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Was Anyone Saved at the Cross?

We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. —Charles Haddon Spurgeon

There was a time when I called myself a “four-point Calvinist.” There are a lot of people who use that term, and, almost all the time, the one point of the five that they reject is the terrible, horrible, “L”. Limited atonement. There is just something about the term that doesn’t sound right. How can Christ’s atonement be limited? And that is exactly what I said until I began to seriously think about the whole issue. It is my experience that most of those who reject the specific, or limited atonement of Christ, do not *really* believe in the complete sovereignty of God, or the total depravity of man, or the unconditional election of God. Most objections that are lodged against the doctrine are actually objections to one of the preceding points, not against limited atonement itself. The “break” in my thinking came from reading Edwin Palmer’s book, The Five Points of Calvinism. [Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980) pp. 41-55.] In doing a radio program on the truth of God’s electing grace, I was challenged by a caller in regards to the death of Christ. “Why would Christ die for the whole world if God did not intend to save everyone?” I looked at my co-host, and he looked at me, and I made a mental note to do more study into that particular question. I grabbed Palmer’s book as soon as I returned home, and began to read the chapter on the atoning work of Christ.

I became a full “five-pointer” upon reading the following section:

The question that needs a precise answer is this: Did He or didn’t He? Did Christ actually make a substitutionary sacrifice for sins or didn’t He? If He did, then it was not for all the world, for then all the world would be saved. (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 47.)

I was faced with a decision. If I maintained a “universal” atonement, that is, if I said that Christ died substitutionarily in the place of every single man and woman in all the world, then I was forced to either say that 1) everyone will be saved, or 2) the death of Christ is insufficient to save without additional works. I knew that I was not willing to believe that Christ’s death could not save outside of human actions. So I had to understand that Christ’s death was made in behalf of God’s elect, and that it does accomplish its intention, it does save those for whom it is made. At this point I realized that I had “limited” the atonement all along. In fact, if you do not believe in the Reformed doctrine of “limited atonement,” you believe in a limited atonement anyway! How so? Unless you are a universalist (that is, unless you believe that everyone will be saved), then you believe that the atonement of Christ, if it is made for all men, is limited in its effect. You believe that Christ can die in someone’s place and yet that person may still be lost for eternity. You limit the power and effect of the atonement. I limit the scope of the atonement, while saying that its power and effect is unlimited! One writer expressed it well when he said,

Let there be no misunderstanding at this point. The Arminian limits the atonement as certainly as does the Calvinist. The Calvinist limits the extent of it in that he says it does not apply to all persons…while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody. The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively. For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge that goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across. As a matter of fact, the Arminian places more severe limitations on the work of Christ than does the Calvinist. (Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932) p. 153.)

Therefore, we are not talking about presenting some terrible limitation on the work of Christ when we speak of “limited atonement.” In fact, we are actually presenting a far greater view of the work of Christ on Calvary when we say that Christ’s death actually accomplishes something in reality rather than only in theory. The atonement, we believe, was a real, actual, substitutionary one, not a possible, theoretical one that is dependent for its efficacy upon the actions of man. And, as one who often shares the gospel with people involved in false religious systems, I will say that the biblical doctrine of the atonement of Christ is a powerful truth that is the only message that has real impact in dealing with the many heretical teachings about Christ that are present in our world today. Jesus Christ died in behalf of those that the Father had, from eternity, decreed to save. There is absolute unity between the Father and the Son in saving God’s people. The Father decrees their salvation, the Son dies in their place, and the Spirit sanctifies them and conforms them to the image of Christ. This is the consistent testimony of Scripture.

The Intention of the Atonement

Why did Christ come to die? Did He come simply to make salvation possible, or did He come to actually obtain eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12)? Let’s consider some passages from Scripture in answer to this question.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).

