Sunday, December 2, 2007

For Whom Did Christ Die?

I wanted to address the topic of my last poll. The middle point of the 5 points of Calvinism—the so-called "Limited Atonement"—has been a stumbling block of many reformed people for generations. I was a self-proclaimed "4-point Calvinist" for quite some time.

Let's take a close look at this doctrine and find out where we end up if we deny it. First, if you do believe that Jesus died for the sins of all people, let me ask you this: is unbelief a sin? I hope you can see where you logically end up if you answer yes. If you can not, let me explain. If Jesus died for the sins of everyone and unbelief is a sin, then all are saved, none are unsaved. This is a syllogistic fallacy because we know there are those that are unsaved. This should be enough to convince everyone. It was what convinced me.

So let's look at some scripture and see where that leads us. Matthew 1:21 says:

21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Mt 1:21 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
He will save His people. Not all people but His people.

In John 17 verse 2, Jesus' high priestly prayer He says:
2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Jn 17:1-2 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

Notice, life is given to all whom God has given him, not to all. Further in verse 9 Jesus goes on to pray:
9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Jn 17:8-9 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

Jesus is only praying for the ones for whom He is going to redeem—the elect only.

In John 10:10-11, Jesus says:

10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Jn 10:10-11 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep—not for the goats, nor for the wolves, but only for the sheep.

Now, let's take a look now at what most modern evangelicals will say: Jesus died for everyone, but only those who believe are saved. This would make the work Jesus did ineffectual; it would mean His death did not actually accomplish anything. Further, it puts salvation in the hands of man. If Jesus did the same work for you, a saved person, as He did for him, an unsaved person, then the only difference lies within you. Something you did actually saved you. This is a works salvation giving you something to boast about and is clearly refuted by scripture Romans 9:16 says:

16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Ro 9:15-16 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

I do not think it can get much clearer. If you do not believe the doctrine of limited atonement, you are believing in another gospel.


Eric said...

You are right on target with this post. It frustrates me that so many evangelical Christians believe that Jesus died for everyone. That must, logically, lead to universalism. Either that, or Jesus' atonement was simply potential, not actual.

Where are you attending seminary?


Alan said...

Thanks for stopping by Eric. I will be attending Westminster Seminary California beginning in the summer, Lord willing.
In Christ

Unknown said...

I was studying Hebrews the other day and came across these verses...

Hebrews 2:10
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 9:28
so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

--- which is a quote from Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:11
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to deathand was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many,and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Interesting, eh?

Frank said...

So let's conveniently ignore Scripture that clearly tell us that God isn't willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That not all are saved means only that they chose to reject salvation. It has no bearing on God's ability or inability to save people. Universalism is just a straw man calvinists use to justify fitting their square pegs of biased theology into the round hole of truth.

You calvinists would just love to believe that you were "specially chosen" due to some hidden divine reason while the rest of us can burn in hell without even being given a chance to choose. That you could be at peace with such heresy really is disgusting. Shame on you.

People who believe such things really don't know God, and twist Scripture to suit their egotistical and pigheaded view of salvation.

Alan said...

First off, welcome to my blog. I would hope that if you would like to discuss this you would cite some scripture and then we could discuss this like civilized people. I have not set up an "us vs. them" dichotomy, if you are saved then you are elect as well and a brother of mine no matter how misguided you are.

If you are quoting 2 Pt. 3:9 when you say God wishes for none to perish you are violating the first rule of hermeneutics, context, just as my blog title so subtly hints at. In that verse Peter is speaking to believers and is letting them know God will bring every one of them to salvation.

"We Calvinists" as you so gently put it, do not base our beliefs on pride, our doctrine is derived strictly from scripture and gives all of the glory to God and holds none for man, any man.

God bless you and I hope you will consent to a gentler conversation.

In Christ

Unknown said...

Lincoln, I love you.

I suggest this resource. I feel that it clearly and honestly assesses the Scriptures.

Eric said...


Thank you for answering Lincoln as you did. It is interesting that he quoted II Peter 3:9. That is probably one of the most often quoted scriptures out of context in the entire bible (right there with I Tim. 2:4).

Thank you so much for staying in context. Those who hold to the Doctrines of Grace have nothing to fear from scripture because it always supports God's sovereignty.


Unknown said...

