Article of the Month





by John Gerstner



Total Depravity

When man first sinned he died (Genesis 2:17). Now man is spiritually dead, not well, not sick, not even terminally ill, but dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). His depravity pertaining to all aspects of his personality is total. This is not to be confused with UTTER depravity, for there is room for deprovement. Consequently this slave of sin (John 8:34), exploits every opportunity to sin in every area of his being: in thought, word and deed, by commission and omission, and even his good works are bad (Genesis 6:5). Total depravity is our one original contribution to TULIP. We are the dirty soil in which God plants His flower, and from our filth, produces a thing of divine beauty. Those who have eyes to see will notice that the TULIP is an infralapsarian plant.

Unconditional Election

If man is as depraved as the Bible says he is, his divine election to salvation would have to be as unconditional as the Bible says it is. Romans 9:15 How could a totally depraved person exercise faith in a God they hate, or behave virtuously, while obverse to virtue? If it were a matter of foreseeing, what would God foresee but sin and unbelief, unless He elected to rescue some of the deservedly perishing? The election to salvation is absolutely unconditional, but the salvation is not—faith being its prerequisite and good works its post requisite.

Limited Atonement

The atonement is the means by which God brings totally depraved, but unconditionally elect persons to Himself, without violence to His own inexorable holiness. His mercy constrains Him to save and His holiness restrains Him from saving unjustly. So God became man in Christ that He could pay the price for sin and remain God, He did not empty Himself of deity when He became incarnate, so that the purchase was infinite in value. That the atonement was unlimited in its sufficiency as in its offer and limited only in its specific design for those who believe (John 3:16). Those who believe are the elect (Romans 8: 30). I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy at once explains the unconditional character of election and the limitedness of the atonement.

Irresistible Grace

The infinitely precious atonement would be of no value because totally depraved persons even though elect are utterly hostile to God unless something was done to them in grace that corresponded to what was done for them in the atonement. Saving grace need not only be provided but applied by means of union with Christ in regeneration. This divine grace is irresistible or efficacious because it mercifully changes the depraved soul. When a person is born again from above by the Spirit, he as a new creature finds it as natural, irresistible to come to Christ, as in his depravity he finds it natural, irresistible to flee from Him (John 3:3-8) Grace is irresistible not by being against man’s will but by recreating his will.

Perseverance of the Saints

The purpose of God would fail if the last of Christ’s sheep who were not brought and kept within His fold (John 17:20,21; 2 Peter 3:9) So the saints must be persevering. And this could only be possible or certain by God’s preserving. Having put his hand to the plow God never turns back Philippians 1:6 Because He does not, neither do His saints (Philippians 2:11,12). Perseverance by the saints is a consequence of the preservation of the saints. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus on whom our faith depends from beginning to end (Hebrews 12:2).

Now as I said, total depravity was a major part of our theme last year but all of you are fully aware this is without doubt, the most unpopular doctrine in this entire series. And the reason for it is, as has been said a little earlier, man either ignores the Biblical message or adds a BUT to it, or simply remains silent with it and develops his own response and his own conception and probably that was as well articulated in the Christian church at the turn of the century by the man who was probably the greatest church historian of the time, Adolf von Harnack. In a tiny book called, The Essence of Christianity, in which, he reduced the message of Jesus to two fundamentals: the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. And according to that summation of the gospel, of course man was anything but a totally depraved individual on the contrary was naturally a child of God and universally so. Now according to the Bible as the great Wescott, for example, observed concerning the New Testament, there’s no reference even to the general fatherhood of God, though the Bible certainly proposes the principle that God is the creator of all men, and there is no statement of the brotherhood of man. In the New Testament phraseology there is never any question that all of us are made of the same blood and are kinsmen after the flesh. The whole thrust of the New Testament is that God is the Father of His people by adoption and they become His children. Only by that device and apart from adoption into the family of God whereby a man is entitled to say “abba, father” according to Jesus Christ Himself, the totally depraved sinner’s father is the devil. Your father is the devil! If there is any general fatherhood of god that deity is the devil. Precisely the opposite of any notion that God is reconciled by virtue of his nature to man in his present condition. Consequently the Biblical notion is diametrically opposite to man’s self estimate and as we said, man in his present condition, hates God, hates his fellow man, hates himself, he would kill God if he could, he does kill his fellow man when he can and he commits spiritual suicide every day. It isn’t only that the Bible teaches that but some novelists of whom it has been said they write as if they had never met a good man or virtuous woman. There are many psychologists, one of whom said if you peer beneath the veneer of human culture and etiquette, you lift the lid from hell. That wasn’t John Calvin, that’s just a modern psychologist speaking frankly about man.

