Some time ago I was presented with an article, “Calvin’s Error of Limited Atonement” by Dr. D.A.Waite, and subsequently began working on a joint response with another member from Alpha and Omega Ministries. The article seeks to attack Limited Atonement as affirmed by historic Calvinism. It was my desire to compose a complete response to all the issues raised in the article (which I still hope to complete) but time constraints and other correspondence projects have limited me (no pun intended) to his opening arguments and his discussion of Isaiah 53. I trust that the following is helpful in underscoring once again the continued misrepresentation by non-Reformed people as they vainly seek to refute what I believe to be the biblical position on the atoning work of Christ.
I have chosen to cite Dr. Waite’s comments en toto, making my objections and comments when necessary. (The original can be seen by clicking here.) This will provide the necessary context for the thoughts I wish to present. Dr. Waite begins with the following:
The weakest link in John Calvin’s philosophy (and I call it “philosophy” instead of
“theology” because in this particular matter at least, he is 100% contrary to the revealed will of God as given to us in the Bible, hence, it cannot properly be called “theology”) is his so-called false teaching on the “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” or the “L” in his followers ” T. U. L. I. P. “five points These five points, in general, are as follows:
1. Total depravity of man
1. Unconditional election by God
1. Limited atonement by Christ
1. Irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit
1. Perseverance of the believers in salvation
Whether or not John Calvin himself formulated these five points as such, or whether they
were mere formulations of the followers of John Calvin, based upon CALVIN’S INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, is not the question. The main point is that these FIVE POINTS, or the “T U L I. P.” presently characterize the theology which is called by its strictest adherents, “CALVINISM.” For this reason, we have chosen the title, CALVIN’S ERROR OF “LIMITED ATONEMENT”. It could, perhaps, just as easily be called “CALVINISM’S ERROR OF ‘LIMITED ATONEMENT.'”
By this title, there is but ONE major consideration to be taken up in this study, and that is the strictly LIMITED coverage of Calvinism’s “LIMITED ATONEMENT” teaching. It is NOT our purpose to discuss any of the other FIVE POINTS of the “T.U.L.I.P.” I am attacking ONLY the THIRD POINT or the “L” of the “T U L. I P.” without discussing pro or con the other FOUR POINTS. This has been done, because for me at least, this is the most IMPORTANT ERROR of Calvinism today.
I. “Limited Atonement” Defined
A. LIMITED ATONEMENT DEFINED BY “STRICT” CALVINISTS.
The so-called “strict” Calvinists, such as those in the Dutch Reformed Tradition, and other strict Reformed and Presbyterian traditions define LIMITED ATONEMENT as the theory that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross was strictly LIMITED in any and all of its aspects ONLY TO THE ELECT or saved ones, or believers in Christ. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the unsaved or the non-elect people of the world. In NO sense whatever, according to this FALSE VIEW, could you tell a sinner in the audience who eventually would NOT be saved in his lifetime, that “CHRIST DIED FOR YOUR SINS.” Christ died (in this FALSE VIEW) ONLY for the sins of the ELECT, and NOT for the sins of the non-elect in any sense whatsoever! This is the definition of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” which I will argue against as being unscriptural and, in effect, therefore, a heretical doctrine!
I am sure that what Dr. Waite meant at this point was that Calvinists define the extent of Christ’s
redeeming work as intended only for the elect and not the reprobate. To say “it had nothing whatsoever to do with the unsaved or the non-elect people” is misleading. While it is true that all non-elect people are unsaved it is not equally true that all unsaved people are non-elect. All men are by nature children of wrath, spiritually dead and without hope, “but God who is rich in mercy” (Eph.2:4) in sovereign power and grace is even now saving from every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue a multitude whom no man can number.
