googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 4 – Limited Atonement

Monday, February 9, 2015

Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 4 – Limited Atonement

The third point in Calvin's acronym is Limited Atonement. According to this belief, Christ's death on the cross was only to redeem those who God had already chosen to be saved. The forgiveness found in Jesus' blood is not available to the un-elect. In other words, Christ's atonement for sins is limited to only the elect. Of the five points, I believe this is definitely the weakest but it's not entirely without merit. First, there are some Bible verses cited in defense of this position.

Matthew 1:21, She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

On its face, this verse could be understood to say, “He will save only His people from their sins.” This same sentiment is found in Acts.

Acts 20:28, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Again, it seems like Christ's blood was shed to purchase only His church.

Finally, some people try to make hay out of the Bible's frequent use of the word, “many.” Consider the following verse, for example:

Matthew 26:28, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

The use of the word “many” here could be understood to mean “a large number but not all” - that is, the verse means, “poured out not for all for the forgiveness of sins, just many.” However, the use of the word “many” is ambiguous and can refer to the number instead of the percentage. For example, I could say, “There are many people in the world.” In that case, “many” includes all; I'm saying there are a lot of people. Likewise, a large number of people (i.e. “many”) are saved through Jesus' blood.

In contrast to the idea of limited atonement, we could consider John's words:

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 phrase, “the whole world” seems a lot less ambiguous than the term, “many.” Yet even though the term “whole world” seems to include everyone, we must still be on guard against the false doctrine of universalism. The Bible is clear that not everyone is or will be saved. Revelation 20:15 warns sinners that when the dead are judged by their works, anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

As is always the case, we must reconcile those verses which seem to suggest a limited atonement with the verses that suggest universalism. I believe the solution is rather obvious: Christ died so that He might make salvation available to everyone but only those who repent and accept His forgiveness are saved. In that sense, atonement truly is limited to the elect.

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