No one denies when he says such a grim estimate of man in his present state that there are many things that are admirable and excellent about him for which that master coiner of phrases, Augustine used the expression “the splendid vices of the heathen” they are splendid indeed and most of the gifts that delight us culturally are given basically to the heathen. Not many wise, not many rich, and not many highly gifted persons are called into the kingdom. For the most part God gives those gifts to those to whom He does not give the gift of grace and no one is denying them and no one appreciates them so much as those who have become the heirs of grace, though not usually the heirs of natural talent.

What about human virtue outside of Christ? Well as I mentioned in my little paragraph summary that probably the worst thing about man, is so called virtue which Isaiah refers to as his filthy rags of righteousness. They are the ultimate insult when a depraved worm such as this, preens himself on his performance in the realm of moral excellence as indeed he does. Last time when I was here discussing this with some of you we pointed out the rather anomalous situation that the more “virtuous” an unregenerate person appears to be, the more wicked he actually is and I gave the illustration of a ghetto kid who was badly battered by his father, so much so, that when he was taught to pray “our father, Who art in heaven” he went into trauma, because he was afraid that deity was as ruthlessly cruel as his earthy father was. And I contrasted him with a pagan father, who reared his child considerately, who educated him well, who clothed him properly and fed and nourished his body and generally launched him successfully in his earthly career but, gave him the parting message that that life was sufficient and such a style was acceptable to God. That, that parent precisely because he would, by his outward generosity of appeal to the child somewhat, would have been more likely to seal that child to everlasting doom, by giving him the impression that he could live without the grace of God, than that ruthlessly brutal and sadistic, ghetto father of the other boy. So we say about these so-called good works of the heathen which do indeed benefit often the objects of them so that if I give all my goods to feed the poor, though I be unregenerate, it is certainly going to benefit the poor, but, if it is given without love it is not going to profit me at all, and my so called good work becomes indeed a bad work.

Now as I say in this little paragraph, this is our one contribution to this magnificent flower, TULIP. And I try to be as insulting in my description of our filthiness as I possibly could be and if I succeeded in insulting you, I think you should conclude that you have not been truly converted. W.G.T. Shedd said that the most important conviction a person can have, is a conviction of sin and certainly you are not going to be interested in a person named Jesus Who saves His people from their sin and in a bloody atonement for sin unless you really believe you are guilty as charged.

Now before we come to unconditional election, may I say something which I know, I’ve said in private conversation with some of you who brought this subject up last week. It is my deep conviction based on many, many encounters, that the main reason people have problems with TULIP and with the Reformed Faith in general is because they do not believe in total depravity. They think it’s the articles we’re coming to, unconditional election and limited atonement, but, every time, just yesterday, when I was speaking on a campus in Ohio, it came out once again, which I don’t have time to mention, but every time it comes out, that the seeming opposition to the decrees reveals an already latent, and perhaps unsuspected opposition to this first doctrine. It’s like a person saying “I have a pain in my shoulder” and the physician says “There’s nothing wrong with your shoulder, you’re suffering from gall bladder trouble.” We think it’s the decree that’s the locus of our problem, but, if we look carefully, almost invariably, we’ll be discovering it’s because we can’t take the insult of man as he is described. And if you think, incidentally, that I have been a little rough on you, you should read George Whitfield, taking you to the tomb of Lazarus, for example, and reminding you, that that cadaver is an exact one-to-one correspondence of your dead soul, and making it very, very plain that you stink in the nostrils of almighty God. I think he would have been somewhat disappointed in the inadequacy of my presentation, and all I can say is that George Whitfield is guilty of understatement. It is impossible, to indicate how utterly gone we are. But, if you do once convince yourself of that particular truth, you’ll be just like Martin Luther. You’ll accept unconditional election, even if it weren’t in the Bible! You’d start putting apocryphal literature in there, just to make sure that it was spelled out. It just had to be! In Bondage of the Will, the way Luther, who was a Calvinist before Calvin, as you know, although some Lutherans as you know, don’t always know that. And Luther who was a Calvinist before Calvin puts it is, “I know Martin Luther well enough to know that he would never ever have found his way out of this miry pit if God hadn’t reach down and lifted him out.” It is as simple as that! And once you get that idea, that you are gone, and the thoughts and intents of your heart are only evil continually, you know full well that if you have a spark of life in you, if there’s the slightest yearning for holiness, any impulse whatever towards Jesus Christ, is because something has happened to you. God has visited you. This is what the theologians call the divine initiative.

