What Do The Biblical Covenants Have To Do With The Extent Of The Atonement? Part 2

February 21, 2013 § 8 Comments

In the preceding post, it was advocated that the sacrificial death of Jesus must be viewed in a covenantal context.  In this covenantal context, Jesus must be viewed as the antitypical fulfillment of the types and patterns put forth in the Old Testament who functions as the great high priest and covenant mediator of a better and new covenant. It has also been proposed that placing Jesus in the typological role of great high priest and covenant mediator entails a definitelimited, or particular atonement. This short summary will begin where the last one left off, by overviewing the first part of Dr. Stephen Wellum’s argument for particular redemption. 

Christ’s Work As Our Great High Priest Is A Unified Work 

The theological concept of a “unified work” is that as great high priest, the intent of Jesus’ death  “was not only to achieve the redemption of a particular people but also to secure everything necessary to bring those same people to the end for which his death was designed, namely, the full forgiveness of sin and all the blessings of the new covenant including the gift of the Spirit, who effectively applies his work to those whom the Son represents.”(1)

Wellum sets out to prove the argument of Christ’s unified work as priest by first demonstrating how Jesus function as such.  He writes, “the New Testament is clear that our Lord is the antitypical fulfillment of the Old Testament priest.” He then bolsters this claim with five points of comparison and contrast with texts found mainly in Hebrews (5:1-10;8:1-10:18).  I will summarize these important points below. 

  1. Similar to the OT (Old Testament) priests, Jesus was appointed and met the required qualifications (Heb. 5:4-6; cf. Psalm 2; 110). 
  2. Similar to the OT priests, Jesus represented a particular people.  On this important point, Wellum mentions the fact that “nowhere in the Old Testament does the priest make atonement for all the nations or function as a universal mediator.”
  3. Similar to the OT priests, Jesus offered a sacrifice. However, in contrast to the OT priests, Jesus’ sacrifice is a once-for-all-time sacrifice and is “able to save completely those who come to God through him” (Heb. 7:25).
  4. Similar to the OT priests, yet in greater fashion, Jesus’ work cannot entail a separation between the provision and application of the atonement.  This means that there is no distinction between the achieving and the applying of covenant benefits to those in the covenant (Heb. 8:4-5; 9:11-15, 24). 
  5. In contrast to the OT priests, who’s work was unified yet imperfect, Jesus’ work is both unified and perfect. 

It is in at least these five ways that Jesus functions as the antitypical fulfillment of the OT priests who’s work involves a particular redemption.  

To further his argument,  Dr. Wellum next moves to demonstrate the particular nature of Jesus’ intercession by writing that “there is no evidence that he intercedes salvifically for the non-elect.”  He demonstrates that in every case before (Luke 22:31-22; John 17:6ff) and after the cross (Rom. 8:32-34; Heb. 7:24-25; 1 John 2:1-2), Jesus only intercedes on behalf of the elect. Not only does Jesus only intercede for the elect, his prayers are effective for them as 
“he always lives to intercede” for his covenant people.  His intercession brings about the application of covenant blessings to the elect.

Wellum then claims that “the problem with all general atonement views is that they fragment Christ’s priestly work of offering and intercession.”  As a result of this, Wellum gives two options for general atonement advocates, “either they must view Christ’s work apart from these typological patterns and not discuss the atonement within the constraints of these biblical categories, or they must separate Christ’s intercession from his death, thus dividing his priestly work.”  

Dr. Wellum gives examples of two such argument and reveals how each fails to place Jesus in the context of a unified, covenantal, and priestly work. The first argument puts forward the idea that Jesus’ intercession is saving and effective yet does not take place until people believe.  Wellum contends that the problem with this view is threefold. First, this view fails to view Christ’s work as unified. Second, it fails to acknowledge that Christ interceded for his people while on earth. Third, it separates Jesus’ death from its covenant context and has Jesus dying for non-covenant members.  

The second argument proposes that Christ’s intercession may be viewed as salvific for the non-elect.  By appealing to Luke 23:24, it has been proposed that “intercession unto salvation is something that is available to all but only effectual for those who are in Christ.”(2) Wellum argues that such an interpretation divorces Christ intercession from biblical categories by failing to understand that “all we know of priests is that they intercede for those they represent.” He also proposes that if this is true, then Christ failed in his priestly work as he interceded and died salvifically for those who have not been redeemed.  

