I have started working in earnest on my next book. As a follow-up to Chosen to Serve, which dealt with the doctrine of election, my next book will show that both Limited Atonement and Unlimited Atonement should be rejected because they both (wrongly) assume the benefits of the cross come as a package. My questions are: Is that a fair assumption? Does the Bible bear it out? What happens if the benefits of the cross do not come as a package and there are different benefits, for different people, given under different conditions?
To my relief, I am not the first person to think the cross might have different benefits for different people.
For example, in chap. 4 of his book, Salvation, Lewis Sperry Chafer says that the benefit of reconciliation has a “two-fold aspect”:
From this Scripture we may conclude that there is a two-fold aspect of reconciliation: first, that which God hath already wrought in Christ by which He has thoroughly changed the relation of the whole world to Himself so that He does not reckon their trespasses unto them, and, second, a reconciliation for which we may plead and which must take place in the attitude of the unsaved individual through the revelation given to him in the Gospel concerning the sacrifice of Christ. Salvation is made to depend upon such a personal response to this appeal from God (Chafer, Salvation, pp. 26-27).
Here are the two benefits.
First, the unbelieving world gets the benefit of a changed relation to God and not having their trespasses imputed to them. According to Chafer, this is not a potential benefit, but one the world presently enjoys because of the cross.
Second, there is the benefit of salvation. Chafer says that salvation “is made to depend upon such a personal response” to the appeal for reconciliation. In other words, the world does not get salvation; only believers do.
So, in light of these two benefits, is the atonement limited or is it unlimited?
Why not? Because the cross’ benefits do not come as one big package. Some of the benefits are for all (e.g., the world’s change in status), and some are only for believers (e.g., salvation for believers).
And that’s just one example.
While I’m certainly not the first person to think the cross’s benefits may not come as a package deal, I hope to be one of the first to do a thorough study of how, exactly, they might differ. My goal is to finish by the April 2021 conference.