In the first instance, you have not chosen me, says our Lord, but, I have chosen you. Built into that situation, that God must take the initiative, if we, be the kind of persons described in holy Scripture, follows inevitably, the idea that this was an eternal election, for the simple reason, that when God makes up His mind, He makes it up in eternity. I don’t know when you decided to come here this evening, or when you registered for this particular conference, maybe yesterday, maybe two weeks ago, and with all sorts of contingencies, and maybe regretting that you made the decision, and maybe wishing you’d have gone someplace else, and maybe this, and maybe that, but that’s because you’ve got to get all of the data in. But everything is before God in one eternal infinite intuition. He sees precisely, and if you realize that He has reached down, and pulled you out of the miry pit, you know, that He had eternally decided to do so, and that being spelled out in theological language as election—utterly unconditional election.

I know, Dr Boice was talking here about various responses we give to these amens and amens of our Lord Jesus. I know, though he didn’t say it, he knows it too, that one of the responses to this is, it’s because God sees that we’re going to believe that He elects us. Well, nobody ever says that ever, ever, ever, ever read that we are the bondservants of sin, that the thoughts and intents of our hearts are only evil continually, that we love the darkness, we grovel in the darkness, and the slightest ray of light hurts our eyes unbearably, how in the world, pray tell, could God ever foresee faith coming out of that soil. That would be too much for the Deity with all His omniscience; getting blood out of a turnip, or making a purse out of a sow’s ear, child’s play, along side of seeing faith coming out of that kind of soil. I know what some of you may be thinking in your response to some of these amens of the Bible. There is a passage in Romans 8, you remind me, which says “whom He foreknew, them He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom He predestinated, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This is what has been called the golden chain, and it has five links. Let’s look at those links just a moment, because I will admit that at first glance it certainly does suggest that God foresees our faith and therefore unconditionally elects us, or at least elects us. Whom He foreknew, them He predestinated. Now let’s try that for size. I admit, on the surface of it certainly sounds as if the inspired and inerrant word of the Apostle is teaching that God Himself did foresee what I have just stated, even the omniscient Deity couldn’t foresee. Let’s try it for size, let’s go along with that supposition for just a moment. Let’s suppose right now that what this passage means, is what it seems to say that whom God foreknew as believing it’s understood, them He predestinated and whom He predestinated them He called and whom He called, them He justified and whom He justified, them He glorified. I want to go through this a little more slowly than I did in Pittsburg last week because my wife chided me for not being quite careful enough and I don’t want anybody to chide me here in her absence. I want to be able to report to her when I return again that I spelled it out VERY, very carefully. She’s no mean theologian and if she missed it, I am afraid that I am guilty of having done it. I am going to go painstakingly slowly and clearly at this particular moment. If this passage is teaching, whom He foreknew as believing, which is the idea, let’s see what that would mean. Whom He, looking down the ages saw, would indeed believe, them He predestinated. Well, you can live with that. So far seems quite possible but let’s see what He predestinated them to. He predestinated them to be called. Do you begin to see what’s wrong here? And them He predestinated to be called, He predestinated to to be justified and glorified. Don’t you see what’s wrong here? Let’s go back again, very slowly. He predestinated them to be called. That means that He called them to Jesus to have their sins forgiven. And, in response to that call, they were justified. Don’t you see what’s happening here? The calling is to faith, right? And the justification is from faith, right? Say that again. When they’re called, they’re called to faith. Right? And when they’re justified, it is because they have responded in faith. Right? Alright. Faith, although it is not expressly stated is wedged immovably between those two links of vocation and justification. Now look at the passage in the light of that. Whom He foreknew as having faith, He predestinated to have faith. Now, how silly can you get? Whom He foreknew as having faith? He predestinated to have faith? I gather you get the point but this would be the question then. Alright, we tried it for size and it doesn’t fit, there’s something wrong here. And you may even wonder about the translator. And they are to a certain degree culpable but it’s mainly a problem with the english language, actually, that they haven’t overcome.

