The Doctrines of Grace: Limited Atonement

The Doctrines of Grace shook my whole spiritual walk. I started studying them last year after a conference I attended, and after seeing some conversations among some Christian friends on Facebook. There was a huge shift in how I viewed God, how I persevered in my daily walk, and a change in the prayers I took before the Lord for lost friends and loved ones. There were times as I was studying that tears were rolling down my face, and my heart was overflowed with thankfulness to the Lord. I have spent many years of my Christian life feeling like a fish out of water. The struggle was daily – am I doing enough? Every day I wondered if this was the day I would lose my salvation. Is this the day the Lord had enough with my constant struggle to be holy? Was this the day I was considered backslidden because I did not attend all three church services this past week?

The Doctrines of Grace helped me come face to face with Truth. The scales were removed from my eyes, and the Lord allowed me to see the Truth of who He is, and what His Word says. I felt like it was a letter to me, from my Heavenly Father, signed, sealed, and delivered. I had finally come home. These five points you will be reading and learning about this week brought finality to my spirit of where my home really is, and that nothing will separate me from it.  

The Doctrine of Limited Atonement is the most controversial of the five points in the Doctrines of Grace. Other terms I have heard used to describe this doctrine are Definite Redemption, Definite Atonement, or Particular Redemption. One thing I know for sure, it seems to be the one that causes the most confusion. Is Christ’s atonement universal; for all? Or is Christ’s atonement for a select group of people? I believe we can find our answers in the Word to support the latter. If God’s purpose in the atonement of Christ was for all, we are faced with Universalism: the belief that all humankind will eventually be saved. The Word clearly tells us that not all will be saved, that there are those that will perish. “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many that go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. This is just one verse that contradicts the belief of Universalism. Many people will perish in Hell. If what Christ accomplished on the cross was for everyone, then everyone would be saved. The cross had an intentional, specific, definite purpose. If His death was for the propitiation for all, and all are not saved, then Christ would not have accomplished what He needed to. It would not be a “done deal”.   

In the Old Testament, the Levitical sacrificial system was not for all people, it was only for the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. And just like that system, Christ died for His elect, not all people. Jesus went to the Cross for those given to Him by the Father.  “Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day.” John 6: 37-39. Not all people will be saved, only His sheep. “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11. “Only His sheep hear His voice. He calls them by name. John 10:3. Christ’s death was God’s specific design for the elect. His death was accomplished to save His sheep, His elect, and His chosen, not just for a chance or an opportunity for all humankind to be saved. The redemption accomplished by Christ was not just a mere possibility; it was a certainty for His elect.  

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. We already know that not everyone will believe and be saved. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14. Time and time again the Word refutes the belief of Universalism. Christ secured redemption of His elect.  “He loved the Church, and gave himself up for it.” Ephesians 5:25. Limited Atonement is clearly taught in Scripture. God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. So for the question – for whom did Christ die? He died for the elect.  

Every sin that has been committed by humans since the beginning of time, and until Christ returns, will be dealt with by God. For the elect, God’s wrath was placed upon His Son and paid in full. For the unbeliever, that wrath will be upon them in Hell. This doctrine was the hardest for me to comprehend, but as I studied the other four points of the Doctrines of Grace, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the Sovereignty of God. We can question why God would choose to save some and not all, but our minds are not God’s. Who can know the mind of God? “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways. This is the Lord’s declaration. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9. God is Sovereign and “He shows mercy to those He wants to”. Romans 9:18. Instead of this doctrine causing confusion, I choose to believe in the Sovereign rule and reign of God and His Word.  

The Lord’s heart is set on His elect. He does not pray for all, He prays for those the Father has given Him. John 17:9. He sanctified Himself for His elect. John 17:19. His elect have been “chosen to be obedient to Christ”. 1 Peter 1:2. The Doctrine of Limited Atonement should bring joy to His elect. We are truly free. Our debt has been paid, in full. We are no longer separated from God and we no longer have to await His wrath. Christ was our propitiation.