Dr. H. A. Cameron
The case of Israel under Moses (Deut. 30:15-19). Moses says, "I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil: I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life." Godís offer of life and blessing is bona fide: His warning of death and cursing is just as clearly delineated. And the responsibility of decision is placed upon their shoulders.
The case of Israel under Joshua (Joshua 24:15). "Choose you this day whom ye will serve.. .As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord...And the people said...We will serve the Lord."
The case of Israel under Elijah (1 Kings 18:21-39). "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him.. .The people fell upon their faces and said: The Lord, He is the God. The Lord, He is the God."
The case of Rehoboam (1 Kings 1:2 1). This king consulted with the old men but forsook their counsel. He consulted with the young men, and followed their evil advice. His own choice deter≠mined his path and he had to shoulder the responsibility. Never≠theless God overruled his foolish choice to fulfill the prophecy of Ahijah, the Shilonite.
The Lord Jesus Christ before the multitude. When the choice was given to the people of Israel they said: "Not this man, but Barabbas." How does God characterize their decision? "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life." They crucified the Lord of glory.
"Though they found no cause of death in Him yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain." God holds them accountable, and places the responsibility upon them in these words: "Ye have been the betrayers and murderers of the Just One." "Him ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
Nevertheless the Scriptures declare that He was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." "To do what≠soever His hand and His counsel determined before to be done." "They that dwell in Jerusalem fulfilled the Scriptures in condemn≠ing Him." Man proposes, but God disposes.
At the end of a hard day of preaching and teaching and healing, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples: "Let us go unto the other side. The storm upon the lake that threatened to engulf them He quelled by a word. The legion of demons is cast out by His command. Later the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years is healed and the daughter of Jairus is raised from the dead. Our Lord Jesus proved His unlimited power over the elements, disease, death, and demons. But there was one place at which He was halted. "They besought Him to depart out of their coasts." Man alone of all His creatures defies the omnipotent One.
We have blended in the above references the two questions of the sovereignty of God and the free agency and responsibility of man. We must now consider the extent of the atonement and the consequent offer of salvation dependent thereon.
Is the atonement limited only to the elect? A man once printed John 3:16 in this manner: "God so loved the elect world." What did he do thereby? He added to Godís word in spite of the warning, "Add not unto His words lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." We have no hesitancy in labeling this bold alteration of Godís word as a lie. "Let God be true and every man a liar."
As to the question of a limited atonement we see (I do little more than quote the Scriptures and let them decide the matter). It is true that ĎChrist loved the church and gave Himself for it." But it is also true "He gave Himself a ransom for all." "He, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man." "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world." "He died for all." "It is for all and upon all that believe." The seeker for his treasure bought not only the treasure but the field. "The field is the world." "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ĎChrist died for the ungodly." "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" "All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me (Godís side); and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (manís side)."
The atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only to those who believe. Is the offer limited? An elder in the north of Scotland chided Duncan Matheson after a gospel meeting because he thought Duncan was too liberal in his proclamation of the good news. "Donít you know, Duncan, it is only for the elect?" he said. "Well," replied Duncan, "you mark the elect with a chalk mark, and I will preach to them and them alone."
Meanwhile the servant of Christ must obey His Master Who said: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." "Make disciples of all nations." "They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word." "Begin at Jerusalem (where His murderers lived I then go to Judea where they sought to stone Him), then to Samaria (where they refused Him common hospitality), and then to the uttermost parts of the earth." "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." "Go first to them that were bidden (the Jews, who refused, all with one consent making excuse); then to the streets and lanes of the city; then to the highways and hedges and as many as you can find, bid to the wedding." "It was neces≠sary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (to the Jew first) but seeing ye put it from you... Lo, we turn to the Gentiles." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Ralph Erskine, at the Synod of Fife was being censured for his free proclamation of the gospel to all and sundry. "Moderator," said he, "Pass me that Bible." When it was reached to him he read from John 6:32. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." And then he asked: "To whom did the Lord Jesus thus offer Himself? Was it not to a mixed multitude, many of them His mortal enemies? And let me see the man who dares to affirm that He said wrong." The servant of God can do no less than to follow the lead of His Master and witness to all both small and great the things which he hath seen and heard.
When the sower went forth to sow, so me seed fell on the wayside, some on rocky ground, and some among thorns. God was not bound by the law of parsimony when He was making provision for the worldís needs, nor was Christ limited in His declaration of salvation.
It is true as Samuel Rutherford said: "All Godís wheat will come into Godís granary," but none of those who perish shall ever be able to accuse God of making a mock offer because there was no atonement back of it.
There is a divine and there is a human side to this question. "What God doeth" is His own prerogative. "He giveth none account of any of His matters. He doeth as it pleases Him." And into that will of His we have no right to intrude, no room to speculate, no ability to restrict. But there is the human responsibility. "Pray," said Augustine, "as if everything depended on God (as it does), and work as if everything depended on you" (which it does not). God revealed to Paul that all with him on the ship would be saved and all came safe to land, despite the storm and the wreck, and the counsel of the soldiers to slay the prisoners. But when the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship Paul said to the centurion: "Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved." Here we have the divine side, Godís purpose, and the human element, manís responsibility. When the decree went forth that all the Jews were to be slain, Mordecai laid upon Esther the necessity of doing her part to prevent the slaughter, and assured her if she shirked her duty, deliverance would come from another quarter. Her answer was "We will fast." Deliverance came and through Esther, for as Mordecai pointed out "she came to the kingdom for such a time as this." Humanly speaking she could have kept silent and allowed events to develop as they would, but God would have sent deliver≠ance through another channel, and she would have lost the honor of being His instrument and even she and her fatherís house might have been destroyed. "Why could not we cast out this demon?" asked the disciples. "This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting," answered the Lord. They were not in such a state of soul that God could use them. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." "If a man purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honor." Purged from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, in fellowship with his Master, in obedience to His Word, when he sees the sword come he blows the trumpet of warning and not only saves himself but those that hear him.
A door stands open wide and on its portal gleaming we read "Whosoever will may come." That is manís side. We enter and upon the reverse side we read, "Elect according to the foreknowl≠edge of God." That is Godís own secret counsel. And "Whom He foreknew He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son...Them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). Here we have a golden chain let down from Godís throne, the first link attached to His foreknowledge and the last securing the eternal glory of His redeemed.
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.í