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The Refusal of Forgiveness
By David A. DePra
"God imposed His wrath due unto (Christ), and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last (all men)...then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved. If the second...Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief ’...But this unbelief, is it a sin or not?...If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it...then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died…" (John Owen, Puritan Reformer 1616-83)
This is an erroneous Calvinistic argument FOR the doctrine of the Limited Atonement. Calvinism teaches that Jesus died ONLY for the elect, because God never intended to save anyone except the elect. The rest of mankind was always elected to hell. This is, of course, the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election.
The English in the above is difficult, but what it boils down to is this: If Jesus paid the full punishment for sin for everyone, and that punishment was hell, then how can any – even unbelievers – still go to hell for sin? Didn’t Jesus already pay that price for them? Wouldn’t this mean that God has exacting DOUBLE PAYMENT?
This argument came to be know the, "double payment," argument. Owens reasons that if Jesus died for ALL, then He was punished for ALL, and therefore no one can any longer be punished, because if they were, then God would be punishing them for sins Jesus was already punished for. To the Calvinist, this proves that Jesus died ONLY for the elect, and never died for any one else. To them, this eliminates the impossibility of double payment.
The above argument was written by Puritan John Owen, and is parroted continually by those who teach Calvinism. Those who support Calvinism consider it to be irrefutable logic, and frankly, banter this argument about like it is some kind of a cute and snappy comeback to those who differ with them. What this argument does, however, is betray the appalling ignorance of those who believe it. If you believe this argument you simply do not understand the meaning of the Redemption, nor the meaning of what Jesus called, "the sin that has no forgiveness."
The Death of Jesus
Since this argument is a logical one, and ignores the scripture that exposes it as error, I want to begin with logic. As is usually the case with most logical arguments that seem perfect – but are in error – this one is based on a false premise.
I want to begin with the Truth: Jesus died for ALL. Not just, "the elect" -- but for ALL. That means Jesus died for ALL sin for ALL mankind. He DID pay the penalty for all sin. But – and this is where Calvinism errs as to premise – Jesus did NOT die for the sin of unbelief. That’s right. I’m talking about the ultimate sin of unbelief – the refusal of Christ as Savior. In short, Jesus did not pay for the sin of refusing His death AS payment for sin.
Now, if you think about this, you will know that what I am saying is the Truth. If Jesus died EVEN for the sin of refusing His death, then His death is meaningless, for then you could refuse His death – but His death would still save you. So why did He bother to die at all? Nonsense. Yet if you read the statement by John Owen, his entire logic is built on the false assumption that non-Calvinists believe that Jesus did pay for the sin of refusing His death AS payment.
The Bible teaches that Jesus did not pay for the sin of refusing His death as payment -- which sin is the ultimate unbelief. Thus, this is the ONE sin that will send people to hell. And it is NOT double payment – because Jesus did not die for that sin.
Note also: What sends me to hell is not all of the sins I have committed – all of which Jesus paid for. No. What sends me to hell is this NEW SIN – if I can call it that – the sin of refusing Jesus’ payment. This is a NEW SIN because I cannot commit it until I have light brought to me about what Jesus did for me. Then I am accountable.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
Of course, what we are really talking about here is what Jesus called, "the sin that has no forgiveness." The sin which has no forgiveness is the refusal of God’s forgiveness. God cannot forgive the refusal of His forgiveness. Otherwise, His forgiveness through Christ is meaningless – you can refuse it and be forgiven for refusing forgiveness. Impossible, and really amoral.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the refusal of God’s forgiveness in Christ because it is the Holy Spirit that convicts the world of sin. (see John 16:8) This is why it is the sin which, according to Jesus, "has not forgiveness." God cannot forgive the refusal of His forgiveness. Jesus did not die for the refusal of His death.
So what we see is that Jesus died – paid for through His death – every sin ever committed by ever human being. But He did not die for the refusal of His death as payment – a sin that is only possible once the Holy Spirit brings light and conviction. But take note: At that point, it is not so much that all of my other sins condemn me to hell. No. For Jesus paid for those. Rather, it is my refusal of Jesus’ payment for those sins that condemn me. That refusal is the ultimate sin of unbelief. It is the refusal of God’s forgiveness.
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