Definite Atonement in the Land Flowing With Milk and Honey


Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

I will sing to the Lord, for He has
    triumphed gloriously,
The horse and his rider He has
thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and He has become my salvation,
this is my God, and I will praise Him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
The Lord is a man of war,
the Lord is His name.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing

You stretched out Your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.
You have led in Your steadfast love the
    people whom You have
You have guided them by Your
    strength to Your holy abode.

Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of Your arm,
        they are still as a stone,
till Your people, O Lord, pass by
    till the people by whom You
        have purchased.

You will bring them in and plant them
    on Your own mountain,
the place, O Lord which You have
    made for Your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your
    hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.

– Exodus 15:1-3, 11-13, 16-18

These are the people who acknowledged God’s sovereignty and grace in salvation and redemption.  These are the people who were also condemned to wander the wilderness for forty years and to perish for their unbelief.

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
For I want you to know, brothers, that our father were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the same spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.   Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Hebrews 3:18-19 
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?  Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?   And with whom was He provoked for forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?   So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

God’s purpose in redeeming Israel out of Egypt was to bring them into possession of the land flowing with milk and honey just as He had promised their forefather, Abraham.

Exodus 3:7-8
Then the Lord God said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters.  I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amarites, the Peruzzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 

Genesis 15:17-21 
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Peruzzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

We know in foresight that this land typified the church, and that even the Passover lamb itself typified Christ, but the land was still the immediate promise.  The land was the immediate reason why God had delivered Israel from the hand of the Egyptians.

But this is not what most of Israel would see when the time came to possess the land.  They may have thought possession of the land was certain when they were standing on the other side of the Red Sea having just witnessed the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, but it isn’t what they saw when ten of the twelve spies they had sent in to spy out the land came back with a bad report.  (Numbers 13:30-33, 14:1-4).  In fact, it wasn’t even what they would see the first time they felt their bellies rumble with hunger.

God had promised Israel a land flowing with milk and honey.  God delivered Israel out of Egypt’s hand so that Israel could take possession of that land.  God’s deliverance of Israel was accompanied by signs and wonders, and through deliverance from judgment by the death of a vicarious sacrifice – a Passover lamb.  Standing on the other side of the Red Sea, the people sing of His certain faithfulness in salvation and redemption.  When the rubber finally hit the road though, they shrank back from His faithfulness in unbelief.

Election Not Enough

The Israelites were personal eyewitnesses to God’s just judgment upon Egypt.  And I am not talking about the plagues here, but rather about the judgment; that is, the death of the firstborn son.  In each of the plagues, Israel had been spared the plague by virtue of their hereditary election.  They were the chosen people, the physical descendants of Abraham.  Nothing was required of them outside the fact they were the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This fact alone was enough to spare them from suffering the plagues the rest of Egypt suffered.

But when the time came for judgment, election was not enough to save them.  Rather, they had to also be redeemed by the death of a vicarious sacrifice.

Exodus 11:4-7
So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord:  About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.   There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been nor ever will be again.  But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

Exodus 12:21-23 
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.  Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.   None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning  For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the doorposts , the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

Understand, this atonement demonstrated election. Election did not demonstrate the atonement.  The reason why both Israel and Egypt could report that God distinguished between Israel and Egypt is because the Passover lamb had saved Israel from the destroyer.

Why is that important?  It’s important, because people who place God’s sovereignty and grace in salvation over and above God’s revelation of righteousness in definite atonement have got it backwards.   The atonement reveals the election, the sovereignty and the grace, rather than the other way around.

Well then, since they all shared in the Passover, doesn’t that then mean they were all redeemed?   Certainly, all of Israel had been saved from the judgment of the death of the firstborn son, but that was not the point of the Passover.   The point of the Passover was not only to save them from immediate judgment, but also to bring them into possession of a land flowing with milk and honey, to a land specifically occupied at the time by the Caananites, the Hittites, and a whole lot of other ites.

What’s my point?

My point is this; a gospel without definite atonement is no gospel at all.  Why?  Because it is a gospel that presents us with a God who is unjust to justify sinners apart from some input from the sinner.  A gospel with only grace and God’s sovereignty in salvation is no gospel at all.  What you have in a gospel like this is a bunch of people who shrink back in unbelief.