Here the Lord Jesus Himself speaks of the reason for His coming. He came to seek and to save the lost. Few have a problem with His seeking; many have a problem with the idea that He actually accomplished all of His mission. Jesus, however, made it clear that He came to actually save the lost. He did this by His death.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul asserts that the purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was to actually save sinners. Nothing in Paul’s words leads us to the conclusion that is so popular today—that Christ’s death simply makes salvation a possibility rather than a reality. Christ came to save. So, did He? And how did He? Was it not by His death? Most certainly. The atoning death of Christ provides forgiveness of sins for all those for whom it is made. That is why Christ came.

Christ’s Intercessory Work

But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:24-26).

The New Testament closely connects the work of Christ as our High Priest and intercessor with His death upon the cross. In this passage from Hebrews, we are told that the Lord Jesus, since He lives forever, has an unchangeable or permanent priesthood. He is not like the old priests who passed away, but is a perfect priest, because He remains forever. Because of this He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him. Why? Because He always lives to make intercession for them.

Now, before considering the relationship of the death of Christ to His intercession, I wish to emphasize the fact that the Bible says that Christ is able to save men completely. He is not limited simply to a secondary role as the great Assistor who makes it possible for man to save himself. Those who draw near to God through Christ will find full and complete salvation in Him. Furthermore, we must remember that Christ intercedes for those who draw near to God. I feel that it is obvious that Christ is not interceding for those who are not approaching God through Him. Christ’s intercession is in behalf of the people of God. We shall see how important this is in a moment.

Upon what ground does Christ intercede before the Father? Does He stand before the Father and ask Him to forget His holiness, forget His justice, and simply pass over the sins of men? Of course not. The Son intercedes before the Father on the basis of His death. Christ’s intercession is based upon the fact that He has died as the substitute for God’s people, and, since He has borne their sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), He can present His offering before the Father in their place, and intercede for them on this basis. The Son does not ask the Father to compromise His holiness, or to simply pass over sin. Christ took care of sin at Calvary. As we read in Hebrews 9:11-12:

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

When Christ entered into the Holy of Holies, He did so “by his own blood.” When He did this, we are told that He had “obtained eternal redemption.” This again is not a theoretical statement, but a statement of fact. Christ did not enter into the Holy of Holies to attempt to gain redemption for His people! He entered in having already accomplished that. So what is He doing? Is His work of intercession another work alongside His sacrificial death? Is His death ineffective without this “other” work? Christ’s intercession is not a second work outside of His death. Rather, Christ is presenting before the Father His perfect and complete sacrifice. He is our High Priest, and the sacrifice He offers in our place is the sacrifice of Himself. He is our Advocate, as John said:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2. [This passage is often used to deny the specific atonement of Christ; yet, when the parallel passage in John 11:51-52 is consulted, it is clear that John means the “world” to be taken in the same sense that is explained for us in Revelation 5:9-11, where Christ’s death purchases for God men “from every tribe and language and people and nation,” that is, from all the world.]

Christ’s atoning death is clearly connected with His advocacy before the Father. Therefore, we can see the following truths:

1) It is impossible that the Son would not intercede for everyone for whom He died. If Christ dies as their Substitute, how could He not present His sacrifice in their stead before the Father? Can we really believe that Christ would die for someone that He did not intend to save?

2) It is impossible that anyone for whom the Son did not die could receive Christ’s intercession. If Christ did not die in behalf of a certain individual, how could Christ intercede for that individual, since He would have no grounds upon which to seek the Father’s mercy?

3) It is impossible that anyone for whom the Son intercedes could be lost. Can we imagine the Son pleading before the Father, presenting His perfect atonement in behalf of an individual that He wishes to save, and the Father rejecting the Son’s intercession? The Father always hears the Son (John 11:42). Would He not hear the Son’s pleas in behalf of all that the Son desires to save? Furthermore, if we believe that Christ can intercede for someone that the Father will not save, then we must believe either 1) that there is dissension in the Godhead, the Father desiring one thing, the Son another, or 2) that the Father is incapable of doing what the Son desires Him to do. Both positions are utterly impossible.

That Christ does not act as High Priest for all men is clearly seen in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17. The Lord clearly distinguishes between the “world” and those who are His throughout the prayer, and verse 9 makes our point very strongly:

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

When Christ prays to the Father, He does not pray for the “world” but for those that have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:37).

