Further Response to FreeGrace – Exegesis Defended Against Assertion

FreeGrace has provided some further comments, which I will respond to below.

FreeGrace: “Your comment that the “all” fits perfectly with “all kinds” surprises me. I thought you had more academic training than to think that. If you want the “all” to mean only “all kinds of”, then Paul isn’t really saying that everyone in the human race is under sin, only “all kinds of humans”. That, of course, would be a ridiculous understanding. Unless you really don’t think that everyone in the human race is under sin. Maybe I presume too much of you. :)”
I supported my comment in the original post (link). We get the definitive universality of sinfulness from the “there is none righteous, no not one.” The “all” unmistakably refers to “both Jews and Gentiles” in context. If that doesn’t fit with your theory, revise your theory. As for “academic training” and “presume too much,” they would be relevant if you had some sort of merit to your contentions: merit that you could demonstrate with exegesis, not assertion. On the other hand, I don’t rest on academic laurels, but simply on the Scriptures. If you presume that I would go along with your theory without holding it up to the light of Scriptures, you do presume too much.

FreeGrace: “Also, GMB fails to grasp what I’ve said, to be claiming that universal atonement leads to universalism. That is only an erroneous presupposition. His way of interpreting to be “that those who have sinned and those who are justified are one and the same” suggests the same thing you seem to be proposing. That not everyone in the human race has sinned, which is a ridiculous proposal.”
GMB, of course, stands for Gene M. Bridges, who commented on the original post (link). It seems you are having trouble understanding the verses, or simply want to promote your theory regardless of what the verses say.

Here, again, is the text:

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:

You seem to want to imagine that “all have sinned” is the same group as “being justified” AND that “all have sinned” is a reference to the entirety of humanity. If that were so, then the result would be that the entirety of humanity is justified. If that were so, then the entirety of humanity would be saved. There’s no escape from that conclusion.

FreeGrace: “Since Paul has noted in 3:9 that everyone is under sin, not just “all kinds of men”, it is ridiculous to presuppose that 3:23 is referring only to believers, which is what you have done. 3:23 is clearly a re-iteration of 3:9. You may deny it, but that’s what Paul has done.”
If you go back and read the original post (link), you will see that “presuppos[ing]” it is not what I did. Instead, I derived the sense of verse 23 from the context, something you seem incapable of following. I hope this explanation will help. The interpretation of verse 23 does not depend on whether the “all” in verse 9 extends (in context) to all of the members of both sets (in context, it does – because of the “none is righteous, no not one”). In fact the way to logically arrange the discussion is to see Paul making a general statement about humanity in verses 9-10, and then a specific statement about the elect in verses 22-24.
FreeGrace: “For you to say “All have sinned, both Jew and Gentile–consequently all who believed have sinned” is silly. When Paul stated that all are under sin, he wasn’t saying that only all kinds of people have sinned. He was stating the fact that everyone in the human race has sinned. Do you disagree? So 3:23 is simply re-iterating his point from 3:9. After saying everyone in the human race is under sin, and then to say “all believers have sinned” is absurd.”
It’s actually quite a simple, syllogistic way of discussing things:

1. All men are sinners.
2. Believers are men.
3. Believers are sinners.

(3) is proved by (1), not made ridiculous by it (or “silly” or any other name you may wish to tar it with), whatever you may think.

Furthermore, Paul presented the entire argument from verse 9 to verse 20 to deal with the issue of the possibility of works righteousness. Paul denies that we are better than the unbelievers, affirming the universality of sinfulness both categorically (“both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin”) and individually (“There is none righteous, no, not one: there is noen that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one … there is no fear of God before their eyes.”)

Verse 23 serves as a reapplication of that general principle to the believers, “all them that believe” (verse 22) namely those who are “justified freely by his grace.” After all, that’s the reason for Paul’s argument … referring back to verse 9, “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise …”

The “we” and “they” in verse 9 is not Jews and Gentiles (for Paul is a Jew writing to Gentiles) but believers and unbelievers. We are not saved because we are saved because we are better. Instead, we are saved by the free and sovereign grace of God.

FreeGrace: “Further, GMB’s comment that there are “not 2 ways of salvation” is absurd. Where does he get that from? Where does he think I’ve said anything close to that? His first point completely misses what I’ve said. The condition for justification is believing, but he seems oblivious to that fact. And his second point is simply his opinion. On what basis does he claim that statements about universal atonement cannot be differentiated from statements about universal salvation. That is just reformed presupposition.”
I assume by “absurd” that you mean that you did not intend to say that there are two ways of salvation. I think, though, that you need to go back to the original post and reread his comment to see the point of what he’s saying. I’ll let him clarify again, though, if he so chooses.