But Dave, come on, man.  Shouldn’t we always have meat in due season at the forefront of our minds?  We don’t want to absolutize an entire list and perhaps leave room for men to make error, do we?  And don’t illogical thoughts cross our mind everyday?

In other words, you don’t want anyone to be offended by the cross.

Nobody is talking about thoughts that flash through our brains everyday, fool.  We are talking about the things which a person believes, the things which he holds as true.

If I tell you I am going to the store, I do not need perfect knowledge of the store to know there is a difference between a store and a parking garage, or an airport, or a restaurant.  Nor do I need perfect knowledge of the store to shop at the store.  But if I go to what you call a store with the intent to park my car in what you call a store, then it would be pretty doggone stupid of you to assume that my definition of a parking garage and a store is the same as your definition of a parking garage and a store.  And yet, there are plenty of people who do exactly this very thing.

When the self righteous man sings Amazing Grace, he means amazing grace without any reference to God’s righteousness, to God’s faithfulness, to God’s justice.  And that’s the problem.  Because it’s the efficaciousness of the Cross that reveals these things.  It’s not election, grace or sovereignty that reveals these.  Rather, the efficaciousness of the Cross reveals all these things.  You’ve got it backwards, man.  You’ve turned the whole thing upside down.

And when the self righteous man throws up a smokescreen by insisting that salvation is not by perfect knowledge, he is but merely making an attempt to avoid the question.   No one is saying salvation is by perfect knowledge.   Rather, we are saying the object of faith is the Christ Jesus who really propitiated.   And we are saying that if you do not agree with God that Christ has really propitiated, then you are like one of those Israelites standing on the banks of the Red Sea, about to spend the next forty years wandering in the wilderness to your own destruction.

What about my “ever shrinking sphere of fellowship”?  Oh, you mean like the one Moses and Caleb and Joshua found themselves in when the rest of Israel fell back in unbelief?  Well that’s okay, because when God kills off all those on the outside, then my circle won’t be so small anymore.



About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church
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3 Responses to Definite Atonement in the Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

  1. markmcculley says:

    John Owen, A Dissertation on Divine Justice, chapter 13 (book 10, 587) answers Twisse who wrote “it cannot be maintained that God cannot forgive sins by his power, without a satisfaction.”

    “For,” says Twisse, “if God by his might or absolute power cannot pardon sin, then it is absolutely impossible for sin to be pardoned, or not…it is evident that man not only can pardon, but that it is his duty to pardon his enemies when they transgress against him.”

    Owen’s Answer: “The non-punishment of sin implies that God is the Lord of mankind by a natural and indispensable right, but that mankind are not subject to him, neither as to obedience nor as to punishment, which would be the direct case if sin should pass with impunity. To hate sin, that is, to will to punish it, and not to hate sin, to will to let it pass unpunished, are manifestly contradictory.

    “If you say that God hath it in his power not to hate sin, you say that he hath the contrary in his power, — that is, that he can love sin; for if he hate sin of his free will, he may will the contrary. This Scotus maintains, and Twisse agrees with him. But to will good and to love justice are not less natural to God than to be himself. ”

    “But it is manifest,” says Twisse, “that man not only can pardon, but
    that it is his duty to pardon his enemies; and, therefore, this does
    not imply a contradiction.”

    Owen’s Answer: The supposition is denied, that God may do what man may do. Divine and human forgiveness are plainly of a different kind. The forgiveness of man only respects the hurt; the forgiveness of God respects the guilt. Man pardons sins so far as any particular injury hath been done himself; God pardons sin as the good of the universe is injured.

    Neither is it in the power of every man to let sins pass unpunished, yea, of none absolutely to whom the right of punishing is competent; for although a private person may recede from his right, which for the most part is of charity, yet it is by no means allowed to a public person to renounce his right, which is a right of government, especially if that renunciation should in any way turn out to the hurt of the public. Although a private person may, at certain times, renounce his right and dominion in certain cases, and ought to
    do so, it doth not follow from that that God, whose right and dominion is natural and indispensable, and which he cannot renounce unless he deny himself, can do the same.

    “But neither,” says Twisse, “can it be consistently said that God
    cannot do this because of his justice, if it be supposed that he can
    do it by his power. But Scotus reasons with more judgment and accuracy on this point. ‘The divine will is not so inclined towards any secondary object by any thing in itself,’ says he, ‘that can oppose its being justly inclined towards its opposite.”

