We need to stop and consider how the Remonstrants limited the value and efficacy of the atonement since in their doctrine that Christ died for all men and every man, what do they say that he accomplished by that death? In their Opinions (2.2) the Remonstrants confessed: “Christ has, by the merit of his death, so reconciled God the Father to the whole human race that the Father, on account of that merit, without giving up His righteousness and truth, has been able and has willed to make and confirm a new covenant of grace with sinners and men liable to damnation.”
In the debate between the Remonstrants (Arminians) and the Reformed, who is it who limits the value and extent of the atonement? According to the critics of Reformed theology, it is ostensibly the Reformed who limit the value of the atonement. After all, do not the Reformed affirm that Christ died only for the elect whereas the Remonstrants affirm that Christ died for all men and every man?
We need to stop and consider, however, how the Remonstrants limited the value and efficacy of the atonement since in their doctrine that Christ died for all men and every man, what do they say that he accomplished by that death?
In their Opinions (2.2) the Remonstrants confessed:
Christ has, by the merit of his death, so reconciled God the Father to the whole human race that the Father, on account of that merit, without giving up His righteousness and truth, has been able and has willed to make and confirm a new covenant of grace with sinners and men liable to damnation.
The reader should read the entire article carefully. The Remonstrants affirm that Christ’s death “reconciled” the Father to ”the whole human race…”. They qualify what that reconciliation is, however. Reconciliation, however, has not actually been accomplished. It has been made possible. Christ has made what they call a “new covenant of grace with sinners” and those “liable to damnation.” What are the terms of that “new covenant”? Is it truly a gracious covenant?
In Opinions 2.3 they explained:
Though Christ has merited reconciliation with God and remission of sins for all men and for every man, yet no one, according to the pact of the new and gracious covenant, becomes a true partaker of the benefits obtained by the death of Christ in any other way than by faith; nor are sins forgiven to sinning men before they actually and truly believe in Christ.
Note that the first word of article 2.3 is a concessive, although. A concessive signals that “though x is true, y qualifies it.” In this case x is Opinions 2.2. Their although tells us that the fine print is coming. The qualification is that Christ merited reconciliation for all yet, according to the terms of the “new and gracious covenant” one comes into possession of the benefits of Christ by faith. Remember, however, what the Remonstrants mean by “faith.” We may not simply assume that the Remonstrants have suddenly embraced Luther’s definition of faith nor that of Heidelberg 21. Rather, under the first head (election and reprobation), they have already made clear that when they say “faith” they mean faith and faithfulness, including perseverance. The Remonstrants were dissatisfied with the degree of sanctification they saw in the orthodox churches and sough to revise Reformed theology to put the whip to Christians in order to get them shaped up.
According to the Remonstrants, Christ has not actually accomplished anything for anyone in particular. He has made redemption possible for those who meet the terms of the covenant. In their own way, the Remonstrants limited the value of the atonement, even as they accused the Reformed of limiting the value and dignity of the atonement.
Thus, under the 2nd Head of Doctrine, the Reformed Churches confessed:
Art. III. The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
The death of bulls, goats, and lambs was of value only insofar as it was ordained by God and insofar as believers under the system of types and shadows of the Old Testament, through them, apprehended Christ by faith. They were anticipations of the reality, of the fulfillment in Christ. He is the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29; Rev 5:6; 7:17). He was the perfect sacrifice. He satisified the just wrath of God against sin and sinners.