Dr. Wellum concludes his argument for particular redemption in Christ’s unified work by citing and disputing two responses typically given by general atonement advocates.  The first response suggests that Christ represents the entire human race–a result of the incarnation.  He rejects this response by again recalling the pattern of particular representation by the OT priests and by demonstrating that Christ’s death does not fail to save those whom he covenantally represents (Heb. 2:5-18).  He writes that if this were not true, then “Christ’s representative headship would not have achieved what it was intended to achieve.” 

The second response rebutted by Wellum suggests that since the OT priests offered sacrifices on behalf of a “mixed” people (the understanding that Israel contained both believer and unbeliever), so Christ’s atonement could be offered to all without exception.  His rebuttal is threefold.  First, atonement by the OT priests for only the covenant people moves in a particular direction.  Second, one must realize the ineffectual and typological nature of the OT priest and move to the perfectly effectual antitype in relation to the extent of the atonement.  Third, the argument fails to see the discontinuity between the old and new covenants by making the new covenant no more effectual than the old and by failing to acknowledge the difference between the mixed covenant community of old and the regenerate community of the new covenant. 

In the post to follow we will unpack the second and final argument in Kingdom Through Covenant for particular atonement by looking at Christ’s work as the new covenant mediator. 

 

  1. All quotations are taken from Kingdom Through Covenant, pp. 672-679.
  2. Gary Shultz, “A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentional View of the Extent of the Atonement” (PhD diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008), 155, fn. 195. 
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§ 8 Responses to What Do The Biblical Covenants Have To Do With The Extent Of The Atonement? Part 2

  • Hey there, If I may,

    1) The typology argument begs the question. Anti-types often include amplification or intensification. For example, the bronze serpent was for the nation in the wilderness alone, but Jesus gives it universal significance in John 3. The Lamb as sacrifice, originally in the context of the the old covenant people of God, but now John extends to reference the whole world. So Wellum just begs the question at that point.

    2) Regarding the claim that there is no evidence that Jesus prays for the non-elect, this is indeed problematic for a couple of reasons. In jn 17, Christ first prays for the 11. The “world” is contrasted to the 11 here, and does not mean non-elect. This is clear in context from from 1-12, specifically 12 localizes his subjects, the 11 as opposed to Judas. Then he prays for future believers, and then in vs 22 and 23 prays, in some sense, for the world.

    3) There is no evidence that Jesus prays for the elect either. Here is an important distinction. There are the elect as a class, who have lived, live and shall live, irrespective of belief. Then there are believing elect, who have lived and live. And then there are unbelieving–or yet to believe elect. When Jesus prays for believers in Hebs. he only prays for believers who are elect. Jesus is never recorded as praying for the elect as a class. All his prayers are for those who come, who draw near, who have been perfected by the sacrifice. So Wellum’s arguments on this are incorrect.

    4) Wellum and others commit what is called the fallacy of affirming the consequence. At their simplest, Scriptures his premise: All prayed-for are died-for. Tho actually, the more accurate premise should be: all prayed-for are died-for and are believers.

    However, from the minimal biblical data: all prayed-for are died-for, Wellum and others convert this, either explicitly or implicity into:
    All died-for are prayed for.

    Like this:

    All prayed-for are died-for
    Therefore, all died-for are prayed-for.

    Wellum’s distinctive, which is not that that original to him is to convert this to an alleged covenantal argument. But the invalid logic remains.

    All in-covenant are died-for [according to the biblical data].
    Therefore, all died-for will be in-covenant.

    That in essence is Wellum’s argument.

    All that Wellum can adduce is the biblical data that says all in-covenant are died-for, but he cannot convert that into “therefore all died-for will be or are in-covenant.

    5) As to separating the offices of Christ, the priestly intercession is based on the satisfaction, but limited to believers. Even here Wellum must grant that the satisfaction has a wider bearing than the intercession in this life. Further, Christ’s kingly office extends to the hole world, and so no being restricted to his covenant people, and yet who sees a problem with this? No one.

    6) The comment about mixed peoples and the reply from Wellum, as cited by you, that the OT sacrifices move in a “particular direction” just simply begs the question. He has assumed his conclusion which then sustains his argument.

    Anyway, there are lots of reasons why Wellum’s arguments are invalid.

