Sunday, February 28, 2010

For whom did Christ die for?

Ok, in light of discussions I have had on other blogs, and the maniacal way I sometimes just jump into the deep end of the pool with no idea how to swim, I decided to post this long apologetic from John Piper on limited atonement.

The debate over whom Christ died for (among extremely large brains) has spurned heated debates, split churches and ruined friendships.

I am not posting this work of Piper's for any of those reasons.

The arguments for limited atonement and unlimited atonement are many and each side have supporting Scripture that appears to justify either sides position.

I have studied both sides of the issue for about a year now. I have been on both sides of the fence and now I'm sitting on that fence.

I have prayed on this.

I have read many books and listened to many sermons from both sides. Do I think this post and the subsequent comments will help me off the fence and settle into the pasture of either side?

Maybe....maybe not.

I'll leave this post up for a while. Feel free, no matter which side you fall on, to offer your take on this doctrine of limited attonement.

Here is John Piper from
Monergism.com


For Whom Did Christ Die?
& What Did Christ Actually Achieve on the Cross for Those for Whom He Died?

By John Piper

The atonement is the work of God in Christ on the cross whereby he cancelled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation. The death of Christ was necessary because God would not show a just regard for his glory if he swept sins under the rug with no recompense.

Romans 3:25-26 says that God "put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood...This was to demonstrate God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

In other words the death of Christ was necessary to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly by faith. It would be unrighteous to forgive sinners as though their sin were insignificant, when in fact it is an infinite insult against the value of God's glory. Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated.

The term "limited atonement" addresses the question, "For whom did Christ die?" But behind the question of the extent of the atonement lies the equally important question about the nature of the atonement. What did Christ actually achieve on the cross for those for whom he died?

If you say that he died for every human being in the same way, then you have to define the nature of the atonement very differently than you would if you believed that Christ only died for those who actually believe. In the first case you would believe that the death of Christ did not actually save anybody; it only made all men savable. It did not actually remove God's punitive wrath from anyone, but instead created a place where people could come and find mercy -- IF they could accomplish their own new birth and bring themselves to faith without the irresistible grace of God.

For if Christ died for all men in the same way then he did not purchase regenerating grace for those who are saved. They must regenerate themselves and bring themselves to faith. Then and only then do they become partakers of the benefits of the cross.

In other words if you believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren't. But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to save ourselves from the bondage of sin, the hardness of heart, the blindness of corruption, and the wrath of God.

Therefore it becomes evident that it is not the Calvinist who limits the atonement. It is the Arminian, because he denies that the atoning death of Christ accomplishes what we most desperately need -- namely, salvation from the condition of deadness and hardness and blindness under the wrath of God. The Arminian limits the nature and value and effectiveness of the atonement so that he can say that it was accomplished even for those who die in unbelief and are condemned. In order to say that Christ died for all men in the same way, the Arminian must limit the atonement to a powerless opportunity for men to save themselves from their terrible plight of depravity.

On the other hand we do not limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement. We simply say that in the cross God had in view the actual redemption of his children. And we affirm that when Christ died for these, he did not just create the opportunity for them to save themselves, but really purchased for them all that was necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith.

We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God's mercy toward unbelievers -- from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16) -- is made possible because of the cross.

This is the implication of Romans 3:25 where the cross is presented as the basis of God's righteousness in passing over sins. Every breath that an unbeliever takes is an act of God's mercy withholding judgment (Romans 2:4). Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.

Whence does this mercy flow to sinners? How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ's death so clearly demonstrates God's just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men.

But he is especially the Savior of those who believe. He did not die for all men in the same sense. The intention of the death of Christ for the children of God was that it purchase far more than the rising sun and the opportunity to be saved. The death of Christ actually saves from ALL evil those for whom Christ died "especially."

