Monday, October 10, 2011

Albert Barnes On The Extent Of The Atonement

Commentator Albert Barnes on the Extent of the Atonement
By Doug Kutilek
[Note: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), graduate of Princeton Seminary and long-time Presbyterian pastor in Philadelphia, authored an extensive and very popular commentary on the whole New Testament and much of the Old, which is still worth consulting today. In my own limited experience with his commentaries, I have found them thoughtful and well-considered, and worth the time invested in reading them--editor]
On 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: "For the love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto him which died for them and rose again."--
"The phrase ‘for all’ (huper panton) obviously means for all mankind; for every man. This is an exceedingly important expression in regard to the extent of the atonement which the Lord Jesus made; and while it proves that his death was vicarious, that is, in the place of others, and for their sakes, it demonstrates also that the atonement was general, and had, in itself considered, no limitation, and no particular reference to any class or condition of men, and no particular applicability to one class more than to another. There was nothing in the nature of the atonement that limited it to any one class or condition; there was nothing in the design that made it, in itself, any more applicable to one portion of mankind than to another. And whatever be true in regard to the fact as to its actual applicability, or in regard to the purpose of God to apply it, it is demonstrated by this passage that his death had an original applicability to all, and that the merits of that death were sufficient to save all.
The argument in favor of the general atonement, from this passage, consists in the following points: 1. That Paul assumes this as a matter that was well known, indisputable, and universally admitted, that Christ died for all. He did not deem it necessary to enter into the argument to prove it, nor even to state it formally. It was so well known, and so universally admitted, that he made it a first-principle--an elementary position--a maxim on which to base another important doctrine--to wit, that all were dead. It was a point which he assumed that no one would call in question; a doctrine which might be laid down as the basis of an argument--like one of the first principles or maxims in science.
2. It is the plain and obvious meaning of the expression--the sense which strikes all men, unless they have some theory to support to the contrary; and it requires all the ingenuity which men can ever command to make it appear even plausible that this is consistent with the doctrine of a limited atonement--much more to make it out that it does not mean all. If a man is told that all the human family must die, the obvious interpretation is, that it applies to every individual. If told that all the passengers on board a steamboat were drowned, the obvious interpretation is, that every individual was meant. If told that a ship was wrecked, and that all the crew perished, the obvious interpretation would be that none escaped. If told that all the inmates of an hospital were sick, it would be understood that there was not an individual that was not sick. Such is the view which would be taken by nine hundred and ninety-nine persons out of a thousand, if told that Christ died for all; nor could they conceive how this could be consistent with the statement that he died only for the elect, and that the elect was only a small part of the human family.
3. This interpretation is in accordance with all the explicit declarations on the design of the death of the Redeemer. Hebrews 2:9, ‘That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.’ Compare John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ I Timothy 2:6, ‘Who gave himself a ransom for all.’ See Matthew 20:28, ‘The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.’ I John 2:2, ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.’
4. The fact also, that on the ground of the atonement made by the Redeemer salvation is offered unto all men by God, is a proof that he died for all. The apostles were directed to go ‘into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ with the assurance that ‘he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,’ Mark 16:15, 16; and everywhere in the Bible the most full and free offers of salvation are made to all mankind. Compare Isaiah 55:1; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17. These offers are made on the ground that the Lord Jesus died for men, John 3:16. They are offers of salvation through the gospel, of the pardon of sin, and of eternal life to be made ‘to every creature.’ But if Christ died only for a part; if there is a large portion of the human family for whom he died in no sense whatever; if there is no provision of any kind made for them, then God must know this, and then the offers cannot be made with sincerity, and God is tantalizing them with offers of that which does not exist, and which he knows does not exist.
It is no use here to say that the preacher does not know who the elect are, and that he is obliged to make the offer to all in order that the elect may be reached. For it is not the preacher only who offers the gospel. It is God who does it, and he knows who the elect are, and yet he offers salvation to all. And if there is no salvation provided for all, and no possibility that all to who the offer comes should be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no way possible of vindicating his character.
5. If this interpretation is not correct, and if Christ did not die for all, then the argument of Paul here is a non sequitur, and is worthless. The demonstration that all are dead, according to him, is that Christ died for all. But suppose that he meant, or that he knew, that Christ died only for a part--for the elect--then how would the argument stand, and what would be its force? ‘Christ died only for a portion of the human race, therefore ALL are sinners. Medicine is provided only for a part of mankind, therefore all are sick. Pardon is offered to part only, therefore all are guilty.’ But Paul never reasoned in this way. He believed that Christ died for all mankind, and on the ground of that he inferred at once that all needed such an atonement; that all were sinners, and that all were exposed to the wrath of God. And the argument is in this way, and in this way only, sound. . . .
It is observable that Paul makes a distinction here between those for whom Christ died and those who actually ‘live;’ thus demonstrating that there may be many for whom he died who do not live to God, or who are not savingly benefited by his death. The atonement was for all, but only a part are actually made alive to God. Multitudes reject it; but the fact he died for all, that he tasted death for every man, that he not only died for the elect but for all others, that his benevolence was so great as to embrace the whole human family in the design of his death, is a reason why they who are actually made alive to God should consecrate themselves entirely to his service. The fact that he died for all evinced such unbounded and infinite benevolence, that it should induce us who are actually benefited by his death, and who have any just views of it, to devote all that we have to his service."

Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978 reprint
pp. 851, 852
All italics and all capitals in original
On I John 2:2, "And he is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."--
"But also for the sins of the whole world. The phrase ‘the sins of’ is not in the original, but is not improperly supplied, for the connection demands it. This is one of the expressions occurring in the New Testament which demonstrate that the atonement was made for all men, and which cannot be reconciled with any other opinion. If he had died only for a part of the race, this language could not have been used. The phrase, ‘the whole world,’ is one which naturally embraces all men; is such as would be used if it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that Christ died for all men; and is such as cannot be explained on any other supposition. If he died only for the elect, it is not true that he is the ‘propitiation for the sins of the whole world’ in any proper sense, nor would it be possible then to assign a sense in which it could be true."
, p. 1471
All italics in original

Barnes Notes on the New Testament

No comments:

Post a Comment