I was very disappointed in the lack of accuracy and the misrepresentations that characterized the
entire work that Dr. Waite has provided. Dr. Waite is a recognized teacher and theologian and one would expect a more sensitive approach to accuracy than the one presented in this presentation. Already, in just a few short paragraphs, we are informed that Calvinism, and in particular, the teaching concerning Limited Atonement is FALSE. More than a few times, it seems, that Dr. Waite is seeking to prejudice his readers with such proclamations before a single argument has been presented. While this unfortunately might skew the objectivity of some, others will see this as an insecure measure to proclaim something false that in the end is difficult to demonstrate as false. If Dr. Waite was certain that Limited Atonement, as defined by historic Calvinism (not the caricature of Arminianism), was inaccurate, then his demonstration through sound exegesis would be sufficient without having to prompt the reader.
Further, the definitions provided by Dr. Waite are misleading, not only in what they say but also in what they do not say. It would appear that the only aspect and definition of Limited Atonement that Dr. Waite is concerned in addressing is the extent of the atonement. It is interesting to note this statement by Dr. Waite: “In NO sense whatever, according to this FALSE VIEW, could you tell a sinner in the audience who eventually would NOT be saved in his lifetime, that ‘CHRIST DIED FOR YOUR SINS'”. It would seem that Dr. Waite is suggesting that such appeals are part and parcel of the gospel message, and anything short of such statements conveys a weakness or error in the message.
The gospel message is certainly that Christ died for sinners (and I would add not just “for” but to
“save” sinners). The appeal, however, in the book of Acts, is that men are to repent and believe the gospel that has as its basis the finished work of Christ. No appeal can be found in the evangelism of the book of Acts that has as its basis Christ dying for this or that specific person. Where does Peter in Acts chapter two tell the men of Israel, “You need to repent and believe because Jesus died for you?” Rather, after declaring that Christ had been delivered by the determinate counsel of God, that he had been crucified, buried, and rose again, He proclaims the following,
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:36-38).
Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, Paul, and all those who preached the gospel throughout the book of
Acts consistently employ this same message and method. Who were those who heard this message? They were the men of Israel, the sick and lame, the rulers, elders, scribes, and the high priest, the Ethiopian eunuch, those in the synagogues, Cornelius and his household, the Phillipian jailer, Lydia, the men at Athens, Festus, King Aggripa, etc. Yet please note that they were never told that they needed to believe and repent because CHRIST DIED FOR YOU.” How could these men preach (and by the way thousands were converted) such a message without saying what Dr. Waite views as such an integral part of the gospel appeal?
It cannot be underscored enough that the one who truly understands the nature of the atonement and His need of the Savior can truly say, as the Apostle says, that Christ died “for me” (Gal.2:20). But the one who does not view the personal and particular nature of the atonement but rather ascribes to a general and therefore impersonal atonement, makes such a statement inconsistently with their position.
Finally, Dr. Waite has attempted to divorce the extent of the atonement from the nature of the atonement. While there is certainly a distinction between the two they are nonetheless inseparable and hence, as we shall later demonstrate, such a dichotomy is untenable. The fact that historic Calvinism believes that the atonement was made for the elect and only the elect is bound up in the biblical teachings concerning the death of Jesus Christ. Did Christ die for everyone in general but no one in particular, or was there a specific purpose with a particular intent that moved the Son of God to give His life for sinners?
It does indeed seem strange that Dr. Waite would leave out any discussion on the nature of the
atonement. It is as if Dr. Waite is trying to argue backwards, to “put the cart before the horse.” Since the extent of the atonement has as its origin the nature of the atonement and not the other way around, it is no wonder that there are many who are confused. A related parallel is that of election and conversion. All the focus is placed on conversion and that focus is then used to read backward and unfortunately redefine election where conversion has its origin. Since this is the trail that Dr. Waite chooses to follow then we shall reason with him hopefully taking our trail back to where we should have started to begin with.