    Ive posted three short essays on this tackling the topic from different angles:

    Christ Lays His Life Down for His Sheep (John 10:15): An Argument for Limited Atonement

    The Atonement and Intercession of Christ: An Argument for Limited Atonement

    The Exclusivity of the Intercession of Christ and the Argument for Limited Atonement

    Some Invalid and Unsound Arguments for the Assertion that all Died-For are all Prayed-For

    They can be found here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=2159

    If you want to continue talking about this with me, I would be more than willing.

    Thanks for your time,
    David

    • David, thank you for your comment. It has given me much to think about regarding this important doctrine. I pray that it does so for others as well, as understanding our Lord and living in light of our understanding is of utter importance. At the outset, it is apparent that your conclusions over the extent and intent of the atonement differ from what is advocated by Dr. Wellum in Kingdom Through Covenant (KTC) as overviewed on this blog. So for my own benefit and the benefit of others, I would like to try to respond in defense of what is advocated in KTC.

      Regarding the typological argument: I believe that Wellum is clear in how the Scriptures explain the “amplification” or “intensification” of Jesus’ priestly work when he writes that it is perfectly effectual and that it is once-for-all-time. Further, in Hebrews it is described as permanent, continual, and that it secures an eternal redemption. There is clearly intensification there. I would suggest that Wellum is clear in how the work of Christ is better (or that it is amplified and intensified) in that it completely saves and applies the benefits of the covenant to those whom Christ represents, that is, those who belong in the new covenant.

      In regards to the lamb and serpent: I believe both examples beg the question. First, the passover lamb argument must be understood in light of John’s language, that is, the statement itself and the word “world” must be understood in the context of Johanine language. “World” in John, overwhelmingly denotes the evil creation which has turned in rebellion to God, not every person who has ever lived, lives, and shall live. Nevertheless, I think Carson gets it right when he comments, “the sacrifice envisaged is not restricted in its purpose of effectiveness to the Jewish race. This Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world – that is, of all human beings without distinction, though not…of all without exception.”

      In addition, the lifting up of the serpent does not necessitate general redemption. No five-point Calvinist has any trouble with stating that Christ’s sacrifice is effective or intended for “whoever believes in Him.” For this same reason, John 3:16 does not necessitate general redemption. These two examples cannot prove, and were not meant to prove, general redemption (or limited atonement).

      In regards to the prayer of Jesus in John 17: I am having trouble seeing the prayer the way it has been explained in your comment. It is clear to me, and from commentators I’ve read, that Jesus only prays salvifically for believers and future believers, those whom God has given him, or as Wellum might say, those whom God has chosen to covenant with in the new covenant death of Jesus. Jesus prays not for the whole world consisting of those who may come, but those whom God has given him, “who will believe” (John 17:20).

      The other important thing to note, which I think may have been overlooked my overview, was that Jesus only prays salvifically for the elect. You might say that Jesus prays for non-believers, or non-elect, but not in the same way. I contend that the correct interpretation of what you say is a (salvific?) prayer for the “world” is not so, but a prayer that the world may know the love that God has for those whom he has chosen “before the foundation of the world,” whom I would call the elect. He prays that the world might know the love that God has for his covenant people. This is consistent with Scripture as it is clear that ultimately, all will know God’s glory, his glory which is displayed in its most magnificent fashion in Jesus, who dies for his covenant people.
      I see that Jesus only prays salvifically for those whom the Father has given him, the elect, which includes the disciples, the believers who lived at the same time as Christ, and those who would believe throughout history. Observing this, I have no trouble saying that Jesus only intercedes salvifically for the elect.

      In regards to the distinction of the elect: I am again having trouble following you here. Even though you may be able to make a distinction between the types of people who are elect, you must prove that Jesus does not pray for all these people. In the context of the entire prayer, not just 1-12 where “he localizes his subjects,” Jesus prays for those who have believed and who will believe, thus, encompassing the entire class of the elect. I see the same thing in Hebrews, specifically 7:25, where the Preacher writes that Jesus intercedes for “those who draw near to God.” The one thing that Scripture reveals is that those who draw near to God are only those who have been forgiven of sin through the work of the high priest. As Calvinists, we would then have to argue that only those for whom God has elected draw near, and only those who draw near receive the benefits of the covenant death of Christ.

      In regards to the accusation that Wellum and others commit the logical fallacy of “affirming the consequence: I believe what I have argued above shows the legitimacy of Wellum’s argument. I believe it is clear that as covenant mediator and priest, Jesus’ intercession and sacrifice are not only for elect-believers, but for the elect who will believe, those whom the Father has given him.