There are many Scriptures which say that the death of Christ was designed for the salvation of God's people, not for every individual. For example:

John 10:15, "I lay down my life for the sheep." The sheep of Christ are those whom the Father draws to the Son. "You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep." Notice: being a sheep enables you to become a believer, not vice versa. So the sheep for whom Christ dies are the ones chosen by the Father to give to the Son.

In John 17:6,9,19 Jesus prays, "I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me...I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine...And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth." The consecration in view here is the death of Jesus which he is about to undergo. His death and his intercession us uniquely for his disciples, not for the world in general.

John 11:51-52, "[Caiaphas] being high priest that year prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." There are children of God scattered throughout the world. These are the sheep. These are the ones the Father will draw to the Son. Jesus died to gather these people into one. The point is the same as John 10:15-16, "I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice." Christ died for his sheep, that is, for the children of God.

Revelation 5:9, "Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." In accordance with John 10:16 John does not say that the death of Christ ransomed all men but that it ransomed men from all the tribes of the world.

This is the way we understand texts like 1 John 2:2 which says, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." This does not mean that Christ died with the intention to appease the wrath of God for every person in the world, but that the "sheep," "the children of God" scattered throughout the whole world, "from every tongue and tribe and people and nation" are intended by the propitiation of Christ. In fact the grammatical parallel between John 11:51-52 and 1 John 2:2 is so close it is difficult to escape the conviction that the same thing is intended by John in both verses.

John 11:51-52, "He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."

1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

The "whole world" refers to the children of God scattered throughout the whole world.

If "the whole world" referred to every individual in the world, we would be forced to say that John is teaching that all people will be saved, which he does not believe (Revelation 14:9-11). The reason we would be forced to say this is that the term propitiation refers to a real removal of wrath from sinners. When God's wrath against a sinner is propitiated, it is removed from that sinner. And the result is that all God's power now flows in the service of his mercy, with the result that nothing can stop him from saving that sinner.

Propitiated sins cannot be punished. Otherwise propitiation loses its meaning. Therefore if Christ is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual in the world, they cannot be punished, and must be saved. But John does not believe in such universalism (John 5:29). Therefore it is very unlikely that 1 John 2:2 teaches that Jesus is the propitiation of every person in the world.

Mark 10:45, in accord with Revelation 5:9,does not say that Jesus came to ransom all men. It says, "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Similarly in Matthew 26:28 Jesus says, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (See also 13:20; Isaiah 53:11-12.)

One of the clearest passages on the intention of the death of Christ is Ephesians 5:25-27. Here Paul not only says that the intended beneficiary of the death of Christ is the Church, but also that the intended effect of the death of Christ is the sanctification and glorification of the church. This is the truth we want very much to preserve: that the cross was not intended to give all men the opportunity to save themselves, but was intended to actually save the church.

Paul says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor."

Similarly in Titus 2:14 Paul describes the purpose of Christ's death like this: "He gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds." If Paul were an Arminian would he not have said, "He gave himself to redeem all men from iniquity and purify all men for himself"? But Paul says that the design of the atonement is to purify for Christ a people out from the world. This is just what John said in John 10:15; 11:51f; and Revelation 5:9.

One of the most crucial texts on this issue is Romans 8:32. It is one of the most precious promises for God's people in all the Bible. Paul says, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?"

The crucial thing to see here is how Paul bases the certainty of our inheritance on the death of Christ. He says, "God will most certainly give you all things because he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you." What becomes of this precious argument if Christ is given for those who do not in fact receive all things but instead are lost? The argument vanishes.

If God gave his own Son for unbelievers who in the end are lost, then he cannot say that the giving of the Son guarantees "all things" for the those for whom he died. But this is what he does say! If God gave his Son for you, then he most certainly will give you all things. The structure of Paul's thought here is simply destroyed by introducing the idea that Christ died for all men in the same way.

We can conclude this section with the following summary argument. Which of these statements is true?

1. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.

2. Christ died for all the sins of some men.

3. Christ died for all the sins of all men.

No one says that the first is true, for then all would be lost because of the sins that Christ did not die for. The only way to be saved from sin is for Christ to cover it with his blood.

