The day Adam disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, he died spiritually. He did not become spiritually sick, weak or partially paralyzed, but spiritually dead. Did God not tell Adam that the day he sinned he would die? We must insist that he died that day and that God did not simply mean that physical death would begin in Adam that day. That is true; it did begin in him and was complete 930 years later. But spiritual death came completely that day. And that is why Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be born again before we can even see the kingdom of heaven. We must be given a new spiritual life before we can even want salvation or know wherein it consists. And we must be born again with that new spiritual life, because having died spiritually that day, Adam and Eve had no spiritual life that they could hand down to their children. A parent cannot hand down to his child what he does not have. That is why we need to be born again. In fact, what Jesus told Nicodemus is that we must be born from above, born with something that is beyond our reach and which no one here below on this earth can give us.
And now another truth, young people, that we must maintain is that God gives this new life only to those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world. We must understand and believe that this gift of everlasting life is a very, very limited gift, that is, limited to a special group of people. Christ did not die to make it possible for all men who hear the preaching to be saved. He died for a definite number of people, and for definite members of the human race, and for no other people. In the angel world there is no salvation. All the fallen angels perish. In the world of mankind only a small percentage of the human race is saved, because God decided before He created the world to blot out the sins of a limited number of people and of definite individuals of the human race.
Read once again Ephesians 1:4, 5. There we are told: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him; in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Here we clearly have a limited atonement as well as an unconditional election. God chose us in Christ before we were born, in fact before Adam was created and was there to fulfill any condition. But take special note of the fact now that Paul writes that we were chosen in Christ so that we should become holy and without blame before Him. If we want to be honest with Scripture—and we must!—then we have to say and must insist upon the truth that we were not holy and without blame when we were born the first time and to our earthly parents. Why would God choose us to become holy and without blame, if we came into this world with a small spark of holiness and a little bit of blamelessness? If we deny total depravity and will not call it absolute depravity and insist that man only became spiritually weak and partially paralyzed, but had some good points in him so that he could want salvation and fulfill the condition of accepting Christ, why did God have to choose us? Then the atonement of Christ was for every man in the human race and God would not have to choose some in Christ. In fact, then Paul should have written that God chose us in Christ because we had a small part of holiness and blamelessness.
Most of the church world today insults rather than praises God, because it is maintained that Christ’s cross was and realized an unlimited atonement. John 3:16 is quoted to defend such a stand. It is true that John quotes Jesus as saying that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But that word “world” does not, and plainly cannot mean every man, woman and child in the world. The text itself shows that to be the case. To that we will come in a moment. But that same John quotes that same Jesus as saying in John 17:9, “I will pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.” This same John writes in I John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Jesus does not say that one who loves the world does not have very much love of the Father. No, here again total depravity means that we come into this world without any love for God. Total depravity means absolute depravity, a hopeless condition as far as man is concerned. But even more, John writes that we must not love the world, and he makes a sharp distinction between the world and the things in the world. There is then a question as to whether that word “world” here means the unbelievers or creation. For the word Jesus uses here is the word cosmos. But turn to John 17:9 where the same word is used in the Greek as in John 3:16. There we read: “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me; for they are Thine.” Plainly Jesus is speaking of people, not simply material of the universe. Then skip down to John 17:5. There we find these words, “I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Can that mean anything else than that Jesus is speaking of people, and that God does not love all the people in the world?
Even if you want to take that word “world” to mean this universe rather than to refer to the unbelieving people in this world, the fact remains that John writes here in I John 2:15 that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. There is then a world that God does not love. And why make a distinction between the world and the things in the world, if you want that word world to mean the inanimate and irrational creation God brought forth?
As pointed out a moment ago, the word “world” in John 3:16 cannot mean every man, woman and child in the world. For Jesus plainly states here that God loves only those that believe in Him. And He, Jesus, continues and states: “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” Get that, young people! The world God and Jesus have in mind here is the world that God DOES save, not tries to save and “invites” to come and get salvation. And remember that we are speaking here of God, the Almighty and Sovereign One. If He has to wait and see whether one will accept His “invitation,” is He almighty and sovereign? Many do not “accept the invitation” in Arminian preaching. Then God fails! Then He is not sovereign and does not rule all men; but most of those who hear the preaching rule God and make Him disappointed. Perish the thought! Have nothing to do with such God-insulting philosophies! He is the I AM. Many who hear the preaching but reject Christ make Him the I WAS! John 3:16 does not mean that Jesus says here, “I AM one Who loves everybody that comes into this world; but many of them can make Me one Who has to say, ‘I WAS one Who loved all men in the world; but many changed me and made me one Who can by the creature be forced to change My mind and My heart.’” No, a thousand times NO! The atonement, the satisfaction of God’s justice and removal of guilt by the cross of Christ, is limited to a people He from all eternity has loved and continues to love everlastingly in the new creation.
What kind of love is it that lets the object of that love turn it to hatred? God loves everybody in the world and sends His Son to the cross and to hell, so that they may be saved; but that love is not great enough to give them the faith that they need to obtain salvation? God loves everybody; and that love is so strong that He will send His Son to suffer all that agony for nothing? Yes, a few will be saved; but most of those God loves can keep Him from saving them and dealing in love with them? Here you have the lie of Satan. Men can become like God and know what is good and what is evil. It is good for him to refuse to “accept Christ’ and evil to believe in Him. No, let us hold fast to the truth that He is God and gets His way every time and in everything He sets out to do.
Young people, let Scripture interpret Scripture. In John 10:11 Jesus, Who spoke of God’s love for the world in John 3:16, says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” That reference to sheep excludes wolves and clearly teaches a very limited atonement. In verse 14 He states, “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine.” Here again we certainly have limited atonement on the cross of Christ. Very limited is that atonement as Jesus Himself declares in verse 15. He states, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” That excludes many people in this world. To some in this world Jesus said in verse 26, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.” Can you find a more limited atonement? All in the world are not His sheep; and He does not lay down His life to give all men in the world a chance to be saved. As the Almighty Sovereign God He takes no chances. And giving men a chance means that He takes chances. What a weak, shameful love that would be to risk and take a chance that the ones you love might go to hell! And why was not the gospel given to more people in the Old Testament dispensation, if God loves everybody in the world? Why were many nations not given the gospel long before God sent missionaries there, if He loved all the men in the world? Why would He let some of the atonement of Christ go to waste, if He loved everybody? How can we even call that love?
Hold on to the truth, young people, that all those whom God loves will be saved and will be given the grace to believe in Christ and His cross as the way of their salvation. The atonement of Christ on His cross was not a possible way of salvation, or a salvation contingent upon what man would do. It was a successful, triumphant way whereby the sins of a limited number of people in the human race, and of definite individuals who were chosen by God eternally and long before they were born, were completely blotted out and removed from them.
We were chosen to receive a very particular atonement; and our faith in Christ is the evidence that God chose us, in distinction from many others in the world, not only to have our sins blotted out, but also to be given faith in His Son and what He did through His cross. God decided for whom Christ would die. Totally depraved sinners do not make the choice for the sovereign, almighty and unchangeable God.