    Owen’s Answer: “We maintain that God from his nature cannot do this,
    and, therefore, that he cannot either by his power or his justice. To Scotus we answer: The divine will may incline to things opposite, in respect of those attributes which constitute objects to themselves, but not in respect of those attributes which suppose a condition of God’s character.

    For instance: God may justly speak or not speak with man; but it
    being supposed that he wills to speak, the divine will cannot be
    indifferent whether he speak truth or not.

    God could not but create the world; but God did not create the world from an absolute necessity. It is necessary that God should speak truly, but he doth not speak from an absolute necessity; but it being supposed that he wills to speak, it is impossible that he should not speak truly. We say, therefore, that God necessarily punishes sin.

    “But that necessity,” you will say, “of what kind soever it be, flows
    from the nature of God, not his will or decree; but all necessity of
    nature seems to be absolute.” “If, then,” says Twisse, “God must punish sin from a natural necessity, he must necessarily punish it to the extent of his power”.

    Owen’s Answer: “That necessity from which God punisheth sin does not
    require that he should punish it to the extent of his power, but so
    far as is just. We do not conceive God to be a senseless, inanimate
    agent, as if he acted from principles of nature, after a natural
    manner, without a concomitant liberty. For God does all things freely, with understanding and by volition, even those things which by supposition he doth necessarily, according to what his most holy
    nature requires. T

    “God appointed a surety, and this surety being appointed, and
    all the sins of the elect laid upon him, he in their room and stead is the proper object of this vindicatory justice,so far as relates to their sins. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor5:21.

    But Twisse thus replies, “If God punish as far as he can with justice, — that is, as far as sin deserves, — then it must be either as far as sin deserves according to the free constitution of God, or without any regard to the divine constitution. If according to the divine constitution, this is nothing else but to assert that God punishes not so far as he can, but so far as he wills. If without any regard to the divine constitution, then without the divine constitution sin so deserves punishment that God ought to punish sin because of his justice. If disobedience deserve punishment in this manner, obedience will also, deserve a merited reward without the divine constitution.”

    Owen’s answer: “God is brought under an obligation to no one for any kind of obedience; for ‘after we have done all, we are still unprofitable servants.’ But God’s right that rational creatures should be subject to him, either by obedience or a vicarious punishment, is indispensable. Obedience is due to God in such a manner, that from the nature of the thing he can be debtor to
    none in conferring rewards; but disobedience would destroy all
    dependence of the creature upon God, unless a recompense be made by

    “The question is not,” writes Vossius, “whether it be just that a
    satisfaction be received? but whether it be unjust that it should not
    be received? for it doth not follow that if God be merciful in doing
    one thing or another, that he would be unmerciful in not doing it.” Although mercy be natural to God as to the habit, yet because there is no natural obligation between it and its proper object, it is as to all its acts entirely free; for the nature of the thing about which it is employed is not indispensable, as we have shown before to be the case with regard to justice.”

  2. markmcculley says:

    Chuck Swindoll’s definition of the gospel— “Legalism is the belief that God does not act of grace but acts out of justice in giving his favor.” He calls it “unmerited favor”. Missing from this “gospel” is the righteousness the God-man obtained for those God favors. Yes, the Bible teaches God’s love for the elect. But the Bible has no either/or between grace and justice, because God is both just and justifier.

    When God justifies the ungodly elect, God is not justifying the better performers OR the better non-performers. God is not justifying on the basis of faith and works, but God is also not justifying on the basis of faith alone. When God justifies the ungodly elect, God is acting out of justice to Jesus Christ and to the Trinity by crediting these elect with the righteousness the incarnate God-man established for the elect in history.

    This righteousness is not simply God’s inscrutable “act of grace”; it is perfect satisfaction of God’s law and there is legal solidarity between the elect who need this righteousness and Christ who JUSTLY earned this righteousness.

  3. David Bishop says:

    I read Swindoll when I was lost. “The Grace Awakening”. He was a lot like the Pentecostals I was churching with at the time. They said there will be no last day judgment for Christians, because Christ had already been judged in their place. But how they got Christ’s judgment taking to count for them, that was another matter.

    It’s the effectual nature of the cross that reveals God’s faithfulness and righteousness. Without an effectual propitiation, an effectual atonement, an effectual redemption, God’s righteousness remains hidden.

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