Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Limited Atonement in Hebrews 2:13-15

Limited atonement (which really should be renamed 'powerful atonement' or something like that) is often accused of being 'a doctrine without a text'. Whilst this is in many ways a non-argument (who seriously wants to limit 'what the bible teaches' to 'what can be proved from proof texts'?) and Romans 8:32 is a proof-text of sorts, there are also a number of texts that suggest that Jesus' cross-work was undertaken with the specific purpose of saving the elect.

I think Hebrews 2:13-15 is probably one of those sort of texts. It strongly implies the doctrine of limited atonement.

13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Behold, I and the children God has given me." 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

vs 13 envisages those who belong to Christ as family members as 'the children' given to him by God. Then vs 14 says that it was because of the humanity of specifically these children that the Son also adopted a human nature (flesh and blood) in order to die a death that rescued them from slavery.

In other words we have atonement explicitly linked with election. Christ's cross-work flowed out of the Father's giving to the Son. It was very definitely 'for us and for our salvation' that the Son was made incarnate and went to his Satan-whupping death.

7 comments:

thebluefish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thebluefish said...

Powerful atonement! Excellent.

Pete said...

Thanks, though it's not a Jackson original I'm afraid.

James said...

vv. 13-15 and on, in fact? 16-17 make 'the brothers' rather specifically the 'seed of Abraham'. Thus the saving from the human predicament (v10, 18) (a) requires the humanity of Jesus and (b) locates the specific humanity amongst the chosen people (see seed of Abraham in rest of NT).

Interesting. Never commented on a blog before...

Pete said...

Thanks James, very helpful.

I guess 16-17 also makes the death not 'for the angels' even though of course we'd want to stress that the cross doe shave an impact on the angels in some other way. Similarly we can assert the cross as having cosmic affects without denying particular redemption.

james said...

Yes. Death not for the angels, but for a particular people.
As both cosmic and human angles on the 'since...in order that' of vv. 14&15: v14 the cosmic effect ('he might destroy'), v15 the human ('he might liberate')- I take it both verbs depend on the same 'in order that.'

Pete said...

I like it.

Just been translating 14-15. I take it that way too. Both are aorist subjunctives used to express purpose.

From the perspective of bib theology, it's all kind of 'Exodusy' isn't it, which underlines the themes of election and particular atonement methinks.