B. LIMITED ATONEMENT DEFINED BY “MIXED-UP” CALVINISTS
There is, however, a school of what I term “mixed-up” Calvinists, who think they also hold to a “LIMITED ATONEMENT” theory who teach that Christ’s death was sufficient for the whole world, but efficient or effective only for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. This explanation of Christ’s death is CORRECT, and is Scripturally SOUND, but it is NOT the proper definition of “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” and all who hold it, therefore, are NOT believers in “LIMITED ATONEMENT,” but rather in “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” This is an important distinction to bear in mind as we progress in our study.
I had to wonder what Dr. Waite meant by “mixed-up” Calvinists. Since these “mixed-up”
Calvinists believe in a Unlimited Atonement and since Dr. Waite has already stated by innuendo his opposition to the famous five points of Calvinism, then who are these “mixed-up” Calvinists? Could these “mixed-up” Calvinists be nothing more than inconsistent Arminians? Those who simply want to borrow from Calvinism those truths they like, such as eternal security, but reject those truths they do not like, such as predestination and election, and the particularity of the atonement?
I also noticed that Dr. Waite asserts that these “mixed-up” Calvinists believe correctly that Christ’s death was sufficient for all but only efficient for the elect. Why is this statement missing from the definitions given concerning “strict” Calvinists? Is there perhaps an implication that “strict” Calvinists do not believe that Christ’s death was sufficient to save all? Indeed, we wholeheartedly affirm that the death of Christ was of immeasurable worth. Sufficient, if He had purposed, to redeem every single man, woman, and child that would ever live. In fact, this is where the argument turns against Dr. Waite. Why? It is because the “strict” Calvinist boldly affirms that the death of Christ in and of itself was sufficient to save all those for whom it was made. By contrast, the position that Dr. Waite is presenting is that Christ’s death was insufficient in and of itself to accomplish it’s intended purpose and can only become “efficient” when the sinner chooses to appropriate it.
It should be clearly noted as one reads through this presentation that there are two views of Limited
Atonement being presented. Dr. Waite is seeking to address only one. The one view held by “strict” Calvinists, views the work of Christ as perfect, complete, and in and of itself efficacious to save all those for whom it was made. The limitation in view here is not the with reference to efficacy but scope or extent. The other Limited Atonement being presented is the one by Dr. Waite. It is the view that believes that Christ’s death in and of itself was not efficacious but can only become efficacious when the sinner appropriates it. The limit is in the efficacy—the extent or scope is universal. Many “cringe” at such a definition but such a definition is true. If, according to Arminianism, the atoning work of Christ is contingent upon human appropriation, i.e. faith, then that atonement is limited. Hence, it is theoretically possible that Christ could have atoned for every individual and yet have had no one appropriate its saving benefits. The question then to be asked is, which position of Limited Atonement does the Bible teach? Is it one that is limited in extent (Calvinism) or one that is limited in efficacy (mixed-up Calvinists/Arminians)?
II. “Limited Atonement” Refuted By The Scriptures
The best way of refuting the false view of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above is by making specific reference to various verses in the Bible that teach clearly an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT.” Obviously, the Bible cannot teach both an “UNLIMITED ATONEMENT” and at the same time “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above. Only one is correct, and the other must be incorrect, since these two systems of belief are contradictory the one to another.
Again, as this presentation unfolds, which of the two views of Limited Atonement will be
demonstrated (not declared, as Dr. Waite is apt to do) to be false? That view which limits the extent, or that view which limits the efficacy of the work of Christ? Dr. Waite is correct in saying that the Bible cannot teach both. May those who choose to read set aside presuppositions and search the Scriptures to see if these things be so.
A. Isaiah 53:5-6 REFUTES “LIMITED ATONEMENT.”
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa 53:5-6)
l. Isaiah 53:5-6 Is A Messianic Reference
This section of the book of Isaiah is a reference to the Messiah of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is teaching clearly concerning the Lord’s death for sinners on Calvary’s cross. Christ was the “servant” spoken of in Isaiah 52:13. Fundamentalists and even evangelicals are in agreement on this point.
