Calvinism: Limited Atonement

By Larry Ray Hafley

I. Introduction:

A. The argument for “Limited Atonement” is the doctrine of “Unconditional Election.”

1. If God has unconditionally elected certain ones to salvation, then Christ must have died for them.

2. If Cod has unconditionally excluded some unto damnation, then Christ could not have died for them, hence, limited atonement.

3. “The question which we are to discuss under the subject of ‘Limited Atonement’ is, Did Christ offer up Himself a sacrifice for the whole human race, for every individual without distinction or exception; or did His death have special reference to the elect? In other words, was the sacrifice of Christ merely intended to make the salvation of all men possible, or was it intended to render certain the salvation of those who had been given to Him by the Father? Arminians hold that Christ died for all men alike, while Calvinists hold that in the intention and secret plan of God Christ died for the elect only” (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 150).

4. “It will be seen at once that this doctrine necessarily follows from the doctrine of election. If from eternity God has planned to save one portion of the human race and not another, it seems to be a contradiction to say that His work has equal reference to both portions, or that He sent His Son to die for those whom He had predetermined not to save, as truly as, and in the same sense that He was sent to die for those whom He had chosen for salvation. These two doctrines must stand or fall together. We cannot logically accept one and reject the other. If God has elected some and not others to eternal life, then plainly the primary purpose of Christ’s work was to redeem the elect” (Ibid., p. 151).

B. Definition of Limited Atonement:

1. Limited – restricted.

2. Atonement – reconciliation, redemption.

3. “We believe that God has an elect people whom he has chosen unto eternal salvation. We believe that the atonement of Christ was for that chosen number and no one else” (Elder Eddie K. Garrett, Primitive Baptist, in The Christian Baptist, March, 1972).

II. Discussion:

A. Arguments used by Calvinists to prove limited atonement:

1. “Us,” and “our” used to refer to the “elect” and exclude “them,” the non-elect (Isa. 53:4-6; Titus 2:14; 1 Cor. 5:7).

a. “All” equals the “us.” Have not the non-elect “gone astray” (Isa. 53:6)?

b. Grace which brings salvation “hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).

c. Christ was sacrifice (“lamb”) for the world (1 Cor. 5:7; Jn. 1:29).

d. 1 John 2:2 – “not for ours only, but also, for the sins of the world.”

2. Christ died for “many,” not for “all” (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; 26:28).

a. Would not “all” represent “many”?

b. “Many” is used, but not always, to signify only a portion and not all (1 Cor. 12:14).

c. “Many” is used to mean “all” (Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 10:17).

d. The “ransom for many” equals the “ransom for ell” (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6).

3. Christ died for His sheep, not for others (John 10:11, 15).

a. Yes, Christ died for the sheep, but this argument assumes He did not die for the goats (non-elect).

b. Goats, non-elect, are not a part of John 10.

c. All men, saved and unsaved, are regard-ed as sheep (Isa. 53:6), but whether they me Christ’s sheep or not is mother ques-tion. If they are not His sheep, they we still sheep, not goats; albeit, lost sheep.

d. Christ appeals to these other sheep.

(1) Evidence of John the Baptist, His works, the Father, the Scriptures, particularly Moses’ writings (Jn. 5:32-46; cf. 10:37, 38).

(2) To hear and follow Christ is to be His sheep (Jn. 10:16, 27).

B. Scriptures which refute Calvin’s limited atonement.

1. John 6:51 – He gave His flesh for the life of the world (Jn. 3:16).

2. John 12:32, 33 -How could His death draw all men if it were not for “all men” (John 6:44, 45 tells how the Father draws.)

3. Romms 5:18, 19.

a. How this was accomplished, whether hereditary or unconditional, is not stated, but the fact of it is.

b. Justification brought by Christ just as extensive as condemnation wrought by Adam.

4. 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “if one died for all, then were all dead.”

a. Note that “love of Christ” constrained Paul; thus, if His death was not for all, then it reflects on His love.

b. How many were “dead”? He died for just as many as were dead. Even Calvinist admits that all men are dead in sins.

5. Hebrews 2:9.

a. Note “by the grace of God,” Christ “tasted death for every man”, therefore, if those for whom He died is restricted, so is God’s grace.

b. The grace of God that bringeth salvation “hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11), and it is this grace which sent Christ to die for all.

6. 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 5:19.

a. “Not for ours only” is like Jmnes 2:24, “not by faith only.”

b. That phrase is the nail in the coffin of Calvinism.

III. Conclusion.

A. Consequences of Limited Atonement as taught by Calvinism.

l. It restricts God’s love and grace (2 Cor. 5:14; Heb. 2:9).

2. it negates God’s will to save all men (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

3. It assumes and presumes the doctrine of unconditional election to be true. See quote from Boetmer – they “stand or fall together.”

4. It makes a mockery of the great commission (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15, 16). Why preach to “every creature” if all are not subject? See Acts 10:34, 35.

B. The death of Christ was for you.

1. “If my man . . .” (Jn. 6:51).

2. “If we believe on him,” God will justify us through His death (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:24, 25).

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 15, pp. 461-462
August 4, 1983