CALVINISM: LIMITED ATONEMENT
DISCLAIMER: The material in this article may offend those with other viewpoints. This article is not meant to offend or cause any emotional harm to anybody. I have written this piece to both share my experiences with this topic and to hopefully help others who are interested in this doctrine. And if you'd like to make the most of this article, go grab your dusty Bible under that lamp and follow along. May you be blessed in reading this as I did in writing it.
The Doctrines of Grace (Calvinism) are a crucial part of me understanding who God is and how He relates to us in this world. Through these recent articles (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election) on this subject, as well as this one, I'm hoping that you will also possess a better understanding about our God and King. He is doing some wonderful things that most people aren't capable of understanding or even seeing.
Within this doctrine known as Calvinism, we have the acronym TULIP to better help us to discern what this belief system truly believes. So let's briefly dissolve this TULIP and get a better understanding. Then we can discuss the third letter of this acronym: limited atonement.
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saint
As we expound on the phrase limited atonement, I'm hoping that this will be both constructive and challenging to you. Constructive in the sense that it will give you material to study, meditate on, and believe in. But challenging so that you won't be an easy-believer. We don't want you believing something that you don't understand. The apostles of Jesus didn't want people to believe what they said simply because they believed it. The apostles were witnesses to Jesus' resurrection and they wanted people to believe in Him and His resurrection because they actually saw it all happen. John repeats in his first epistle, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete." (1 John 1: 1-3). And again, "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5).
This subject is serious and I want you to be able to wrestle with these truths. I fought them for over 2 years. So it's totally okay to not accept this as truth. And don't worry, this isn't something you must believe to be saved. But it's quite important to understand who the real God is and how He connects with us. So I challenge you to read through this and to find out for yourself (through the study of the Word of God and through prayer) what is true.
What is the meaning of atonement? What does it mean to be atoned for? How does God atone? These are just a few of the questions we'll try to answer in this article. Let's begin by defining the term atonement and why we desperately need to be atoned for?
Atonement: the process by God to cancel one's debt from sin, to appease His own wrath against us, and to provide all of the benefits of salvation.
As we discussed in the article, "Calvinism: Total Depravity", we are all under the wrath of God because of the totality of our sin. And because of this wrath, we will be punished righteously. To be saved from this wrath, we must be atoned for. Our sin has to be paid for. Righteousness and justice cannot be satisfied unless there is equal punishment for the sins we have committed. And if God is just, He must provide perfect judgment, or He would not be perfect or righteous. But He is. And He has provided a sacrifice on our behalf. His name is Jesus.
So to be atoned for means to be forgiven. But not only that! Through God's atonement of us, we are forgiven of this debt against us, God's wrath is taken from us and put upon Christ, and now we receive the full blessings that comes along with being saved. Martin Luther called this the "Great Exchange".
So now we turn to the atonement being limited. Calvinists believe this, not only because the Bible teaches it, but because it has been proven throughout time. Is everybody saved? Does every single person on the earth experience faith in Christ? No and no. So we know that not everybody receives this "atonement". But most Christians would disagree with the idea of limited atonement. Why? Well, the common belief is that Jesus died for everybody. But did He? If Jesus died for everybody, then why are there so many people who are not saved? And in this is where we meet the dilemma.
Jesus died for everybody vs. Jesus died only for those who were elected before the foundation of the world.
Okay, okay, Scripture already! Let's get into some Bible and we'll see if atonement was always selective and limited to a certain people. Following are verses I hope you will find time to look up, but help us understand this topic much more.
Salvation was Limited to Israel until the Resurrection of Jesus
- Psalm 147:19-20
- Acts 14:16
- Acts 10:28
- Acts 14:27
- Acts 13:46
- Ephesians 3:4
Jesus Died for a Certain Multitude (the many)
- Matthew 26:28
- Isaiah 53:11-12
- Matthew 20:28
- Hebrews 9:28
- Luke 1:68
- Matthew 1:21
- Acts 20:28
- John 11:49-52
- John 10:11
- John 10:16
- John 10:26
- John 17:19
- Revelation 5:9
This doctrine of limited atonement is hard to handle. We are grown up believing that Jesus specifically died for every single person on this earth. But if He did, then Jesus cancelled their debt, took away the wrath of God from them, and gave them all of the benefits of salvation. If this is true, then nobody goes to hell and everything Jesus taught about hell is wrong.
JESUS' DEATH IS SUFFICIENT
Now to help us grasp this, we must explain that Jesus' death and resurrection was and is sufficient to save everybody. Jesus is infinitely worthy, and so His death could save millions fo earth an infinite amount of times. So Christ's death and resurrection is sufficient to save all, but not efficient in the sense that it does save all.
There are many more passages to point to and many more ways to better expalin this doctrine, but you get the idea. Jesus Christ only died for His chosen people that He elected before the foundation of the world. If you believe in Him, you will be saved, and you prove to be atoned for. And if you continue to not believe in the doctrine of election and predestination, think about this:
God knows the future, right?
If He knows the future, then He knows who will choose Him and who will not.
And if He knows who will go to hell, why does He continue to make them?
Why would this God continue allowing people to go to hell, if He knows they're going to?
Not an easy question to answer, unless you embrace the Doctrines of Grace.
* If you were offended by this article, I am sorry, but it most likely wasn't me doing the offending. Jesus said that the truth will offend. In our modern day, people are do zealous about being seekers of the truth, but they never want to be people who have found the truth. Let's be people who find the truth and share it with others. We only have one life to live. Live it well...with eternity in mind.
* If you are personally struggling with issues of this kind, I would LOVE to be able to help in any way that I'm able. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are more than welcome!