This is a wonderful passage that has brought comfort, hope, and encouragement to God’s people for centuries. The promised Messiah and His work to rescue and redeem sinners is clearly the focus of this passage. The primary emphasis of this passage is the substitutionary work of the Suffering Servant in behalf of His people. While Waite affirms that the passage “is teaching clearly concerning the Lord’s death for sinners” he nonetheless deviates from that main emphasis to make it appear that the prophet’s primary concern is the universality of sin thereby seeking to make a universal application.
2. The Pronoun Antecedents In Isaiah 53:5-6.
In our King James Version’s English text of Isaiah 53:5-6, there are eight pronouns (underlined above) and two “all’s” whose antecedents must be clearly understood in order to understand the meaning of these verses. Of the EIGHT pronouns, there are three “ours”; three “we’s”; one “his”; and one “us.” Various views have been advanced in giving the antecedents of these eight pronouns
2a. Some Say The Pronouns Refer To The Jews Only
There are some who take these eight pronouns to refer to the Jews only, so that the sacrifice of Christ is only of merit for Jews to whom Isaiah is writing. Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 would paraphrased, if this view were to be accepted as the truth:
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY: “But Christ was wounded for our Jewish transgressions only, He was bruised for our Jewish iniquities only: the chastisement of our Jewish peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we Jews only are healed. All we Jews only have, like sheep, gone astray; we Jews only have turned every one of us to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Christ only the iniquity of all of us Jews, but nobody else.” (Isaiah 53:5-6, PARAPHRASED FALSELY)
It is obvious to all that since Isaiah was a Jew, and the people to whom he was writing were Jews, it is POSSIBLE to think that Isaiah was writing exclusively as a Jew to fellow-Jews. But this would contradict the other teachings of the Bible relating to the death of Christ on the Cross. I do not believe Isaiah was speaking as a “JEW” in this passage and thus to not believe that the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” refer exclusively to JEWS.
Though I would agree that Isaiah is not addressing only the Jews, I would disagree with Waite’s impression that Isaiah was not writing as a “JEW” (whatever that means). Since Isaiah was a Jew, he wrote as a Jew to a Jewish people, which is clearly the immediate context. Though there is a broader application, the immediate context cannot be ignored.
2b. Some Say The Pronouns Refer To The “ELECT” Only Of Old And New Testaments
Those who hold to the false view of “LIMITED ATONEMENT” as defined above (p 1-2), take the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” to refer only to the “ELECT” or “believers” of the Old and the New Testament periods. Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 would be paraphrased, if this view were to be accepted as the truth.
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY: “But Christ was wounded only for the benefit of the elect’s transgressions, He was bruised only for the elect’s iniquities: the chastisement of the elect’s peace only was upon Him; and with His stripes only we elect are healed. Only all we elect ones like sheep have gone astray; only we elect have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of only the elect.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED FALSELY).
This is an unsatisfactory interpretation. Though Isaiah was an Old Testament believer, it does not seem to fit the entire context of the Bible in reference to Christ’s atonement at Calvary to have him limit these eight pronouns to the elect. This, however, as the interpretation above, is a POSSIBLE interpretation, but it is not PROBABLY true.
Please notice that Dr. Waite has here deviated from his opening comments about this passage.
His “false paraphrases” aside, the passage is primarily (asserted by Waite at the outset) dealing with the death of Christ. Yet Waite’s continued focus is not on the death of Christ and what it accomplishes, but rather his emphasis is on the extent of His work. While the recipients of Christ’s atonement are an integral part of the passage, and cannot be severed from the work of Christ, the primary emphasis of this passage is the work of Christ as Substitute. Here Dr. Waite is seeking to define extent before he defines nature.