As for the issue of claims about universal atonement being non-differentiable from statements about universal salvation is not “reformed presupposition,” but extensive experience speaking. We look for advocates of the former to try to differentiate their statements from those of the latter, and it comes up empty. This case is no different: rather than differentiate, you have simply sold the house.

What do I mean by saying that you have sold the house? You have acknowledged that, to use your words, “The condition for justification is believing.” If that is so, then there are only three options:

1. The “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” refers (as, in fact, it does) only to believers in the context of verse 23;

2. It refers to “each and every person” and “each and every person” fulfills the condition and is justified (leading to universal salvation); or

3. It refers to “each and every person” but not all of them fulfill the condition which contradicts your original statement that “all have sinned” refers to the same group as “being justified.”

So, you have (1) our position, (2) universal salvation, or (3) self-contradiction. Take your pick.

FreeGrace: “Here is an example of how Christ could purchase (agarazo) salvation for everyone, yet not everyone receive it.”
A. The Whole Foundation of this Argument is Contra-Biblical
1. Christ purchased (peripoieomai) the church with his blood (Acts 20:28).
2. That’s why we can be refered to as the purchased possession (peripoiēsis) (Ephesians 1:14).
3. We, believers, are bought (agorazō) with a price (timē). (1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23).
4. Indeed, the elect was redeemed (agorazō) out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9) and redeemed (agorazō) from the earth (Revelation 14:3) and redeemed (agorazō) from among men (Revelation 14:4).

But Scripture never ever refers to salvation being purchased (agorazō) by Christ’s blood, it speaks of people, namely the elect, being purchased by Christ’s blood.

B. Even if it were Biblical, it is not germane to Romans 3.

Romans 3 refers to believe who are justified, not who might possibly some day be justified, if they choose to be justified. In short, there’s no reason, linguistic or contextual to jump from “being justified” to “potentially being justified.”

FreeGrace: “A man living in an apartment building wants everyone in his building to have a Bible. So he goes out and purchases a Bible for every resident in the building. Then he goes to every apartment and offers a Bible to each resident. Those that want one receive one, and those who do not want one, don’t receive one.”

The great over-spender analogy. Counter query. If the man knows in advance that only 1/2 of the people will want one, would he be wiser to buy the right amount, or wiser to overpurchase? (as he does in your analogy) In fact, wouldn’t the man in your analogy be wiser to go around and find out how many people want a Bible before making his purchase?

Surely, in this example, a Bible has been purchased for each and every person, but to what end? It is simply to make Bible ownership a possibility for each person. If that’s your analogy to salvation, come out and say that you think Christ died on the cross simply to make salvation possible for his people, not – as Scripture says – to save his people from their sins.

FreeGrace: “Now, how can you or GMB claim that statements about “universal Bible purchases” cannot be differentiated from statement about “universal Bible ownership”? Please explain. My example demonstrates that while a Bible was purchased (agarazo) for everyone, not everyone received one.”

No, those can be differentiated. But the atonement reconciles God to man. It does not merely make reconciliation possible. The analogy to creating a stockpile of Bibles falls apart, because the Atonement actually accomplishes something. It also falls apart because it is not a stockpile of salvation that is purchased by Christ, but people: the elect.

FreeGrace: “Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. You have in no way provided me any support for your pov on this passage, as I’m sure you have already figured.”

I’m willing to let the reader judge for himself.

FreeGrace: “I thought it was interesting how you wanted to emphasize the passage, when you put in very small print the last part of v.22 and v.23. Seems you want to “minimize” it. Here is a way to read the passage with only the prepositional phrase in v.25 moved to the beginning of the verse:

Through faith in His blood (v.25)…all (who) have sinned (entire human race) (v.23)…are justified freely (v.24). I added the “who” to smooth the sentence. The key remains: justification is through faith. Paul has included the entire human race in a statement about how to be justified.”
Your problem is clearly seen here. The verse says “are justified,” whether you ignore that or not. It does not say “can be justified” or “should be justified” or “ought to be justified” or “may be justified” or “might be justified” or “would be justified” or “could be justified” or anything else but “are justified” (or “being justified”).

The point of the passage is only partly to talk about justification by grace through faith – you’re missing the other half: the other half of the point is to show that gracious justification is the great equalizer: it is because justification is not based on us distinguishing ourselves from others, but instead is based on grace, that there is no difference between us and the unbeliever except the grace of God.

FreeGrace: “In other words, Paul didn’t limit from the human race who can be justified. He noted the condition, that is, faith. That is the only “limit” on justification. I think your attempt to render “all” in v.23 to refer only to believers reveals your defense of your pov at the expense of what the text says.”

Yes, Paul does implicitly limit who can be justified, by making by grace. If justification were by works, those who wanted to be justified would simply work hard, distinguishing themselves from others.

