Limited Atonement?

Many students of the Bible read that believers are “elect before the foundation of the world” () and figure that Calvin was right in saying that believers are predestined. After all, that is the language that the Bible uses, so we ought to as well. And many of the points of TULIP are comfortable to conservative Bible students, so there’s little argument there.

The holdout of the 5 points is usually Limited Atonement. This point states, in short, that Christ died only for the elect, not for the whole world. When I first heard it, I thought Calvin was a loon – it blatantly ignores verses like –  “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Because of this verse and several others like it, many people these days (including most 4-pointers) would say “Christ’s death is available for the world, but only effective for the elect”.

These days, however, for a number of reasons, I see that interpretation as problematic, to say the least. Propitiation is an active word that describes an active sacrifice to nullify an active wrath.  Propitiation takes place when a Person (Christ) does an action (dies on the cross) that averts (redirects, nullifies) the anger of One (God the Father) who has the right to be angry at the sinner (man) and punish him forever. Why would John use the word to describe an active sacrifice that potentially satisfies an active wrath? That seems discordant to me. If this were a financial exchange, it would be like trying to say “Jesus is the potential receipt holder of the transaction”. That makes no sense.

Let’s take a closer look at the verse. There are three ways to read it:

  1. He is the actual propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, including every man, woman and child.
  2. He is the potential propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, including every man, woman and child.
  3. He is the actual propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world of believers.

The most natural reading to the 21-st century Western mind is reading #1. However, that means everyone is going to heaven, and that there is therefore now no condemnation for every man, woman and child that’s ever been born. Only universalists hold to this heretical (albeit plain!) reading.

But this verse has to mean something, and it can’t mean heresy! Because we’re not used to referring to a group of people as ‘world’, we commonly reject the 3rd reading, embrace the 2nd reading, and conclude that Christ’s death is available for the world, but only effective for the elect. (Which ever way we go here, we can also apply this reasoning to verses like , etc: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance.”  Does the author mean ‘all humans’ or ‘all believers’?)

There are two major reasons why I find it much easier to make ‘s use of “world” refer only the elect.

  • Right off the bat, we’ll note that the Bible doesn’t use the word ‘propitiation’ in a potential sense. All the other passages that use the word, do so in the middle of paragraphs where the emphasis is on the work already done to or for the believer, not potential grace available to any man, woman or child.
  • Furthermore, the use of ‘world’, has plenty of Biblical, historical and logical support for being understood as referring only to the elect.

1. Universal language for the elect.

There are a number of times that various Biblical authors use universal language to only refer to the elect. Here are just a few:

A. is an excellent example. He repeatedly uses universal phrases like “all people”, “all peoples”, “all nations”, “all faces”,  “all the earth” to talk about blessings that only the elect will receive. And in the latter ½ of the very same prophecy, he speaks of the cursings that God will bring down on Moab. As far as Isaiah is concerned, Moab is not part of “all people”, “all nations”, “all faces”, “all the earth”.  But if you’re speed-reading, you’d never catch that.

B. The last few verses of Isaiah () are another example. In it, Isaiah uses “all flesh” twice to describe heaven-bound people who come before God to worship Him forever and ever. As they’re walking by God, they look over into the abyss and see all the unsaved burning in hell and find them abhorrent and disgusting. This is not a comfortable verse, but in this passage again, “all flesh” only refers to those who have made it to heaven. It does not mean “all humans”.

C. says “I will pour My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophecy.” When the day of Pentecost hits and naysayers think that the disciples are drunk for speaking in tongues, Peter stands up and quotes this passage and says “This prophecy is what you’re seeing taking place.” Rewind for a sec… on how many people did the Spirit fall on that Joel and Peter are calling “all flesh”? Only on the few disciples that were praying in the house in 2:1! In other words, Peter and Joel are both calling these few, limited people “all flesh”, not the whole world. And even if we were to expand this number to the 3,000 that believed that day, it’s still another example of universal language that is only meant to apply to the “whole world of the elect”.