The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died?

If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved?

If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men.

That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God's punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his marvelous light.


©Desiring God Ministries
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©Desiring God Ministries. Website: http://www.desiringgod.org/. Email: mail@desiringGOD.org. Toll Free: 888-346-4700.

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Ok, there you go.

22 comments:

Steve Martin said...

Well, the Bible says that Christ died for the whole world.

Anyone that says differently is not taking what the Bible actually says, seriously.

Steve Martin said...

That many reject that death, and that love, is another story.

Steve Martin said...

There are some good Bible passages here (on the subject):

http://amillennialist.blogspot.com/2008/09/romans-9-shows-gods-compassion-and.html

Wayne Dawg said...

"Anyone that says differently is not taking what the Bible actually says, seriously."

Well, just a few that I can think of rather quickly....are we saying that Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, Augustine, Wycliffe, all the Puritan preachers, Whitfield and, dare I say, Luther, did not take their Bible seriously?

Here is a quote from Luther that I have found.....

“God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and he gave his Son for us men, and he created man for the sake of eternal life. And likewise: Everything is there for man’s sake and he is there for God’s sake in order that he may enjoy him, etc. But this objection [to God's sovereignty in salvation] and others like it can just as easily be refuted as the first one: because all these sayings must be understood only with respect to the elect [emphasis in original], as the apostle says in 2 Timothy 2:10, “All for the elect.” Christ did not die for absolutely all, for he says: “This is my blood which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20) and “for many” (Mark 14:24)- he did not say: for all- “to the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). [Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, translated and edited by Wilhelm Pauck (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961), 252.]

Maybe because they took the Bible seriously they had great comfort in this doctrine.

Joe A. said...

Ya. I didn't read all of that from John Piper, but I probably will digest it all in pieces. I just don't usually frequent blogs to read a chapter from a book.

I'm not denying it but I'm just wondering where Piper derives "irresistible grace" from. Does scripture clearly state that God's grace is irresistible to a being with apparent free will?

Also, this sentence doesn't make sense to me, but I still need to read everything: "In other words if you believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren't."

I don't see how his conclusion logically flows from what he initially states here.

Joe A. said...

The supposed dichotomy between these two views of atonement seems to fade in Piper's discussion here:

"We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God's mercy toward unbelievers -- from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16) -- is made possible because of the cross."

I'm not sure that he entirely understands an Armenian view from reading this, but most likely he understands it far better than I do and the real issue is the assumption that you have to be in some complete sense an Armenian or a Calvinist, which is not the case.

Steve Martin said...

The question was 'who did Christ die for?'

The "whole world."

It's plain language..in Holy Scripture.

Steve Martin said...

http://www.kfuoam.org/LG.htm

Listen to a bit of the Friday, Feb. 26th show

It deals with just this question.

Anonymous said...

The atonement must not be understood as some general potential atonement or Jesus should have said instead of “it is finished,” “it is begun.” Or I hope this works out for a lot of folks. Those who say the atonement is unlimited don't mean that. They can't mean that. They know the atonement is limited. They know that God limited it to those who believed. And sinners further limit it by not believing. But when you say you believe in an unlimited atonement, you even limit it in another way. This is a huge limitation. You say that the actual work of Christ on the cross in itself was not enough to actually save people. That is a very serious limitation to put on it. In other words, the atonement is limited in its power, in its nature,, in its effectiveness, in its actual achievement, actual accomplishment. It is less than a true and actual atonement. It is only a potential one. Christ, in fact, did not make a full and complete payment to God for the sins of anyone in particular, only potentially for everyone in general.

You have to say that because if you say Christ died on the cross for the whole world, and most of the whole world goes to hell, then whatever that atonement was, it was very limited in its power and limited in its effectiveness. So, those who limit the atonement most are those who believe in an unlimited atonement because they have now redefined the atonement to make it some kind of limited potential thing rather than a real atonement and hell is, in fact, full of people whose sins were sort of paid for.

