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Berkhof acknowledging the change of language in the sufficient-efficient formula

September 13, 2007

Berkhof:

5. THE WIDER BEARING OF THE ATONEMENT. The question may be raised, whether the atonement wrought by Christ for the salvation of the elect, and of the elect only, has any wider bearing. The question is often discussed in Scottish theology, whether Christ did not die, in some other than a saving sense, also for the non-elect. It was discussed by several of the older theologian such as Rutherford, Brown, Durham, and Dickson, but was answered by them in the negative. “They held, indeed,” says Walker, “the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death to save the world, or worlds; but that was altogether irrespective of Christ’s purpose, or Christ’s accomplishment. The phrase that Christ died sufficiently for all was not approved, because the ‘for’ seemed to imply some reality of actual substitution.” Durham denied that any mercy bestowed upon the reprobate, and enjoyed by them, could be said to be the proper fruit of, or the purchase of, Christ’s death; but at the same time maintained that certain consequences of Christ’s death of an advantageous kind must reach wicked men, though it is doubtful whether these can be regarded as a blessing for them. This was also the position taken by Rutherford and Gillespie. The Marrow-men of Scotland, while holding that Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, concluded from the universal offer of salvation that the work of Christ also had a wider bearing, and that, to use their own words, “God the Father, moved by nothing but His free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto all men of His Son Jesus Christ.” According to them all sinners are legatees under Christ’s testament, not indeed in the essence but in the administration of the covenant of grace, but the testament becomes effectual only in the case of the elect. Their position was condemned by the Church of Scotland. Several Reformed theologians hold that, though Christ suffered and died only for the purpose of saving the elect, many benefits of the cross of Christ do actually – and that also according to the plan of God – accrue to the benefit of those who do not accept Christ by faith. They believe that the blessings of common grace also result from the atoning work of Christ.

L Berkhof, Systmatic Theology, 398-399.

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