The Evangelical Calvin: Atonement Edition

John-Calvin

In this post, I would simply like to offer a selection of quotations from John Calvin on what Christ accomplished in the atonement and its implications for the world. I do not want to offer any comments or reflections but just allow the cumulative weight of these statements have their effect. Without further adieu, here is Calvin:

The Holy Spirit commands us to pray for all, because our only Mediator admits all to come to him; just as by his death he reconciled all to the Father.[1]

[T]hough Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.[2]

[I]t is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.[3]

Luke emphasizes this even more, teaching that the salvation provided by Christ is common to all mankind. For Christ, the Author of salvation, was begotten of Adam, the common father of us all [Luke 3:38].[4]

[The] Redeemer of the world . . . was there, as it were, in the person of all cursed ones and of all transgressors, and of those who had deserved eternal death . . . and bears the burdens of all those who had offended God mortally.[5]

[Christ] willed in full measure to appear before the judgment seat of God His Father in the name and in the person of all sinners, being then ready to be condemned, inasmuch as He bore our burden.[6]

But here there is a special regard. It is that He must be the Redeemer of the world. He must be condemned, indeed, not for having preached the Gospel, but for us He must be oppressed, as it were, to the lowest depths and sustain our cause, since He was there, as it were, in the person of all cursed ones and of all transgressors, and of those who had deserved eternal death.[7]

It is also a fact, without controversy, that Christ came to atone for the sins of the whole world.[8]

This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death—that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated.[9]

Thus his flesh, which proceeded from the seed of Abraham, since it was the temple of God, possessed a vivifying power; yea, the death of Christ became the life of the world.[10]

Hence it follows, that what led him to pray to be delivered from death was the dread of a greater evil. When he saw the wrath of God exhibited to him, as he stood at the tribunal of God charged with the sins of the whole world, he unavoidably shrunk with horror from the deep abyss of death.[11]

Now, then, the blame lies solely with ourselves, if we do not become partakers of this salvation; for he calls all men to himself, without a single exception, and gives Christ to all, that we may be illuminated by him.[12]

Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Saviour. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.[13]

Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favour of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.[14]

When he declares that he did not come to condemn the world, he thus points out the actual design of his coming; for what need was there that Christ should come to destroy us who were utterly ruined? We ought not, therefore, to look at any thing else in Christ, than that God, out of his boundless goodness, chose to extend his aid for saving us who were lost; and whenever our sins press us—whenever Satan would drive us to despair—we ought to hold out this shield, that God is unwilling that we should be overwhelmed with everlasting destruction, because he has appointed his Son to be the salvation of the world.[15]

It was God who appointed his Son to be the Propitiator, and who determined that the sins of the world should he expiated by his death.[16]

It is, as I have already said, that, seeing that men are created in the image of God and that their souls have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we must try in every way available to us to draw them to the knowledge of the gospel.[17]

For it is no small matter to have the souls perish which were bought by the blood of Christ.[18]

Behold the Turks which cast away the grace which was purchased for all the world by Jesus Christ: the Jews do the like: the Papists, although they say not so openly, they show it in effect. . . . And thus we see now, how men are not partakers of this benefit, which was purchased them by our Lord Jesus Christ.[19]

Also we ought to have good care of those that have been redeemed with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we see souls which have been so precious to God go to perdition, and we make nothing of it, that is to despise the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.[20]

And what shall we do when we see souls in peril, which are so precious before God, as he has shown in that he has ransomed them with the blood of his own Son?[21]

Because to see souls created in the image of God move toward their own damnation is hardly a light matter, especially souls that were redeemed at such a cost by the blood of God’s son.[22]

And indeed, our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. . . . Our Lord Jesus suffered for all and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for we can obtain salvation in Him.[23]

It was God who appointed his Son to be the Propitiator, and who determined that the sins of the world should he expiated by his death.[24]

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[1] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. p.59

[2] Calvin, J. & Owen, J., 2010. Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. p.211

[3] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. p.157

[4] Calvin, J., 2011. Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2 J. T. McNeill, ed., Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. II.xiii.3

[5] Calvin, J., 1997. The Deity of Christ and Other Sermons. Audubon: Old Paths. p.55

[6] Ibid., p.52

[7] Ibid., p.95

[8] Calvin, J. & Cole, H.H., 1856. Calvin’s Calvinism: A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God, London: Wertheim and Macintosh. p.150

[9] Calvin, J. & Pringle, J., 2010. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. p.148

[10] Calvin, J. & Owen, J., 2010. Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. p.180

[11] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol.3, p.234

[12] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 3, p.295

[13] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 1, pp.122-123

[14] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 1, p.125

[15] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 1, p.126

[16] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 2, p.106.

[17] Calvin, J., 2008. Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 1–7, trans. Rob Roy McGregor, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p.593

[18] Calvin, J., 1983. Sermons of M. John Calvin, on the Epistles of S. Paule to Timothie and Titus. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, p.817.

[19] Ibid., p.177

[20] Calvin, J., 1973. Sermons on Ephesians, trans. A. Golding; rev. S. M. Houghton and L. Rawlinson. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p.521

[21] Ibid. pp-684-685

[22] Calvin, J., 2003. Sermons on the Book of Micah, trans. and ed. Benjamin Wirt Farley. Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, p.371

[23] Calvin, J., 1956. Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ, trans. T. H. L. Parker. London: Clarke, p.141.

[24] Calvin, J. & Pringle, W., 2010. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. Vol. 2, p.106.

*Special thanks to Paul Hartog for directing me to these quotes.

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2 thoughts on “The Evangelical Calvin: Atonement Edition

  1. MarkO 25 August 2016 / 03:41

    This is excellent. I am of the opinion that “limited atonement” cannot be ascribed to Calvin. He of course saw the application of the Atonement defined by election not the cross event.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan Kleis 25 August 2016 / 04:20

      I glad you found this helpful MarkO! Thanks for letting me know; I greatly appreciate the feedback. And yes, I agree with your assessment of how Calvin understood the ultimate application of the atonement as conditioned by election and, of course, the inner working of the Spirit to render effectual the preaching of the gospel in the elect.

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