Particular Redemption: A Biblical Case, Part 2

The second and third arguments for Particular Redemption are as follows:

(2) The connection between Christ’s intercessory work as high priest and his atoning work as sacrifice demands a particularity in the intention of his atoning work.  The reason is that Christ’s sacrifice and his intercession are two aspects of the same redeeming work.  By interceding for his elect at the right hand of the Father, Christ does nothing other than present his completed sacrifice on their behalf.  If Christ’s intercessory work is limited in scope to the elect (a conclusion that is fairly obvious from Scripture), then to say that he intended to save all people everywhere and at all times through his death would be to put his atoning work at cross purposes with his intercessory work.  It would be to divide the unified saving purpose of Christ into two different saving purposes, one of which is effective (the salvation of the elect) and other of which is not (the salvation of all).  And if Christ intended to save all through his death, why would he frustrate his own purpose by limiting his intercession to the elect alone?

Just to demonstrate my point, here are a few references to the limitations of Christ’s intercessory role to the elect only:

– John 17:9: “I am praying for them [those given to Christ by the Father, see v. 6].  I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”  Here the exclusion of the world and the inclusion of the elect is obvious.

– Romans 8:34: “Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  The “us” here refers to believers, and the argument functions to show that God is for us and, therefore, we need fear no opposition (v. 31).  This is not a promise that applies to the non-elect, and so the foundation of that promise (Christ’s intercession for us) cannot apply to the non-elect either.

– Hebrews 7:25: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  Those for whom Christ intercedes are defined as “those who draw near to God through him.”  And it is specifically because of his intercession that they are saved “to the uttermost.”  In other words, if Christ intercedes for you, you will definitely be saved in the end.  By definition, this does not apply to the non-elect.

Therefore, if Christ’s intercessory work is particular in focus, then his saving intent is particular in focus, which would apply also to the intention of his atoning work on the cross, of which his intercession is merely the presentation of that accomplishment to the Father.

(3) Although I could say more, I am going to finish this part with a reference to one more verse, Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  The use of the phrase “us all,” alone is ambiguous.  If not read in context, it would not be clear who the “us all” are.  It could be a reference to believers, or it could be a reference to humanity as a whole.  But the context makes it clear that Paul has only believers in mind here.

The argument goes this way: If God is for us, who can be against us (v. 31)?  But just in case a believer might doubt that God is for him, Paul goes on to demonstrate the point beyond all doubt: God gave up his only Son for us, and if he did that for us, how will he fail to give us everything (v. 32)?  In other words, God has already done the unthinkable.  He has already given up his Son.  Therefore, he can certainly do the easier thing, which is to give us all things (a reference to our inheritance in the resurrection).  So the fact that we are going to receive “all things” from God is based on the premise that God has already given up his Son for us.  Let me put this in the form of a syllogism to make clear the argument:

Premise 1: If God gives up his Son for you, you will certainly receive all things from him.

Premise 2: God has given up his Son for you.

Conclusion: Therefore, you will certainly receive all things from him.

I think it is clear that this is what Paul means.  Now, in any conditional syllogism, you can draw a valid conclusion by either affirming the antecedent (the “if” clause) or by denying the consequent (the “then” clause).  I affirmed the antecedent in the syllogism above, but notice what happens when I deny the consequent:

Premise 1: If God gives up his Son for you, you will certainly receive all things from him.

Premise 2: You will not receive all things from him (that is, you will not be saved in the end).

Conclusion: Therefore, God has not given up his Son for you.

I don’t see how the logic here can be avoided.  Paul says the promises of God to give his elect (see v. 33) their eternal inheritance is based on the fact that God has already given up his Son for them.  Now, if it is possible to say, “God gave up his Son for me, but I still might not be saved in the end,” then Paul’s argument is emptied of all meaning.  The point he is driving at is that God’s unthinkable sacrifice for us makes certain the conclusion that we will receive an eternal inheritance in Christ.  There is no category of people for whom Christ died (in this sense) who are not saved in the end.

As I have said earlier, I do not think this means that Christ did not die for all in some sense, but not in the sense Paul is speaking of here.  Christ’s atoning work is particular in scope because those who are saved by him are a particular group of people, and Christ’s atoning work is effective at achieving its purpose.

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3 Responses to Particular Redemption: A Biblical Case, Part 2

  1. Ali says:

    I’ve never seen the use of Christ’s intercession in this way before. Insightful.

  2. It’s not my insight. John Owen made the argument over three-hundred years ago. I went back and forth on Particular Redemption until I read his “Death of Death” about two or three years ago. Ever since then I have been convinced.

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