TULIP: Limited Atonement, 1

Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2tulip

by William J. Stewart

Merriam-Webster aptly defines the word atonement as:

…the reconciliation of God and humankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (m-w.com)

Eddie K. Garrett, a Primitive Baptist elder affirmed:

We believe that God has an elect people whom he has chosen unto eternal salvation. We believe that the atonement of Christ was for that chosen number and no one else. (The Christian Baptist, 1972)

Did Jesus only die for a select few? Let’s notice what the Bible says on this important topic.

John 3:16 | “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is perhaps the best known verse from the Bible. In it, Jesus reveals whom He came to die for; not the elect, but “the world”. There is no place in the Bible where “the world” is used to describe the elect. Jesus died for all, those who believe will enjoy the benefit of His death.

John makes similar statements in his first epistle. Notice:

…He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

…we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)

1 Timothy 4:10 | “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

The recipients of atonement are those who believe, but the offer of atonement is to all men. Jesus died so that everyone might be free from sin.

There are several texts which refer to “all men.” Consider:

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:30)

God doesn’t just command the elect repent, He wants “all men everywhere” to repent. Unless people repent, they will perish (Luke 13:3, 5). If they will repent, they will be forgiven and saved (Acts 2:38; 3:19).

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Romans 5:18)

Condemnation came upon all because of sin. Equally, Paul says that justification of life has come to all men by the righteous act of Jesus. We had noted previously that condemnation comes upon all, not because of Adam’s sin, but because all have imitated Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). Justification comes upon all men in the same fashion—we must imitate Jesus. Those who do partake of the justification He provides, those who do not, do not. But, the justification is extended to all.

…this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

If we ask the Calvinist, “How many people does God want to save?” they will tell us,“Only the elect whom He has chosen.” Paul was most definitely not a Calvinist. He is very clearly in telling Timothy, God desires not a few, not some, not most, but all men to be saved. Again, the determining factor is what they do with the truth of the gospel. If they receive it, believe it and obey it, they can be saved. If they reject it, they cannot be saved. Whatever man’s response will be, God has extended the gospel to all.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age… (Titus 2:11-12)

God extends His grace (benefit, favour, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure, Strong’s) which brings salvation to all men. Again, He does not limit the number to whom the offer is made. Not all are willing to receive the grace of God, and thus not all will receive the salvation He offers, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t extended. In the context, Paul reveals what needs to be done for us to receive salvation. We need to leave ungodliness behind, we need to live righteously (obeying God’s word and following Christ). All who will do this will be saved; all who refuse to do this will be lost.

2 Peter 3:9 | “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Here is yet another “all” text. God doesn’t want people to die in sin. His desire is that people repent of their sin. Not that a few should repent, not that some should repent, not that most would repent—God would be delighted if all came to repentance. As we have said, not all have, not all will, not all do. But, the fact many are not willing to partake of His atonement does not limit it’s scope.

Hebrews 2:9 | “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”

Who did Jesus die for? A few? Some? Many? Everyone! He tasted death, He was given as a sacrifice for sin, for everyone. The Hebrew writer, under the direction of the Holy Spirit (and not John Calvin) reveals that Jesus died for everyone. Of necessity, the atonement that is available via His death was all for all.

This is the consistent message of the New Testament. Just a few more texts to observe as we conclude:

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time… (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

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