Limited Atonement

All Christians believe in limited atonement.

“No,” you say. “I don’t.”

Oh? Well, let’s see. Do you believe that God has the desire for all to be saved?


Do you believe He has the power to save all men?

“Of course.”

Then, why aren’t all saved?

“Because some won’t believe.”

So, He limited His own power to save on the basis of man’s willingness to believe?

“Well . . . “

Let’s take it a step further. The atonement didn’t actually bring God and men together, did it?

“What do you mean?”

Christ’s death didn’t actually atone for all men-the word means to bring about at-one-ment (bringing God and man together after their estrangement because of sin).

“Well, no. But it made atonement possible for all.”

So, there, you’ve admitted that Jesus’ atonement was limited-only those who believe are saved. If what He did actually atones-and not merely makes atonement possible-then all would be saved. If He paid the penalty for everyone’s sin, everyone would go to heaven because his sins would be paid for. God couldn’t punish Jesus and the unbeliever if the latter’s sins were actually paid for. That would be double jeopardy.

“Yes, but Jesus made salvation possible for all.”

So, then, if all are not saved

  1. What Jesus did on the cross was limited by man; not for all, since the sins of only those who believe are forgiven.
  2. What Jesus did on the cross was limited in its power to save.
  3. What Jesus did on the cross was ineffective (limited) in the case of most men.
  4. What Jesus did on the cross was limited (incomplete) because it requires man to make it effective.

If the Arminian is correct, Jesus‘ death saves no one. His death atones for no one. It is the Doctrine of Total Limitation! It is limited in what it can do because it depends upon man’s belief to make it effective. It was partially (limited) in its effect. The Arminian believes in atonement that is limited in its power to save. That’s total limitation.

Calvinists, on the other hand, believe that the death of Christ was effective and actually brings about the salvation of all those for whom He died. There is no waste in the atonement, it effects atonement for all of the elect. No one is lost for whom Jesus died. All of those whom God intended to be saved will be saved because Jesus’ death actually procured salvation for them rather than simply making it available.


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