The Free Offer of the Gospel and the Extent of the Atonement

Jesus after His resurrection said to his disciples that “repentance unto remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations” (Luke 24:46). On the eve of his ascension he gave the mandate, “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Here is the world-wide mission committed first of all to the apostles but permanently assigned to the church and to be continued to the end of the age (cf. Matt. 28:20). It is the mission of gospel proclamation with its necessary attendants of discipling and teaching and baptism construed as a necessary part of the process of discipling.

The gospel is the proclamation of good tidings, good tidings from God, good tidings of what God has done, good tidings of what he has promised to do. The passion of missions is quenched when we Jose sight of the grandeur of the evangel. It is to a lost world the gospel is sent. To a world lost in sin and misery is proclaimed the marvel of God’s love and grace, the tidings of salvation, salvation full and free, salvation that could not be greater because it is salvation in him who is himself the wisdom, power, and righteousness of God. It is when the sense of the gravity of sin as offence, defilement, guilt, bondage, and misery takes hold of our minds that we grasp the significance of Jesus’ word, “repentance unto remission of sins unto all the nations.” All partitions are broken down, the valleys have been exalted, the mountains made low, and the rough places smooth. The glory of the Lord has been revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Repentance may seem a harsh word; it means radical change. But it is redolent of the gospel; it is unto the remission of sins. And remission bespeaks the heart of the good tidings. We have redemption through Jesus’ blood, “the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Good tidings without radical revolution would only confirm the world’s sin and misery. That the proclamation should be in Jesus’ name is the certification that release bears the Saviour’s signature.

“Unto all the nations” bespeaks universality. And since repentance is redolent of the gospel, the universality of the demand for repentance implies the universal overture of grace. To think otherwise would abstract repentance from the grace to which it is directed in the word of Jesus; it is repentance unto the remission of sins. No word in Scripture is more unambiguous on this score than Paul’s word on the Areopagus. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Terms could not be more unrestrictive than “all everywhere.” That it is the demand for repentance to all men everywhere underlines the urgency of the appeal. But it also advertises the universal overture of grace. In the forefront is the radical change in God’s administration. “In the generations gone by [God] suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). This is the meaning when Paul says: “the times of ignorance therefore God overlooked.” But now, because the middle wall of partition has been broken down (cf. Eph. 2:14), he commands men that they should all everywhere repent. For the reason already stated this is the full and unrestricted offer of the gospel to all men. Those who deny the free overture of grace must rob the demand for repentance of its gospel implications. Denial dismembers Jesus’ word, “repentance unto remission of sins” and it contradicts the plain import of Paul’s “all everywhere.” The doctrine of the universal overture of mercy is supported by much biblical evidence. It is not necessary to adduce this evidence. Luke 24:46 in conjunction with Acts 17:30 puts the propriety and necessity beyond all question.

We may not overlook the context in which Jesus’ word, “that repentance unto remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations,” appears. It is preceded by “Thus it is written that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” It cannot be doubted that the suffering and resurrection of Christ are represented as the events that open the way and provide the ground for the proclamation of the evangel to all nations. The suffering and resurrection are the pivotal events of redemption according to Jesus’ own witness elsewhere (cf., e.g., Luke 24:26; John 10:17, 18). In the present instance these events are said to have their fruitage in the preaching of the gospel to all the nations. The same line of thought underlies Matthew 28:18, 19. The disciples are commanded to make disciples of all nations because “all authority in heaven and in earth” had been committed to Christ. But the investment with this authority is the reward of his completed task which reached its climax on the cross (cf. John 17:2, 4, 5; Phil. 2:8, 9).

When our Lord referred to his suffering as that which prepared for the preaching of repentance to all nations, he must be alluding to the redemptive implications of his suffering. In other words, he must have in view the suffering that was climaxed on Calvary when he laid down his life.1 This he interprets for us elsewhere as giving his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). No word in Scripture is more significant for the interpretation of the suffering unto death of our Saviour. His death was vicarious ransom; it is redemptive. This is but to say that what we often speak of as the atonement is that which laid the ground for the preaching of repentance to all the nations, atonement, of course, in conjunction with its necessary sequel, the resurrection. We thus see that the universal demand for repentance and the unrestricted overture of grace involved must be grounded, according to our Lord’s own express teaching, in the atonement. Hence the whole doctrine of the atonement bears directly upon the missionary task of the church. And this is so for the simple reason that the mission of the church is that which it pursues in obedience to Christ’s commission, and this commission is grounded in his suffering unto death and rising again on the third day.