      I am struggling to be persuaded by the logical categories you have proposed when the biblical-theological categories for covenant-priest and mediator are so clearly demonstrated by Dr. Wellum. I think that what Wellum assumes, as far as the structures, function, and role of Jesus and priest and mediator is concerned, is also assumed by Scripture.

      I believe that anyone opposing this position must exegetically and theologically show how Jesus, functioning as high priest and mediator, does not intercede for only those whom he represents (since all we know of priests is that they do), namely, the new covenant people, whom the Bible identifies as those who have received the benefits of the covenant.

      I also believe that those who oppose this position must exegetically and theological demonstrate how the the new covenant is better and perfect if the general atonement view is correct, since it makes the new covenant no better than the old in accomplishing and securing salvation.

      In regards to the offices of priest and king of the new covenant: I see no benefit in abandoning the massive biblical-theological categories of priest and mediator that are clearly ascribed to Christ because one does not see the same particularity in the office of king. More could be said, but I just do not see a strong case here.

      As far as assuming a conclusion is concerned: Wellum and others assume that Jesus functions as a priest. What we know of priests is that they intercede and offer sacrifices for those whom they represent. The old covenant consisted of a mixed community, therefore, the priests offered sacrifices on behalf of them. In contrast, the new covenant consists of a regenerate community, of only believers, those who know God, have the Spirit, and experience full forgiveness of sins. Therefore, Christ represents the people of this new covenant, which is a better one, because all those who are in it receive the benefits of it. This, I contend, is what Wellum assumes.

  • Hey Jonathan,

    Cos your reply was extensive, my reply will be more extensive. Take your time to read. Thats fine, I am not in a rush, and this is not all do -or-die stuff. If you have any problems with my logic or expression, feel free to ask. You can also email me privately if you like.

    I am going to break it up in arbitrary parts for ease of reading.

    You say: Regarding the typological argument: I believe that Wellum is clear in how the Scriptures explain the “amplification” or “intensification” of Jesus’ priestly work when he writes that it is perfectly effectual and that it is once-for-all-time. Further, in Hebrews it is described as permanent, continual, and that it secures an eternal redemption. There is clearly intensification there. I would suggest that Wellum is clear in how the work of Christ is better (or that it is amplified and intensified) in that it completely saves and applies the benefits of the covenant to those whom Christ represents, that is, those who belong in the new covenant.

    David: Thats all rather tricky isnt it. Look at your words there, “secures eternal redemption.” What does that mean exactly? In standard TULIP doctrine, the understanding is that the expiation, itself, secures its own application, ie it infallibly secures the salvation of all for whom Christ died. In Hebrews, the certainty is different. There the certainty is located in the God-Man, who unfailingly saves all who come to him, such that there need not be a repeated expiatory sacrifice.

    In the Hebrews version of certainty, the expiation can be universal, and yet not detracted from its certainty and efficacy in any way. Therefore, amplification has nothing to do with the extent question, but application to the believer.

    You say: In regards to the lamb and serpent: I believe both examples beg the question. First, the passover lamb argument must be understood in light of John’s language, that is, the statement itself and the word “world” must be understood in the context of Johanine language. “World” in John, overwhelmingly denotes the evil creation which has turned in rebellion to God, not every person who has ever lived, lives, and shall live. Nevertheless, I think Carson gets it right when he comments, “the sacrifice envisaged is not restricted in its purpose of effectiveness to the Jewish race. This Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world – that is, of all human beings without distinction, though not…of all without exception.”

    David: Yeah I know at the end Carson retreats. Caron on the meaning of world in 3;16 is much better and consistent. In Johannine usage, “world” denotes apostate mankind. For this reason, John says the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Clearly he does not mean either 1) the Church, or 2) all who have lived, live and shall live. Neither makes any sense. Also the distinction between all without exception and all without distinction is rather meaningless in terms biblical theology. All without distinction, for Paul, means all without this or that distinction, namely ethnic. He never means, some of all without distinction. So in Paul’s meaning, all men, with any exception, who–for example–call upon the name of the Lord, will be saved. So in terms of biblical usage the distinctive parsing of all without exception and all without distinction are pretty unhelpful, for neither means, some of all without exception/distinction.