For Whom Did Christ Die?

There are a number of Scriptures that teach us that the scope of Christ’s death was limited to the elect. Here are a few of them:

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

The “many” for whom Christ died are the elect of God, just as Isaiah had said long before,

By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)

The Lord Jesus made it clear that His death was for His people when He spoke of the Shepherd and the sheep:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15).

The good Shepherd lays down His life in behalf of the sheep. Are all men the sheep of Christ? Certainly not, for most men do not know Christ, and Christ says that His sheep know Him (John 10:14). Further, Jesus specifically told the Jews who did not believe in Him, “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). Note that in contrast with the idea that we believe and therefore make ourselves Christ’s sheep, Jesus says that they do not believe because they are not His sheep! Whether one is of Christ’s sheep is the Father’s decision (John 6:37, 8:47), not the sheep’s!

…just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God….husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:2, 25-27).

Christ gave Himself in behalf of His Church, His Body, and that for the purpose of cleansing her and making her holy. If this was His intention for the Church, why would He give Himself for those who are not of the Church? Would He not wish to make these “others” holy as well? Yet, if Christ died for all men, there are many, many who will remain impure for all eternity. Was Christ’s death insufficient to cleanse them? Certainly not. Did He have a different goal in mind in dying for them? [I am not here denying that the death of Christ had effects for all men, indeed, for all of creation. I believe that His death is indeed part of the “summing up of all things” in Christ. But, we are speaking here solely with the salvific effect of the substitutionary atonement of Christ. One might say that Christ’s death has an effect upon those for whom it was not intended as an atoning sacrifice.] No, His sacrificial death in behalf of His Church results in her purification, and this is what He intended for all for whom He died.

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:32-34).

The Father gave the Son in our place. Who is the “our” of this passage? The text says that it is “those whom God has chosen,” that is, the elect of God. Again, the intercessory work of Christ at the right hand of the Father is presented in perfect harmony with the death of Christ—those for whom Christ died are those for whom He intercedes. And, as this passage shows, if Christ intercedes for someone, who can possibly bring a charge against that person and hope to see them condemned? So we see what we have seen before: Christ dies in someone’s place, He intercedes for them, and they are infallibly saved. Christ’s work is complete and perfect. He is the powerful Savior, and He never fails to accomplish His purpose.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Are all the friends of Christ? Do all own His name? Do all bow before Him and accept Him as Lord? Do all do His commandments (John 15:14)? Then not all are His friends.

While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).

Both the substitutionary element of the cross (gave himself for us) and the purpose thereof (to redeem us…to purify) are forcefully presented to Titus. If it was the purpose of Christ to redeem and purify those for whom He died, can this possibly not take place?

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Christ will save His people from their sins. I ask what Edwin Palmer asked me before: Well, did He? Did He save His people, or did He not?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

This is the common confession of every true believer in Christ. We died with Him, our Substitute, the one who loved us and gave Himself in our behalf.

We have seen, then, that the Word teaches that Christ died for many, for His sheep, for the Church, for the elect of God, for His friends, for a people zealous for good works, for His people, for each and every Christian.

Perfected and Sanctified

One could quite obviously fill entire volumes with a study of the atonement of Christ. [The reader is strongly encouraged to make the effort to read completely a work that stands as a classic in the field: John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ from Banner of Truth, for a full discussion of the issues surrounding the atonement of Christ.] It is not our purpose to do so here. Instead, we shall close our brief survey of Scripture with these words from Hebrews 10:10-14:

