It is important to understand the definition of heresy. For instance, the word for “Master” (kurion) implies that deniers stand to the Lord in the relation of slaves, bondservants or more properly, one who is captive. The Lord had bought them; they were not their own, but his, bought with a price, “not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18; see also the parallel passage Jude 1:4).
The denial referred to appears to have been doctrinal or practical; for most of the ancient forms of heresy involved some grave error as to the Person of Christ and/or to His work; appearing very early in the Church (see 1 John 2:22, 23), in some cases denying the Godhead, in other cases his humanity, while in others what He actually did – literally “takes away the sin of the world.”
Universalism claims that Orthodoxy has denied Christ did anything in teaching a limited or postponed atonement. Nowhere in the Old Testament does God depend on the choice of the individual in deciding application. It is the High Priest who performs the sacrifice and God who performs the forgiveness of sins – “And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them… for their ignorance” (Num. 15:25). The congregation is “ignorant” and not responsible for the application any more than they are responsible for any error on the part of the High Priest. – “And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with the entire congregation?” (Num. 16:22). No, He will not be wrathful forever. Rather, with the High Priest’s righteous act, God is well pleased with the ignorant congregation – all of humanity; for “even as, through the disobedience of the one man [Adam], the many [all humans] were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One [Jesus Christ], the many [all humans] are constituted just” (Rom. 5:19 CLV amplified).
These words plainly assert the universality of the Lord’s redemption. He “tasted death for all men” (Hebrews 2:9), even for those false teachers who denied him. The damnable heresy apparently limits the extent of the work of Christ “in us,” by limiting atonement, thus cutting others off in their ignorance. Traditional Orthodoxy supports that Christ’s purchase of humanity is contingent upon something and partial in application.
There is good ground in claiming that a damnable heresy is one that has God’s will subject to man or has it partial in redemption. The subjugation of God willing to save all to man’s choice determines God’s failure. Alternately, if Man has God partial in His election He also fails in willing that all should not perish but come to the truth. This is not only contradictory but makes God arbitrary and unreasonable. In either case, there is no real good reason for a limited or truncated atonement. His justice is made more than it should be and His grace less than super abounding with sin prevailing. In the case where man decides, God must be forever disappointed, while in the other God is sadistically pleased – He must be, for He cannot be disappointed with His own determinations!
Obviously, the view of a partial God has led some believers to “boast” about their salvation resulting in Paul’s rebuking them. “It is by grace, through faith, and not of any works.” Both grace and faith are measured gifts given to all men. Therefore, unlike salvation, atonement is not an offer up for grabs, but a propitiated and imputed free gift acquired by the sacrifice of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who, like the High Priest of Old Testament times, applied it to all people. Salvation is our affected awareness of such a wonderful gift, while the atonement is the cause. It is God in us reconciling us while we are sinners – unbelievers. It is He that awakens us to salvation and not by our works of decision. We awaken to His salvation because He chooses us.
The other gospel that Paul warned about and the “damnable heresy” Peter mentions is makes the cause the effect, and the effect the cause. Limiting the atonement is the major woe in saying what is universal is limited, and what is limited is eternal - “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). The good churchmen have God, contrary to His goodness to all (“The LORD is good to all” Ps. 145:9,) only good to some and His mercy over a few. They establish darkness forever where God promised enlightenment - “the light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world” (Jn. 1:9). They have fermented the sweet “well-message” into a bitter taste and turned the Eucharist into vinegar. Frankly, they limit the application of the atonement of Christ, postpone its application, make confession and salvation the obtaining of it rather than the acknowledgment of it, and bring to question God’s restitution of all. They make His will a wish and human will the determiner. They favor the falsity that all Israel will be saved, but not all the Gentiles. They allow the unbelief of man to thwart the law (will) of God and have the sinner reap what another has sown. To them, the sun only shines and rain only falls on some. They have God cut men off forever, making the Harrowing of Hell a mythology. Briefly, Christ’s atonement hangs from the Cross-like Aesop’s grapes, accessible only to the tallest of patrons.
Truly, the damnable heresy is the one that limits Christ as the “shelter of all” and “the heir to all.” The repercussions are horrible and the consequences are evidently seen in the divisiveness within the house of the Lord – We may well hear on Judgment Day: “I choose God!” “No you didn’t!” “God chose me! Not you!” The Church today has adopted the seat (rule, doctrine) of Satan, his practices, and much of it is neither hot for the Lord to save all, nor cold in that He saves none. It is lukewarm in its partiality.
