Limited Atonement – God has a purpose for the death of Christ and that was to save God’s chosen people Represented by the third letter of the acronym TULIP in the Doctrines of Grace.
(God the Son redeeming)
Also known as definite atonement or particular redemption. Limited atonement, part of the Reformed Theology. Especially with the Calvinist view on predestination. This doctrine is part of the doctrine of grace called Irresistible Grace.We don’t know who the elect are. That is why the gospel of Christ must be presented to everyone. The belief is the elect will not resist the will of God for salvation.
Canton of Dort: Second Head, Article 3
The doctrine states that though the death of Jesus Christ is sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, it was the intention of God the Father that the atonement of Christ’s death would work itself out in the elect only, thereby leading them without fail to salvation.6
Canton of Dort: Second Head, Article 8
For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.7
Died for everyone or some?
Those who believe in limited atonement will state Christ didn’t die for everyone. If He died for everyone, then everyone would go to Heaven and be saved. But we they will say Christ didn’t die for everyone. The word Limited emphasizes only a certain type saved, being the elect. They believe that God already choose those form the beginning of time He would save. They would use examples like Jacob of Esau.
How will God save me? By the Blood of Jesus Christ!
Most don’t agree with this doctrine simply because they don’t want to admit they deserve God’s Wrath or anyone deserves God’s Wrath. They don’t believe they should be condemned for their sins.
Of the 5 points in the doctrines of grace, this one is the more controversial. As a summary limited atonement says that only the elect have limited justification unlike Universalist, who believe Christ saved everyone. Then, the Armenian theology believe people can choose, like that in Prevenient Grace.
Purpose of the Death of Christ
In addition, they believe that God has a purpose for the death of Christ and that was to save God’s chosen people. That there was a definite purpose with the death on the Cross of Calvary. They also believe the death on the Cross was also a Substitutionary atonement. That those who are truly free are free in deed. Their debt paid for by Christ. Not to mention, they also believe in Once Saved, Always Saved.
Lessens the love of God?
Some believe this lessens the love of God. But God’s love couldn’t have saved everyone human race. We all sin. God cannot allow sin into Heaven. The suffering of Christ was for those the Father gave to Him. His Sheep since He is the Great Shepherd. His death was sufficient for all.
“Christ’s sacrifice has purchased and provided for the effectual calling of the elect, with all the graces which insure their faith, repentance, justification, perseverance, and glorification.” R.L. Dabney
Plus, this might show that not all sin was imputed to Christ. Maybe we can also see this with Noah and Flood. Noah and His family was the only ones saved. Everyone else perished. The Ark, a form of salvation. That safety was made available for everyone. But only those God willed entered into the safety of the Ark. The same applies to the atoning blood of Christ.
Bible Verses to check out
- Jesus lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
- Jesus will lose none of his sheep. John 10:28
- Many people will not receive eternal life. Matthew 7:13-14
The opposite of this doctrine is Unlimited Atonement.
Stay tuned to Courageous Christian Father as I will go over this area of theology as well.
- Got Questions?
- Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM)
- Canons of Dort: Second Head: Article 3
- Canons of Dort: Second Head: Article 8
Total Depravity | Unconditional Election | Limited Atonement | Irresistible Grace | Perseverance of the Saints