But instead, all mankind universally is under sin – there is none that seeks after God. God graciously converts some, bringing them to faith in Christ, justifying them by grace. All of these were sinners, none were righteous, for everyone is a sinner. Thus, there is no room for pride to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, because this was not of themselves – they were saved by grace, not obedience to God’s law.

Nevertheless, the limitation on who can be justified is not the main point of the passage, it’s simply implicit in gracious salvation (see above for the main point). If other parts of Scripture were ignored, we could accept universal salvation as being consistent with this text, because God could (again, ignoring other things we know about God from other Scriptures) show the same grace to all, if he so desired, because his grace is freely bestowed, not earned, merited, or procured.


3 Responses to “Further Response to FreeGrace – Exegesis Defended Against Assertion”

  1. GeneMBridges Says:

    Sigh, and I was hoping to get by until August without writing long articles….oh well…Also, GMB fails to grasp what I’ve said, to be claiming that universal atonement leads to universalism. Actually, I’ll show how below – a second time. I showed how as did TF.That is only an erroneous presupposition.So you say, but you fail to demonstrate it. Don’t forget, I’m a Tblogger, I argue my points, I don’t merely assert them. His way of interpreting to be “that those who have sinned and those who are justified are one and the same” suggests the same thing you seem to be proposing. That not everyone in the human race has sinned, which is a ridiculous proposal.”Apparently, Free Grace can’t follow either my argument or his own.We’ll begin with his own:1. FG believes that “all have sinned” refers to everybody without exception.For starters, to say that it refers, in context, to all kinds of persons, that is both Jews and Gentiles, does not exclude that fact. All people have, in fact, sinned, and that without exception. But Paul’s point in this particular text about the universality of sin is that the reason all people without exception have sinned is because all people without exception are under the curse of the law – whether Jew or Greek. His emphasis is not on “all people, everybody” apart from “all people, all kinds.” Apparently, that went right over FG’s head. He can’t tell the difference between sense and reference.We can deduce that all humans without exception, except Christ, have sinned apart from this text alone. Sola Scriptura is Tota Scriptura. To even allege that I’ve allowed for another possibility is simply ridiculous. 2. But if he believes that the text refers to all people without exception, and he affirms universal atonement, then he’s the one saying that the two groups are the same. So, if he has a problem with the symmetrical view of those referents, then its a problem for him, as well as me.Now my own:1. If the groups are the same, then I’m merelys stating that the statement about the universality of the atonement is a statement of fact as is the first. If so, then Paul is talking specifically about the elect here if the groups are identical. The reprobate have certainly sinned, but the reprobate are not justified. Only the elect are justified. 2. If it’s a referent for everybody without exception, then it has to be a statement of fact, a statement of identity.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, and that way is by the work of Christ applied through faith in Christ.Further, GMB’s comment that there are “not 2 ways of salvation” is absurd. Where does he get that from? This text. That’s the point Paul is making. Jews, who have the Law are as much sinners as Gentiles apart from it. The atonement is for Jew and Gentile alike. Ergo: There is not a separate way of salvation for either.Where does he think I’ve said anything close to that?Perhaps FG can quote me accusing him of saying he said that. His first point completely misses what I’ve said. The condition for justification is believing, but he seems oblivious to that fact.Is it FG’s position that failing to repent of ones sins and invest one’s faith in Christ is not a sin? Nobody here denies that justification is conditioned on faith. What I deny is that such unbelief is unatoned for by Christ’s work. And that therefore gets us here:And his second point is simply his opinion. On what basis does he claim that statements about universal atonement cannot be differentiated from statements about universal salvation. That is just reformed presupposition.1. On the contrary, it’s hardly a “Reformed presupposition” because that axiom is not a Reformed or even Calvinist distinctive. FG is just advertising his antipathy toward particular atonement. Universalists have said this all along too, as have others.2. On the contrary, that’s the opinion of DTS, the flagship for Free Grace theology itself. It was once, and my still be, their official position that not believing in Christ is a sin not atoned for by Christ, if I recall justified by them on the basis of a text in John 3. Why would they say that? This can only be said if one agrees to that axiom too. So, they do that in order to get around the simple fact that one cannot differentiate between universal atonement and universal salvation. So, not only have Calvinists said this, universalists have as well, and so have the Amyraldians and semi-Arminians that populate the halls of DTS in the modern era.There are 4 ways to do that:1. To say what I just wrote above or 2. Something like “The atonement makes men savable.”3. Such unbelief and unrepentance is not a sin.4. To concoct a foedus hypotheticum and an order of decrees to support it, then say that the decree subsequent to the decree of the atonement allows for the imputation of the work of Christ to the elect and only the elect in toto. That’s classical Amyraldianism. Which of these positions does FG prefer, and if not one of them, what is his studied alternative? The syllogism is simple: If the atonement is universal, then everybody’s sins