In trying to rethink the debate between Calvinists and Arminians over the limited or unlimited nature of the atonement, I suggested we should rethink the assumption that the benefits of the cross come as a package deal. Maybe, just maybe, the cross has different benefits for different people, under different conditions.
But is there any Biblical reason to think that?
Before we look at the New Testament evidence in later blogs, think of the Old Testament sacrifices.
Was there only one sacrifice or many?
One benefit or many?
One beneficiary or many?
What do the Mosaic sacrifices show?
As you probably know, there were several different offerings in the Mosaic Law.
First, there were burnt offerings of a bull, ram, or dove. This was a voluntary act. It was made for unintentional sins or as an expression of worship (Leviticus 1).
Second, the grain offerings were in recognition of God’s goodness and provisions (Leviticus 2).
The peace offering of an animal without defect was for thanksgiving and fellowship (Leviticus 3).
The sin offering was a mandatory sacrifice for specific unintentional sins and cleansing from defilement (Leviticus 4).
The trespass offering was for unintentional sins that required restitution (Lev 5:14–6:7).
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would make a personal sin offering of a bull for himself and his family. Then he would enter the Holy of Holies and sacrifice a goat for the nation of Israel, letting a second scapegoat go free (Leviticus 16).
Here’s the point—
Would it be safe for someone to have assumed the Old Testament sacrifices had one big benefit, for one beneficiary, under one condition, that was either limited or unlimited? No. That assumption would be badly mistaken.
Instead, there were different sacrifices, with different benefits, for different people, under different conditions. Some had individual benefits; others, corporate. Some were for families; others, for the nation. Some were for citizens; others, for priests. Some were for forgiveness; others, for thanksgiving. Some required sacrificing this kind of animal; others, that kind.
That doesn’t prove the same is true of the cross’ benefits. But it does show you should have an open mind about the New Testament evidence, which we’ll begin to explore next.