2c. The Pronouns Refer To All Sinners Of All Ages
This is the correct interpretation of these words from Isaiah 53:5-6. Isaiah was not only a JEW, and a BELIEVER, but he was also a MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RACE. I believe that the eight pronouns and the two “all’s” in Isaiah 53:5-6 refer to ALL MANKIND without a single exception of any kind.
(1) Isaiah 53:5-6 Paraphrased Truly
Here is how Isaiah 53:5-6 might be paraphrased truly if this is the proper interpretation as I think that it is:
Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED PROPERLY: “But Christ was wounded for the transgressions of every person who ever lived without exception. He was bruised for the iniquities of every person who ever lived without exception: the chastisement of the peace of every person who ever lived without exception was upon Him; and with His stripes every person who ever lived without exception is healed (but not necessarily SAVED or REDEEMED or JUSTIFIED). All of us persons who ever lived without exception like sheep have gone astray; all of us persons who ever lived without exception have turned every one of us to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Christ the iniquity of every person who ever lived without exception.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 PARAPHRASED PROPERLY).
It is important to note that “healed” does not imply either SALVATION, REDEMPTION, or JUSTIFICATION, but merely that there has been a “healing” of the deep wound of sin through Calvary’s cross. In this view, all eight pronouns and the two “alls” refer to every person in the world who ever lived.
Much could be said at this point. Waite is once again declaring victory before presenting a
meaningful argument. The above paraphrase is the most untenable of the three paraphrases that he presents. In his first paraphrase, it needs to be re-emphasized that the immediate context is indeed dealing with the Jews, more specifically, God’s people, and the people to WHOM the Messiah was promised. In his second paraphrase, there is an inescapable connection between Christ’s work as Substitute and those people for whom He is Substitute. However, in this third paraphrase there is absolutely nothing plausible in the paraphrase that Dr. Waite is providing. In essence this is what is being said:
“But Christ was wounded for every person who ever lived without exception” though the vast majority of every single individual for whom Christ died will ultimately perish.
“He was bruised for the iniquities of every person who ever lived without exception” though the vast majority of every single individual for whom Christ died will ultimately perish.
“The chastisement of the peace of every person who ever lived without exception was upon Him; and with His stripes every person who ever lived without exception is healed”.
I would have been inclined to add this next part but Dr. Waite added it for me,
“(But not necessarily SAVED or REDEEMED or JUSTIFIED)”.
“All of us persons who ever lived without exception like sheep have gone astray; all of us
persons who ever lived without exception have turned every one of us to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Christ the iniquity of every person who ever lived without exception” but unfortunately the vast majority of every single individual for whom Christ died will ultimately perish.
Please notice that Dr. Waite, sensing the weight of the position he is advocating, must make the
following comment, “It is important to note that ‘healed’ does not imply either SALVATION, REDEMPTION, or JUSTIFICATION, but merely that there has been a ‘healing’ of the deep wound of sin through Calvary’s cross. In this view, all eight pronouns and the two ‘alls’ refer to every person in the world who ever lived.” Waite asserts that healed doesn’t even “imply” salvation, redemption, or justification. This is where the advocates of Unlimited Atonement must redefine terms. The Bible never allows for such a disjunction between the atonement itself and those for whom it is made. The Scriptures are clear as to the results of the work of Christ: it heals, saves, redeems, justifies, and reconciles all those for whom it is made.
That Waite would say that “healing” doesn’t even imply salvation or justification is amazing. In the immediate context (though Dr. Waite only cites v.5-6) we have this statement made concerning those for whom atonement was made, “He shall see the labor of His soul and be
satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant SHALL JUSTIFY MANY, for He shall bear THEIR iniquities.” Would Dr. Waite have us to believe that the Father would see of the travail of His Son’s soul and be satisfied when the majority of those for whom he labored would perish? Heal doesn’t imply salvation? Do you think that the Jews in hearing of the promised Messiah were “merely” looking for “a ‘healing’ of the deep wound of sin through Calvary’s cross? No, they were looking for DELIVERANCE! The Apostle Peter had no problem whatsoever in recognizing what the Prophet was saying for in calling the believers to follow in the example of Christ’s sufferings he reminds them of their great Substitute and the salvation that His work accomplished.
