Some thoughts on Particular Redemption

This is what Scripture says:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25, ESV)

Particular Redemption is the historic reformed doctrine that attempts to answer the question: “Who did Jesus die for?” In 1 Peter 2:21, the Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter’s hand, says “Christ…suffered for you”, and in verse 24, that he “bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Who is signified by “you” and “us” in those verses? If you look at Peter’s salutation in 1:1, you see he’s writing to the “elect exiles of the dispersion”, and in verse 2, that they are elect “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” In verse 3, we see that Christ, in his “great mercy”, “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is the same “us” as those whose sins Christ bore on the tree in 1 Peter 2:24. It is the group that includes the author (Simon Peter) and the people he’s writing to (the elect exiles): namely, believers. (And when Peter says that he “suffered for you”, he is in no way denying the fact that Christ suffered for Peter as well.)

So when he says, Jesus “suffered for you” and that he bore the penalty for “our sins” on the cross, he’s talking about a specific group of people, already known to God. Judicially (it says God is a just judge, v. 23), you cannot be punished twice for the same crime. Jesus bore our punishment, so we cannot be punished again.

Rob Bell, who is one of the leaders on the forefront of the “emergent” movement, says

Heaven is full of forgiven people.

Hell is full of forgiven people.

Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.

Hell is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.

The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. (Velvet Elvis, p. 146)

This is very, very bad.

You can’t go to hell if Jesus died for you, because he already carried out your sentence! If Jesus died for you, you are forgiven, and God already sees the debt as cancelled! Friends, if you trust in Christ, he has already borne your sins “in his body on the tree,” and “By his wounds you have been healed.” This is why when Jesus died, he said, “It is finished” (Gr. tetelestai i.e. “paid in full”).

What follows is from A.W. Pink’s book, The Sovereignty of God:

The very nature of the Atonement evidences that, in its application to sinners, it was limited in the purpose of God. The Atonement of Christ may be considered from two chief viewpoints–Godward and manward. Godwards, the Cross-work of Christ was a propitiation, an appeasing of Divine wrath, a satisfaction rendered to Divine justice and holiness; manwards, it was a substitution, the Innocent taking the place of the guilty, the Just dying for the unjust. But a strict substitution of a Person for persons, and the infliction upon Him of voluntary sufferings, involve the definite recognition on the part of the Substitute and of the One He is to propitiate of the persons for whom He acts, whose sins He bears, whose legal obligations He discharges. Furthermore, if the Law-giver accepts the satisfaction which is made by the Substitute, then those for whom the Substitute acts, whose place He takes, must necessarily be acquitted. If I am in debt and unable to discharge it and another comes forward and pays my creditor in full and receives a receipt in acknowledgment, then, in the sight of the law, my creditor no longer has any claim upon me. On the Cross the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom, and that it was accepted by God was attested by the empty grave three days later [the Resurrection is the receipt or proof of purchase that the Father gave to the Son to acknowledge the debt he paid!]; the question we would here raise is, For whom was this ransom offered? If it was offered for all mankind then the debt incurred by every man has been cancelled. If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all mean without exception, then none will perish. If Christ was “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race then none will be finally condemned. “Payment God cannot twice demand, first at my bleeding Surety’s hand and then again at mine.” But Christ did not discharge the debt of all men without exception, for some there are who will be “cast into prison” (cf. 1 Peter 3:19 where the same Greek word for “prison” occurs), and they shall “by no means come out thence, till they have paid the uttermost farthing,” which will never, never be. Christ did not bear the sins of all mankind, for some there are who “die in their sins” (John 8:21), and whose “sin remaineth” (John 9:41). Christ was not “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race, for some there are to whom He will yet say, “Depart from Me ye cursed” (Matt. 25:41). To say that Christ died for all alike, to say that He became the Substitute and Surety of the whole human race, to say that He suffered on behalf of and in the stead of all mankind, is to say that He “bore the curse for many who are now bearing the curse for themselves; that He suffered punishment for many who are now lifting up their own eyes in Hell, beign in torments; that He paid the redemption price for many who shall yet pay in their own eternal anguish ‘the wages of sin, which is death'” (G.S. Bishop). But, on the other hand, so say as Scripture says, that Christ was stricken for the transgressions of God’s people, to say that He gave His life for the sheep, to say that He gave His life a ransom for many, is to say that He made an atonement which fully atones; it is to say He paid a price which actually ransoms; it is to say He was set forth as a propitiation which really propitiates; it is to say He is a Savior who truly saves. (pp. 58-60)

(This paragraph mainly deals with the judicial analysis of the atonement, but in the surrounding pages, Pink lists and explicates on the relevant scriptures that deal with the subject.)

O Christian, God is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Let us be eternally grateful that, while we were wandering away like sheep, he came after us, sending his One and Only Son to suffer in our stead, paying the price for our sins, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, to the praise of his glory!


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