The definition of the New Testament atonement is found in the Levite definition of sacrifice. It was defined by God as an effective and symbolic foreshadow or “type” of the final “finished” sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus the Anointed, in fulfilling the Law of Moses. In comparison, the goat died for the sins of all the people of Israel, just as Christ died for the sins of all the people of the world. No other definition fulfills the law!
Salvation in the New Testament is the becoming aware of this imputation. In the Old Testament, it is the individual understanding of what the Priest has done to satisfy the God on behalf of all the people. The Priest obtains the atonement for all the people, whereas believing it brings an awareness or “assurance” of that “exchange of life.” In each case the unawareness or ignorance of it does not necessarily mean the “exchange of life” did not take place.
Old Testament typology plainly demonstrates the widespread application of Christ’s atonement upon all people. The Mosaic Law of sacrifice demonstrates this atonement of “SIN” (singular) as an affective and “universally applied” covering, singularly covering all, by having the Priest bring the sacrificial lamb (the SIN offering) to be slain as a “propitiatory shelter” or vicarious sacrifice for the SIN(s) of all the people. This was for “all the house of Israel” (Lev.16:17. 2 Chron. 29:24), which means “everyone” (2 Chron. 30:18). We see that God “IS-WILLING” (thelei) a covering over all adversity by His “sheltering” all the people of Israel (2 Chron. 29:24). Thus, according to the Old Testament definition, atonement is imputed to the corporate body by proxy of a vicarious sacrifice, through the responsibility of the Priest. In this grace-age, the priest is Christ, and “Israel” symbolizes all of humanity, especially those believing (Gal. 3:28-29, 6:16 and 1 Tim. 4:10).
This is truly God’s love: “Not that humanity loves God, but that God loves humanity, and dispatches His Son Jesus, the Anointed, as a propitiatory shelter effecting all of humanity’s sins” (1 Jn. 4:10. CLV amplified). Truly, the Lord “hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). Truly, the grace of God is all-inclusive, as He “should be tasting death for the sake of everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Universal atonement is as prominent as the nose on your face.
Discrimination and partiality was nothing new in Paul’s days. Men of all generations have a tendency to build a false view around a God that favors them at the expense of others. This is exclusivism! The Roman Christians were drifting away from the truth “once delivered to the Saints.” Apparently, Paul refreshed the truth that they make no distinction between Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner, with respect to Christ’s Propitiation: “Yet now, apart from law [works and rituals], a righteousness [PROPITIATION] of God is manifest (being attested by the law and the O.T. prophets) [See, Lev.16:17. 2 Chron. 29:24], yet a righteousness of God through Jesus Christ’s faith [displayed in His work], into/for all [mankind], and [especially] on all who are believing, for there is no distinction [between “all” mankind, and those especially believing], for all sinned [equally] and are wanting of the glory of God – [thus, all mankind] being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance, which is in [the Propitiatory work of] Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-24 Emphasis added in brackets).
The mercy and forgiveness of God was in the death of the goat. It gave its life to the people as a whole. This was an “exchange of life,” the very heart of the atonement. The picture is vivid in that the sinful lives of the people had been placed on the goat, and this caused the death of the goat. However, in the death of this goat, the life of the animal was given to the people – free of charge, and free of good works. God then saw Israel, as He now sees all people, as cleansed from sin and as having a new life. Most people are just not aware of it.
Nevertheless, the sacrifice is intended as personal. As individuals personalized this “exchange of life” for themselves, they become aware they are forgiven. The idea of it as “an offer” never crossed Aaron’s mind!
The other aspect of the Day of Atonement sacrifice served to bring into sharper focus the personal forgiveness of sin. The high priest laid his hands upon a second goat, symbolically transferring to it the sins of the people. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, thus making clear God’s intent to remember no more the sins against his people. This illustrated that renewal, or a new beginning (2 Cor. 5:17 - Paul’s “passing of the primitive” and the new creation), was possible, and that the past did not cling to the community or individual anymore. Unlike those who deny the Lord who bought them, those who grasped this for themselves were assured of the forgiveness of sins and were brought into a personal relationship with God, and understood the forgiveness of others sins. Surely, this abolishes the judging of others, least the judging return back to the giver.