Fasten your seat belts for a moment, and brace yourselves for what is going to sound like absolute, unmitigated dogmatism. What that word, foreknew means is: whom He fore loved; whom He fore owned; whom He fore chose as His own. That doesn’t sound like foreknowledge does it? Not in the ordinary use of the English language. But you see unfortunately, you see we don’t have two words in the English language to distinguish mere information about, and actual communion with. We use one word for two ideas. And unfortunately here, clearly the idea is not, not in the sense to have information about, but actually love for and communion with. And all I have to do is remind you, as my wife reminded me I didn’t remind them in Pittsburgh last week, is that the Bible uses language that way all the time. The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish. Now doesn’t the Lord know the way of the wicked, as well as, the way of the righteous, as far as having perfect information is concerned. When that says the Lord knows the way of the righteous, in a way that He doesn’t know the way of the wicked, this isn’t talking about not having information about, but not having love for. When Christ slams that door in the foolish virgins face, who refuses to admit that after that unfortunate pleading, far from me I never knew you, of course He didn’t intimate that for a moment He isn’t acquainted with them—He never owned them as His.

At the last judgment, you shall say, so haven’t I prophesied in they name; haven’t I cast out devils in thy name; haven’t I done mighty works in thy name? Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you. He knows them so well, He designates them as workers of iniquity when He says I never knew you. You see my friends what that golden chain means is, whom God for loved, He predestinated to a very special benefit, here spelled out as: calling; justification; and glorification. And so it comes to pass that God having foreknown, fore loved, foreordained, unconditionally elected, certain persons that the purpose of the atonement comes into sharp focus.

At this point, I can’t help remembering a series on Romans, which I gave at a church in Boston, some years ago, starting on one Sunday morning, and ending on the following Sunday evening. Well, the second Sunday morning, about the eighth in the series, I got around to chapter 8 and this particular passage, and after discussing it, a number of people remained for discussion—some 75 or so of them—and the very first man who rose to raise a question, and indeed, register a protest, said this “Dr Gerstner, why are you always talking about predestination? Why don’t you talk about the atonement?” Well, I had been talking about the atonement and the sanctity and the effect of it, for the 7 preceding sermons, and this is the first time, I had actually mentioned anything about predestination, or the decrees, as I reminded my friend. But then I went on to point out to him, what is especially important for you to realize. Don’t you know that if there had been no predestination, that is, no unconditional election there would be no atonement. We glory in the cross, but we wouldn’t have a cross in which to glory if God had not elected a people for His eternal inheritance.

The way in which He, whose holiness, as I say, is inexorable and Who will by no means clear the guilty with a gesture, a pardon but, can only do it in a way which is compatible with His own holiness, and yet, has the dimension of His infinite mercy, is indeed the atonement.

In terms of the TULIP, we are the soil. The root is surely, unconditional election. The atonement itself, which springs from that election, is the stem from which the flower grows. But, the way by which that eternal purpose of God, which is the root, reaches its fruition, is the atonement, and the purpose of the atonement, if you want to use that simile, is to bring that flower to fruition from that root which is the unconditional election of our God.

You’ll find many references, during this conference, to what may well be the greatest original theological treatise on the atonement. It is by no means the finest, ultimate statement of the doctrine of the atonement, but it was so epical, appearing in the 11th century, by Anselm, that it laid a foundation for all subsequent refinements and improvements by Aquinas, and by Calvin and by others, that it is justly praised, and as I say, a number of my colleagues will also call your attention to Anselm’s great question, which he so classically answered in that treatise—why did God become man? He disposed, once and for all, any notion of the atonement, of being a ransom to the devil. Which for reasons beyond my understanding, had considerable currency in the early church, but was preposterous on the surface of it. Anselm made classically clear, the guilt of man is infinite, he owes the devil nothing, and the person to whom he owes everything, he is infinitely indebted to. Now how could an obligation, of such magnitude ever be met other than by a God, an infinite being, assuming a human nature in which He could suffer the punishment of the righteous for the unrighteous. As we have heard read from Isaiah this evening.