Both Isaiah and Peter present the substitutionary work of Christ as an accomplished work that has
procured salvation for God’s people—Isaiah prophetically and Peter historically. Please notice Peter’s exegesis of Isaiah 53 as he cites from the Septuagint.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an
example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.[1 Peter 2:21-25]
Peter makes specific reference to the text that Waite says doesn’t even “imply” salvation. Yet Peter in exegeting Isaiah’s comments not only implies but also explicitly affirms the accomplished results of the work of Christ in our behalf. Please notice the substitutionary language, “Who His own self bore OUR sins in His own body on the tree” This emphasizes what He did, He presented Himself as the sin offering upon Calvary’s tree of judgment. Why did he do this? He did for those for whom that offering was made “OUR sins.” Peter is writing, as was Isaiah, to God’s people that are the elect (I Peter 1:1-2).
Now what does Peter say was the result of that offering? “That WE (notice the pronoun) having
died to sins.” Here the aorist participle, apogeno,menoi, is used to describe that which took place at the time of the main verb avnh,negken. Since the main verb is also aorist, “bore our sins,” then in this sense Peter is saying that we died, that is as to sins penalty, WHEN Christ died as OUR Substitute. It would be my contention that the grammar of the text suggests that our dying to sin was related, in strict substitution, to the death of Christ.
Further Peter asserts that the result of that substitutionary and sacrificial death (Christ’s dying and
our dying in Him) accomplishes something, namely salvation (similar to what Paul says in Eph. 5:25-27). Notice the purpose clause, “in order that we might live for righteousness” (there is a definite purpose for those for whom Christ atones). Notice these next words: “by whose stripes YOU were healed.” Would Peter say “It is important to note that ‘healed’ does not imply either SALVATION, REDEMPTION, or JUSTIFICATION, but merely that there has been a “healing” of the deep wound of sin through Calvary’s cross”? I don’t think so.
Peter concludes with the analogy that was so familiar to OT believers, that of the sheep and the
Shepherd. While I would not want to press the analogy too far, there is a sense, both in the OT and in the NT, where the sheep seem to refer to the people of God and their direct relationship to the Shepherd. In the Old Testament Yahweh is called the Shepherd (Ps.23). In the New Testament the Lord Jesus Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” (John 10). So what does Isaiah mean when he says, “all we like sheep have gone astray”?
Scripture clearly teaches the fact that all have sinned (Rom.3), and certainly those to whom Isaiah
and Peter were writing could identify with the fact that like sheep they had wandered and had turned everyone to his own way. However, is Isaiah’s focus on the universality of sin (like Paul’s in Rom.3) or rather is his focus on the substitutionary death for the sheep which have wandered? Let us allow Peter to answer:
“For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of
(2) Evidences In The Context of Isaiah 53:5-6 Where Isaiah referred To ALL MANKIND As Human Beings .
Notice some of the references right here in the context of Isaiah 53:5-6 where Isaiah refers to MANKIND as a whole and thus which makes it possible and even PROBABLE that these eight pronouns and two “all’s” also refer to MANKIND GENERALLY.
Dr. Waite is arguing in circles and is desperately trying to find any reference to men in general
in order to import a universal application to Isaiah 53. That Isaiah refers to men, nations, etc. has nothing whatsoever to do with those found In Isaiah 53 for whom ATONEMENT is made. It would be the same kind of illogical reasoning as if someone were to read a letter I had given to my Arian grandfather. In that letter, I set forth the truth concerning the deity of Christ. Through the course of the letter I also made references to other family members (their health, greetings, etc.,) but NEVER in the context of the discussion on the deity of Christ. Finally, if that person who read the letter concluded that every person mentioned in my letter was Arian, such would be a ridiculous error.
