Sunday, November 17, 2019

Limited Atonement

Unconditional Election eventually led to the doctrine of Limited Atonement. This is our “L” in the TULIP doctrine. This is simply the belief that Christ only died for those select few whom God had chosen. Thus the atonement for sins given by his death was “limited”. This doctrine is easily proven false. First, the Bible says that Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). Limited Atonement says that He only died for the godly.John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the “world”. God did not only love a select few but all men (1 Timothy 2:42 Peter 3:9).

Not much here. Again, the author of this statement seems to think that the doctrines of grace came about piecemeal, sort of trickling from one person to another until someone, somewhere finally put them together. As we have mentioned, what we today know as the doctrines of grace were the result of the Remonstrant proclamation of the early 17th century. The Council of Dort was called to discuss the Remonstrants’ objections to God’s sovereignty in salvation and it was there that the doctrines were cataloged as a counterweight to the Arminian objections. The divines at the council did not invent what has come to be known as Calvinism. They simply put together the scriptural evidence for them.

Aside from that, notice that the author says that Christ died for the “select few whom God had chosen.” The first problem with this statement is that those of us whom God is please to elect unto salvation are not “select”. Select implies that we are somehow worthy or have some sort of worth within us that led God to elect us. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not elect us because we were better than others. He elected us simply because He wanted to; that is, my friend, the long and short of it. That is why when someone ignorantly speaks of the elect of God as somehow better or more worthy than those who are not elect, we groan. It is the exact opposite: we are no more worthy than anyone else. If God had chosen us due to our worthiness, He would not have chosen us at all!

Another issue here is that the author assumes that God has chosen “few” to be His own. Revelation speaks of a multitude that no man can number as being those who are worshiping the Lamb in His presence in glory (Revelation 7:9). So, to say that there are only few whom God has elected gives the reader the impression that Calvinism is telling us that there are precious few that God has chosen. Of course, this is likely said to further stigmatize the Calvinist and to label him as someone who believes that only a small number will be saved in the end: only those who are worthy to be elected. Obviously, such an idea is wrongheaded, to say the least.

The next two sentences truly made my head spin. To say that limited atonement is refuted because Christ died for the ungodly is to say exactly nothing. The passage that he quotes in Romans 8, does not have in view the extent of the atonement, but the simple fact that those for whom Christ died were not righteous people when He died for them. That is the point Paul is making. If this individual bothered to quote the entire verse, especially in its context, he would see that Paul’s point is that, “while we were helpless, Christ died for the ungodly.” The point is not that Christ died for all the ungodly who have ever lived, in other words everyone, but that He died not for His friends, but for His enemies. Going on to verse eight, you will see that Paul is making that exact point when he says that we were sinners at the time Christ died for us. And by the way, notice that Paul says Christ died for “us” not everyone.

But the author here compounds his mistake by then going on to say that Limited Atonement supposedly teaches that Christ died for the godly. I suppose that the point is that, if God has elected who He will save, they are somehow eternally saved and righteous. The problem with that assumption is that it is completely without foundation. Did God choose us before the foundation of the world? Yes (Ephesians 1:3ff). However, were we children of wrath as the rest before our conversion? Yes (Ephesians 2:1ff). So, you see that God indeed elected us, but He saved us in time. There is no such thing as eternal justification. God elected us in eternity, but justified us in time.

Lastly, I will not say much about John 3:16 and the other passages he quotes. Suffice it to say that far too many purported Bible teachers are guilty of malpractice when it comes to quoting and exegeting Bible passages. Often you will see them do what this individual did here: throw out three passages, say they prove your point and move on. One thing that can be said about John 3:16 is that the word “world” does not always mean every single individual without exception. There are many instances, even within John’s writings, where he uses the word in different ways. I recommend you procure and read The Potter’s Freedom, by James White for a thorough treatment of that subject.  


  1. I'm going to add nothing original here, but just a few thoughts.

    1. Spurgeon rightly said: "I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be joined with it.”

    2. For what reason would Christ die for those whom the Father had not elected? In the chain of redemption starting with the fixed plan of God in eternity past - God's purpose has always been the salvation of His people. What purpose would be served if the Lord, who laid down his life for His sheep (John 10: 14-15), did so with a hopeless intent to save those whom the Father had not chosen? Is the Godhead at odds with itself?

    3. If the Lord laid down His life with an intent to save all, it is fair to say He has failed. And it would seem He failed substantially, as it appears most human beings are NOT now nor have ever been believers.

    1. I believe that many seek an unlimited atonement, not out of rational, sober belief in Scripture, but out of a misguided sentimentality. It is often heard among the unlimited atonement folks that God would not be fair or that He would be a monster if He didn't send Christ to die for all. But as you rightly point out, for the Godhead to decide that Christ is going to die for the ones whom the Father didn't elect would be to drive a wedge between them. Mei Genoito: May it never be! Thanks.