Limited Atonement, Part 3 – The Bible is Clear, God’s Grace is a Gift Offered to Everyone

Contrary to Calvinism’s doctrine on “Limited Atonement” God’s offer of grace is not just for some – but for everyone who desires to receive it, trust it and obey it. I can’t tell you how many times the Bible says this, but I can tell you it says it more than once! And for something to be true the Bible only has to say it one time (and it must be said in the proper context), but when the Bible says the same thing over and over and over it might just be a clue pointing towards the obvious.

For example, when it comes to the reality of universal atonement the Bible says:

  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,’” Titus 2:11
  • And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.John 12:32
  • 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 should taste death for every man.Hebrews 2:9
  • Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.John 8:12
  • And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.1 John 4:14
  • And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.1 John 2:2
  • For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who desires all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 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 2:3-6

God commands all to repent (Acts 17:30), but He desires all to come to repentance through the offer of His grace found in His Son (2 Peter 3:9).

When a person preaches “Limited Atonement” then by default they have to preach a “limited gospel.” Talk about putting the gospel in a set of man-made doctrinal handcuffs! Imagine doing a Bible study, preaching a sermon, or putting up a billboard that says, “Jesus only died for some of you.” How effective! But that’s exactly what you have to teach when your doctrine and understanding of the cross is based on Calvinism. And let me tell you something – the moment the effectiveness of the cross is limited to a certain group, it stops being a sign of hope and it becomes a sign of hopelessness, which is the exact opposite of what it was designed to be!!!

So why, why preach something that so clearly goes against the true meaning of the gospel (Romans 1:16)? Because Calvinists have to! Because the first petals of the TULIP makes them! It’s the result of the Calvinism’s unavoidable downward spiral. Let me clearly explain what I’m saying in case you haven’t gotten it by now.

If a person is born “Totally Hereditarily Depraved” and unable to doing anything good spiritually or respond to God’s offer of salvation on their own then the decision to be saved must be made for them by God. If the decision has been made by God that only individuals that He “Unconditionally Elected/Chose” to be saved without any input from men or women in the matter, then that means the rest are unconditionally chosen to be damned because God never intended for any of them to be saved. And if God never intended for them to be saved, that means God didn’t send Jesus to die for any of them and thus you have “Limited Atonement” Calvinistic style. Because if Jesus really died for everyone then, according to Calvinism’s view on God’s sovereignty, if anyone doesn’t make it to Heaven then Jesus failed!

And that’s what happens when you try to tell God what He should be doing with His sovereignty. You tell Jesus who He died for instead of telling others that He died for them! The fact is, God’s sovereignty in Jesus didn’t fail – there’s real victory in Jesus because He shed His blood for many (Matthew 26:28) and His blood has the power to forgive sins to everyone who believes just as God’s true sovereign plan decreed it to be through His prophets:

To Him give all the prophets witness, that through [Jesus’] name whosoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

At the end of the day if a drowning person is thrown a life-jacket, but they refuse to put it on, that in no way means that the life-jacket wasn’t able to save them!!!

So perhaps out of all the petals on the TULIP better known as Calvinism, none do as much damage to the meaning of the cross of Christ as “Limited Atonement.” It fundamentally changes the meaning of the cross because it fundamentally changes the grace of God that’s revealed through it.

The saving grace of God through Jesus isn’t limited by God in that Jesus was sent/came to die for only a certain group of people – the possibility of salvation has been given to everyone. But the grace of God has been limited in that if you want to receive the benefit of it you must believe. Hence the words of Jesus’ apostle when he said: “By grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus has paid the price of redemption for all – but are we willing to admit that He paid a price that we couldn’t afford??? Because just as there’s a difference between “universal atonement” and “universal salvation”, there’s a difference between being offered a gift and accepting it. EA

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:17-21 – NKJV)

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7 comments

  1. You come very close to universalism in this post. I understand that is not what you are saying, but if someone is not reading carefully, it could be taken that way. I think, from my perspective, that you successfully worked your way out of it at the end.

    I hope you’re not blaming poor old John Calvin for the mess that hyper-Calvinists have made of this doctrine. The doctrine of “Total Depravity” is a valid doctrine (Colossians 2:13). The fall of man (Genesis 3) was so complete that all have sinned (Romans 3:10, 23) and are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). The dead are incapable of choosing God. That’s why Paul says, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). The natural tendency of man is to reject God. This is why “Total Depravity” is a valid doctrine. Thank God for Grace! Because even the faith required to believe is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and that is not limited to the “elect” otherwise there would be conflict with John 3:16; “whosoever” is all-inclusive.

    Just as the doctrine of “Total Depravity” is a sound doctrine, so is “Limited Atonement.” The way that works is that Jesus’ sacrifice is “sufficient” for ALL, but it is only “efficient” for those who will believe (and there is another nebulous term that needs to be clearly defined). Only those who will accept God’s free gift of salvation can be saved. These “become” the elect who are “predestinated … That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ … For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 1: 11-12; 2:10).