It is an obvious truth that without the atonement there would be no gospel to preach. But our interest now is not this general proposition. It is something more specific. There are two considerations. First, it is of particular interest to observe that our Lord himself enunciated this connection in his parting commissions to the disciples.2 And, second, it is the relation of his redemptive death and resurrection to the worldwide proclamation of the gospel that is brought to the forefront, world-wide in distinction from the restriction that obtained prior to the fulfillment of these redemptive events. There must be, therefore, a certain universalism belonging to the redemptive events that lays the basis for and warrants the universal proclamation. In other words, the extension in proclamation cannot be divorced from the question of extent. And it might seem, as many have maintained, that the universal overture presupposes universal atonement.

The atonement in none of its aspects can be properly viewed apart from the love of God as the source from which it springs. The Scripture clearly expresses this relationship. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16). “But God commends his own love toward us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). Thus it is not only the extent of the atonement that is thrust into the foreground by the world-wide overture of grace but also the character and extent of the love of God of which the atonement is the expression and provision. There are, therefore, the two questions which the free and unrestricted overture of grace makes unavoidable, the extent of the atonement and the love of God.

When we speak of the atonement we must always have in view the categories in terms of which the Scripture defines what we have come to speak of inclusively as the atonement, namely obedience, sacrifice (expiation), propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. The question of extent is bound up with that of nature. for the question is: for whom did Christ vicariously render the obedience, offer sacrifice, and make propitiation? Whom did he reconcile to God and redeem by his blood? The Scripture often uses brief formulae such as he “died for us,” he “died for the ungodly,” he “died for the unjust,” he “died for our sins” or simply he “died for sins.” The meaning of “died for” must be derived from the categories already mentioned. Hence the extent of “died for” cannot be any more limited or more inclusive than that of the categories and so the question may also be stated in the terms: for whom did Christ die?

The topic is sometimes spoken of as the design of the atonement. In the discussion the term “design” is frequently the appropriate and convenient term. But there is also an advantage in the term “extent”; it has a denotative quality and serves to point up the crux of the question: who are embraced in that which the atonement actually accomplished? For whom were obedience, sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption designed? In this question the categories must not only be understood in the specific character belonging to each but also as correlative with and interpenetrative of one another. We may not ask or discuss the question in terms of one but of all in their mutual relationships.

Many benefits accrue to the non-elect from the redemptive work of Christ. There is more than one consideration to establish this proposition. Many blessings are dispensed to men indiscriminately because God is fulfilling his redemptive purpose in the world. Much in the way of order, equity, benevolence, and mercy is the fruit of the gospel and the gospel is God’s redemptive revelation centered in the gift of his Son. Believers are enjoined to “do good to all men” (Gal. 6:10) and compliance has a beneficent result. But their identity as believers proceeds from redemption. Again, it is by virtue of what Christ has done that there is a gospel of salvation proclaimed to all without distinction. Are we to say that the unrestricted overture of grace is not grace to those to whom it comes? Furthermore, we must remember that all the good dispensed to this world is dispensed within the mediatorial dominion of Christ. He is given all authority in heaven and in earth and he is head over all things. But he is given this dominion as the reward of his obedience unto death (cf. Phil. 2:8, 9) and his obedience unto death is but one way of characterizing what we mean by the atonement. Thus all the good showered on this world, dispensed by Christ in the exercise of his exalted lordship, is related to the death of Christ and accrues to man in one way or another from the death of Christ. If so it was designed to accrue from the death of Christ. Since many of these blessings fall short of salvation and are enjoyed by many who never become the possessors of salvation, we must say that the design of Christ’s death is more inclusive than the blessings that belong specifically to the atonement. This is to say that even the non-elect arc embraced in the design of the atonement in respect of those blessings falling short of salvation which they enjoy in this life. This is equivalent to saying that the atonement sustains this reference to the non-elect and it would not be improper to say that, in respect of what is entailed for the non-elect, Christ died for them.