Another thing my wife told me afterwards, and you’re benefitting from this evening, is that, when I referred to professor John Murray, the late professor Murray, when he was lecturing on this particular doctrine, and I had the privilege of being his student many years ago, I still remember him saying, with his classic power and exegetical finesse, that the atonement was antecedently, absolutely, necessary. The antecedent, absolute necessity of the atonement, as Anselm had indicated it. Professor Murray approved most cordially, and had to slap the wrist of the great Aquinas who though he recognized the necessity of the atonement, recognized it only as consequently necessary, that is necessary not in its nature, but necessary only because God had actually provided atonement in that manner. “NO!” said Anselm, and “NO!” said John Murray. It was antecedently, absolutely necessary, that is there was no other way God could have redeemed His people. It wasn’t simply that it is absolutely the only way any of you can come home, at the invitation to embrace Jesus Christ in His atonement, for your perfect salvation. It’s not only that it’s the only way, it’s the only way it could have been. I hope you get what I apparently didn’t make clear enough in Pittsburgh, last week. The atonement was antecedently, absolutely necessary that is in the nature of the great almighty God Himself, could never have redeemed a single soul, any other way. And as far as the unlimitedness, of its sufficiency is concerned, when we speculate, as people are prone to do these days about other life on other planets—I know nothing about that, I don’t even have a great deal of interest in it—but, I am absolutely confident of this one thing, that if every other planet in all of the galaxies and of all of the other universes that will ever be discovered in all of time, were fully populated and over populated with fallen sons of men, their redemption would have been paid for, full and free, in absolute, infinite sufficiency so that not one more drop of Jesus blood need be shed to redeem—if it were possible—an infinite number of human souls, wherever they may be.

None of us likes this term limited atonement. If anyone ever suggests that it’s limited either in its general proclamation to everyone, or in its universal sufficiency to save an infinite number of souls—It is limited in its design, because God elected to save some persons out of sheer mercy. He sent His Son for His sheep, and only for His sheep—that we must recognize if we would be faithful to the Word of God, and in my opinion, apart from the express statements of our Lord Himself using that very language, I can’t think of a passage in Scripture which makes that specific purpose of the atonement more lucid than John 3:16. To make that a little clearer, God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that believers should be saved. Certainly it doesn’t say God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that everybody should be saved. That’s a flat violation of the text. God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that believers, should be saved. Now, we’ve already indicated, whom He foreloved, them He predestinated to be believers, so that without any wresting of the Scriptures, without any distorting of its meaning, but with a simple one-to-one substitution, we can very properly and absolutely accurately say the classic text of Christendom is declaring that God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that the elect in all the world, should not perish. Believers and the elect are one and the same. And if you think not, once again I’ll point out to you it’s because you don’t really believe in the doctrine of total depravity. But if you are, ever were once, convinced of the fact that you are a goner, and all of mankind is a goner, you know that God is the only One Who can bestow faith. And that consequently, believers are those whom God has taken the initiative according to His everlasting purpose and every time you read John 3:16, you will understand, what it means is that when God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that the elect in all the world should not perish.

Now, that’s the purpose of the atonement. It would fall flat and nothing would come out of it unless, as I say, His grace which He provided was a grace which He applied. His dying for us doesn’t change us, you know. We would mock with all the rest. We would drive the nails in as did the others, even if He died for us. As long as we were dead in trespasses and sins, we would not come to the light of the world. When He was lifted up, He wouldn’t draw us, He would repel us. He draws us now, because that grace, which He provided in His atonement is applied to our hearts in what is called irresistible grace.

This again, like many of these terms here, is very prone to misunderstanding. On the other hand, if you learn your lesson, it’s almost a pedagogical advantage. It would first of all clear the ground of misapprehension, and it makes the proper understanding stick all the better, I would think, I know at least I would, and am a perverse enough professor, to know that I, at times, put students through the paces with an erroneous conception, right down to the end of the line, because they will see how hopeless it is. So they’ll have an adequate appreciation of the truth, when we start to talk about it, and it may well be that you have the notion that is widespread about irresistible grace. Roger Nicole, who is the best specimen for me to pick on here, but here is Roger Nicole, according to the popular misunderstanding of irresistible grace, he wants to go to hell. He prefers sin. He just loves to revel in it. The last thing in his mind is being religious or Christian. But I look at the Lamb’s Book of Life, and I see the name of Roger Nicole. And as the messenger of the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord, I have to grab him by his unwilling neck and say, “Roger, it’s too bad, but you are destined for heaven. I know you prefer sin, and the reveling in it, but you must go with the angels, it’s written that way and the grace that I am about to apply to the back of your neck, is absolutely too much for you, and quite irresistible.