It's not at all biblical to think along these lines. We must agree that the atonement is limited. Yes, it is limited to those who believe. Those who believe are limited by the sovereign electing purpose of God. In that sense, the atonement is limited. It is limited to those who believe and that limitation is established by God and not by man since man can't believe on his own. But the atonement is unlimited in the sense of its actual power and its actual effectiveness. Jesus did actually accomplish on the cross the atonement of those who are His own. The death of Christ is not a potential, general atonement, it is an actual particular specific atonement.

Wayne Dawg said...

Anonymous,

You said, "So, those who limit the atonement most are those who believe in an unlimited atonement because they have now redefined the atonement to make it some kind of limited potential thing rather than a real atonement and hell is, in fact, full of people whose sins were sort of paid for."



This is huge because hell can't be a place where peoples sins were "sort of paid for".

This fits right in with Piper's statement, "If God gave his own Son for unbelievers who in the end are lost, then he cannot say that the giving of the Son guarantees "all things" for the those for whom he died."

Your sins are either paid for or their not.

Arminians cannot have it both ways, right?

Piper say's "The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died?

If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved?

If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men."

Can anyone offer a reasonable argument against Piper's statement as well as Anonymous's?

ExPatMatt said...

Well I'm glad that's sorted out once and for all!

:)

Wayne Dawg said...

Joe -

You said, "I'm not sure that he entirely understands an Armenian view from reading this, but most likely he understands it far better than I do and the real issue is the assumption that you have to be in some complete sense an Armenian or a Calvinist, which is not the case."

I reject labels other than "Christian" and "Follower of Christ".

I think Joseph Arminius and John Calvin would both be upset knowing that their names are how people associate their Christianity by.

We don't have to be one or the other (Calvinist or Arminian); but we should seek to know correct doctrine and theology.

Anonymous said...

The all men that God desires to be saved are the all men that God determined to save. He determined to save whom He desired to save. Christ was a ransom for all who would believe and all who would believe would believe because God would give them life. The use of the word “many” in the New Testament is helpful, just maybe one passage on that one. Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man didn't come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” One place it says all, one place it says many. The fact that those words are used interchangeably means there's some freedom in those terms. They're simply intending to show not absolutely all, but many. Many then is a word that is used synonymously with all which then defines all as meaning many. As in Adam, it's fair to say many died. They did, many. As in Christ, many are made alive, many from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.



John chapter 10, verse 11. “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for...what?...the sheep.” Again, definite atonement, definite sacrifice. Verse 14, “I am the Good Shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, Gentiles, not of this fold. I must bring them also and they shall hear My voice and they shall become one flock, Jew and Gentile, with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me because I lay down My life that I may take it again.”



Pretty clear, isn't it? “I lay down My life for the sheep. My sheep hear Me. My sheep follow Me. You don't because you're not among My sheep.” Verse 27, “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, they follow Me and I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”

Joe A. said...

Despite reading all of this I am still getting this "peripheral theology" vibe personally although most people discussing this stuff do not consider it to be such.

Steve Martin said...

Just because His sheep are the ones who hear...does not mean that the death wasn't for all.

"For God so loved the world..."

"He died for the sins of the whole world."

That many reject Him is not to be pinned on God.

When people hear...God gets ALL the credit. And when people do not hear, they should receive ALL the blame.

Wayne Dawg said...

"That many reject Him is not to be pinned on God."

Right, it can never be pinned on God.

The fact that God chooses to save any to begin with blows me away; we all deserve hell.

Why does He save any??

Because of His love for His own.

His sheep.

Look at this passage from John 10:25-28.......

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Did you see that....

"...but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock."

The word arrangement is huge here.

Jesus did not say, "Because you are not of my flock you do not believe."

No, He said, "you do not believe because you are not part of my flock."

Big difference.

They are never going to believe because they are not of the flock; the elect.

Why would Jesus die for those who are not part of the flock?

I know this.....

I am part of the flock. I hear His voice. I follow Him.