The age-old question as to whether God has done it with those who do not consent or who disbelieve is answered by St. John for those that question the extent of Christ’s atonement. John declared that Christ “is the propitiatory shelter concerned with our sins, yet not concerned with ours only, but concerned with the whole world also”(1 Jn. 2:2) John just as well have said, without lessening the meaning, that “Christ is the propitiatory ‘shelter’ atoning for all Israelites, who understand (or believe), yet not with these exclusively, but is equally so, the propitiatory ‘shelter’ atoning for the sins of the whole world, and those who do not yet understand or believe.”
Paul also understood this by affirming that God was in Christ conciliating the whole world (all mankind) to Himself, and not just some of the people. We might hear Paul saying, that, if anyone is mindful of Christ, they are aware of this new creation or “exchange of life.” For, “the “primitive [Old Man, Adam] is passed by, and that there has become this newness of the man! Yet, all this is solely out of God, Who conciliates all to Himself through Christ, and is giving us the dispensation of the conciliation - that God is in Christ, [as He was in the goat of Moses], conciliating all of humanity to Himself, not reckoning humanity’s sins to them, and placing in us the word of the conciliation. For the sake of Christ, then, are we ambassadors, as God is entreating all through us. We are beseeching [all] for Christ’s sake, ‘Be conciliated to God by awareness of His conciliating us in Christ’ ” (2 Cor. 5:17-20 Paraphrased for clarification).
When did God change the concept in Leviticus of the “exchange of life”? Did God ever say that this was to be turned into an individual atonement contingent upon personal repentance, prayers, and good deeds? Certainly this is never seen in the Written Law and nor is it seen in the New Testament. Repentance, prayers, and good deeds revolve around the issue of salvation, which is different from atonement – the former being a consequence of the latter.
The many “called” means no limitation in God’s will for ALL humans to be CALLED-out by God. Some argue that because “THE” is not prefixed to the word MANY that it implies less than all mankind. Yet, to illustrate less than all chosen Paul uses “few are” chosen. We can say then, that if he wanted to imply a “less than all” calling he could have written, “Few are called, and few are chosen.” However, he did not. Therefore, it can be argued that the writer is referring to all men. We might say, to make a distinction between all and some, “ALL men are called, but all men are not chosen at once.”
All are called in UNBELIEF. The expression “called” is synonymous with Christ’s expression in His promise to “draw” all toward Himself. Few being “chosen” is an apparent limitation of how many are awakening to the drawing of Christ and this depends on who God awakens and at what time He wakes them. The “chosen” may also be in unbelief, but they might be considering the message – they are hearing the preacher, but are falling short of believing.
Nevertheless, the chosen may “stumble” upon this salvation or they may not - “I am enduring all because of those who are chosen, that they also may be happening upon the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus with age-lasting glory” (2 Tim. 2:10).
Webster’s Dictionary defines the words “election” and “elect” and specifies that election does not necessarily mean “installation.” Webster makes a distinction between election and installation. The above verse does not say they ARE TO BE chosen. It says in the present tense that they are chosen. Alternately, the chosen are not said to have salvation, but that they MAY BE HAPPENING UPON it (future tense).
In other words, someone that is “chosen” does NOT necessarily mean that they are saved. The chosen has to “happen upon the salvation.” Being-saved and assured of the forgiveness of sins means being “installed” into enjoying the “exchanged of life” given freely by God through the death of the sacrificial goat. The concept of “called” is synonymous with “sheltered.” All Israelites were “sheltered” or atoned for, but not all enjoyed the installation of God’s “exchange of life.”
Within the Old Testament concept and definition of “the Chosen,” is the limitation that it was for the people of Israel. Therefore, ALL Israel was called, or “sheltered,” but not all were “chosen” or aware of the implications, and many did not have a personal relationship with Yahweh. Later, in Christ, this calling and choosing would extend to all human beings, throughout all ages, each one awakening in their own season.
Many Israelites were non-believers, but the “unbelief” of an Israelite did not restrict God’s law or will in the application of the atonement. According to the Old Testament the “life” of the sacrificed GOAT (which represents God’s life) was exchanged and imputed into ALL THE PEOPLE, whether the individual believed it or not.