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

While we have seen many logical reasons for believing in limited atonement, and we have seen many references to Christ’s death in behalf of His people, this one passage, above all others, to me, makes the doctrine a must. Listen closely to what we are told. First, what is the effect of the one time sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ? What does verse 10 tell us? “We have been made holy,” or, another translation would be, “We have been sanctified.” The Greek language uses the perfect tense here, indicating a past, and completed, action. The death of Christ actually makes us holy. Do we believe this? Did the death of Christ actually sanctify those for whom it was made? Or did it simply make it possible for them to become holy? Again, these are questions that cannot be easily dismissed. The writer goes on to describe how this priest, Jesus, sat down at the right hand of God, unlike the old priests who had to keep performing sacrifices over and over and over again. His work, on the contrary, is perfect and complete. He can rest, for by His one sacrifice He has made perfect those who are experiencing the sanctifying work of the Spirit in their lives. He made them perfect, complete. The term refers to a completion, a finishing. Again, do we believe that Christ’s death does this? And, if we see the plain teaching of Scripture, are we willing to alter our beliefs, and our methods of proclaiming the gospel, to fit the truth?

What of Faith?

One common belief needs to be addressed in passing. Many who believe in a “universal” or non-specific atonement, assert that while Christ died for all, His atonement is only effective for those who believe. We shall discuss the fact that faith itself is the gift of God, given only to the elect of God, in the next chapter. But for now, we defer to the great Puritan writer, John Owen, in answering this question:

To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:—God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 3….If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then he did not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will. (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1985) pp. 61-62.)


Some object to the doctrine of limited atonement on very pragmatic grounds. “The doctrine destroys evangelism, because you cannot tell people that Christ died for them, because you don’t know!” Yet, we ask, is there an advantage in presenting to men an atonement that is theoretical, a Savior whose work is incomplete, and a gospel that is but a possibility? What kind of proclamation will God honor with His Spirit: one that is tailored to seek “success,” or one that is bound to the truth of the Word of God? When the Apostles preached the Gospel, they did not say, “Christ died for all men everywhere, and it is up to you to make His work effective.” They taught that Christ died for sinners, and that it was the duty of every man to repent and believe. They knew that only God’s grace could bring about repentance and faith in the human heart. And far from that being a *hindrance* to their evangelistic work, it was the power behind it! They proclaimed a *powerful* Savior, whose work is all sufficient, and who saves men totally and completely! They knew that God was about bringing men to Himself, and, since He is the sovereign of the universe, there is no power on earth that will stay His hand! Now there is a solid basis for evangelism! And what could be more of a comfort to the heart that is racked with guilt than to know that Christ has died for sinners, and that His work is not just theoretical, but is real?

The Church needs to challenge the world again with the daring proclamation of a gospel that is offensive—offensive because it speaks of God saving those whom He will, offensive because it proclaims a sovereign Savior who redeems His people.

The Empty Hand of Faith

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . . For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants.”
—Romans 4:4-5, 16

“That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
—Philippians 3:9

“Faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it, but it is content humbly to receive it. Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it. Faith never makes herself her own plea, she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges whence she drew them, and owns that grace alone entrusted her with them.”
—Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

The single most amazing truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: it is all of grace. It is the work of God, not of man. It is the story of a powerful Savior who redeems His people, and He does so completely. It is about a sovereign God, a perfect Savior, and an accomplished redemption.

In the above quoted Scripture we hear the very message of life itself. We first hear about our inability: if we think we can “work” to gain something from God, we do not understand how truly lost we are. The one who works receives only his wages, not righteousness. But to the one who does not come to God with any idea of merit or earning, but instead trusts in the God who justifies the ungodly, that kind of faith is reckoned to him as righteousness. It is a faith that comes with empty hand, claiming nothing for itself, but seeking its all in Christ. This empty-handed faith is the kind of faith that results in a right standing with God.

Next we hear about God’s ability: since faith comes with empty hand, it finds in the grace of God all that it could ever need or want. God’s grace is powerful, and it brings full salvation to the soul of the person who despairs of anything other than free, unmerited grace. Grace cannot clasp the hand that carries within it ideas of merit, or good works, or any other kind of human addition to grace. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). God’s wondrous grace cannot be mixed with human merit. The hand that holds onto its own alleged goodness, or attempts to sneak in a merit here, a good work there, will not find the open hand of God’s grace. Only the empty hand fits into the powerful hand of grace. Only the person who finds in Christ his all-in-all will, in so finding, be made right with God. This is why the Scriptures say it is by faith so that it might be in accordance with grace: in God’s wisdom, he excludes man’s boasting by making salvation all of grace.