have been atoned for. Therefore, universal salvation is the necessary effect. The language of Scripture does not allow for 1,2,or 3 above. Neither does it allow for the language of potentiality, that is the atonement makes a way for man to be saved, which is espoused by some Arminians. The language of Scripture allows for an actual satisfaction of God’s wrath, for example, Isa. 53. It was actually satisfied by Christ’s work, and therefore the elect are called to salvation effectually as a consequence, thereby abating His wrath in due course of time. Perhaps FG would like to tell us for whom Christ is interceding, as in Hebrews. Does He intercede for the reprobate too?In short, TEXTS (you know, the words of the Bible) do not, when talking about “universal atonement” differentiate between that concept and universal salvation as the consequence. To do that, the person advocating the differentiation needs to concoct a supporting argument, 4 classic ones I have selected above. Why concoct the arguments if the texts can actually be used to make the differentiation? Obviously, because the texts cannot be used to supply the supporting argument. Believe you me, Steve Hays, Paul Manata, Pike, and I have had this same discussion with more than one Arminian and TF here with more than one Amyraldian on our blogs. Read our archives, FG. To date, nobody has been able to show us how to distinguish between universal atonement and universal salvation from these texts. Read this one, FG. If the propitation of Christ is universal, then those for whom He propiated their sins are justified. All have actually sinned, yes?Then why not say…all are actually justified?Apparently, you’d say all are potentially justified. Okay, but where’s the supporting argument? I can give one for that move, but that makes the statement a statement of identity only, which is one of the two options I gave, but you, because you are focused on something else, must concoct a supporting argument to less the atonement’s power, not merely state a fact of identity. If the atonement is UNIVERSAL, then it stands to reason it actually propiated God’s wrath, given Scripture’s descriptions of the effects. If that’s true, then universal salvation is the result, or you wind up with people in hell right now for whom God’s wrath was allegedly propiated. Is that your position? By the way, I’ll point FG to his own words, one more time. FG wrote that this text refers to universal atonement but did not mention it. Here’s his original argument:I recently discovered a phrase by Paul that I believe is clearly indicative of unlimited atonement, though not specifically mentioning it.How is it “clearly indicative,” without specifically mentioning it.” Inferences are not “clear indications.”The bottom line here is that FG is using the atonement as a gospel warrant. This is just “ability limits responsibility” dressed up in another costume:”A man living in an apartment building wants everyone in his building to have a Bible. So he goes out and purchases a Bible for every resident in the building. Then he goes to every apartment and offers a Bible to each resident. Those that want one receive one, and those who do not want one, don’t receive one.”1. The Bible does not say that the atonement purchases an offer of salvation. It says that Christ purchased the elect and that Christ atoned for the sins of the elect, etc. 2. This argument is wonderful proof that you are using the atonement to underwrite the offer, eg. using it as a warrant to believe, just as I originally stated. Thank you for proving my point for me.But the Bible does not ever do that. Nowhere do you find Scripture saying that the atonement underwrites a gospel proclamation to the sinner or a proclamation to believe because “Christ died for you.” The command to repent generates its own warrant to repent and turn to Christ when hearing the gospel. The command impels the Gospel. The offer to all persons who hear calls the elect and inculpates the reprobate.By the way, your analogy falls far short. It is simply untrue that all people without exception are offered the Gospel. Were the Chinese living in 56 AD offered the Gospel? It’s high time Christians man up and admit the harsh truth that there are some people born outside the purview of the Gospel, who will never believe and were never given the chance. Now, how can you or GMB claim that statements about “universal Bible purchases” cannot be differentiated from statement about “universal Bible ownership”?1. Your statement can be differentiated, because it draws a distinction between what the buyer did and the receiver did.2. But what we’re talking about is what the Buyer does, and only the Buyer does. (So your analogy misses the mark). The Buyer, Christ, bought His people and satisfied God’s wrath. The Buyer saves; man does not save himself. The issue isn’t the necessity of faith, but the necessary effect of the work of the Buyer. As a consequence of the atonement, the elect are called by the Spirit. Consequently, they believe. That is why universal atonement can’t be differentiated from universal salvation. To do that, you need to discuss the effect of a universal atonement – not the necessity to believe, which neither TF nor I deny. The issue isn’t what man must do when he hears the Gospel, but what God does as a consequence of the atonement.3. Your analogy might work if LFW was true, but where’s the supporting argument for LFW (Libertarian Free Will)? Why would one person believe and not another?

  2. zog Says:

    Just when I thought I had seen the last of Freegrace he has shown up on your site. I don’t follow the Christianity.com site anymore as Fritz banned me to outer darkness.Anyway, Gene, I thought your post’s were spot on. Truth somehow just always makes better sense.

  3. zog Says:

    BTW, I would love to see a debate between you and Freegrace on libertarian free will on your debate blog. Both of you are very knowledgeable on your perspectives and I believe it would b edifying for those of us who follow your blog.

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