Did Christ’s Death At least Give Everybody an Incomplete Justification?

What good is an incomplete justification? If the justification is incomplete because you did not complete it, then you end up being condemned by God’s “grace” and not by God’s law.

Instead of hearing the gospel and being condemned by it, on this theory, you would have been better off not hearing the gospel and then you could not be condemned by your lack of faith in not accepting the grace “God” had for you. Had you not heard the gospel, God could not have condemned you! Those who teach that all sin is against grace have a “don’t ask and don’t tell” kind of “gospel.”

God decreed the non-election of the non-elect before the ages, and so God excluded certain humans from salvation, even while ordaining these humans to be sinners.

It is not necessary to preach law before gospel until despair is created, and only then the gospel as hope. This one-two step can be a way of assuming or implying that sinners can actually take sides against themselves without any hope of forgiveness.

True repentance is not produced by the law only, however, but by the revelation of the gospel. Since the justice of God is a part of the gospel, there is no need to preach law separately before gospel.

But even the non-elect are commanded to believe the gospel
Believing the gospel is NOT believing that “God has grace for me” or that “God has grace for everybody”

The promise of the gospel is that as many as believe the gospel will be justified, so that anybody who says I believe the promise but I don’t believe that there is grace for me….is not yet believing the promise

The non-elect do NOT “exclude themselves” from election. The gospel is not the law, and we are born condemned, so that those who never hear the gospel are still condemned. Rejection of the gospel is not the basis of condemnation ,John 3:18-20 teaches that there is no escape from condemnation except by the gospel.

John 3: 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God. 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.

Terrance Tiessen agrees with the Arminians that Christ’s death gets rid of many sins for everybody but not all the sins of anybody because he thinks it’s faith which unites you to Christ. Many Arminians think the only sin which condemns anybody is lack of faith. They think that the good news was that God loved you but you didn’t have faith in God’s grace for you.

Tiessen—“I propose that one of the universal benefits of Christ’s atoning death is the forgiveness of sins of ignorance. Because any and all sin deserves God’s judgment, namely, death, everyone who sins objectively, having done what is morally wrong by God’s standard, deserves to be punished. Before the law of God, they stand guilty. When God chooses not to punish us for unintended sin, however, he does not simply say: “That is OK, it doesn’t matter.” It does matter, and it violates God’s holiness and disrupts the shalom, the total well being, of God’s creation. When God, the Judge of all moral beings, chooses not to punish us for that unintended moral violation, his own holiness is preserved, I suggest, by the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for sin.”

Tiessen—“Of course, I am not here speaking of the complete justification that leads to eternal life, simply of acts for which God does not hold the ignorant sinner accountable. But, nonetheless, I am suggesting one of the ways in which Jesus satisfied the just wrath of God against sin, is in his providing a sacrifice of atonement which God applies to sins of ignorance, that is to say, to acts which, though sinful, were done in good faith (as per Rom 14). This was typified in the old covenant provision of sacrifices for sins done unintentionally (Leviticus 5:17-19; Numbers 15:22-28), particularly in the annual offering of the high priest, which was for his own sin and “for the sins committed unintentionally by the people” (Hebrews 9:7).

Tiessen–“Of much greater magnitude than God’s forbearance of sins done in ignorance is God’s forgiveness of sins done deliberately. No provision was made for these sins in the old covenant sacrificial system. Yet that is precisely what God does to all whom he graciously justifies, not on account of their own righteousness, but on account of the righteousness of Jesus, in whom they are incorporated by faith.”


In his attempt to say that lost people are lost only because of themselves, Andrew Fuller taught a common prevenient moral ability to believe (his false gospel).

It is now more and more common to think of all sin as sin against grace. This tends to remove the antithesis between law and grace .

William Lane Craig, In Pinnock, the Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not. The efficacy of God’s grace is UP TO US, because every person is moved by God in a measure sufficient for salvation.”

Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

Horton–God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator.


