the expressions of Scripture are definite.  He died for the church.  He redeemed a people.

3.  The argument from the nature of the atonement. The nature of the atonement, the atoning work of Jesus Christ is a penal substitutionary, by a sacrifice, work.  It is penal – Christ died and bore the penalty of those for whom he died.  It is, of course, a satisfaction, that is, he propitiated the Father, satisfied his justice of holiness.  And it is a substitution.  He died for us, for a particular people.  And if he died for a particular people, then my friend, what judgment can heaven bring against those for whom Christ has died?  What judgment?  Heaven can bring no judgment against the one for whom Christ has died.  So if we believe in substitution, then we must be believers in a definite atonement, a particular redemption.  There is no way out of that.

4.  An argument from the priesthood of Christ, after all, the work of the high priest was the work of sacrifice and intercession for a particular people, wasn’t it?  What Aaron and the other high priests did was to offer sacrifices for the Israelites, didn’t they?  Did they offer them for the Moabites or the Amalakites?  They were for Israel.  They were a particular people.  And he made intercession for those for whom he offered sacrifice.

5.   Argument from the less to the greater.  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  If he died for us, then he will give us everything.  That’s the greatest gift.  Everything else follows.  If he offered a sacrifice for us then, will he give us conviction of sin?  Will he give us repentance?  Will he give us all of the other things?  Will he give us faith?  Of course.  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  So if you believe he has given himself up for you, the greatest work of all, all these other lesser things, like faith, repentance, and so on, they have to come.

6.   Argument from the results the atonement has accomplished:  the harmonization of the design of the atonement and the end.  The limited result necessitates for an unfrustratable deity, a limited intent.  It seems obvious.  Of course, if you have a God who can be frustrated, that argument does not carry weight with you.  But your problem’s not the atonement, your problem is with the kind of God that you have.  The necessary harmony of the inter-trinitarian economy of salvation, I learned that from John Murray, the Westminster Seminary.

7.  The inter-trinitarian economy of salvation.  Think about that.  You know what that means?  That means the Father works toward one end.  The Son works toward the same end.  The Spirit works toward the same end.  The Father elects.  The Spirit gives faith to the elect.  The Son dies for, well, with the intent of saving everybody?  No, of course not.  We don’t have a dissonance in the Trinity.  We do not have the persons of the Trinity working toward different goals.  They have the same design – the elect, the elect, the elect.  The Father doesn’t elect the non-elect.  He elects the elect.  The Spirit brings to faith the elect.  The Son of God dies with the intent of saving the elect.  He offers for the elect.  I know you’re persuaded by now.

8.  Argument from the representative nature of Jesus Christ’s death.  It’d be interesting to talk about a number of the passages, of course, where our Lord is set forth as the covenantal head of his people, and when he offers himself, he offers for them.

Thomas Goodwin:  “There are but two men standing before God, Adam and Christ, and these two have all other men hanging at their girdles.”

9.  Argument from special divine love or the fact that the Scripture represents God’s love as distinguishing.  The Son doesn’t pray for all.  The Son doesn’t give the Spirit to all.  That’s important, too.  John 14:16 and 17.  He has withheld the gospel from countless myriads throughout the world, both in Old and New Testament times.  Difficult to understand, but nevertheless, true.  And true for a sovereign God.

10.  Revelation 5:10-11  The text says, “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”  Now if the atonement or redemption was universal, he would have simply said, You have redeemed every tribe, tongue, people and nation.  But it’s “out of”.  The construction in the original text is a partitive construction.  It’s some out of them.  Some translations translate it that way – some from have been redeemed.


Additional resource information: Jim McClarty’s Q&A regarding “All Men.”