Limited Atonement, Part 1 – Setting The Wrong Limits

Calvinism fundamentally changes the way one must view the entire gospel of Christ from beginning to end. It changes the meaning of why Jesus came to the earth, it changes the meaning of what the cross stands for and it changes the invitation to man given by God through His Son. Calvinism in its own twisted way essentially teaches that mankind is equal but separate. Equal in that we’re all “born sinners” and in need of salvation – but separate in that we all can’t have it because only God chooses who will get it.

Up to this point we’ve considered the error filled teachings of Total Hereditary Depravity and Unconditional Election. Now it’s time to examine a new petal on the foul-smelling flower called Limited Atonement.

Unconditional election teaches that since you’re, make that we’re born completely depraved and not able to choose God or do anything good spiritually, the decision of whether we’re eternally saved or lost has already been made for us and there’s nothing anyone on either side of the situation can do about it! Now according to this line of thinking, God’s sovereignty chooses everything, including everyone, concerning salvation, and since his sovereignty never fails concerning salvation that means Jesus could not have died for everyone, because if he did and everyone isn’t saved that would mean God’s sovereignty failed.

So in a nutshell, Limited Atonement means: that Jesus died only for the unconditionally elect, purchased only their salvation, and that there is NO benefit in the cross whatsoever for anyone else other than God’s pre-chosen and unconditionally elect.

The doctrine of “Limited Atonement” in plain language says that before Adam chose to sin and his sin became our “inherited guilt” that we’re born with, God said, “I’m going to send my son for the lost, but not for all of them.” It takes the cross of Christ and says to mankind, “Get as close as you want to the blood of the cross, but the blood of the cross won’t take you any closer to God.” It takes God’s grace and rubs it in the face of the unconditionally rejected and tells them that they have a Creator who couldn’t care less about them!

Now the reality is, according to the truth of the Gospel, and which we’ll get into a lot more in the next lesson, the statements made above are completely wrong because the Bible actually teaches there is such a thing as universal atonementwhich is the exact opposite of Limited Atonement. Where the confusion comes in for Calvinistic adherents who are busy trying to unnecessarily defend “God’s sovereignty” is that they take universal atonement and equate it with universal salvation which is indeed a false doctrine.

But instead of limiting salvation to those who choose to place their faith in Jesus, as the Gospel teaches it should be done (John 3:16-17), Calvinism limits the atonement to limit the availability of salvation so “God’s sovereignty” is not controlled by whether or not someone chooses or doesn’t choose to believe. Because in case you haven’t figured it out – according to Calvinism you don’t even choose whether or not you believe (but that’s for a completely different “petal”).

So like I said, contrary to Calvinism, the Bible does indeed teach that Jesus’ atonement is universal – but universal atonement is not the same thing as universal salvation! This is where Calvinists get so confused…not because the Bible is confusing when it comes to this topic; rather they get confused because their dependence upon a manmade doctrine makes them close their eyes when they  look at such a clear biblical truth right in the face.

Now that we understand what “Limited Atonement” means and how it sets the wrong limits on the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood we can move on to have a greater understanding of how the far-reaching grace of God works through the atonement of Jesus’ blood in the next lesson. EA

And they were greatly surprised, saying to him, Who then may have salvation? Jesus, looking on them, said, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27 – BBE)

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7 comments

    1. You’re right; it’s sad on many levels including what it does to the hope of Jesus’ cross and empty grave that it was meant to share for lost souls. I have much more to say about this particular “petal” and the other two that remain.

      Thanks for commenting.

  1. My question about this doctrine for those who hold to it is, how are they so sure they are “elect.” God may not have elected them, and so they are just fooling themselves.

    As for God’s sovereignty, how does my will to choose or reject His free gift of salvation diminish God’s sovereignty in any way?

    1. You’ve hit a very big nail on the head when it comes to the futility of saying that a man or woman plays absolutely no role in his or her salvation…because if an individual can play no role then how can he or she ever be sure of the role that God has called them to play? Calvinists have answers to give for that question but the answers can’t get past the point that the question makes.

      And as far as God’s sovereignty goes, Calvinists claim they believe what they believe because we as individuals have no right to tell God what He can or can’t do – yet that is exactly what Limited Atonement does! They constrict God’s sovereignty by saying that it cannot allow a person to have free-will; I say God’s sovereignty is big enough to allow for free-will…and that’s what the Bible teaches too. So in reality I believe in a sovereignty of God that is bigger than what a Calvinist believes in. How odd!

  2. My Father-In-Law is a Primitive Baptist minister and they claim not to be Calvinists but they do believe in all the limited atonement doctrines. One of the tricks they use to assure themselves they are the true elect is to say they have a “hope” that they are the elect, but this hope is a holy hope that is almost 100% sure that they are the chosen few, but can’t say with any conviction that they are going to Heaven.

    They rightly believe that you are saved without works, but they falsely claim that believing is a work, so you can’t be saved by trusting or believing that Christ died for your sins. So again you have to be a chosen one and you have no say whatsoever in your salvation. In other words as Romans 5:15 states that salvation is a gift from God. The last time I checked you can either accept a gift or decline it. It’s called free will.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Roger.

      A “holy hope that is almost 100% sure” huh?

      While I believe that many people hope in things that are not a guarantee, I believe the Bible talks about a much different hope when it comes to the assurance of salvation when that person is living within the will of God.

      Arrogance and assurance are two different things, and unfortunately for those who adhere to Calvinism (i.e. any of its core tenants) both end up in the same basket.

      But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)

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