For Those He Came To Save

Vicarious Atonement through Christ Most of our readers know of Louis Berkhof’s excellent Systematic Theology.  But Berkhof also has some other gems out there, including Vicarious Atonement Through Christ.  In just under 200 pages, Berkhof discusses the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction, including the necessity of the atonement, the objective and vicarious nature of the atonement, the subjective effects of the atonement, and so forth.  One section very much worth reading is his chapter on what has been called “Definite Atonement” or “Limited Atonement.”  The chapter is titled, “The Restricted Design of the Atonement.”  It is basically an outstanding 13 page outline and summary of this truth (one of the best short summaries that I’ve read, by the way!).

One biblical proof Berkhof gives to explain particular redemption is proof from the doctrine of election:

The doctrine of sovereign election, as taught in Scripture, may certainly be regarded as expressive of the purpose of God respecting the redemption of sinners. It is to the effect that God from all eternity decreed to save a certain definite number of the fallen human race, and at the same time determined the means by which He would effectuate their salvation. It is but reasonable to suppose that He adapted the means precisely to the end which He had in view. Since the election was clearly personal in decreeing the salvation of certain persons who stood out clearly in the mind of God, we can only suppose that He designed the necessary means also for those and for no other persons and made them effective for the end in view.

What consistency would there be in God’s electing certain persons unto life everlasting, then sending Christ into the world to make salvation possible for all men but certain for none, and finally leaving it entirely to man to accept or reject the offered salvation, perhaps only to find that others than those whom He had elected made use of the opportunity. And it does not help matters much to substitute foreknowledge for predestination, as the Arminian does. If God knows precisely, as He does, who will and who will not accept the offer of salvation, does it seem reasonable to think that He would send Christ into the world to suffer and die for the purpose of saving those of whom He is sure that they will never meet the conditions and be saved?

The question of Boettner is quite pertinent: “Who can believe that He, like a feeble mortal, would ‘shoot at the convoy without perceiving the individual birds?’ ” Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the positive will of God, His eternal decree, cannot be frustrated by men. “The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast forever,” Ps. 33:11. “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.… I have purposed. I will also do it,” Isa. 46:10, 11. “In whom we also were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will,” Eph. 1:11. According to the doctrine of universal atonement the very purpose of God is frustrated. While He purposes to save all men, only a limited number is actually saved. The purpose of God is defeated through unbelief. Man rather than God is in control of the destinies of life.

Logos Edition: Berkhof, Louis. Vicarious Atonement through Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1936.

Or, find it on Amazon (HERE).

shane lems
hammond, wi


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