That link that I was talking about was:
Then search for
"Are There Two Wills of God" by John Piper. I found it helpful.

J. Guy Muse said...

Interesting post! I followed up on you after reading your comment on my blog. So explain to me in "Calvinistic" terms why it is that I have not wasted the last 20 years of my life as a missionary to Ecuador? If atonement is "limited" to only those chosen, then why bother to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach as Jesus said for us to do? Believe me, it would be much nicer to be back Stateside with our family and not having to worry about all these millions of souls going to hell. The "chosen" will be saved with/without my presence! This is an honest question and I look forward to reading your response.

Alan said...

Welcome to my blog and thank you for the honest question. First let me say you have by no means wasted the last twenty years of your life. You made reference to Matthew 28 in your question which I believe answers your question. If the sovereign creator of the universe in flesh commands you to do something, you must do it. You are being obedient to the great commission. God ordains the means as well as the ends and the means by which He has chosen to bring the elect to salvation is the preached word, the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners. You have performed exactly what the Lord has commanded you and the doctrines of grace do not diminish, as a matter of fact I think they elevate the job you have done. Thank you for being willing to be obedient even when it has not been easy. You are an inspiration to me.

In Christ

J. Guy Muse said...


I read your above response a couple of days ago and was greatly touched by your encouraging words.

Your blog has become my favorite "reformed" blog, and am learning loads about this angle on Scripture--something I have personally not ever thought about much. I am finding your thoughts quite interesting and have added you to my OMEA blog reader to get all your posts. I especially found fascinating some of the YouTube videos interesting. While I don't necessarily agree with all that is being said, it does cause one to think. As a Baptist, I know we come from the Calvin line of theology, but I still struggle with the dogmatic stance I sense in many calvinists.

Again, thanks for your kind words. I look forward to reading more from you in the days to come.

00 said...

I think that you can get around the idea of thinking that "unbelief is a sin" by looking at it this way. I think that it's possible to believe that unbelief is a sin....and to also believe that Jesus died as atonement for our sins.....AND also believe that, in a sense, that "atonement" isn't "actualized" in a specific person's life until he or she asks for forgiveness. Is this making sense? I'm not sure that I'm explaining it very well....or using the proper terminology. The way that I see it, Jesus's blood is "strong enough," if you will, to cover any sin (including unbelief). I believe that forgiveness is there for all, but not all choose to accept it.
I would like to say though, that I think that the idea of "unbelief" can be somewhat complicated. I never thought of it that way, but after reading your post, and trying to figure out my response, it seems that there are probably different types of unbelief.
Well, I've probably rambled on long enough :-)

Alan said...

I appreciate the fact that you are thinking about this. Let me ask you this then, if Christ died for all, and only those who accept him are saved, then what is it that actually saves them? Is it not something in them then and not what Christ did. If that is the case then people save themselves and not Christ. I do not see this supported in scripture. Again I am glad you are thinking though and hope I can help in some way.
In Christ

00 said...

I think that only those who accept Jesus are saved, YET, I still believe that it is JESUS (more specifically, I guess I would say his death, burial, resurrection) that saves them. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, there would be NOTHING/NO ONE for any of us to accept.

I sorta see salvation like a gift. So say it's my birthday. My roommate Danni goes to all this trouble to get me a great gift. It's just amazing. She's got it all nicely wrapped with a swell bow and everything. She stands in front of me holding it out to me....BUT, I still must ACCEPT the gift. Yes, it's possible she could just throw it at me, but I could just let it drop and hit the ground. I think that salvation is kinda like that. I see Jesus there holding out His hand....and it's my decision whether or not to take it.'s HIM who does the saving. Without Him, I could reach out all I wanted, but there'd be nothing there to grab. On top of it, why even WOULD I reach out into nothingness.
I will say one final thing....while I enjoy discussions like this, I personally believe, that ultimately, this doesn't matter. Why? B/c I don't see it as a salvation issue. My salvation doesn't depend on my theological knowledge (praise the Lord!!) My salvation depends on JESUS...what He did....I am just to humbly follow in His footsteps. I guess I'm just saying that b/c I see no reason for Christians to get "up in arms" with each other over issues like this (not that I think you are with me, or vice versa). Whichever one of us is more correct in our understanding of whether or not Christ died for all, when we get to heave I guess that we'll find out...and that's good enough for me :-)