    So when one says of 1 John 2:2, John means all without distinction, what is that person saying? Are they saying, not actually all men, but just some men of all kinds, or just all kinds of men? Is that really what John means to convey? I don’t think so. World in 1 John denotes mankind in apostacy. He means all men apostate men, elect as unbelieving and non-elect as unbelieving. This expiatory sacrifice, he says, is not only for our sins–believers–but for the sins of the apostate world. This is essentially the view of men like C Hodge, Dabney, Shedd, and it dates back to Aquinas as well.

    You say: In addition, the lifting up of the serpent does not necessitate general redemption. No five-point Calvinist has any trouble with stating that Christ’s sacrifice is effective or intended for “whoever believes in Him.” For this same reason, John 3:16 does not necessitate general redemption. These two examples cannot prove, and were not meant to prove, general redemption (or limited atonement).

    David: Not that I cited it for that reason, but to point out that there are times when type moves to a universal anti-typical application. Christ is lifted up for all men. No man can see himself excluded, nor can we imagine some men are excluded. That was the point. Wellum begs the question when he says things like the limitation in the old, moves in a particular direction.

    Also, C Hodge makes the point that even the OT sacrificial lamb and national offerings point to a universally sufficient provision for all men. I think he is on to something. The sort of particularism inherent in Owen’s theory denies this.

  • Part 2:

    You say: In regards to the prayer of Jesus in John 17: I am having trouble seeing the prayer the way it has been explained in your comment. It is clear to me, and from commentators I’ve read, that Jesus only prays salvifically for believers and future believers, those whom God has given him, or as Wellum might say, those whom God has chosen to covenant with in the new covenant death of Jesus. Jesus prays not for the whole world consisting of those who may come, but those whom God has given him, “who will believe” (John 17:20).

    David: Jesus first prayer is not for “believers” as a class, but for the 11 in opposition to Judas: (v12) and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. Then he prays for future believers, then he even prays in some sense for the world. The other question is, of course, is that there is actually no evidence that the prayers in Jn 17 were formally high priestly prayers. Shedd makes a good point, when he says: “The Redeemer does not say that he never prayed for the whole sinful world of mankind; for he did this whenever he uttered the supplication, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” but on that particular occasion he confines his supplications to a part of the world, namely, the elect.”

    Even if we grant that the “them” in vs 1-12 denotes the believers at that time, still my point holds good. The world is contrasted to the believers, and so does not denote the “non-elect.” And then later, this same world is, in some sense, prayed for in the following verses: “so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” And I would say this is a parallel to John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will *believe* in me through their message

    The argument for limited satisfaction based on Jn 17 is extremely difficult to sustain.

    You say: The other important thing to note, which I think may have been overlooked my overview, was that Jesus only prays salvifically for the elect.

    David: Can you point me to a verse which says that?

    You say: You might say that Jesus prays for non-believers, or non-elect, but not in the same way. I contend that the correct interpretation of what you say is a (salvific?) prayer for the “world” is not so, but a prayer that the world may know the love that God has for those whom he has chosen “before the foundation of the world,” whom I would call the elect.

    David: Okay, I have to say I find that an incredible interpretation to take. The wording is: “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The specific prayer is that the world may believe that Jesus has been (truly) sent from the Father.

    You say: He prays that the world might know the love that God has for his covenant people.

    David: Can you show me where it states or implies that?

    You say: This is consistent with Scripture as it is clear that ultimately, all will know God’s glory, his glory which is displayed in its most magnificent fashion in Jesus, who dies for his covenant people.

    David: I think rather, its consistent with the system you have already in place, but I would like to see how its consistent with Scripture. No disrespect intended by the way.

    You say: I see that Jesus only prays salvifically for those whom the Father has given him, the elect, which includes the disciples, the believers who lived at the same time as Christ, and those who would believe throughout history. Observing this, I have no trouble saying that Jesus only intercedes salvifically for the elect.

    David: There is the fallacy of ambiguity or equivocation there. The term “elect” can refer to the class, all elect who lived, live and shall live, or it can refer to believers, at a given point in time, called or who are “elect.” For example: 1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

    Here “elect” does not mean the whole class, but to believers in these areas, who have been elected.

    In John 17, elect as a term is not even used. Rather, it is the given ones, which from the context refers to the 11–most likely–or to believers at the time. Therefor “world” in john 17 is never pictured as the class “non-elect.” That is, the “world” is not set in opposition to the comprehensive class, elect, but it is set in opposition to believers. Hence, world here does not denote the class non-elect. That has been a big Systematic assumption but without textual warrant.