We have in the Scripture itself an indication of this kind of reference and of the sanctifying effect it involves in some cases. In Hebrews 10:29 we read: “Of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be accounted worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” The person in view we must regard as one who has abandoned his Christian profession and for whom “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment” (Heb. 10:26,27). It is the person described in Hebrews 6:4, 5 in terms of the transforming effects experienced but who falls away and cannot be renewed unto repentance. In II Peter 2:20–22 the same is described as having “escaped the defilements of the world,” as having “known the way of righteousness” but as having turned back and returning as the dog to his vomit or the sow to wallowing in the mire. This is—terrible to contemplate—the apostate. Our particular interest now is that he is represented as sanctified in the blood of Christ. Whatever may be the particular complexion of the sanctification in view, there can be no question but it is derived from the blood of Christ and, if so, it was designed to accrue from the blood of Christ. The benefit was only temporary and greater guilt devolves upon the person from the fact that he participated in it and then came to count the blood by which it was conveyed an unholy thing. But, nevertheless, it was a benefit the blood of Christ procured and procured for him. We must say that to that extent Jesus shed his blood for his benefit. Other passages are probably in the same category, But this one suffices to show that there are benefits accruing from the death of Christ for those who finally perish, And in view of this we may say that in respect of these benefits Christ may be said to have died for those who are the beneficiaries. In any case it is incontrovertible that even those who perish are the partakers of numberless benefits that are the fruits of Christ’s death and that, therefore, Christ’s death sustains to them this beneficial reference, a beneficial reference, however, that does not extend beyond this life.

These considerations require us to return to the question of God’s love, for it is the fountain from which Christ’s death flows. The question is: must we also say that the love of God has likewise a reference to the non-elect?

It should not be questioned that benefits bestowed on the ungodly are the expression of God’s kindness. This is clearly implied in passages that deal with the gifts of God’s general providence. When Jesus instructed his disciples to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecuted them, to do good to those who hated them, and to bless those who cursed them (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 28), the underlying reason and incentive is stated expressly to be, “Ye shall therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) and “be ye merciful as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). In a word, they must be like their heavenly Father.3 Examples are given of their Father’s beneficence. “He makes his sun to rise upon the evil and the good and sends rain upon just and unjust” (Matt. 5:45). There are two characterizations of God given. “He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35) and he is “merciful” (Luke 6:36).4 The implication of the latter is that he is merciful to the unthankful and evil as well as kind. It cannot then be disputed that such benefits as are exemplified in sunshine and rain, bestowed upon the ungodly, flow from God’s kindness and mercy. It is because he is kind and merciful he dispenses these benefits to his enemies. He is beneficent because he is benevolent.


We have a similar observation in Acts 14:16, 17 to the effect that even in the generations gone by when God suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways (cf. Acts 17:30) “yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave…from heaven rains and fruitful seasons.” Applying the analogy of our Lord’s own teaching in the passages quoted above, we must say that the goodness done, as expressly stated, proceeded from the goodness by which God must be characterized. He is good even to those abandoned to ungodliness and his beneficence in rains and fruitful seasons bore witness to his goodness. Thus we have the kindness, mercy. and goodness of God exercised toward the ungodly.

In the Matthaean and Lucan passages the reason urged for the exercise of kindness and mercy on the part of the disciples is that Cod is kind and merciful The conduct of the disciples is to be patterned after God’s action, their dis· position after God’s disposition. They are in this way to be “sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35), sons of their “Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:45). The inclusiveness of this pattern is seen when Jesus says, “Ye shall therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Are we not, therefore, required to extend the characterizations beyond kindness, mercy, and goodness?

On three distinct occasions in these passages we have the exhortation “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). Must we not then say that the love entertained by the disciples is likewise to be patterned after the love of God and in this case, as the contexts require, the love of God for the ungodly, the unthankful, and the evil? It might be argued that not all of the injunctions presuppose a corresponding disposition in God. For example, “love your enemies” is conjoined with “pray for them that persecute you” ( Matt. 5:44) and “pray for them that despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28). Since it is God the Father who is specifically in view as the heavenly Father, we cannot say that God the Father prays. Christ prayed and still intercedes at God’s right hand as the Advocate with the Father and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the saints (Rom. 8:26, 27). But there is an obvious incongruity in predicating prayer of God the Father. Other expressions could also be pleaded to give apparent support to the thesis that for all the injunctions we must not seek an analogy in the disposition and action of God the Father “to him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also” (Luke 6:29; cf. vs. 30 and Matt. 5:47).

