Limited Atonement, Part 2
Each day God withholds certain judgment from many individuals in this world.
Many unbelievers are granted mercy from their final consignment to hell, where they’ll bear God’s wrath for their own sins. Every day God brings others to saving faith in Christ. He arranges certain events to take place in their lives because He uses such things to bring the elect to personal faith in Christ.
[a-field-of-wheat-1574639] God allows the “wheat” (believers) and “tares” (unbelievers) to co-exist in the world (Matthew 13:29-30). He blesses many unbelievers with businesses so they can employ Christians, who will use some of their money to fund more Gospel preaching. God allows the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).
In this sense, Christ is the “atoning sacrifice” for “the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). A precedent for this can be seen in ancient Israel. When God blessed and prospered the nation as a whole “all” prospered, including the unbelievers. In one sense, all people in ancient Israel received blessings because of the redemptive work God was doing at that time. But this doesn’t mean God’s actual spiritual redemption included every individual.
God passes by the sins of many unbelievers everyday in the sense that He withholds immediate judgment. One reason is because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, and the preaching of the Gospel that follows it (John 11:51-52).
Notice 1 Timothy 4:10 says Christ “is the savior of all men, and especially those who believe.” Christ is a Savior for “those who believe” in a different sense than He is for “all men” who are simply part of the world and receive God’s common blessings.
Remember, even Arminians don’t believe Christ’s atonement for “all” men means every human being is saved. Even Arminians teach that many people are in hell because they don’t come to personal, saving faith in Christ.
However, this just further complicates the Arminian view of the atonement. If Christ’s atonement CAN’T save those individuals for whom it was intended to save, then it’s a POWERLESS atonement.
Hopefully you’re seeing an irony in all of this. Many Christians, influenced by Arminianism, will say Calvinism diminishes Christ’s sacrifice by limiting it only to the elect. But the opposite is really true. Calvinism teaches the saving power of Christ’s atonement is actually applied to those who are elect. In the Calvinist view, Christ’s atoning death on the cross actually saves sinners. Arminianism limits the power and efficacy of the atonement.
So we now ask a relevant question. Is God powerless to bring to faith those for whom Christ died? Just look at all these Scriptures and ask yourself:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37-40). “… just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:15-16). “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word … I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours…” (John 17:6,9).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). “… who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19).
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor
life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
[bibleandcross] The Bible clearly portrays God bringing to faith those whom He has chosen.
It also teaches that those individuals for whom Christ “gave Himself” (in his atonement) will be purified and accomplish good works as fore-ordained by God (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ couldn’t have borne the sins of non-believers on the cross. Unbelievers will bear the punishment for their own sins in hell. What does the Scripture teach? Is God powerless to bring saving faith to those for whom Christ died? The answer is clearly, “No.”
God is all-powerful. Not power-less.
Many die in their sins, and God takes no pleasure in it (Ezekiel 18:32). But when it comes to salvation, Christ didn’t die for all the sins of ALL men. Christ died for all the sins of SOME men. His elect.
Christ’s atonement actually purchased grace to regenerate everyone it included. It doesn’t just make salvation possible for men. Christ’s atoning death on the cross actually saves every individual for whom it is intended.
In spite of what Arminianism teaches, the Bible NEVER says Christ atoning death covers all the sins of all individuals. Christ bore the sins of “many” persons, not “every” person.
“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities … For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:11-12). “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “… so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
You see how this fits with what we read in John 11:49-52? “… Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year … prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
God’s elect children are “scattered abroad” the whole world. Christ commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel throughout the whole world so those for whom He died (the elect) might come to personal saving faith in Him. Calvinism’s doctrine of limited atonement is in perfect harmony with the doctrine of total depravity and unconditional election.
We should expect this, as the Scriptures do not contradict themselves. While Christ’s atonement doesn’t save every individual, it provides salvation for every one of God’s elect. And it saves them to the uttermost. Soli Deo Gloria!
Written by: Charles F. Betters and Joe Farinacchio