    You say: In regards to the distinction of the elect: I am again having trouble following you here. Even though you may be able to make a distinction between the types of people who are elect, you must prove that Jesus does not pray for all these people.

    David: All I need to show–as a defeater to Wellum–is that the scope of the prayer is limited to the 1) believers, but that it also includes 2) the world. This defeats Wellum’s polemic that the scope of the prayer is to the elect, as a total class, to the exclusion of any prayer for the “world” which he just assumes means the total class of the non-elect. Then he makes his intercession-expiation correlation: as the first is limited, so is the second.

    All that can be demonstrated as fallacious reasoning.

    You say: In the context of the entire prayer, not just 1-12 where “he localizes his subjects,” Jesus prays for those who have believed and who will believe, thus, encompassing the entire class of the elect.

    David: No. Some elect are unbelievers. Some elect are yet-to-exist and so have no connection with belief. Jesus prays for “believers” who are perceived or conceptualized as existing in the future, in a believing state. There is no prayer for the total class of elect, simply considered. Think about what I am saying and I think you will see it.

  • Part 3
    You say: I see the same thing in Hebrews, specifically 7:25, where the Preacher writes that Jesus intercedes for “those who draw near to God.” The one thing that Scripture reveals is that those who draw near to God are only those who have been forgiven of sin through the work of the high priest.

    David: Exactly. Jesus intercession, as stated in the text, is limited to those who “draw near.” No inference, therefore, can be justified from this that he prays for all the elect as a class.

    Keep in mind in Wellum’s argument, the goal is, repeatedly, to argue that as there is a limitation in the one, there is a limitation in the other. However, Hebrews will not support such an inference.

    You say: As Calvinists, we would then have to argue that only those for whom God has elected draw near, and only those who draw near receive the benefits of the covenant death of Christ.

    David: Sure, as a Calvinist, I would agree. But in space and time, in the process of redemptive history, Christ prays for those who “draw near” as high priest. Any other inference is not sustainable from the text.

    You say: In regards to the accusation that Wellum and others commit the logical fallacy of “affirming the consequence: I believe what I have argued above shows the legitimacy of Wellum’s argument. I believe it is clear that as covenant mediator and priest, Jesus’ intercession and sacrifice are not only for elect-believers, but for the elect who will believe, those whom the Father has given him.

    David: Where tho? John says I prays for future believers. The are cognized in the divine-human mind as believers first and foremost. Their election is secondary. Youve made it primary. In Hebrews the prayer is expressly for those who come, ie believers. Again, there election is secondary, and only inferential.

    The fallacy I mentioned is correct. The textual data only supports this: All in-covenant are died-for. If one is a baptist then it would be more properly represented by this: all in-covenant are died-for and believe.

    So lets set that out in its simplest form: all in-covenant are died-for.

    However, Wellum wants to convert that into all died-for are in-covenant (or will be in-covenant).

    That s the fallacy I mentioned.

    If a man is dead, he is not breathing.
    This man is not breathing, therefore he is dead.

    That is the fallacy of affirming the consequence: as he may be holding his breath.

    You say: I am struggling to be persuaded by the logical categories you have proposed when the biblical-theological categories for covenant-priest and mediator are so clearly demonstrated by Dr. Wellum. I think that what Wellum assumes, as far as the structures, function, and role of Jesus and priest and mediator is concerned, is also assumed by Scripture.

    David: Okay, that’s a summary of the argument, but the biblical data is not there.

    You say: I believe that anyone opposing this position must exegetically and theologically show how Jesus, functioning as high priest and mediator, does not intercede for only those whom he represents (since all we know of priests is that they do), namely, the new covenant people, whom the Bible identifies as those who have received the benefits of the covenant.

    David: I do not understand what I am supposed to show from that paragraph. But sure, let’s grant that Christ only intercedes for those in-covenant. However, not all the elect are in-covenant. Right? Many are unbelievers, many do not even exist. Therefore one cannot flip the biblical data to mean Christ, as high Priest intercedes for all the elect, in and out of covenant.

    Again, keep in mind, Wellum’s logic.

    1) The scope of the intercession is limited to the elect.
    2) The scope of the expiation is limited to the elect.
    3) The scope of the intercession delimits the scope of the expiation.

    What I am showing is that 1) is not sustained by the biblical data. Therefore his inference 3) does not follow. And even if 1) was biblically sustainable, still 3) does not follow because of invalid move to affirm the consequent, etc etc.