Into all the questions that arise in connection with such arguments or objections it would be distracting to enter. Suffice it to say that what underlies prayer for our enemies is benevolence and what underlies the other exhortations quoted and cited is the same disposition and companion virtues. This disposition must be exercised in ways that are relevant to our life in this world. But it has its analogue in God and comes to expression in his case in ways relevant to his providence of which concrete examples are given in Matthew 5:45 (cf. Acts 14:17). Obviously there is difference between the sphere of our life and that of God’s government. Yet our virtues are patterned after God’s own perfections. And this is surely true of the preeminent virtue, love. It would be impossible to make such a disjunction between God’s kindness and mercy, on the one hand, which are expressly stated to be the pattern of our conduct, and love, on the other, with the result that, while kindness and mercy to the ungodly are predicated of God, yet love is not. In both passages love has the priority in exhortation and the character of God has primacy as the pattern by which we are to be directed. Are we to say that the love of God is to be excluded from the divine pattern while kindness and mercy are to be included? This would be exegetical violence amounting to monstrosity. We need but read the passages to see the impossibility of such interpretation. “Love your enemies…that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44, 45). “Love your enemies…and ye shall be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35). H anything exhibits this sonship it is love. But it is so because of its conformity to the character of God and therefore his character in respect of love. Consequently the love of God, specifically the love of the Father as the person who is the Father of the disciples, must be brought within the scope of the dispositions which find expression in the benefits dispensed indiscriminately to mankind and of which even the non-elect are participants in this life. H this is so with reference to the gifts of ordinary providence, how much more certainly must this be the case in the bestowments of an immensely higher order, namely, those that accrue from the gospel and its world-wide proclamation.

There are many biblical passages bearing upon God’s overtures of grace to men that carry this implication.5 It is not necessary to expand this study in order to adduce this evidence. The foregoing exposition is sufficient to show that there is a love in God that goes forth to lost men and is manifested in the manifold blessings which all men without distinction enjoy, a love in which non-elect persons are embraced, and a love that comes to its highest expression in the entreaties, overtures, and demands of gospel proclamation.

We have found that there are included in the design of the atonement benefits which accrue to the non-elect. The fruits of the atonement enjoyed by some non-elect persons are de6ned in very lofty terms. Non-elect are said to have been sanctified in the blood of Christ, to have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, to have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour, and to have known the way of righteousness (cf. Heb. 6:4, 5; 10:29; II Pet. 2:20, 21). In this sense, therefore, we may say that Christ died for non-elect persons. It must, however, be marked with equal emphasis that these fruits or benefits all fall short of salvation, even though in some cases the terms used to characterize them are such as could properly be used to describe a true state of salvation. These non-elect persons, however reforming may have been the influences exerted upon them and however uplifting their experiences, come short of the benefits accruing from the atonement, which the truly and finally saved enjoy. It is, therefore, apparent that the atonement has an entirely different reference to the elect from that which it sustains to the non-elect on the highest level of their experience. It is this radical differentiation that must be fully appreciated and guarded; it belongs to the crux of the question respecting the extent of the atonement. The difference can be stated bluntly to be that the non-elect do not participate in the benefits of the atonement and the elect do. The non-elect enjoy many benefits that accrue from the atonement but they do not partake of the atonement.

It is here that the precise meaning of the categories is bound up strictly with the extent. The non-elect are not partakers of the obedience of Christ, nor of the expiation Christ accomplished by his sacrifice, nor of the propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption Christ wrought. If they are not the partakers, they were not designed by God to be the partakers and, consequently, they arc not included among those for whom the atonement, in its specific character as defined by the categories, was designed. This is but to say that it is limited in its extent. The atonement was designed for those and for those only who are ultimately the beneficiaries of what it is in its proper connotation. And likewise, when we think of Christ’s “dying for” in the substitutionary terms which are its proper import. we must say that he did not die for those who never become the beneficiaries of that substitution; he did not “die for” the non-elect. For it is one thing to say that the non-elect are the recipients of many benefits that accrue from Christ’s death, it is something entirely different to say that they are the partakers or were intended to be the partakers of the vicarious substitution which “died for” properly connotes. To sum up, there is radical differentiation between the benefits accruing from Christ’s death for the non-elect and the benefits accruing for the elect, and it is the latter that belong to the atonement in its biblical definition.