Finally, we see the certainty of salvation: because God saves by His all-powerful and undeserved mercy and grace, the promise of salvation is “guaranteed” or made firm and unmovable to everyone who extends that empty but believing hand to His all powerful and sovereign grace. If salvation was in the least bit dependent upon the sinner, the promise could never be thought of as firm and unmovable. But since faith brings no idea of self-worth with it, and since grace is by definition free and unmerited, then salvation itself is wholly the work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), and hence it is certain, firm and can be “guaranteed.” Only salvation that is God’s work in its totality can fit this description.

My friend, do you have the kind of righteousness that Paul spoke of in Philippians 3:9, cited above? Or do you have a standing before God that is based upon what you do, rather than upon what Christ has done in your place? Can you understand why a true Christian cannot help but stand in wonder at these words: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him” (Romans 4:8)? Have your sins been imputed to Christ, and His righteousness imputed to you by faith? Do you know what it means to have Christ not merely as Savior in name, but in fact, so that your entire trust is in Him and in nothing you can ever do? Can you honestly say you trust Him with your eternal destiny, and fully believe He carried your sins on the cross, and has given His righteousness to you, so that you can stand before the holy God? It is my prayer that if you cannot claim Christ in this way, you will give consideration to these truths, and God will be merciful toward you so as to grant you true faith to embrace His gospel. May God richly bless you as you seek His truth.

Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. . .”No man comes to me,” says Jesus, “except the Father who sent me draws him.” So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith,” but salvation is “by grace.” Sound forth those words as with the archangel’s trumpet: “By grace are you saved.” What glad tidings for the undeserving!

—Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

We highly recommend reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic work, All of Grace.

What is Your Authority?

The following was first published around 1991 in tract form.

An examination of the Mormon Priesthoods in the light of God’s Word, the Bible.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be the only true church on earth today.1 They also claim to hold the only true priesthood authority.2 Supposedly the Aaronic priesthood was conferred on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829, and then, sometime in June of the same year, Peter, James and John supposedly appeared and conferred the Melchizedek priesthood to them.3 When Christians attempt to confront the teachings of the LDS Church, the frequent response of the Mormon is “What is your authority?” Mormons truly believe that they have a special authority from God as presented by the priesthood. But, the question we must ask is this — does the Bible support these ideas? Does the Bible present a special priesthood authority as the Mormon Church claims? Let’s examine this idea.

The Aaronic Priesthood

The presentation of the Aaronic priesthood as found in the Bible demonstrates clearly that Aaronic priests were ordained to that position in quite a different way than LDS men are today.4 The duties of the Aaronic priests were also inconsistent with those of the priests of Mormonism.5 What is even more important for our purposes is the fact that the requirements for the Biblical Aaronic priests are very different from those of Mormon teaching. The priesthood of Aaron is reserved solely and eternally6 for the descendants of Aaron. Hence, the only ones who can hold the Aaronic priesthood, according to the Bible, are those who are the physical offspring of the tribe of Levi, the family of Aaron.7

When we look at LDS practice, however, we find that in the individual’s “Patriarchal blessing” he is told to what tribe he belongs. Normally, the tribe is that of Ephraim or Manasseh. We have never encountered any Mormon who claimed to be of the tribe of Levi, let alone the family of Aaron. Clearly the Mormon person must not be claiming to hold the same priesthood as spoken of in the Bible, as very few of the members of the LDS Church are Jewish in lineage!

