November 2, 2009

James Swan on Martin Luther (1483–1546) and the Extent of the Atonement

I don't agree with several things said during this part of the interview on Iron Sharpens Iron, but I do agree with Swan that Luther believed that Christ suffered for the sins of all men.

Update on 6-14-11: Swan has also recently written about Luther's views here (click). See also here and here. Swan wrote:
In Luther’s early commentary on Romans he comments on “God will have all men saved” (1 Tim 2:4).  He says that saying like this “must be understood only with respect to the elect” and that “Christ did not die for absolutely all.” From such comments it appears easy to conclude Luther taught limited atonement.  Other than this pre-reformation comment, there is no other evidence that Luther maintained such a view throughout his life on the extent of the atonement. Luther would instead go on to say things like, “[Christ] helps not against one sin only, but against all my sin; and not against my sin only, but against the whole world's sin. He comes to take away not sickness only, but death; and not my death only, but the whole world's death.” For Luther, the revealed God did indeed die for the sins of every human being.  Quotes similar to this are peppered throughout his later writings. For Luther, the Scriptures state that Christ died for all men and not all are saved. Nevertheless, Christ died for all men, and wants all men saved.

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