We are taking a look at the third letter in the acronym T.U.L.I.P. and the doctrine of Limited Atonement. In Part 1 I gave a defense of Limited Atonement from a more aerial or an overall theological view. In Part 2 I gave a theological defense of Limited Atonement that is grounded in history and logic. In this post I want to take a look at specific texts that provide evidence for a definite atonement.
To begin I want to start by echoing a statement from John MacArthur. He states, “It’s not a good solution to diminish the work of the atonement by having Jesus dying for everybody. Because if you say that He paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the world then what is anybody doing in hell? It’s double jeopardy, that doesn’t work…If you say that, ‘Well, He died a potentially saving death,’ [you’re saying, Jesus] died for nobody in particular and everybody in general and the sinner who’s depraved is the one who activates the potential atonement. That’s impossible.” I want to take a few verses and show a biblical pattern for particular redemption (limited atonement) of God’s elect.
I want to begin by asking the question that is at the heart of this doctrine…For Whom did Christ die? There is a clear pattern throughout the New Testament showing the atonement of the Son is limited in it’s scope. Multiple passage declare the atonement, Christ’s death to be for a specific people not a nebulous potential people or even for every person in the world who has ever lived. I want to give you from the scriptures 3 truths regarding the atonement of Christ.
#1- Christ Died for His Elect, His People, His Church, His Bride
Matthew 1:21, “…You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Through Christ’s death his people will be saved)
Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (The ransom was no for ALL, but for many)
Acts 20:28, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (The church is whom Christ has redeemed)
Romans 4:25, “[Jesus]… was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (The atonement was for the people people of God.)
Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Christ’s atonement was specifically for the Church, he didn’t give up his life for anyone but her)
1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” Who is Peter referring to here? Well obviously to those he’s writing the letter to, and who is he writing the letter to? 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…” The whole letter of 1 Peter is written to THE ELECT. And Peter tells the elect…”It was OUR SINS the that he bore on the cross.
#2- Christ’s Atonement Secures Redemption for Those Whom He Died.
Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” You may be thinking, “Well this verse doesn’t talk about who Christ died for at all,” and you’d be exactly right it doesn’t. But this verse gives us an even greater insight to the extent of atonement. It gives gives what the atonement of Christ was meant to accomplish. Does this verse tell us that the atonement was meant to merely make salvation possible? Absolutely not. No it teaches us that the atonement was specifically meant to secure our redemption. Hebrews 9:12 screams from the mountain tops that the atonement is truly Mission Accomplished! “by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
#3- Christ’s Atonement Creates a People from Every, Tribe, Language, People & Nation
Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.“ We will talk about this in more detail in the next post. But what many people who reject limited atonement fail to realize, is that when the scriptures mentioned world, it’s not referring to every single person who ever lived. They’re failing to see the grand redemptive narrative of the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament salvation was only for God’s chosen people Israel and yet even in that covenant there was a promise that God would create a people from beyond Israel. Where every nation would be blessed through Abraham’s line. Through the atonement that’s exactly what happens. It’s not that the atonement makes it merely possible for everyone, Revelation 5:9 is promising that there will people represented within the elect from literally, every tribe, language, people and nation and He’s ransomed them by His own blood that was powerful enough to actually accomplish the redemption of His people.
Recommended Scriptures for further reading: John 6:37-39; John 10:14-30; John 17:6-12.