Arminian preachers preach that the Lord Jesus Christ “paid the price” for the sins of each and every fallen sinner of mankind when he was crucified at Calvary.
This preaching may seem to be very wonderful when you first hear it, because they present Jesus as having accomplished a great thing for every human being. All fallen, sinful human beings deserve to be sent to Hell by God on the Day of Judgment, for their sins. But in Christ’s death on the cross he substituted for the entire human race and paid the redemption-price for everyone—yet only in a hypothetical, ineffectual manner.
Arminians say that this substitutionary atonement, this redemption, does not in fact save every fallen human being. Arminians are not universalists, but they are hypothetical (or, potential) universalists. It is left to fallen sinners of mankind to “make this salvation real” for ourselves by faith—by believing in it.
That’s what they proclaim in their preaching, evangelism, tracts, and so many of their songs and hymns. Christ died for the sins of all mankind. He suffered all the punishment that all mankind deserves, on the cross. This is arguably their main message.
Does the Bible anywhere speak of a person who is redeemed by Christ but never saved? Did the Lord Jesus Christ pay the price that actually bought people back from their being condemned to Hell for their sins, or not?
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can confidently affirm:
- “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1.14).
- “By his [Christ’s] own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us…And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that that by means of [his] death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9.12,15).
- “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3.13-14; see also verse 8).
The bolded words above all emphasise that something happens (redemption; forgiveness of sins; receiving gospel promises) as an inevitable consequence of something else having happened (the sacrificial death of Christ upon the cross; the substitutionary atonement). Not merely “maybe” or hypothetically or potentially, but really and inevitably.
What Christ accomplished in his redemption is what is bestowed upon those whom he redeemed.
The plain gospel truth is:
- All those whom Christ has redeemed shall have forgiveness of sins from God.
- All those whom Christ has redeemed shall have the promise of eternal inheritance.
- All those whom Christ has redeemed shall have the blessing of Abraham (i.e. justification by faith) come upon them.
- All those whom Christ has redeemed shall be saved.
Let us be perfectly clear at this point: that the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is of infinite worth and value.
Calvinists do not “limit” the worth of Christ’s atonement, but only the extent of its application, when they affirm that the Saviour’s blood was not shed in order to save every human being who ever lived but only the elect (i.e. those whom God has chosen to save).
We totally agree with the apostle Peter: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1.18-20).
It is therefore wrong to think that the Calvinist (which, we affirm, is the Biblical) doctrine of limited atonement in any way diminishes the value and worth of Christ’s death.
But what of the Arminian idea that Christ only hypothetically redeemed every fallen human being? It can be argued that this rather detracts from the infinite worth and value of Christ’s precious blood, for it asserts that it was poured out for the entire human race—but it doesn’t actually redeem all for whom it was poured out, and it might have not redeemed any, if there were no believers.