Now, here’s the benign Jim Boice up there, just absolutely full of love for Christ. Singing His praises all the time and yearning like mad for spiritual blessing. And nothing he does but read the Bible, and think about things religious, and he just wants to be the quintessence of the ideal saint. But I look down the alphabetical list and I can’t find James Montgomery B-o-i-c-e. I even see a B-o-y-c-e in there, but I don’t see a B-o-i-c-e there. I like Jim Boice! He’s a nice guy and so on but his name isn’t there, and I have to say, “Jim, it’s too bad. It’s just too bad but, you are destined in the other way” and while he is screaming about it, I have to drag him down to perdition, because the power of the angel is too much for him to overcome. Now, you know we’re sort of joshing about but I could show you documents, sober, historic documents, I could think of one of them written 1595 called the Saxon Visitation Article, where essentially that idea is spelled out as a sober critique of the Reformed Faith.

Now we talk about irresistible grace, we are not talking about the atonement being applied to a person in such a way that it overcomes his will. To the contrary. We must get this idea clearly in mind. It is impossible to force the human will. The will by definition is a personal choice. Now if God made me personally choose something which I, John Gerstner, would not choose, it simply would not be my choice. And as certain that God cannot compel my will, my will by definition is my choice. What seems good to me, what I elect, what I prefer. And if God made it something other than what it was, it simply wouldn’t be my choice, that is all there is to it. Like something I said, in what I was writing once, if somebody stood with a pistol to my head said, “Stop writing!” that wouldn’t force me to stop writing. That would just create before me a crisis in which I would have to make a choice between two options: I have to go on writing or, I have to cease living. That was all. And if you saw me go on writing you could judge correctly that for some reason or other, it seemed more important to me to go on writing than to go on living. And if on the other hand you saw me drop my pen because this man had a pistol to my brain you’d be absolutely incorrect in saying that person forced me to stop writing. Not at all. My will would simply have been to go on living, rather than writing and it seemed more important in one case to live than in another case to write. But that’s my choice. Nobody can with a pistol, nor God with His almighty decrees can, nor does He try to force the will. What is an irresistible grace is how I tried to say briefly there is not a forcing of the will, it’s a recreating the will. It’s a making of the person over again. If I’m dead in trespasses and sins and I hate the gospel and I hate you and I hate all life that there is and so on, the only thing you can do with me is to let me go my own way in darkness, in ruin, or else make a new creature who loves light and that is what the Holy Spirit does. A person is born again and when he’s born again and when he loves the light, you can’t keep him away from it. When he finds that pearl he’s been seeking for, he’s going to sell everything else and he’s going to get it. You cannot take away the kingdom from a man of violence from a man who is determined to have it. That is all there is to irresistible. I’m not being dragged against my will. It’s because of my new will in Christ, Jesus won’t allow anything to stand between me and God.

But even then, the atonement would have failed of its purpose if God had irresistibly drawn the saints by a new creation from above and then let them lapse. And let’s have this clear dear friends, that just as truly as every human being lives and moves and has his being in God, and if God didn’t sustain all life it would immediately collapse into not being, just so truly every Christian life lives and moves and has its being in God and if He did not preserve it, every Christian would immediately fall into unbelief and into perdition. This is what we call the perseverance of the saints but, properly, it’s the preservation of God, that leads to the perseverance of the saints. And in a certain sense, that is the climactic achievement of the atonement. That’s the realization of its ultimate purpose. That’s the moment when Christ Who suffered for His people saw His seed and was satisfied. Let us all conclude, in the light of the atonement as the Apostle teaches us “let us best judge that if One died for all, then we’re all dead, that they which shall live should no longer live unto themselves but unto Him that died for them and rose again.”


Dr. John H. Gerstner was born in Tampa, Florida, and raised in Pennsylvania. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Gerstner pastored several churches before accepting a professorship at Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, where he taught church history for over 30 years. He served as a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and adjunct professor at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Gerstner was also professor-at-large for Ligonier Ministries for many years, and recorded numerous lectures on audio and video for that organization.

Dr. Gerstner was a stalwart champion of the cause of Reformed theology and, in particular, the teachings of Jonathan Edwards. This article was transcribed from a lecture delivered at the Presbyterian Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT) in 1978 in Wheaton, Illinois.


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