    Great post! I enjoyed the mental challenge!

    1. Morning, Ernie.

      The funny thing is, I am a universalist; just not in the way most people use the word. Remember what I said in the previous posts on this topic when it comes to universalism. Universal atonement and universal salvation are not the same thing. God’s offer of grace to the entire world and the entire world being saved are two different things. It’s not my job to restrict God’s grace but to tell others how they can live in it according to the very word that teaches us about His grace (Titus 2:12). That’s what got Paul into so much trouble with others – he told others that God’s grace was available even for the ole’ stinky gentiles and some people didn’t like that, but at the same time he still told everybody that we stand in condemning judgment unless our sins have been forgiven in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10-17).

      We are in complete agreement that the verses you referred to in your second paragraph say that a sinner is spiritually dead in the eyes of God (or else there would be no need to be resurrected with Jesus through baptism – Romans 6:1-6), but what you have missed is that those verses never say we are, were or ever will be born completely/totally depraved due to our heredity from Adam. Not one time does the Bible teach this. The Bible teaches that the soul that sins is the soul that dies (Ezekiel 18:20), not the soul that is simply born. All have sinned because all have sinned, not because we’re born that way. Romans 3:12 says humanity (Jew and gentile in the context) “goes out of the way” not that we’re born out of the way. Romans 5:12 simply teaches that spiritual death wasn’t passed along by being born a sinner, but by sinning against God like Adam did. There’s a huge difference between the two.

      But regardless to our conversation here I have already covered the topic of THD in depth in its own series (just click this link to bring you to part 1 of 3). Check those out and we can have any conversation that you like, either here on the blog or in personal email. Whichever you choose.

      As to your last paragraph, I agree that Jesus’ atonement is limited in scope when it comes to the means of application, but it is not limited in scope when it comes to its nature which is what Calvinism teaches and hence the reason that I wrote this particular series of posts.

      As always, thanks for commenting my friend.

      1. Good morning, Eugene,

        There is no disagreement here that “universal atonement” and “universal salvation” are not the same thing, but we need to be careful not to cheapen God’s grace with “easy beliefism.” Salvation is free to us, but it cost Jesus His life. So, it’s not really “free,” and it should not be taken too lightly or for granted.

        I also agree that Romans 6:1-6 never says “we are, were or ever will be born completely/totally depraved” because that is not what Paul is dealing with at this point. Paul is saying that because of Christ, we are “dead to sin.” By implication, we can either be dead to God or dead to sin. Paul deals with Adam’s sin in Chapter 5 verse 12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” He further emphasizes the point in verse 15, “For if through the offence of one [referring to Adam] many be dead,” and again in verse 17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one.” Of course, Paul is comparing and contrasting death brought about by the First Adam with the life brought about by the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, but the point is clear that we are all born with a sin nature. Therefore we are all born in Total Depravity. The psalmist says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Ezekiel 18:20 says that “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” So, is there a contradiction here? I don’t think so. Ezekiel is simply stating a fact, and the fact is that all souls are “conceived in sin,” and therefore are born dead, “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:21).

        Total Depravity is not a condition without remedy, and I reject the hyper-Calvinist idea that God arbitrarily chooses who will be saved and who will go to hell. (I know you also reject that idea.) God is not capricious as accused by some. He has made provision “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (Romans 1:19). The “Preacher” says, “… he hath set the world in their heart …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That word translated “world” in the Authorized Version is the Hebrew word ‛ôlâm, which can be better translated “eternity.” Just because we are born in Total Depravity does not mean that we are incapable of knowing and turning to God. God has place the knowledge of Him in every human heart, “so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

        By saying that “spiritual death wasn’t passed along by being born a sinner,” you are suggesting or implying that there is a remote possibility that, being born without sin, we could feasibly live a sinless life. I know (or at least I hope) that is not what you are suggesting, but that is where that idea logically takes us. And if that is true, then what was the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross?

      2. I would rather discuss the vast majority of the things that you mentioned on the posts that deal with those issues so if you like, you can read the previous posts that deal with THD (because the issues, plus some, that you raised are answered there) and then raise your questions based off of what I’ve already said. But that being said I will ask one question concerning your statement made at the end of your last paragraph.

        If we can’t help but sin then how could we be held accountable for something that we cannot keep from doing. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts indeed, but God does not deal with illogical standards pertaining to righteousness, sin and judgment that are by default required by saying that we cannot keep from sinning because we’re all born sinners but God is going to hold us responsible for what we can’t keep from doing. We’re not judged because we can’t meet God’s standard, but because we don’t meet it by sinning – hence the need for the righteousness of Jesus Christ who did indeed live according the righteousness of God in the flesh making Him the Just and the Justifier by God.

        But again, for the rest of what you said you’ll find very clear answers given in my original THD posts.

        Thanks for the reply!

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