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Jesus Died for You

January 15, 2007

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. egana permalink
    January 22, 2007 9:04 pm

    “In fact, I have a much higher opinion of the way Pastor Chan is doing evangelism than I have of the way some of his critics are neglecting it.”


  2. egana permalink
    January 22, 2007 10:01 pm

    The video by Pastor Chan is a pretty “F” (MBTI) presentation of the Gospel, focusing on feelings, beautiful surroundings, relationships with family, appealing to our desire to be loved and to experience intense meaningful lives.

    Now T’s, don’t get defensive, like I think you don’t appreciate beauty or love or relationship or meaningful work, but to an “F” personality type of person, there is NOTHING more motivating.

    So, it occurs to me, that in the scary blogosphere world, especially among those who care intensely about the doctrines of God, these folks are probably predominantly “Ts.” So an “F-ish” Gospel appeal is sure to appear insufficient.

    But here’s the deal, this video is not meant to be exegetical preaching, nor is it a theological debate or an instructional seminar… It looks to me like a simple gospel presentation to unbelievers: a plea for those people who want to be happy, who want to be loved, to cry out to God for it, instead of looking around in their own human hearts, or in human relationships. It is an appeal to the imagination, if you will, to imagine “what if” there is really a God who has laws and love and a plan to make me happy.

    I think it is a pretty good Jesus introduction. Who of us really KNEW what we were getting into, before we signed on, eh?

    When I first began to get to know Him, all I knew about Him was that He made me happy. He’s been showing me more and more of Himself, and myself in Him, and His relationship to the world He has made, and the love He has for His Son Jesus… but I didn’t understand any of that when I first prayed to Him, to ask Him to save me from being punished, and to make me happy His way.

    So now that I am a little more informed, I am often tempted look disparagingly at the simplicity of those introductions… because I have an inkling about how much more there is to know, so much so that introductions almost sound like lies in their simplicity, because the Gospel is simple, yet it is so much more than that, it is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe.

    And how can you introduce people to the saving, mighty, infinite power of God? Only simply. It will take us all a lifetime to get to know Him in this world, and an infinity in the next, and we will still never know every single minute detail about Him, because He is infinite.

    So, I am rambling… but the temptation to make introductions complex, in a desire to more accurately represent God, is, in some way, I think, denying His power to finish the work His Gospel has begun in us.

    Please don’t take me wrong, I LOVE the doctrines of God, and I love learning about Him, and I want the TRUTH to be told about Him, but an introduction is just that, and has to be simple for the sake of brevity and the ability of the new believer to understand Him who sent us to be His voice, His ambassadors.

    I’m not advocating telling lies, like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, knowing that when the children grow up they will learn the truth.

    I am advocating simple gospel milk for babies, soft gospel food for toddlers, gospel “finger foods” for children, and gospel meat for adults. As long as it is all gospel (God – sin – punishment – Jesus – cross – forgiveness – Glory) then it is all good, IMO.

    So, even thought if it leans on the “say Yes to God side” of the calvinism dilema, I think this is a pretty good Gospel presentation. If I understand things somewhat correctly, God’s sovereign election is a comfort to those who are believing, not to those who are perishing. It is for our assurance, not for their understanding. The unbelieving need no assurance, they need life. Once they are living, then they need assurance. (correction requested here if need be)

    one last thing… Why not appeal to a person’s discontent with this world and desire to be happy? Why let the Latter Day Saints monopolize the “F” appeals? Their glossy photographs of happy families would make me want to be a part of that group, if Jesus had not already shown me a more excellent way – the joy of fullness in Him.

    …wow, that was long..

    gotta go… dishes to do before Gorf gets back from small group…

  3. January 22, 2007 11:17 pm

    Great comment, Egana! And I’m not just saying that because it’s the first one in four days. :-) It’s really good, especially the part about denying his power to finish the work the simple gospel begins in us.

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