The most telling objection to be raised to the entire idea of a modern, functioning Aaronic priesthood is the simple teaching of the New Testament that in the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ the entire sacrificial system, along with its priesthood duties, was fulfilled and completed. To go back to the old system is to undo the work of Jesus at Calvary! For example — the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom when Christ died (Matthew 27:51). This veil had stood for the separating wall between God and man that was bridged but once a year by the one high priest8 when he offered the sacrifice of atonement for the people.9 Christ, however, offered the final sacrifice and in doing so opened the way permanently for all who would come to God by Him. Christ did not do away with the priesthood — rather he fulfilled it — its purpose was done, finished, completed.10 Since this is so, anyone today who wishes to revive the old ways of the Aaronic priesthood sadly misunderstands the work of Christ on the cross.11

The Melchizedek Priesthood

Much more important than the “Aaronic” priesthood in Mormon thought is the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” or the “Melchizedek Priesthood.” This priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the priesthood… and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.”12 Obviously this supposed authority is very important to the LDS Church. But again, does the Bible support such a teaching?

Let us first examine the qualifications of the “Melchizedek” priest as given in the Bible. Hebrews 7:3 tells us that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life…” Only Melchizedek and Christ meet those quantifications,13 for this priesthood is unique — no one but Melchizedek and Christ has ever held it. Indeed, Hebrews 7:3 also makes clear that Melchizedek is only like the Son of God — he was not the pattern that Jesus followed but rather he was a “type” — the mere reflection of the full expression of the Son of God. This priesthood is also seen, on the basis of this passage, to be one that is not passed on from one to another 14 like the Aaronic priesthood was.

The work of the Melchizedek priest is seen in Hebrews 7:24-25, where the Bible says, “But this man (Jesus), because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” The priesthood Jesus holds is His “unchangeably” or “permanently.” Some translate it by the word “intransmissible”15 indicating that no one else can hold this priesthood. Though some would argue with the translation of the word, the fact is clear that the person holding this priesthood by right of eternal life is able to save completely those who come unto God by him — a claim that few Mormons would knowingly make. However, if the LDS Church is going to declare that it has this priesthood, it must face the fact that it is professing to have that which, according to the Bible, is the property of Jesus Christ alone.

A passage that is frequently cited in this discussion is Hebrews 5:6 which mentions the “order of Melchizedek.” The LDS Church teaches that this indicates that there was an “order” of priests after Melchizedek — that it is a priesthood that is passed on much like the Aaronic.16 The whole point of the discourse, however, is just the opposite — the priesthood of Jesus is superior to that of Aaron and one of the reasons is that it is not passed from one to another. It is not invested in men who will die, but is given only to the One who has died and lives on forever, the Lord Jesus Christ! To miss this point is to misunderstand the entire argument of Hebrews! It must also be pointed out that the word translated “order” means “of the same kind”17 or “nature, quality, manner, condition, appearance.”18 It does not refer to a lineage of priests, but rather to the kind of priest. It must again be stressed that Jesus’ priesthood is His uniquely and that no one can claim to hold what is His by right as the one great High Priest, the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Therefore, the LDS Church’s claim to hold this priesthood is without Biblical or historical basis,19 and far more importantly, it strikes at the very core of the work and office of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We do not pretend that these few points cover all there is to say on this subject — such a discussion would not be practical in this small space. We do feel, however, that the above information makes it very clear that the Mormon view of “authority” is separate from, and contradicted by, the Word of God.

An Important Decision

Given the Bible’s teaching about the “priesthood” as claimed by the LDS Church, the individual Mormon is left with a decision to make — will he follow the teachings of his church, or the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles as contained in the Bible? In making this decision, it is important for the Mormon to realize that the real Jesus Christ is vastly superior to the concept he or she has been taught. He is not simply one of the many offspring of a god who was once a man — He is the one true God of creation, who holds all things together by His power (Col. 1:15-17). His priesthood is far above anything that we humans can imagine, and His work cannot be imitated by men who claim religious “authority.” He does not dispense His power and authority through man-made channels, but rather He gives His real authority to each and every person who comes to Him by faith.20 There is no separate “class” of believers to whom some special priesthood is given — all believers in the true Jesus Christ are “kings and priests unto God” — not priests that stand before God for others as in the Old Testament — but priests unto God in that they have direct access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of authority is not “passed on” through religious ceremony, but is given by the Sovereign Holy Spirit at the time of conversion.

