3. Limited Atonement

God purposed to redeem a certain people and not others

1Chr 17:20-21 “O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21 And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?”

Mat 22:14 “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”

1Pet 2:8-9 [Note: see “God elects individuals to salvation”/God elects individuals to condemnation”] “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

1. It is for these in particular that Christ gave his life

Isa 53:10-11 “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Mat 1:21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

John 6:35-40 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. ”

John 10:3-4, 11, 14-15 “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” [11] “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” [14-15] “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Act 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Eph 5:25 [Note: we are commanded to love our wives in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; therefore, if Christ loved and gave himself for all people in the same way, we are commanded to love all women in the same way that we love our wives] “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

Heb 2:17 “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”

Heb 9:15 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

2. It is for these in particular that Christ intercedes

John 17:1-2 “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”

John 17:6-12 “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. ”

John 17:20-21 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

John 24-26 “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Rom 8:34 “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

3. The people for whom Christ intercedes are the same as the people for whom he offered himself up as a sacrifice

Heb 7:24-27 “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 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. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”

Heb 9:12 [Note context, in which entering into the holy place is explicitly for the purpose of intercession], 24-28 [For a fuller understanding of the indissoluble connection between sacrifice and intercession, read Hebrews chapters 7-10] “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

The atonement of Christ is effective

1. To justify

Isa 53:11 [the single effective cause of justification in view here is the bearing of iniquities; all whose iniquities Christ bore must be justified] “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Rom 8:34 [the argument here is that the fact of Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession is in itself an incontrovertibly effective reason for non-condemnation; if this verse is true, then no one for whom Christ died and was raised to intercede may be condemned] “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

2. To redeem and cleanse from sins

Eph 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Tit 2:14 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

3. To propitiate the Father

1John 2:2 [“propitiation” means “the turning away or appeasement of wrath”; therefore, by definition, the Father has no more wrath against those whose sins have been propitiated] “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

1John 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

4. To raise to new life

2Cor 5:14-15 [the argument is a simple “if/then” proposition: “if” Christ died for someone, “then,” with no other conditions, that person died with him and was raised again] “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

1Pet 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

[See also, “Jesus’ death purchased for his people a new heart; – faith; – repentance”. Jesus died in order to establish the New Covenant – Mat. 26:26-29 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”, etc.) ;

The New Covenant promised faith, repentance and knowledge of God (Jer. 31:33-34 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”, Ez. 36:26-27 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”, etc.)

Therefore, Jesus died in order to provide faith, repentance, and knowledge of God, as the fulfillment of a unilateral promise. This means that his death had a definite purpose which was intended for some and not others. His death effectively purchased faith; not all have faith; and so his death had an effective intent that was limited to certain persons.]

Those whom God purposed to redeem include all who believe

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

1. From every nation

Rev 5:9 “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

2. From every class

Gal 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1Tim 2:1-6 [Note: the first “all men” is explicitly tied to all classes of men, which gives warrant for understanding the second “all men” in the same way] “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

3. Therefore, Christ’s saving work is commonly spoken of in terms of “all,” “world,” etc.

John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Tit 2:11-14 [Note: in the context of “all men” is the delimiting concept of a peculiar people, zealous of good works] “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Heb 2:9-10 [Notice that the many sons whom Christ brings to glory gives a contextual delimiter to the term “every”] “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

2Pet 3:9 [Note that this desire is explicitly limited to “us” (Peter was writing to fellow-believers) in the context] “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

1John 2:2 [Note: propitiation means “appeasement of wrath”; either Jesus appeases God’s wrath against all, and therefore hell (which is the place where God’s wrath resides) is non-existent; or the “whole world” means something different than “every individual who ever lived”.] “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

[The word ‘world’ is often used in the sense of ‘many,’ or ‘all of a set’, such as in John 11:51-52] “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”

4. The word “all” is often used to indicate all of a set, or even many representatives of a set

Mat 10:22 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. ”

1Cor 6:12 “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

1Cor 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Mat 2:3 “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

John 4:29 “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”

Act 10:39 “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.”

Act 17:21 “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”

Act 21:28 “Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.”

Act 26:4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews.”

5. Or, to indicate all “classes” or “nations,” not all individuals

Mat 5:11 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

Act 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

Act 10:12 “Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.”

6. The word “world” is often used in the sense of “many,” or “all of a set”

Luk 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”

John 6:33 “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”

John 12:19 “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.”

Act 19:27 “So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”

Rom 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”

Additional reasons that the atonement of Christ is not for all the sins of all people

1. God punishes people in hell, which would be unjust if their sins were atoned for

Mark 9:43-44 “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

2. If one were to say, “their sins are atoned for, but that atonement is not applied because of unbelief,” he fails to realize that unbelief is likewise a sin

Heb 3:12 “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”

[“The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for either:

1) All the sins of all men;

2) All the sins of some men; or

3) Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

1) If the last be true all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved;

2) That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth;

3) But if the first is the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins? You answer, Because of unbelief. I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!” – John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ]

3. God bears eternal wrath against people, which by definition means that his wrath against them has not been propitiated [appeased]

1The 2:16 “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

2The 1:6-9 “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”

Intentions of Christ’s death other than atonement

1. To make a public display of demons

Col 2:13-15 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

2. To rule over everyone

Rom 14:9 “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”

3. To redeem creation

Isa 35:1-4 “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. 2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.”

Rom 8:20-23 “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

4. To lay the foundation for a genuine gospel call

John 6:39-40 “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 7:37-38 “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

5. To provide temporal mercies for the non-elect

Mat 5:45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

1Tim 4:10 “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”

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3. Limited Atonement


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