D. (Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer) has a couple of “limited atonement” ideas running through it. In v2, He says “You have given Him (the Son) authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him”. Wouldn’t the “proper” way to say that be “to give eternal live to everyone”? He continues by praying only for “those whom You have given Me – not for the rest of the world”, and prays for their protection, word, faith, joy, love, etc. It’s quite curious to me that in His final hour, Jesus prays about “all flesh” / “His own”, but doesn’t seem to be concerned for those who are not part of His family. I find this very telling.

In light of these verses (and there are many more), I’m forced to conclude that clearly there are times when universal language is used, but only the elect are in view. So the question is now “Did John think this way when he wrote ?” If I apply this established Biblical precedent to , the translation problem goes away. (Dittos for , by the way!)

E. We could also use a variation of this idea to see that, frequently, the Bible uses universal language, yet does not have the elect nor the whole world in view.

, Paul says to pray “for all men” and then elaborates on who “all men” is … just the men in governmental positions (v2). Not exactly what you and I would call “all men” – but he does. He then continues by saying that Christ is a “ransom for all” … But if “all men” 3 verses earlier clearly doesn’t mean “all human beings”, then why should we assume that the “ransom for all” means “ransom for all human beings”? That would be an invalid assumption, and not supported by the Paul’s own contextual use of the word “all”.

– Dittos for . Luke says that “Jews from every nation under the heavens” were in Jerusalem. Really? Jews from Australia? Aborigines lived there. Jews from the Americas? Ulmechs and Mayans lived there. Jews from the Congo? Pygmies lived there. Jews from Alaska? Intuit Eskimos lived there. Jews from the Polynesian Islands? Etc, etc, etc. Somehow, I don’t think so. It seems obvious to me that Luke means just the Roman world, or perhaps only nations where Jews existed, even though he goes out of his way to say “every nation under the heavens”.

There are quite a few other passages like these, by the way.

2. Historical problem of universal propitiation

I once heard a list of early church fathers who affirmed something akin to limited atonement. It wasn’t a short list.

If I understand my church history correctly, historically, the Church held to the idea of limited atonement long before Calvin came along, and it wasn’t until about 150 years ago that the notion came to be out of fashion. (Blame the Enlightenment and the age of Modern thinking, where man insists that he is now the ‘master of his fate; the captain of his soul’. He now resists the idea of God electing his eternal destiny before he was born, and certainly does NOT like the idea of God only appointing salvation to some. Why, that would violate his free will! ..nevermind the fact that nowhere does the Bible teach that man has free will. Please note I said ‘teach’, not ‘imply’. There’s a critical difference here.) In fact, Irenaus quotes Polycarp (both of these men are direct disciples of St. John) as using language similar to  to say that “Christ … suffered for the salvation of those who are being saved in the whole world” (Martyrdom of Polycarp. Chp 17). As his personal disciples, these followers of John should know better than us, 2,000 years later and an ocean away, what John meant when he wrote “God so loved the world”. Certainly food for thought. ..especially if you mix it with John’s own words in .

(Ed: take a look at ancient rabbinical usage of the phrase “the whole world“)

3. Logical problems of Christ dying for the whole world

As I wrangle with what I read in the Bible, there are several huge problems I see that can only be answered with Limited Atonement.

A) Why would a sovereign, omniscient God make Christ’s death available for someone He would never elect? Before He created the world, He already decided who He was going to elect (; ; ; ), so why would He bother making a path for people if He would later prevent them from walking on it ()? Yes, He calls all men everywhere to repent, and holds them responsible for not repenting – but that’s a very different thing from saying that He makes a provision for them to take that path that He would never allow them to walk on. That’s why we see verses that say “Christ loved the church and gave His life for her“, not “gave His life for every man woman and child” etc. I wish the Bible would say that, but I have to face facts: it doesn’t. Limited Atonement answers this question nicely.

