Response to FreeGrace – Unlimited Atonement in Romans?

A Non-Calvinist who uses the screen name FreeGrace recently resent me a question he had sent a while back, and which I had hoped to answer more quickly.

FreeGrace: “I recently discovered a phrase by Paul that I believe is clearly indicative of unlimited atonement, though not specifically mentioning it. It is Rom 3:32-25.”

Here is the text, Romans 3:22-25
22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

FreeGrace: “But first, Paul makes the clear point in 3:9 that “all are under sin”, obviously meaning everyone in humanity, not just “all kinds of”, as the reformed like to say.:) “

Actually, the “all” refers to “both Jews and Gentiles,” (“we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin”) which fits perfectly with “all kinds.” In fact, what rules out a barely general (as opposed to universal) reading is the “none righteous, no not one” in the next verse. Anyhow, the sinfulness of man is universal.

FreeGrace: “Then, he repeats that point in 3:23 with “for all have sinned”.”

Actually, it is roughly repeating the same point, which is a little different from what FreeGrace seems to think. The text is:

Romans 3:22-23
22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

The point of “for all have sinned” is in reference to the fact that there is no difference between Jewish and Gentile believers: all have sinned – all are saved by grace, not works.

FreeGrace:”One of the C campers on CW wants to believe the “all” of v.23 is the same “all” found in v.22 in the phrase “all who believe”, but that makes Paul’s statement in v.23 rather silly in light of what he has just said about all of humanity in 3:9.”

That depends on the point of Paul’s argument. It looks like a syllogism. All have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles — consequently all who believe have sinned – there is no difference between Jewish and Gentile believers – they have to be saved the same way: freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ.

FreeGrace:”iow, why would Paul state that “all believers have sinned” when he has just made the point that everyone in humanity is under sin, a point that the reformed do not argue.”

He would do that to emphasize that it is not the case that some come to salvation by works, and others by faith. All come by faith, since works are unavailing.

FreeGrace: “Anyway, here is the connected thought found in that passage, with only the pertinent words included: “for all have sinned…(v.23) and are justified freely…(v.24) through faith in His blood…(v.25).”

I would respectfully submit to you that the correct way to read the passage is this way:
“22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: (for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;) 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

That is to say, I would view the “for there is no difference … glory of God” phrase as a parenthetical – explaining the “all” in the “all them that believe.”

FreeGrace: “By including the entire human race in v.23, and saying “being justified” per KJV or “and are justified” per ESV (a favorite among reformed I learned recently), Paul is saying that the entire human race is justified through faith. That can only be possible if Christ died for everyone, which I think this verse demonstrates.”

Men are justified when they believe. Even if there were some sense in which we could say that men are justified from eternity (not admitted), justification, properly speaking, occurs when a man believes. Not all men (i.e. each and every member of humanity) believe, therefore not all men (in that sense) are justified.

Thus, you have two options:

1) You can deny that not every man believes, which leads to a sort of “Evangelical Universalism,” or

2) You can recognize that the “being justified” just refers back to the part of the passage immediately before the parenthetical, namely to the “all them that believe” the same group upon whom the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ, has been manifested.

I would respectfully submit to you that the latter interpretation is the better one.

FreeGrace: “When Paul penned Rom 5:8, based on his comments in 3:9 and 3:23, I believe he was speaking as a member of the human race, rather than as a believer.”

This seems like a strange jump, and a wrong jump. It is strange because the only connection seems to be the fact that we were sinners. It is wrong, because we can clearly pick out who the “we” is in the context.

Here’s the text of Romans 5:8

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Here’s the context:

Romans 5:1-9
1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The “we” is the justified, the ones who have access, who have the Holy Ghost, and who shall be saved.

-Turretinfan

One Response to “Response to FreeGrace – Unlimited Atonement in Romans?”

  1. GeneMBridges Says:

    Freegrace has two big problems:1. If Paul is saying all actually sinned, which FG must admit to (and does) then, it stands to reason that he means all are actually justified. That’s universalism, and that’s heresy. So, he has to say either:a. All have (potentially) sinned, and all are (potentially) justified, which is a denial of original sin and the allowance of the possibility a man can live sinlessly (which is Pelagianism)orb. All have actually sinned and all are (potentially) justified. But that makes the acts asymmetrical. Where’s the supporting argument from the text’s grammar and syntax for that move? 2. He’s missed a key fact: statements about universal atonement cannot be differentiated from statements about universal salvation. Scripture never does this, not one time. This is axiomatic.To do that the disputant has to supply a supporting, extraScriptural argument to make the move.FG tacitly admits this when writing:I recently discovered a phrase by Paul that I believe is clearly indicative of unlimited atonement, though not specifically mentioning it.The right way to interpret the text is therefore:a. That those who have sinned and those who are justified are one and the same.orB. That the statements that all (Jew and Gentile) have alike sinned and all are justified by faith in Christ alone are simply statements of fact. Fact one: All Jews and Gentiles alike have sinned. Fact Two: The statement about faith in Christ and the means of our justification lying in his propitatory sacrifice is a statement about identity- that is, there is but one way of justification for anybody, whether Jew or Greek, there are not two ways of salvation.Either is perfectly orthodox.But what is not true is that Christ has atoned for the sins of all people without exception, for if so, the text would lead us to conclude that since all have sinned and Christ atoned for their sins, all are justified. It’s impossible to, from the text, differentiate between universal atonement and universal salvation.The insertion of universal atonement is based not on anything the text says, but on the desire of the disputant to use the atonement as a gospel warrant to believe, but the text is not about the warrant to believe, it’s about the universality of sin and the one way of salvation, namely justification by faith alone, on the basis of the work of Christ alone.

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