Paul Helm—“We may note that one thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For now the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”


Tom Nettles—”The idea of universal atonement is not demanded by the Bible at all, but only by the inference drawn from a no-grace-no-justice assumption…. The piggy-backing of grace onto the command to believe the gospel does not come from the Bible. The whole idea of obligatory grace is contrary to the biblical presentation of grace.

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2 Comments on “Did Christ’s Death At least Give Everybody an Incomplete Justification?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Tiessen is not merely for “incorporation”, but against “imputation”

    Although Jesus “knew no sin,” in accordance with what Reformed theologians call the “covenant of redemption,” God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Here we see the core of the doctrine of incorporatedguilt and incorporated righteousness.
    [Protestants have tended to speak of imputed guilt and righteousness, and our intent has been good, but I think the choice of terminology is unfortunate. It implies an externality which prompts people to question why one person should be accounted guilty for the sin of another {Adam}, or accounted righteous for the righteousness of another {Jesus}, as though some sort of external transfer was the mechanism at work in such accounting. But I believe that the more biblical way of speaking is incorporation

  2. markmcculley Says:

    But here’s the good part of Tiessen’s essay.

    Tiessen—In my many years as a traditionalist, I viewed Jesus’ cry from the cross through the lens which was so often used when I heard it preached, namely, the alienation of Jesus from the Father by his being made sin. I do not deny the truth of that proclamation at all. But, over time, that moment assumed an importance in my understanding of the atoning work of Christ which I now see to have been misconstrued. I came to see that time, and that interaction between the Father and the Son as the supreme moment of Jesus’ accomplishment of our salvation. The Father’s righteous wrath was poured out, and Jesus, in our place, bore our sin “in his body on the cross,” as Peter put it, with Isa 53 very clearly in his mind (1 Pet 2:24). But, because I saw the Son’s satisfying of the Father’s righteous wrath against sin as of utmost importance, I came to think of that moment as virtually the time at which Jesus redeemed us. I didn’t explicitly say this, to myself or others, but I was working with that concept in mind.

    It has taken a while, but being an annihilationist has finally made me aware of my error on this point. I believe that it is true that the Son’s bearing of the Father’s wrath against sin is at the very center of the effectiveness of Christ’s work on the cross. But to put things in the way that I had begun to portray them, would have been to indicate that redemption was accomplished while Jesus was alive on the cross. That is contrary to the continuous testimony of the New Testament that Jesus accomplished our delivery from the guilt and power of sin by his death, by the shedding of his blood. Our redemption in Christ has been “put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (Rom 3:24-25).

    All the sinners whom God had chosen “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love,” had been chosen “in Christ” (Eph 1:4). It is through this incorporation into Christ that those who believe are saved and “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:7, emphasis mine). Their names had “been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered” (Rev 13:8). After Peter’s declaration, by revelation of Jesus’ Father in heaven (Matt 16:17), that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21-22; cf. Matt 17:22-23; Lk 9:22). Jesus described in detail the events which would occur to him in Jerusalem – condemnation to death, handing over to the Gentiles, mocking, spitting, flogging, and killing, but then rising again after three days (Mk 12:33-34). He spoke of those events as the cup that he was about to drink (Matt 20:22).

    Jesus had stated to his disciples that, although his soul was troubled, he would not ask the Father to save him “from this hour,” because it was “for this reason” that he had “come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). What Jesus did request was that the Father glorify his name, and the Father answered: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again,” with a voice which the crowd took to be either thunder or the voice of an angel who had spoken to Jesus (John 12:29). But Jesus told them that this voice had not spoken for his sake, but for the crowd’s because the time had come for “the judgment of this world, “ when “when the ruler of this world will be driven out.” And when Jesus was “lifted up from the earth,” he would “draw all people to [him]self” (John 12:30-31). That was his way of indicating the kind of death he would die (John 12:33). In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword in an effort to protect Jesus from arrest, but Jesus told him: “Put your sword back into its sheath,” because Jesus willed: “to drink the cup that the Father has given me” (John 18:10-11)

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