We also found that the love of God is exercised towards and is manifested to men indiscriminately, that the non-elect come within the ambit not only of God’s beneficence but of the love, kindness, and mercy expressed in that beneficence. But here again we must take account of differentiation within the love of God no less than the differentiation within the benefits accruing from the death of Christ. It must be said from the outset that there is differentiation in the love of God.6

It is not necessary now to summon all the evidence establishing the pregnant import of “foreknew” in Romans 8:29.7 “Foreknew” has undoubtedly cognitive and volitive ingredients. But it is impossible to suppress the emotive quality and, therefore, the ingredient of love belongs to the definition of what is denoted. That this love is differentiating lies on the face of the text. It is coextensive with predestination: “for whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And predestination is coextensive with calling. justification. and glorification (vs. 30). The restrictive scope is indicated also by the appeal to election in verse 33: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” The apostle in verse 29 is analyzing the purpose spoken of in verse 28 and is, therefore, enunciating in the use of the word “foreknew” what is ultimate in God’s saving counsel. The differentiation is incontestable. The love which is embraced in “foreknew” is exercised towards those and those only who are the heirs of a salvation measuring to no lower dimensions than conformity to the image of God’s Son and glorification. It is love with such character that it issues in the salvation of its objects and could not be universalized without positing the restoration of all.

Ephesians 1:5 is parallel to Romans 8:29. But here is explicitly expressed the fact that predestination is impelled by love: “in love having predestinated us unto adoption.” It is because God loved that he predestinated. So, again, it is impossible to think of this love as exercised toward those not predestinated to adoption. The love impelling to predestination is of such a character that the determinate issue in adoption flows from it; everything hangs on the qualitative distinctiveness of the love involved. The parallelism in verses 4 and 5 adds force to the particularism of both the love and its issue. Verse 4 speaks of election in Christ before the foundation of the world as directed to the end that the elect should be holy and without blemish, verse 5 of love as directed to adoption. The distinguishing quality of the love corresponds to the distinguishing quality of the election.

In Ephesians 2:4 God’s “great love” is set forth as the reason for quickening together with Christ and raising up with him. These terms in themselves refer to what is efficaciously saving and the context allows for no other reference. The “great love” cannot be universalized; it is that which impels to the efficacious actions and cannot have an extent broader than those embraced in the actions specified . The same kind of relationship obtains between the “great love” and the saving actions as obtains between love and predestination in Ephesians 1:5 and, again, the quality of the love must be as distinctive as the saving acts which are its result.

Other passages are corroborative of the foregoing conclusions. In Colossians 3:12 – “elect of God, holy and beloved”—it is apparent that “beloved” stands in apposition to “elect of God” and cannot be given wider denotation. Likewise, in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 “beloved of God” is within the orbit of “election.” In II Thessalonians 2:13 ”beloved of the Lord” cannot be given broader scope than those identi6ed as those whom “God chose from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (cf. II Thess. 2:16). In Jude I the “beloved in God the Father” are those “kept for Jesus Christ.” And in Hebrews 12:6 we are given the assurance that “whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives,” a chastening directed to life and righteousness (cf. vss. 9, 11). In I John 3:1 we have another reference to the greatness of God’s love (cf. Eph. 2:4). Here it is not a love indiscriminately exercised; it is the love of the Father bestowed in being called children of God and is, therefore, defined or, at least, characterized by that gift. The marvel consists in the status it constitutes and its specificity is certified by the apex of privilege the status involves. The differentiation is illustrated by what John adds:

“For this cause the world knoweth us not because it knew him not.”

The distinguishing character of this love of God, especially in the earlier passages dealt with, is borne out by the permanence and security correlative with it. The bond which Paul unfolds for us ip its various aspects in Romans 8:28–34 is one that finds its focus, as also its origin, in “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 39). And so he gives the challenge: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vs. 35) and concludes that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” The embrace of this love is the guarantee of glorification, conformity to the image of God’s Son. It is love so potent, so irresistible, so enduring that nothing can dissolve its grasp nor defeat its redeeming, preserving, and glorifying purpose.8

We must distinguish between the love of pure benevolence and that of complacency. The former is the love of sovereign good pleasure constrained not by virtuous qualities in the object but by sovereign grace. The latter is the love drawn out by commendable character. Since we are now dealing with differentiation in the love of God, it is not out of place to make mention of God’s love of complacency and adduce a few passages that reflect upon it. Our Lord said to his disciples: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him….If anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him” (John 14:21, 23; cf. 16:26, 27).9 Here is love that is premised upon love to Christ on the part of men and the keeping of Christ’s commandments. It is a love drawn out and circumscribed by this condition in men and thus exists only where this condition is present. it is n love constrained by that which reflects God’s own perfection. It has this distinct quality and we might venture to describe it to this extent that it is the love of approbation and responsive delight. It is love that reciprocates. The love in men that elicits it is the fruit of God’s grace and a transcript of his glory.