(a) Isaiah 52:14a — “Any man” – When Isaiah wrote “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any MAN, (Isa 52:14a) he was referring to ALL MANKIND, and to “ANY MAN” as a representative of the human race.
What does His appearance in comparison to other human beings have to do with the recipients
of His atonement?
(b) Isaiah 52:14b — “The Son Of Men” – and His form more than the SONS OF MEN:”. This reference to the “SONS OF MEN” applies to ALL MANKIND and every one in the human race – not just to the Jew or to the elect alone.
Since Christ was a Man, and since as a Man he would suffer and His appearance be marred,
with whom does he think Isaiah is to compare him? A tree, a rock, an animal? Of course not! The fact that Isaiah compares his appearance with that of other men does not mean that we can now import a universal application to Isaiah 53.
(c) Isaiah 52:l5 — “Many Nations” – “So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him:” Again, the reference is to many of the unsaved nations, not Jews and not the elect.
Please notice the text qualifies something for us, “many” nations. Why doesn’t Isaiah say “all” or
“every” nation? Is the prophet presenting a scope?
(d) Isaiah 53:3a — “Rejected Of Men ” – “He is despised and rejected of men;…”Again the reference is to ALL MANKIND, and to human beings as a whole, and not only to the Jews or to the elect. This certainly fits the context when you take the “OF MEN” in Isaiah 53:3a and make the following pronouns all refer to Isaiah as a “MAN” saying that “WE MEN AS MEN AS IT WERE OUR FACES FROM Him; He was despised, and WE MEN AS MEN esteemed him not. Surely He hath borne OUR (AS MEN) griefs, and carried OUR SORROWS AS MEN; yet WE MEN did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR TRANSGRESSIONS AS MEN, He was bruised . ” This makes complete sense, and is by all probabilities the meaning of this passage in context.
I am afraid not. Please notice the way in which Isaiah uses his pronouns. That He is despised and
rejected by men in general is understood. But please notice that when the Prophet states this he is speaking in the third person. Please notice, however, that when the prophet begins to unfold the work of Christ as Substitute he no longer uses the third person, but uses ALL 1st PERSON PLURAL PRONOUNS. To convey what Waite is trying to assert, namely that Christ died for every individual person who ever lived, Isaiah should have said, borrowing from Waite’s paraphrasing method, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And men hid, as it were, their faces from Him; He was despised, and men did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne men’s griefs and carried men’s sorrows; Yet men esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for men’s transgressions, he was bruised for men’s iniquities; the chastisement for men’s peace was upon Him. And by His stripes men were healed (though not necessarily saved) all men like sheep have gone astray, men have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of all men.”
Yet as you can see, the prophet does not employ the third person when referring to those for whom atonement is made. He uses the very personal 1st person plurals “we,” “our” and “us”. Who are the “we,” “our” and “us”? I think the context is very clear. They are God’s covenant people. Please notice the passages that Dr. Waite did not cite:
Isaiah 52:6 “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.”‘
7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion. 9 Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem; For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
Now please notice the passages following Isaiah 53:5-6, that clearly identify who the “we, “our,”
and “us,” are:
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.
Finally, please note the connection between those for whom atonement is made and those for whom intercession is made. Upon what basis does Christ intercede? His work upon the cross. For whom then does He intercede? His people. You cannot separate His work of sacrifice from His work of intercession; they are joined works of His office as our High Priest. This will be developed more fully in our closing presentation.
A look at the context, the Apostle Peter’s exegesis
of this text, and the emphasis on the work of Christ clearly refutes the presentation given by Dr. Waite. If one is looking for a specific treatment of the universality of sin (like Dr. Waite) then one should turn to Rom.3. If, however, one is looking for the substitutionary work of Christ in the behalf of His people, then one will find a wonderful treasure in Isaiah 53.