He knows me.

I take great comfort in the fact that God 'woke' me up.

Called for me.

Left the 99 to come and get me because I was lost.

I could not save myself. I would never have sought God out on my own.

But, He saved me.

There is no greater comfort in this world than knowing that God came for me. That is a love that surpasses all my understanding.

He came for me and saved me.

Praise Him!

Ike said...

You cannot ultimately escape the limited and particular aspects of the atonement if you believe Christ’s death on the cross was substitutionary. Let me illustrate. Did Christ suffer for Pharaoh’s sins, in Pharaoh’s place, and in his stead? Certainly not. Because when Christ died on the cross Pharaoh was already in hell suffering for his own sin. Those who suffer in hell all suffer for their own sin. Christ does not suffer on their behalf and in their stead in the same way He did for people who are ultimately redeemed and escape hell. That’s a rather obvious point if you think about it. Substitutionary atonement and the substitutionary aspects of the atonement are ultimately something that belong to the elect alone. There’s no escaping it. He bore their punishment so that they will not have to. If He had suffered vicariously for the sins of Judas in the same way He suffered in Peter’s place then Judas wouldn’t be suffering right now for his own sins. That’s the inevitable ramification of vicarious atonement.

But at the same time, there are universal aspects of the atoning work of Christ and historic Calvinism has always recognized this. There is a legitimate sense in which Christ is set forth as the Savior of the whole world. The Savior of all men, Lord of all. And the only one all men everywhere are commanded to believe in. And there’s another sense in which He is especially the Savior of those who believe. That’s exactly the meaning of 1st Timothy 4:10, which is the verse that I think, better than any in Scripture, settles this whole question. First Timothy 4:10, “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.” I think it was R.B. Kuiper, a classic Five Point Calvinist, who said he preferred to speak of Christ’s dying “specially for the elect rather than only for them.” And that seems to be a good Biblical perspective. To those who believe Christ is Savior in a special and particular sense. His death had a particular reference to them in the ultimate design of God. And that is what Calvinists mean when they speak of particular redemption.

Steve Martin said...

I think the Lutheran view is most Biblically correct.

Christ died for all...but not all come to Him.

We don't say that God predestined people to hell, as do so many Calvinists. That just turns God into an unloving monster.

God desires that ALL come to Him.

But all will not.

Wayne Dawg said...

"We don't say that God predestined people to hell, as do so many Calvinists. That just turns God into an unloving monster."

It's wrong for anyone to say that.

God did not, in no such way, ever predestine any one to hell.

We are all going there anyway save for the direct intervention of a loving God.

All have sinned and all deserve hell. But God saved some....

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30.

Predestined - Called - Justified - Glorified.

It's not a wonder that all deserve hell........it's a wonder that God saves any.

Thank God He does.

Steve Martin said...

"It's not a wonder that all deserve hell........it's a wonder that God saves any."

Amen!

Wayne Dawg said...

Steve,

You said, "Christ died for all...but not all come to Him."

Based on what I read in the Scripture, none can come to Him.

“ There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
Romans 3:10-11.

Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;.." John 6:44

No one is going to, on their own, seek after God.

God has to awaken sinners from their slumber and draw them to Christ.

Dorci said...

None of these scriptures contradict one another. John 3:16 is iconic because it really does sum it up:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God loved the whole world. Not just some, and so did not choose just some, but all...

He sent His Son. Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no other name by which we must be saved.

That whoever believes in Him. All are called, but not all will believe. Once we have been called, it is up to each of us to choose whether or not to heed the call to believe unto salvation.

All who believe unto salvation will receive eternal life, rather than eternal death.

There is no contradiction that the Bible also says that "There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God."
Romans 3:10-11.

We are not righteous in ourselves. God seeks after us, and once we perceive Him revealing Himself and His love to us, then we can choose to love Him in return or not.

The Bridegroom will woo each of us, not all of us will accept His offer of marriage.

All those scripures are perfectly cohesive.