The only difference is the individual’s awareness and acceptance of this imputation and thus the benefits of assurance of the forgiveness of sins. Belief or disbelief does not enter the picture. Belief and unbelief do not alter, change or limit the extent or application of the atonement - “Can the UNBELIEF of man thwart the faithfulness (law) of God? (Rom. 3:3)” – the law is the universal application of the atonement. The answer is no.
However, “not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” For, Isaiah said, “Lord, who has believed our message?’” (Romans 10:16). Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul explains, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). This is interesting that if God were to allow faithlessness to persuade Him, He would have to disown Himself! Truly, He will save all Israel. Truly, He will ultimately save all Gentiles. Finally, He will save all of humanity least He disowns Himself.
God is impartial in the LAW of Atonement and He remains “faithful” in His promise to forgive, even though He is selective in who believes and understands, and at what time and in what age they must believe. The Church is contemptuous, in stumbling at this legal definition in having God ration the atonement. This counterfeit has a long history of causing many to stumble and to “depart out of the way.” The error of partiality in the law of atonement suggests the rightness of impartiality and the unlimited effectiveness of the atonement -”For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he [is] the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But, ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant [atonement] of Levi, said the LORD of hosts. Therefore, have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law [partial in the application of atonement]” (Mal. 2:7-9)
This partiality is contemptuous on the part of the Priests by changing God’s ways. God is the father of all people because He created all people and to say that God favors some over others is profanity. “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Mal. 2:10).
The changing of the legal definition of the atonement came from the Oral Law and the Jewish traditions. The explanation given by many Jews, and most of Christianity, is the atonement is “acquired” through repentance of personal sins, a life of prayer and, for the Jew, doing mitzvah (good deeds). It has been changed into a “hope” to obtain atonement for our sins. Christians use altar calls to ask God to apply the atonement, and from that point onwards perpetually ask forgiveness to maintain it. The Israelite people had become partial in the law of atonement by limiting its universal application. This was treachery against others and a profane attack against the covenant made to the forefathers. The original covenant was universal and for all the people. Limiting the atonement is contemptuous!
Did God ever sanction these decisions concerning the basic doctrine of atonement or give His stamp of approval on the change from the biblical principle of the “exchange of life”? No. The New Testament teaches that there was one called Jesus, who became the Lord’s sacrifice and who alone took our sins from us. In other words, he came to do exactly what is described in the Yom Kippur services in Leviticus, and He either did it or, if we take it as an offer (still future) to be obtained, He did not.
Paul’s explanation of atonement is based squarely on what Moses had already taught. He saw the connection between why Christ died and the death of the animal substitute in the Day of Atonement picture - “God made him [Jesus as the Lord’s sacrifice], who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The basic question that should confront all of us was whether Paul and thousands of other Jewish people in that day changed the concept of the “exchange of life” in the Hebrew Scriptures. Did the Jewish writers of the New Testament do this? No, they did not! Rather, they continued on with just what the Hebrew Scriptures had precisely lain out. The only difference was that instead of a goat sacrifice and a scapegoat, it was the Messiah himself who (1) died as the substitute by taking our sins upon himself, (2) in his death He imputed into us all a new life, whether we are aware of it or not, and (3) did take away our sins from us so that we never have to be charged with them again.
The New Testament difference is the same as the Old Testament – you are either aware of it or you are not. This awareness or enlightenment “the knowledge of it” determines whether you are being-saved and “enjoying the new exchanged life” or being ruined for a lack of knowledge. Christians can be ruined (destroyed) for a lack of this knowledge! It is God’s will that all men come into this knowledge of the truth.
The atonement is one by which we can know that our sins “have been” forgiven (past tense) and not “will be” or “can be.” The atonement is past tense and not an on-going perpetual offer with a postponed application. It is a past tense redemption by which we may happen upon a knowledge of it and have an assurance that the SIN of the world is forgiven. The Apostle Paul said that any other gospel other than this is that “other gospel” we must avoid.
This is the decision we must make. Which of the TWO atonement doctrines is the “damnable heresy”? There is the well-message gospel (realization) that it is already universally imputed to the entire human race and there is the other gospel that teaches a limited application. Which one do you think is the true law “will” of God? Remember too that people can and will be forgiven for holding to this damnable heresy because it is the heresy that is “damnable” (to be condemned) and not its mistaken believers.