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Chosen, Calvinism 4

Limited Atonement

051-00762                                                                             Ephesians 1:3-7

I. Dog lovers know something about dogs that others don’t.

A. They know that their dog, with training, will learn to recognize and respond to their masters.

1. Dogs love to please because dogs love to be loved.

2. Cats, on the other hand, are quite independent.

a) They come and go as they please. They do what they want.

b) And even though cats can be trained, it is only with great difficulty and often there are slips into their old behaviors.

c) You cannot train a cat to stop clawing your drapes. It is so embedded in their nature to claw things that people have their claws removed.

3. But you can train dogs. You can teach them to stop digging holes. You can teach them not to climb on the furniture. You can teach them to play catch with a ball.

4. Dogs learn their master’s voice and they learn to respond to that voice.

5. I know I am talking in generalities and that there are always exceptions. But let me use pit bulls as an example.

a) Pit bulls are among the most dangerous dogs in the world.

b) But pit bull owners seem surprised when the terrible happens.

c) The reason is that within the home in which they are raised, they learn the smells and voices of those they learn will not harm them.

d) Pit bulls are very loyal dogs.

B. Now Jesus spoke about sheep in the same manner.

1. In the Gospel According to John, Jesus took upon himself the image of the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23.

2. John 10:1-5 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

3. It is important to understand this image because Jesus is talking about us. We are his sheep. We are not of another fold. We hear his voice.

4. The question is, how do we know we are his sheep and not someone else’s sheep?

II. The answer.

A. John 10:24-29 (NIV) The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe…you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

1. What is Jesus saying?  Let’s break it down.

a) My sheep listen to my voice. I know my sheep.

b) My sheep follow me. I give my sheep eternal life.

c) My sheep are secure. No one can snatch them away.

d) My sheep are my sheep because my Father gave them to me.

2. Did you catch that? God gave his sheep to Jesus the Good Shepherd.

3. To emphasize the truth, Jesus tells those testing him, “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.” He could not have been clearer.

B. Paul was one of God’s sheep.

1. There was a time when he did not know it. But when Jesus spoke to him, he did. Paul heard his voice and his life was changed.

2. He did not care where he was led. He knew his Shepherd’s voice and he followed it and obeyed it because he trusted the Great Shepherd.

C. As one who was of the fold of Christ, Paul also taught others to hear and follow the voice of the Shepherd.

1. Ephesians 1:3-7 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…

2. As before, let’s break it down into bite sized pieces.

a) God chose his sheep before the creation of the world.

(1) No explanation for how God chose is made.

(2) But the implication is clear. God did not choose his sheep based upon what he knew about his sheep.

(3) What he would know about his sheep derives from his choice.

b) So, subsequent to God’s choice, he then predestined his sheep to become a part of his fold.

(1) Paul calls this “adopted as his children through Jesus.”

(2) God chose his sheep and then he created the world mindful of his choice in such a way that his sheep are destined to be brought into his fold.

c) How did God choose to create his sheep? “In accordance with his pleasure and will.” He chose to create a world with his sheep because he wanted to.

d) Why did God choose to create his sheep? He made his sheep so that in the world they would reflect his holiness and righteousness brining praise for his glorious grace.

(1) To this end and for this reason, God gives his sheep his grace freely in Jesus who died to redeem us through his blood.

(2) There is more to be said about all of this and Paul does go on.

(3) However, today we stop here because all of this raises some pretty serious issues.

III. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the salvation of God’s sheep.

A. No Christian would disagree with this statement.

1. Yet there is disagreement regarding the nature of God’s sheep.

2. For there are many who would teach that it is the sheep who get to decide if they are God’s sheep or not.

3. Or more to the point, it is the sheep who get to decide if the blood of the Good Shepherd can redeem them.

4. The two positions are focused on the efficiency of the blood of Jesus.

a) Either he shed his blood for all the sheep in the world and some of them could choose to let it cleanse them or he shed his blood only for his sheep and therefore his blood is totally efficient for the purposes and will of God the Father.

b) Who makes the choice? God or human beings?

B. Paul says it is all with God.

1. His words to the Ephesians (and the Romans, and the Corinthians, and everyone else) cannot lead us to any other conclusion.

2. God chose to have sheep.

3. God chose to destine those sheep to belong to him.

4. God chose to send his Son to die for the sheep that belong to him.

5. Those are the sheep that he loves. Those are the sheep that he tends. Those are the sheep that are led to green pastures and clear waters. Those are the sheep that shall be satisfied. Those are the sheep that shall dwell in his house forever. Those are the sheep that shall glorify and praise him for his abundantly rich grace show to them.

C. And Jesus said the same thing.

1. John 10:14-15 (NIV) “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

2. Which sheep? The sheep he knows and who know him.

IV. The Reformers put the testimony of Scripture together and concluded:

A. All human beings are lost, destined for eternal judgment, and are unable to choose to be any different than they are.

B. God, who is sovereign, chose, before creation, to make some human beings to glorify him and serve him. Since this choice was before creation, it was made solely out of God’s free will. There is no condition any human could meet to deserve God’s choice because no human existed yet.

C. God, who created some human beings to fulfill this his intention to be worshipped, served, and glorified, also provided for their redemption from sin by sending his one and only Son to die for them.

D. God’s Son did not die for those who are not created by God for the purpose of worshipping him, serving him, and glorifying him.

E. This progression of biblical teaching is summarized for us in Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; and Limited Atonement.

V. However, though the teaching of Scripture is clear, the point called Limited Atonement, that Jesus died only for the sheep that are his, is one of the most emotionally charged issues in the church.

A. It is not as important to those who are not in the church because as Jesus said, they are not his sheep; they do not hear his voice; they do not believe.

1. Why is Limited Atonement so difficult to accept by we who are his sheep?

2. I think it is because it is hard for us to submit to the sovereignty of God.

B. For me, it is hard to accept that God chose me for no reason in me.

1. I want to be worthy. I want to be worthy because I want to feel more significant that you who are not worthy. I want to have control over my own destiny. I want to have some kind of control over God.

2. I am a sinner and even though I have been forgiven and adopted, I have not yet learned to completely surrender to my master’s voice.

C. Now, here’s what I discover when I do let go of my will and fall into God’s.

1. There is no greater comfort than the realization that I am not able to please God. I do not have to work to be saved. I only need my shepherd’s voice.

2. There is no greater assurance that I can have in this life that I belong to Jesus or that Jesus shall watch over me and protect me and sustain me than my shepherd’s voice.

3. There is no source of hope in darkness than my shepherd’s voice.

4. There is no greater pleasure and joy than to hear my shepherd’s voice.

D. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.

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