B) Why didn’t God send His son immediately after Adam and Eve sinned? If Christ was born to Eve as the brother of Seth, then you only get ~5 people to go to hell. Granted, only 3 make it to heaven, but instead of billions in hell, you only have a tiny handful. Wouldn’t that be preferable? Yet God waited 4,000 years to send Christ, and is postponing the 2nd return another 2,000 (or more) beyond that! Why? I can only conclude one thing: God’s focus is on the number of elect that will make it to heaven, and this drives His appointment for times and seasons. Honestly, that idea freaks me out, but we see it in action in Revelation:  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (, NIV) Yiiiikes! Whether I like it or not, Limited Atonement deftly answers this question.

C) Why didn’t Jesus do what He could to save Sodom and Gomorrah? He stood outside S&G and burned it down to the ground (), but 2,000 years later and 110 miles NW, He said that if He did in S&G what He did in Capernaum, they would have repented and He wouldn’t have destroyed them (). So what’s up with that? Instead of choosing to preach (and have them repent like He said they would’ve), He chose to punish (and send them to hell). If propitiation was available for them, and He was “not willing that any man, woman and child should perish” … someone should’ve told Jesus, because He sure didn’t act like it. (So much for Middle Knowledge!) Again, Limited Atonement is the only satisfactory answer to this question.

D) Many people reject Limited Atonement because they fear that double-predestination (God deliberately electing people both for heaven and for hell) begins to look logically legitimate. Because we don’t like to think of God deliberately creating people to destroy them in hell (especially in these days of ‘enlightened’ reasoning), we try to distance ourselves as far as possible from anything that would encourage that notion. But as best as I can tell, the Bible doesn’t share our squeamishness. If we don’t like Paul’s defense of this in (God makes vessels, both of honor and dishonor, for His purpose and glory), we still have many other passages that state (directly or indirectly) the same thing: , , and more. These passages can be also used to answer another gnawing question: if God is the creator of each and every life, why does He create certain lives that He knows full well will reject Him and earn His eternal wrath in hell? Or worse, why did God continue hardening Pharaoh’s heart even though Pharaoh repented twice? We would agree that those repentances weren’t genuine, but we also should not overlook Exod 9:15-17. Again, while I hold firmly to , of the same chapter strongly compel me to see Limited Atonement as the only satisfactory answer.

If I reject Limited Atonement, I have problems Scripturally, logically and historically. Believe me… over the years, I’ve tried making other answers fit these, but eventually they come up short. If I add Limited Atonement to the equation, those problems go away. I can’t say I’m thrilled with it, because it compels me to change my ideas of who God is and how He works, but it’s the only answer I can find that satisfies the questions. It puts the focus back on God, His holiness, His will, His counsel, His calling and His election.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God told him that He would stand before him and declare His name. Here’s the answer God gave him:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.  (Exod 34:5-8, ESV)

Paul uses this idea to affirm God’s right to choose and do as He sees fit without any explanation to us.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?  (, ESV)

If our understanding of God finds this to be odd, then we need to correct our understanding of God, not pretend the many verses like these don’t exist.

 



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (ESV)


He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)


who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV)


The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)


He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)


On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain,
and Moab shall be trampled down in his place,
as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.
11 And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it
as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim,
but the Lord will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.
12 And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down,
lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust. (ESV)


22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (ESV)


28  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions. (ESV)


17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (ESV)


2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

12 I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (ESV)


2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

12 I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (ESV)


16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)


2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (ESV)


Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. (ESV)


16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)


49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (ESV)


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)


1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (ESV)


and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (ESV)


The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. (ESV)


And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. (ESV)


When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (ESV)


24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (ESV)


11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)


9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (ESV)


The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble. (ESV)


26 “‘Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
crash into heaps of ruins,
27 while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blighted before it is grown. (ESV)


1:1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” (ESV)


For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)


“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (ESV)


14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (ESV)