What Did the Cross Accomplish?


Christians everywhere glory in the cross. To Christians the cross is salvation. But Christians are divided on what the cross means, for whom the cross was intended and what the cross accomplished. By "cross" I mean, of course, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, or His atonement.

 The main debate between Reformed Christians and Arminians is over the extent of the atonement. For whom did Christ die? But I believe that is the wrong way to approach the subject. Invariably, the Arminian will respond with "everybody," "all men," "all people," "the world" or "the whole world." And they will confidently refer to John 3:16 or some other passage to prove their case.

A better question, and one which gets to the heart of the matter, is this: "What did Christ accomplish in dying on the cross?" "What was God's purpose or intention in the death of His Son?" or "What did God achieve by the death of His Son?"

In other words, what does that word "for" mean? When you say, Christ died for all men without exception, what do you mean by "for""?

Twelve Failures of the Cross of Arminianism

I once asked an Arminian to lay aside the debate about "all men " and "world" for a moment and explain to me what God's purpose was in the cross or Christ and what God had accomplished by it. Here are twelve things Scripture says the cross was meant to accomplish, none of which accomplishments were met, if Christ in fact died for all; all which were perfectly met, if Christ died for the elect only. This list is by no means exhaustive.

1. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he mght bring us to God" (I Peter 3:18). Did Christ bring all men to God?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose

2. Take another example. "He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto him whch died for them and rose again" (II Cor. 5:15). Do all men live unto Christ, or do some remain in their godless, thankless and selfish lives? Was that, according to the text, the purpose of His death?

How, then, did God and Christ not fail in their purpose?

3. Take a third example. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them" (II Cor. 5:19). Does God still impute trespasses unto some men? Did God succeed in making all men His friends (reconciliaton)? Do some men still die as enemies of God under His wrath?

Therefore, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

4. What about the curse? "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Are some men, even after the death of Christ, cursed by God for all eternity in hell?  Did Christ, in fact, not remove the curse of God from all men?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

5. Here is another example, "Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it" (Eph. 5:25-26). Are all men sanctified and cleansed; will all men by presented glorious, without blemish on the last day? No?

Therefore, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

6. There are still more. "Who gave himself for us that he might redeeem us from all iniquity" (Tit. 2:14). Are all redeemed from all iniquity, or do not some, in fact, remain in iniquity's bondage? Is it not the latter?

Who, then, can escape the conclusion that both God and Christ failed in their purpose?

7. "That he by the grace of God might taste death for every man ... in bringing many sons unto glory" (Heb. 2:9-10). Will all men now, Christ having tasted death for all men, be spared tasting death for themselves, and will all men be brought to glory?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

8. "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). Are all sanctified; does this one offering sanctify all?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

9. "He that spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32).  Does God spare all? Does God freely give to all men all things?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

10. "And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). Is God propitiated (appeased, placated) with respect to the sins of all men, so that from all men God's wrath is turned away, and God's favour and blessing are now upon all men unto everlasting salvation?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

11.  "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood and hath made us kings ..." (Rev. 1:5-6). Are all washed from their sin? Are all made kings and priests? Will all rule with Christ? No?

Therefore, both God and Christ failed in their purpose. 

12. And finally an Old Testament reference. "With his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). Are all men healed (from sin) by the cross of Christ?

If not, both God and Christ failed in their purpose.

Who Really "Limits" the Atonement?

So, you see, Arminanism is not a debate about whosoever, all men and the world. Arminianism is a fundamental denial of the cross itself. Christ died but He accomplished ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for most of those for whom He supposedly died. No one was redeemed at the cross! No one was reconciled to God! No one!

To this the Arminan has one answer. All of the benefits gained at the cross are potential or conditional benefits. Christ died to make salvation posssible, but it might have happened that no one had fulfilled the condition, and thus it might have happened that no one had been saved. But the Bible never speaks in terms of potential salvation, only in terms of actual salvation ("he hath redeemed us,' not "he hath made redemption possible if we accept it").

Thus for the Arminian to say, "There is power in the blood of Jesus" is , at best, misleading. There is no power in the blood at all. The power is only potential, "activated: by man's supposed freewill. What the Arminian should say, "There is power in my freewill activating the blood," but that is not as catchy for a slogan.

Arminianism teaches an atonement for all, which atones for none; a redemption for all, which redeems none; a propitiation for all, which propitiates for none; and a reconcilaiton for all, which reconciles none

And they accuse us of believing in "Limited" Atonement!