Jesus Died for You
Last week there was quite a nasty controversy in the Calvinist blogosphere over an evangelistic video called “Just Stop and Think” made by Pastor Francis Chan.
One of the issues is this: Can an evangelist say to an unbelieving audience, “God loves you and Jesus died for your sins.” without contradicting Reformed doctrine that the death of Christ was intended to atone only for the elect from every tribe tongue and nation?
Now I believe in limited atonement. When Jesus prayed his high priestly prayer just before going to the cross in John 17 he said “I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me.” And in John 10 Jesus says that he lays down his life for the sheep and goes on to tell some of his opponents that the reason they do not believe is that they are not his sheep. The reason it is important to affirm this is that the doctrine of limited atonement preserves the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. I’ll explain this more in a future post.
But even though I affirm the limited extent of the atonement, I believe that an evangelist should not be censured for saying to an unbelieving audience, “Jesus died for you.” I highly recommend this sermon by John Piper in which he argues that Calvinists can say everything Arminians say about the atonement and more. We can tell an unbeliever that God loves him. We can tell an unbeliever that God sent Jesus to die for his sins and to make a bona fide offer of eternal life to whosoever believes. But we can also say even more spine-tingling God-glorifying things about the atonement and effectual calling. It’s my favorite Piper sermon. Give it a listen and then tell us what you think of the Chan video.
(Once you click on the link above, you’ll need to find the sermon from the evening session on 11/10/04. It’s titled “The Whole Glory of the Gospel of God”)
UPDATE!!! I agree with Phil.