    You say: I also believe that those who oppose this position must exegetically and theological demonstrate how the the new covenant is better and perfect if the general atonement view is correct, since it makes the new covenant no better than the old in accomplishing and securing salvation.

    David: Sure, its better, because just as the text says, Christ does not have to repeat his sacrifice every year, but by this ONE sacrifice, he saves to the uttermost, all who come to him: Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who *come* to God through him, *because* he always lives to intercede for them.

    Christ’s intercession is effectual for those who come. The OT high priest’s intercession was not.

    I suspect you want to locate some sort of certainty somewhere else, but where the biblical data actually does not point you to.

    You say: In regards to the offices of priest and king of the new covenant: I see no benefit in abandoning the massive biblical-theological categories of priest and mediator that are clearly ascribed to Christ because one does not see the same particularity in the office of king. More could be said, but I just do not see a strong case here.

    David: Okay. The point was, one cannot just a priorily make the assertions Wellum makes because the Kingly office, itself, is a counter-factual. Also Christ’s mediatorship is universal: There is no man for whom Christ has not sustained the office of divinely appointed mediator. Right?

    You say: As far as assuming a conclusion is concerned: Wellum and others assume that Jesus functions as a priest. What we know of priests is that they intercede and offer sacrifices for those whom they represent.

    David: Actually, it says of Jesus that he prayers for those who come to him. You are loading up the idea of “those he represents.” The biblical data says he prays for those who come to him, etc. Nowhere does it say that he prayers for all those he represented in terms of the expiatory offering. The logic behind that is:

    Christ prays for those for whom he died.
    Christ does not pray for the non-elect.
    Therefore Christ did not die for the non-elect.

    The problem is, where is the biblical support for the first premise. With respect, it should be something that Wellum could or should be able to readily adduce. But all he can do is show that Christ prays for those in-covenant. But those in-covenant, by definition is a smaller set than those for whom he dies, on everyone terms in this debate.

    You say: The old covenant consisted of a mixed community, therefore, the priests offered sacrifices on behalf of them.

    David: Exactly. In the OT, the yearly sacrificial offering was for the whole nation, for all their sins and for all their wickedness, Lev 16. I don’t know, therefore, how one can argue type to anti-type with that problematic stuck right there in the type.

    You say: In contrast, the new covenant consists of a regenerate community, of only believers, those who know God, have the Spirit, and experience full forgiveness of sins. Therefore, Christ represents the people of this new covenant, which is a better one, because all those who are in it receive the benefits of it. This, I contend, is what Wellum assumes.

    David: Sure, thats more precise, he “represents” those in the New Covenant. I have no problem with that; as long as we mean, as High Priest.

    Just to let you know, I am a Prebyterian, and a classic-moderate Calvinist. If you want to continue the conversation, I would be more than willing.

    Thanks for your time,
    David

  • I should have proofed that better. Sorry about that. My brain kept writing Prayers for, and I didnt see that until too late.

  • Just as a ps thought, I really do think that this idea that as the office of Christ as high priest must be the same, as to extent, as the office of Christ as prophet or King is just question begging.

    As prophet, Christ bears a two-fold relationship with men, as universal prophet calling all men to repentance and speaking judgement to the impenitent, through the Spirit, Jn 16:18, he is also the prophet for the nation of Israel, to whom Israel was to look to (acts 3:22; Deuteronomy 18:15), Christ is also the special prophet for his people. Likewise, his Kingship is over the world, over the visible church, and over the invisible church, as church universal and militant. Likewise he I can with good reason say his priestly function has a similar two-fold aspect, as sacrificial lamb be offers up his own body a sacrifice for the sin of the world (john 1:29, 1 Tim 2:6, 1 John 2:2, etc), and yet as priest, he effectually prays for all those who call upon him.

    One last thought, as the OT yearly sacrifice was for the visible nation in the OT, what would preclude the anti-type being for the same universal visible church, which is made up of elect and non-elect, in as much as it is made up of all professing believers? Only now the “amplification” is that this body is made up of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, etc. You see, I think arguing from simple typology is very problematic.

    Thanks for your patience,
    David

    • David, thanks for blowing up my iPhone today while I was at work! You’ll have to give me awhile to be able to read, think through, and maybe even give some kind of reply back. I may take you up on your email suggestion.

      Thanks,

      Jonathan

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You are currently reading What Do The Biblical Covenants Have To Do With The Extent Of The Atonement? Part 2 at Jonathan E. Swan.

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