If the Sheep Can Turn Jesus Down, His Death is a Zero

  1. Galatians 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    Many Neo-Calvinists will not talk about election when they are talking about Christ’s death and love. Instead they talk about “covenant conditionality”. They will only say, “if you put your life-long trust in Him,” and will not spell out the antithesis between sheep for whom Christ died and goats for whom Christ did not die.

    On the one hand, everyone in their congregation is spoken to as one of the “us” Christ loves. On the other hand, listeners are warned that the ultimate efficacy of Christ’s intention depends on God making us obedient “in the covenant family”

    At issue here is not only the extent of Christ’s love but the nature of Christ’s love. God’s love never goes unrequited. God does not love everybody, but everybody God loves also loves God back.  If God loved everybody, but stopped loving those who didn’t love back and only continued loving those who loved back, that would be a very different kind of love than the love God actually has for the elect.

    It does no good to say that God took the initiative in loving the unlovely. In our own relationships, one of us often takes the first step. But if the other person does not respond, it amounts to nothing. If Christ’s love is only one step which then depends on our being enabled to make an adequate response, then Christ’s love amounts to zero.

    Galatians 2:20 does not say that the Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you. Nor does that text give clergy the authority to extrapolate that God loves you and gave Himself for you. Rather, the next verse says “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If Christ’s love depends on your obeying the law as the way you put your trust in Christ, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing and His death was for no purpose.

    In our relationships, we try to woo the lovely. We attempt to become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel of Roman Catholicism depends on our becoming more lovely. But what good is a love for the unlovely which depends on our becoming lovely at some point? A love which CAN amount to nothing always DOES amount to nothing.

    If we think we can do one lovely thing to cause God’s imputation to happen, then we presume that God is wooing us. We think God is appealing to the part of us which God finds lovely. So then, no matter what we say, we haven’t really believed that God loves the unlovely.

    Neo-Calvinists think of election and definite redemption as two different things, because they think of love and propitiation for the elect as two different things. Not so the Scripture! John 10 does not say that the good Shepherd loves the goats so that they can become sheep if they respond. John 10:12 says that “he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”  The good shepherd does not act like the hired man. The hired man’s love amounts to nothing.

    How do we know the Shepherd loves the sheep? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Does this mean that the Shepherd dies as a representative of the sheep along with the sheep? No. The Shepherd is not only the leader, not only the first to die. The Shepherd dies as a substitute for the sheep. Because the Shepherd dies, the sheep do not die.

    So John 10 does not separate Christ’s love and Christ’s death. Christ loves those for whom He dies. Christ dies for those He loves. John 10 does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26—”you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.”

    But Neo-Calvinists don’t deny election. Sure, John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. Doug Wilson and Leithart only ask us not to talk about election when we are talking about Christ’s covenant love and death..

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2 Comments on “If the Sheep Can Turn Jesus Down, His Death is a Zero”


    The next time somebody asks you if you want justice or grace from God, remember that God never gives grace without justice. Our only hope is Christ’s death as the justice for all for whom God has grace. God only has grace for the elect band we know that because Christ only satisfied God’s law for the elect. Christ already did justice for only the elect because God has never had grace for any but the elect. And this is the only gospel there is for everybody.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Jesus died as a substitute for rebels like us. The debt that we owed God, Jesus paid by dying in our place. He took the full force of God’s justice on himself, so that forgiveness and pardon might be available to us.

    He will return to call all of us to account for our actions.

    In the meantime, Jesus offers us new life, both now and eternally. Now, our sins can be forgiven through Jesus’ death, and we can make a fresh start with God, no longer as rebels but as friends. In this new life, God himself comes to live within us by his Spirit. We can experience the joy of a new relationship with God.

    What’s more, when we are pardoned through Jesus’ death, we can be quite sure that when Jesus does return to judge, we will be acceptable to him. The risen Jesus will give us eternal life, not because we have earned it, but because he has died in our place.

    (mark—didn’t He do that for everybody, so isn’t it because we made the right choice?)

    Well, where does all that leave us? It leaves us with a choice of only two ways to live.

    God accepted Jesus’ death as payment in full for our sins, and raised him from the dead. The risen Jesus is now what humanity was always meant to be: God’s ruler of the world.

    As God’s ruler, Jesus has also been appointed God’s judge of the world. The Bible promises that one day, he will return to call all of us to account for our actions.

    In the meantime, Jesus offers us new life, both now and eternally. Now, our sins can be forgiven through Jesus’ death, and we can make a fresh start with God, no

    to run our lives our own way without him. Sadly, this is the option that many people persist in.

    For those of us who have realised that our situation is hopeless, there is a lifeline. If we turn back to God and appeal for mercy, trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection, then everything changes.


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