At this present time you may reject what we have said. Our plea to you would be that you would remember these words, for someday, when you need a true foundation — a solid basis in real truth, you will need to deal with what we have said. When you desire a full and vital personal relationship with the living God rather than the dry husks of formal religion, remember His truth as presented in His Word, the Bible. Turn your life over to the one true God of eternity. He offers you full salvation. Remember that Jesus is “able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”


1. Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie page 670, The Seer by Orson Pratt, pg. 255.

2. Mormon Doctrine pgs. 136-137, D&C 107

3. D&C 27:8, 12. However, these verses were added to the original revelation (by Joseph Smith). Over 400 words have been added to or deleted from this “revelation” since it was originally given.

4. Exodus 29, Leviticus 8.

5. Leviticus chapters 4 through 10.

6. Numbers 16:40, 18:7

7. Exodus 28:1,29:9,44,40:15, Numbers 18:1-7, Nehemiah 7:61-65

8. Much could be said concerning the fact that there was only one high priest, not the many which can be found in Mormonism. Indeed, according to the book of Hebrews, we have today but one high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone claiming to be a “high priest” is usurping Jesus’ position (Hebrews 7:26-28).

9. Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9:7

10. Hebrews 7:12 says that there has been a “change” in the Aaronic priesthood. The Greek term indicates that the Aaronic priesthood has been completed. As Dr. A. T. Robertson said in reference to this verse, “God’s choice of another kind of priesthood for his Son, left the Levitical line off to one side, forever discounted, passed by “the order of Aaron.”

11. Hebrews 9:10-28. We also must ask why Joseph Smith taught that during the millennial kingdom the Old Testament animal sacrifices would be reinstituted (see DHC 4:211, Mormon Doctrine pg. 666)? Doesn’t such a teaching, along with the LDS doctrine of blood atonement (see our tract on this subject) show how little is known of the Biblical doctrine of the atonement of Christ within Mormonism?
Also, should someone feel that John 15:16 refers to the “ordination” of the apostles and the granting to them of some special “authority,” we would like to point out that the word translated
“ordained” in 15:16 is simply a syn- onym for “chosen” that is translated in modern versions as “appointed.” It has no reference whatsoever to the idea of a special religious “ordination” of

12. Mormon Doctrine pg. 476.

13. Jesus being the eternal God – of course, since Mormonism believes God is a man and Jesus one of his many offspring, they would misunderstand the point made here. See our many other tracts for the Bible’s teaching concerning God and the eternal fact that He is not a man.

14. There were no “Melchizedek” priests between Genesis 14 and the coming of the Lord Jesus – Melchizedek did not “give” the priesthood to Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) – it was Jesus’ by right.

15. See, for example, Strong’s Concordance (“not passing away, intransferable, unchangeable”), J.H. Thayer’s Lexicon (“unchangeable, and therefore not liable to pass to a successor”) the Zondervan Interlinear (“intransmissible”) The Expositor’s Greek Testament (“…that the new priest is sole and perpetual occupant of the office, giving place to no successor”) and Dr. A.T. Robertson (“God placed Christ in this priesthood and no one else can step into it”).

16. This can be seen in the fact that the Mormon Church “passes on” its idea of the Melchizedek priesthood by the laying on of hands, etc.

17. The rendering of J.C. Ward as suggested by Dr. Leon Morris.

18. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. edited by Arndt, Gingrich and Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) pp. 803-804. See also W. E. Vine’s Expositor’s Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan New Jersey: Revell Company, 1966) p. 145.

19. There is really no historical basis for the supposed “restoration” of the priesthood, as mentioned briefly above. The sections in the Doctrine and Covenants (specifically section 27) have been edited to make it look as though this teaching was a part of the Mormon theology from the beginning when this is not so. David Whitmer rightly pointed these changes out in his book “An Address to All Believers in Christ” pages 56 and following. The evi dence for a visit in June of 1829 of Peter, James and John is slim to none.

20. As the Bible says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power (Gr: eksousia meaning power, authority) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12). Note that we become the children of God — not that we have always been the children of God.