We must now return to the question: how does this differentiation in the love of God apply to the love of which the atonement is the expression? Earlier in the discussion we found that the blessings of which even the non-elect are participants come within the design of the atoning work of Christ.10 and that these benefits are an expression of the love, kindness, and mercy of God. We cannot avoid the inference that the atonement is the expression of this kind of love. In other words, we may not exclude from that Jove of which the atonement is the prOvision this general love of God to lost mankind. And in the proclamation of the gospel and the presentation of the free overtures of grace to men indiscriminately it would not be proper to withhold the implications. No truth may be suppressed. So neither may this one. In the gospel offer far more is entailed than the disclosure of this love with which we are now dealing.11 But it is not unimportant that this love should be brought to bear upon the appeal to men. Rejection of the gospel offers insult to the love, kindness, and mercy that the overture of grace necessarily betokens and the wooing appeals of that love should be pressed home upon lost and perishing men.

But, again, as in the differentiation that must be maintained in the reference of the atonement, so here likewise we must recognize the differentiation in respect of the love expressed in the atonement. The elect, as shown above, are the objects of a love that is not exercised to the non-elect. The elect are partakers of the atonement; the non-elect are not. The differentiating love is that which insures for the elect that they will be partakers of the atonement. The atonement expresses that Love and is the provision for the realization of the purpose that flows from it. Once we recognize the differentiating love and the whole gamut of consequences emanating from it, then this love is the only love adequate to explain the atonement and apart from this love the atonement in its specific character cannot be properly construed .. We cannot interpret the atonement outside the intertrinitarian counsel of salvation.12 Jesus said: “For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6,:38, 39).

(to be continued)


1. That the suffering is viewed as that unto death is implied in the rising from the dead on the third day.

2. We find the same conjunction in John 12;24, 31-33, words of Jesus spoken on the occasion of his being informed of the request of certain Greeks who came to worship at the feast.

3. It is to be observed that tho Fatherhood of God referred to in these passages is not extended beyond the disciples. There is no warrant for the inference that tho Fatherhood is as general and inclusive as the gifts bestowed. It is, however, the person who sustains to the disciples the fatherly relation who dispenses his favours to men indiscriminately.

4. The term rendered “merciful” has in it the note of compassion.

5. Cf. The Free Offer of the Gospel by John Murray and Ned n. Stonehouse, Phillipsburg, n.d  pp. 5–25; R.B. Kuiper: For Whom Did Christ Die?, Grand Rapids 1959, pp.. 89–100.

6. “But this universal love should be always so conceived as to leave room for the fact that God, for sovereign reasons, has not chosen to bestow upon its objects that higher love which not merely desires, but purposes and works out the salvation of some…Neither this indiscriminate goodness in the sphere of nature, however, nor the collective love which embraces the world as an organism, nor the love of compassion which God retains for every lost sinner, should be confounded with that fourth and highest form of the divine affection which the Saviour everywhere.appropriates to the disciples” (Geerhardus Vos: “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God” in The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, January, 1902, pp. 22f.; cf. also R.B. Kuiper; op. cit., pp. 68f.

7. Cf., by the writer, The Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I, Grand Rapids, 1959, ad loc.

8. It is not necessary to expand this study by adducing the copious evidence of God’s discriminating love in the Old Testament. The following passages in respect or the word “know” hear on the face of them the differentiation which is involved: Genesis 18:19: Exodus 2:25; Psalm 1:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Hosea 13:5; Amos 3:2 and in respect of the word “love”: Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:8, 13; 10:15; 23:5; I Kings 10:9; II Chronicles. 9:8; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:1; 14:4; Malachi 1:2. For treatment of this subject cf. Geerhardus Vos: op. cit., pp. 6ff.

9. I Corinthians 8:3 may be in the same category.

10. Cf. R B. Kuiper: op.. cit., pp. 76f

11. This will be dealt with later on in these studies.

12. I have used this designation to denote what has often been called  the covenant of redemption.

We cordially welcome again to these pages Prof. John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. He addresses himself to basic questions which have been raised in connection with the free offer of the gospel and the atonement through Jesus Christ. Here are fresh insights into and careful formulations of the teachings of Scripture on this issue which is of crucial importance for the church in bringing the “good news” of our God.