The FACTS of Salvation
A: Atonement for All

, posted by Martin Glynn

Atonement for All (the A in FACTS) [Cf. Article 2 of the 5 Articles of the Remonstrance]

As observed above, due to total depravity, no one can be saved unless God takes the initiative. The good news is that, since “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), “his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps. 135:14), he loves even his enemies (Matt 5:38-43), he “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9), and he does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they repent of their sins and live (Ezek. 18:23, 33), he has taken the initiative by sending his only Son to die for the sins of the world. As John 3:16-18 so beautifully tell us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” God has provided for the forgiveness of sins and salvation of every person by the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinful humanity. Indeed, by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9). As 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (NIV). After the statement of 1 Tim 2:4 quoted above that “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” the following verses from 1 Timothy continue, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:5-6). Indeed, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 11:10), “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:9), “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14; cf. John 4:42), God is “the Savior of all people” (1 Tim 4:10), Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), who “died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6), and “died for all” (2 Cor 5:14-15) when “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus even died for those who reject him and his word, deny him, and perish (Luke 22:17-21; John 12:46-48; Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11; 2 Pet 2:1; Heb 10:29). The provision of atonement has been made for as many as sin, which is all people (Rom 3:22-25; 5:18).

But even though Jesus died for all and has provided atonement for all, the intent of the atonement provided was that its actual application (which grants the forgiveness of sins, righteous status with God, and salvation) be conditional on faith in Jesus Christ. This is stated rather clearly in John 3:16-18 quoted above. Out of love, God sacrificed his only Son for the world so that those from the world who trust in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice will benefit from that atoning sacrifice and be saved while those from the world who reject that atoning sacrifice in unbelief will not benefit from it but remain condemned and perish (cf. various other passages that make it clear that faith is the condition upon which and the means by which forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation are received, for example: Luke 8:12; John 1:12; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom 1:16; chs. 3–4; 10:9-10; 1 Cor 1:21; Gal 2:16; ch. 3; Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16). Since the atonement was provided for all, making salvation available to all, Scripture sometimes portrays justification as potential for all people (Rom 3:22-25; 5:18) even though not all will ultimately be saved. Although God desires that all believe and be saved through Christ’s blood, many will perish, not for lack of the availability of salvation, but because they reject the saving provision made for them in Christ’s death and have “not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Similarly, Scripture’s references to God or Christ as the Savior of the world/all (John 4:42; 1 Tim 4:10; 1 John 4:14) do not mean that all will actually be saved, but that the Father and the Son have provided salvation for all that is effective only for those who believe. As 1 Tim 4:10 itself says, “we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” And Titus 2:11 can give encouragement to believers to present a good witness for Christ to the unbelieving world with this reason: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Indeed, it is Christ’s unlimited atonement that serves as the necessary foundation of the genuine offer of salvation held out to all in the gospel and is in accord with the command to preach the gospel to all. For example, speaking to a general Jewish audience, the Apostle Peter based a call to repentance on the work of Christ and implied that work was for everyone in his audience when he assured them that God sent Christ to turn each of them from their sin:

18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. . . 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him [Christ] to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. (Act 3:18-21, 26)

As Luke 24:45-47 reports, “Then he [Christ] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them [his apostles], ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (cf. Matt 28:18-20; Acts 17:30).

See Dr. Brian Abasciano’s full write-up of the whole FACTS acronym here: