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I received a question recently:

“I’ve always believed that Jesus died for all people, all places, past present and future. I’ve just over the past year or so given any consideration to the view of limited atonement. Election is very clearly spelled out in Scripture. Depravity, yep. Irresistible grace, I agree. Perseverance of the saints, absolutely.

Limited atonement is by far (in my opinion) the most difficult of the 5 points. I’ve heard some great arguments for it, and I’ll continue to consider it as I study the Scripture.”

Well it is definitely a fiery topic. Even within churches who would distance themselves from the major tenants of Arminian theology, this topic brings emotional reaction. I will attempt to cover some main points here, albeit abbreviated.

John 3.16 says that God “loved the world”, Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus “tasted death for everyone”, and First John says that he is the propitiation for “the whole world”. So in light of this how can anyone say that Jesus Christ did not die for everyone?

First let me start off by saying that everyone limits the atonement. Everyone, that is, with the exception of the heterodox theology of the universalist (the view that all will be saved). The Arminian limits the power of the atonement, saying that the cross did not definitively save anyone but made redemption possible for all. The Calvinist on the other hand limits the extent of the atonement, that it does not save every person, but only the elect.

Before going any further let me say with respect to the value of the atonement of Christ, it is infinite. You could not add value to what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus is the eternal and infinite Son, who offered himself to the eternal and infinite Father, as an eternal and infinite sacrifice, through the eternal spirit to obtain eternal redemption. To be clear, when Calvinists speak of the limits of the atonement, we are not speaking in terms of its value (it is infinite), but rather the extent of it.

What we have to deal with is a choice, as B.B. Warfield said,

The things we have to choose between are an atonement of high value, or an atonement of wide extension. The two cannot go together.

Jesus Christ either died for everyone, nobody, or the elect.

The Nature of the Atonement

It is without much dispute that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus has Old Testament flavor. The OT sacrifices were pattered after their ultimate prototype, the supreme sacrifice, the Lamb of God (Heb. 9.11-14; 13.10-13). So when we see in the OT, specifically, in a passage like Leviticus 16, innocent animals being imputed with the sin of the people and then subsequently being slayed in their stead. The priest would go in and offer the animal and then come out and the people sins were dealt with on this Day of Atonement. You do not see them walking away from the bloody temple rejoicing in the potentiality of atonement, but with the accomplishment of atonement.

Further, Jesus sacrifice is substitutionary. We talk of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. This is one of the landmark doctrines of orthodoxy; the glorious reality that the Savior actually suffered vicariously in the stead of sinners. We see this pictured beautifully in the NT:

2 Corinthians 5:21 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

John Murray in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, wrote:

“If we concentrate on the thought of redemption, we shall be able perhaps to sense more readily the impossibility of universalizing the atonement. What does redemption mean? It does not mean redeemability, that we are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased and procured redemption. This is the triumphant note of the New Testament whenever it plays on the redemptive chord. Christ redeemed us to God by his blood (Rev. 5.9). He obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9.12). “He gave himself for us in order that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2.14). It is to beggar the concept of redemption as an effective securement of release by price and by power to construe it as anything less than the effectual accomplishment which secures the salvation of those who are its objects. Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people.” 

The real question comes down to did he or didn’t he? Did Jesus Christ satisfy divine wrath upon that cross or didn’t he? If he didn’t then who will? And when? But if he did, then for who?

It would be unbiblical to conclude that Jesus actually satisfied the wrath of God and bore the sins in his body for those already suffering in hell. If he did pay their penalty, is God not then unjust for double punishing them for their sin (once for them in hell with eternal torment and once on Christ for eternal redemption)?

The Intent of the Atonement

I like what Steve Lawson has said in this regard:

The intent of the atonement is the extant of the atonement.

What was Jesus intention?

He said that he was to lay his life down for his sheep and his sheep alone.

John 10:14-15  ”I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

It is the sheep of Jesus that are on his mind as he approaches the cross. He does not go to the cross with the sheep of Joseph Smith, the sheep of Muhammad, or the sheep of Buddha on his mind. No, he goes to the cross with HIS sheep on HIS mind.

And further you see is divine resolve in v.16:

John 10:16 16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

Do you see this resolve?! “I must bring them…they will hear My voice” Or if we may shorten it… “I must…and they will” Jesus Christ is going to the cross with the certainty that HIS sheep will hear his voice and come to him.

If Jesus has not already shown his hand in terms of his view on the atonement, he does in verse 26. The Jews are questioning him and he tells them that they the atonement is not for them. Look for yourself:

John 10:26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.

Who did Jesus say he was dying for? The sheep (10.15). Are these guys part of his fold? No. Jesus just limited the atonement.  

He also applies this limitation when he prays in John 17:

(John 17.9-10) I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Jesus prays for his. If we might add, his sheep; that is, those who will believe upon his word.

(John 17.20) ”I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

The nature of the atonement is substitutionary. It is vicarious. Jesus lived, died and was raised for our sins (1 Cor. 15.3-5). It also happened in a point of time never to be repeated again (Heb. 10.10). Therefore, Jesus accomplished the necessary redemption for all of his sheep. He fully satisfied and removed divine wrath while earning divine favor for his people. Therefore, when we speak of a limited atonement we are referring to a limited scope not a limited value or power.

Some Supposed Unlimited Atonement Passages

Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2:9 9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

Context is important. Who are the everyone? Verse 10 tells us that he brings “many sons to glory”, verse 11 calls them “brethren”, verse 14 calls these people “the children”, v.16 says that they are the descendents of Abraham, v.17 says that they are “his brethren”, and again “the people”. I do not believe that everyone here refers to everyone who ever lived, but rather to this group of people, the many sons, the children, the descendents of Abraham, his brethren and the people.

John 3:16


John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

OK, so here it is God loves the world. Well what does world (Kosmos) mean? John uses it different ways in his gospel:

-For the Universe as a whole: (Jn. 1.10)

-For the earth (Jn. 13.1)

-For the world system (Jn. 12.31)

-For the whole human race (Jn. 12.46; 17.18)

-For a relatively small group of people (Jn. 18.20)

-For humanity minus believers (Jn. 14.17; 15.8, 17.9)

-For believers only (Jn. 1.29; 6.33; 12.47)

So what does John mean here?

If you take the word world here to refer to all people then it does not say that all people will be saved. It says that those who believe will be saved. The loving and the saving are united by the believing. Truly, it does not speak to the extent of the atonement but the motive behind (love) and the means of accessing it (faith).

Some believe that John is using world here to refer to those who believe. God loved the world in this particular way, that those who believe (the participle is in the present tense), who keep believing (i.e. the believers) will have eternal life. We sometimes thing of “whosoever” as exceedingly broad (arms open wide) instead of the particularity with which John seems to point here (to believers). While I can see the argument for this point, I tend to take the former interpretation.

1 John 2.2

(1 John 2.2) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but aalso for the sins of the whole world.

This last phrase here has been the cause for a significant amount of ink to be spilled. A lot of people have wrestled with it to try to understand what John is talking about. The question is simply this: in what sense is Jesus the propitiation for the sins of the whole world?

We have 3 main questions to answer:

1) What does propitiation mean? we have already answered this, it means to make God favorable to sinners by satisfying his wrath against them.

2) When did it happen? This happened at the cross. Propitiation is a past-tense event. While Jesus acting as our advocate in heaven is an ongoing event, his atoning work happened in the past, in history, never to be repeated again.

3) What does world mean?

  • Sometimes it refers to all of creation
  • Sometimes it refers to all people
  • Sometimes it refers to all believers
  • Sometimes it refers to other aspects.

We don’t believe that the Bible teaches that every single person who ever lived will go to heaven. This is the heresy of universalism. As much as it turns our stomaches, hell will be populated. Therefore, Jesus did not propitiate (satisfy wrath and make God favorable) towards everyone.

In this sense the scope of Jesus work as priest is limited to his people.

Doesn’t this limit the power of the atonement? No. Because Jesus is the Son of God his sacrifice is of infinite value, infinite worth. If he would have died for 1 or 1 billion people it would still have infinite value because of who he is and what he did.

How does this reconcile with the usage of the word world? In the 1st Century Jewish world you have the Jews and then the world. John is a Jew and enjoyed a ministry primarily to Jews (Gal. 2). There was an anticipation throughout the OT that the Messiah would save not only the Jews but also the whole world, that is Gentiles (Gen. 12.1-3; Is. 56.8; Ezek. 34.23; 37.24; Luke 2.22-38).

We see this conclusion somewhat surprisingly articulated by Caiaphas:

(John 11:49-53) But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

This sounds like Jesus here:

(John 10:16) And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

When I read 1 John 2.2 I think in terms of what the word propitiation means, what Jesus did, and what else John teaches us about the nature and intent of the atonement, particularly with respect to non-Jews. This causes me to conclude that just as Jesus is the advocate for his people he is also the propitiation for the sins of his people. This includes all types of people, not just Jews, but people from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 5). This is what John means by world here.

Limitations for Evangelism

Some think that this limits evangelism. Instead I argue that it makes evangelism hopeful. For if Jesus only died to make redemption possible our efforts could be hopeless. However, since Jesus Christ actually satisfied divine wrath for his people and is now applying the redemption through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in concert with the message of the Gospel, suddenly I am filled with hope and feel like Paul, even reminded that the Lord has many people in this city (Acts 18.10).

So when I present the gospel I say that “Jesus died for sinners like you and me!” This is fully consistent with a Reformed understand and burden for mission.

As a side note, nobody has much trouble with the interpretation of a limited (or particular) love when applied to the husband and the wife. However, Ephesians 5 uses the cross and the particular love that Jesus has for the church as the basis and model for the supreme and particular love that a husband is to have for his wife.

John Owen’s Helpful Questions

John Owen’s concise puzzle:

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
1. All the sins of all men.
2. All the sins of some men.
3. Some of the sins of some men.

In which case it may be said:
a. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved.
b. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
c. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, Because of unbelief. I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!

Some helpful resources

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, intro by JI Packer via John Owen

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, by Lorraine Boettner

Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray

A recent audio series by Steve Lawson, entitled, “Ten Reasons why I Believe the Bible Teaches Definite Atonement

A lecture by RC Sproul:

View Comments


31 thoughts on “Q&A Friday: Did Jesus Die for everyone?”

  1. Tyler says:

    Great conversation tonight, eh?

    See you on Sunday.


  2. erik says:

    Yeah it was good. Great stuff to talk about and hopefully bring edification. It is so encouraging to know that God has provided everything that he requires and we need for life and godliness.


  3. Bunyan says:

    Hi Erik,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog.
    Limited Atonement was also the hardest of the Doctrines of Grace for me to embrace. James White’s, The Potter’s Freedom was the book that challenged me to seriously consider the truthfulness of this doctrine.
    Our church has used the Amazing Grace (the History and Teaching of Calvinism) DVD. The whole series is a good introduction to Calvinism and the session on Limited Atonement is a very well done.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. erik says:

    Good to hear it Bunyan…your encouragement and edification is my goal :/

    thank you for the reference/link.


  5. Jacob says:

    “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

    I must admit that the more I read the Scripture, and arguments made there from, I must accept what I see Scripture to be teaching. I convert, I’m a 5 pointer.

  6. Seth McBee says:

    Jacob…interesting that you say that, anything in particular that “converted” you?

    For me it was the argument of propitiation. If Christ truly was a propitiation (completely wiping away penalty due) then He could not have died for every one or He would have been paying for the sins for those who would then have to pay for them again in hell, that is double payment and God, then, would not be just.

    1. Ian says:

      Somewhat of a silly statement, God died for the “whosoever”. The gift is only valid or of any worth if the intended redipient accepts the gift. If he/she rejects the gift then so be it. It is no reflection on work of Christ, that would be preposterous.

  7. Alicia says:

    I guess I get to be the one still working on this point. I used to have almost an anymosity toward Calvinism, and Limited Atonement was one of the main reasons.

    I have some questions. I was at first impressed by your analysis of Kosmos, but when I looked up the references you sited as being uses for believers only, it seemed that one would only interpret them that way if he already believed in limited atonement. What do you feel limits these passages to believers only apart from your belief in limited atonement? (It seemed more like circular reasoning than proof to me.)

    Also, is it not possible to give somone something that they will not accept? I can leave a gift certificate for all of my friends at one friend’s home, but if some of them will not accept that gift, they don’t receive the good from it. Romans seems to be set up as a legal argument. How do you explain Romans 5? I’ve often heard courtroom analagies of salvation. The payment for the crime/fine has been made, but if the criminal does not accept this payment on his account, he remains guilty. Those who receive it gain life.(vs.17)

  8. Jacob says:


    I’m with you. It is definitely the argument that if Christ paid for all sin then why are people paying for that sin again in Hell? It doesn’t make sense that God would place sin on Jesus for those whom He has not called as His elect. I really just never gave thought to that before. Once I considered the implications of unlimited atonement I started to see Inconsistencies with what I believed. I already believed in Election hands down, but I still wanted to say it was unfair that Christ didn’t die for everyone…

    Like I said, I just thought it through and found where I was being inconsistent. When confronted with the truth of God’s word we must always be willing to change our positions when we find ourselves in the wrong.

  9. Seth McBee says:

    Good questions…

    As far as John 3:16 is concerned, do you know that there is no such word as “whosoever” in the Greek? The word is better translated as “those believing.”

    As far as your question on Romans 5 and the gift from God. First, study the word propitiation out and notice that this word was NOT used in the Old Testament when dealing with the blood of sheep and goats, because theirs was an foreshadowing atonement to Christ’s actual atonement or better put propitiation (Hebrews 10). Romans 5 starts by saying “we have a peace” meaning the fellow Christians with Paul. Also notice that Romans 5:7 it states that “one will hardly die for a righteous man” Verse 6 states that Christ died for the ungodly…same is said when Christ said He didn’t come to heal the healthy but the sick…The reason Christ says this is better seen in James 4 when it says that God gives grace to the humble. The only way to be humble is to know that you are dead in your sin and you cannot save yourself and to turn your life to Christ. Everyone else is the prideful…those who do not believe in His name. So Christ died only for the ungodly, the ones who are humble. Those who are prideful Christ did not come for and the prideful are all those who don’t realize that Christ is where life is. Again John 10 Christ dies only for the sheep, not the wolves and in John 15 Christ says He dies for His friends, not His enemies…

    hope this helps…

  10. Javaguy says:

    I think Alicia has a good point. I am a little confused by your response. You quote scripture saying that Christ died for the ungodly then say that those who are humble are not godly but apparently those who are prideful are?
    “So Christ died only for the ungodly, the ones who are humble. Those who are prideful Christ did not come for and the prideful are all those who don’t realize that Christ is where life is.”
    Either someone is godly or ungodly. Those are the only two choices, so if Christ came for the ungodly, but did not come for those who are prideful, then the prideful must be godly. That doesn’t quite fit with what I understand.
    Also, John 15 states in several places and several different ways that He will remain in us if we remain in Him. Note the condition. He will, if we . . . It doesn’t say, we will remain in Him if He remains in us. This places the responsibility to remain on us. The other part to that is the word “remain.” His analogy of the branches and his usage of the word “remain” seems to indicate that we are with him. If we are totally depraved and utterly disconnected from him, how could the word “remain” mean anything but actually being saved? And if that is the case, then why the talk of remaining if you believe in the preservation of saints?

    I always thought of the wolves as representing Satan, not humans.

  11. Seth McBee says:

    also remember that Christ said “I didn’t come to call for the righteous but the sinner (Matthew 9:13)” He is making an analogy to what I was saying for the godly and the ungodly. Christ came for the ungodly to make them godly, but He did not come for the godly (those who think they are righteous) This doesn’t mean that Christ is saying that there are some that, when He came, were godly or righteous, but those people thought they were because of their pride.

    As far as your dissertation that would take a long time to go through. I would ask you to listen to my pastor’s sermon on John 15 which will go through our thoughts on what abide means. ( But Jesus, when speaking of abide uses it in two different ways, John 15:4 means to be born again…you abide in Christ and He abides in you, then the rest of the chapter when speaking of continually abiding is the acts of the believer to continually abide in Christ. (John 15:7-10)

    By the way, I don’t take the responsibility away from man and neither does the belief of unconditional election. People deny Christ because they want to deny Christ, it is willful sin (Hebrews 10:26-29)and they will go to hell for that sin.

    John 15 never states anything of how the believer actually abides in Christ, that John has already taught in John 6:44, the Spirit draws them.

  12. erik says:

    I’m glad to hear that you prayed the prayer Jacob :/…My hope is that it is more than just logically defensible, but Scripturally.

  13. erik says:

    Alicia thank you for the comment/questions:

    Ok, for the believers only I sited
    John 1:29 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

    John 6:33 33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

    John 12:47 47 “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

    “ seemed that one would only interpret them that way if he already believed in limited atonement. What do you feel limits these passages to believers only apart from your belief in limited atonement? (It seemed more like circular reasoning than proof to me.)…

    Well yes and no. In light of the other uses of kosmos in John these verse cannot mean the whole world (as in every person alive or who ever lived). For if John in one place says that Jesus takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1.29)

    John 1:29 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

    and then in another place says that the ‘world’ cannot receive him (Jn. 14.17) and also Jesus says that he does not pray for the world but for believers

    John 17:9 9 “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;

    In the same context John uses world to refer to creation of the material world:

    John 17:24 24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

    But when you look at John 3.16-17 for example, you see that world is used like it is in Jn. 1.29; 6.33; 12.47.

    John 3:16-17 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    I believe this passage is referring to believers and not the universe, material world, every human being minus believers, or the world system. This is for 2 reasons,

    1) the object of God’s love here is the world, and the end of this love is for ‘all the believing ones’ to have eternal life and not enter into judgment. The ‘whoever’ here is not referring to anyone with out distinction, for the text says whoever believes (this brings distinction), in fact the original is very particular, pas (all) pisteuo (believing ones…present active participle). Not to get too technical, but words do matter.
    2) Two verses later we learn that those who do not believe are judged (v.18) and then that reason why they are judged is because “the light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (v.19).

    I do not think this is circular reasoning. My theology here is derived from the text, a text which admittedly uses variant meanings for the same Greek word, depending on the context.

    You reference Romans. If you believe that the atonement is applied in like manner with Adam’s sin, and then conclude that everyone is ‘justified’ I guess we have a bigger problem, that would make you a universalist, believing that all are saved and none will go to hell. I think Paul limits things in chapter 5, (v.1) we, v.2 we, v.6 we, v.8 us, v.9 we, v. 10 we, v.11 we, v.15 the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many, v. 17 those who receive, v.19 the many. It is with this context that the “all men” must be understood as “all men” who are referenced throughout this passage.

    And I think the courtroom analogy is unbiblical (fine is paid but if rejected he remains guilty). Did Jesus atone for sin that those in hell were suffering for while he was on the cross? I believe the cross actually accomplished redemption, he did make it available and then leave it up to sovereign man to choose him or not. Instead he “obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9.11) and then we read in Romans 8 of God’s particular dealing with his particular people based upon particular redemption:

    Romans 8:28-33 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;

    Notice v.30 he predestined, he called, he justified, he glorified. This is tied to the cross. The only one who sovereignly chooses in salvation is God.

    Hopefully this is helpful. I appreciate your questions.

  14. Alicia says:

    Thank you, Eric(and you too, Seth), for expanding upon your original thoughts for me. I’ll be back at least a few more times trying to completely understand and absorb them. I wish I knew Greek a lot thses days! :^) I really appreciate your time and gracious spirit.

  15. Jacob says:

    don’t worry Erik, the Scripture was what got me. The whole “for my sheep” passage got to me. But it makes a lot of sense as a logical argument too for those of us who already believe in election but were shy of limited atonement.

  16. Erik says:

    Jacob: that is good to hear. I think the book of John is a slam dunk. It is funny we always tell new believers to read it and it is probably the most predestinarian book in the Bible :/ I think Romans 8 is pretty clear too. The whole chapter is referring to the elect, and somehow the Arminian must take out the ‘us all’ to refer to all the world …i believe this does violence to the text. ch.8 is great though.

  17. erik says:

    Alicia: Just keep reading John. And don’t be discouraged, looking at Greek is helpful, but your english Bible is just fine for understanding the atonement properly. What we need to have is more pastors teaching things in context along with a biblically informed systematic theology, this would help us in the pews out immensely.


  18. Jeremy says:

    Erik, once again you have so plainly explained Christ’s atonement that the least of us can understand it (namely me). :)

    I am thankful for your preaching ministry at OBC and the impact that you have made on me. I recall one of your sermons several months ago where you said that election was not sinners knocking at the door of heaven pleading to get in – and Jesus telling them, “No, I don’t think so, you must go to hell.” But that election was Christ running after and gathering unto himself a few that were on there way to hell and electing them for heaven through no merit of their own (some words may be my own as it was several months ago). This had a profound impact on my thinking as I have struggled with the idea of limited atonement in the past.

    I asked for the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination for Christmas. I look forward to digging in!

  19. erik says:

    Jeremy: I am glad things are clickin’ Boettner’s book is very helpful. So often people say it is the “L” that is difficult to grasp, I agree with RC Sproul who said it is the “T” that is the most difficult, once the issue of depravity is biblically settled the rest seem to fall right in line. What typically happens is that after the other points start to make sense we revisit total depravity and learn we did not really get it. I remember being greatly impacted by Boettner’s chapter on depravity…enjoy! And thanks for the note!

    see you Sunday.


  20. Curt Knight says:

    The doctrine of limited (definite) atonement was a hard doctrine for me to swallow, at first, as well. I went back and even tried to look at it more closely. The 2nd time around, I came out seeing that it is probably the most strongest of the other 4 points of Calvinism. Below was what came out of that study, maybe it will be helpful to someone. If not, forgive my interuption.

    Definite (Limited) Atonement Defined

    Jesus Christ died on the cross and paid the price for the sins of His elect only, thus actually saves them. His blood was limited to those whom were predestined. Not one drop of His blood was wasted on someone who would not believe in Him. The Atonement is limited in intent, not in power.

    The Doctrine of Definite Atonement Proved

    John 10:26-28, “But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.”

    John 17:1,2,6,9,24, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said; ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that you Son also may glorify you, as you have give Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have give Him, I pray for them, I do not pray for the world, but for those written you have given me, for they are yours.”

    Luke 1:68, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”

    Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to Shepard the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

    Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

    Hebrews 9:28, “…so Christ was offered to bear the sins of many.”

    John 13:1, 15:13, “Now before the feast… having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

    John 10:11-16, “I am the good shepherd. The good Shepard gives his life for the sheep… I know my sheep… I lay down my life for the sheep.”

    Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

    Matthew 20:28, “…to give His life a ransom for many.”
    Isaiah 53:8-11: “…By His knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”

    1 Timothy 1:15, “… that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

    Matthew 1:21, “…for He will save His people from their sins.”

    The Doctrine Stated

    Christ’s blood was shed to actually save, not to offer a salvation. It accomplishes what it is intended for. The terminology… many, his sheep, the elect, the chosen, my people, are all a definite people group. Those who He predestined. His blood is said to save and to justify (which is legally accomplished in God’s sight) not offering it and seeing who will take it. If someone’s sins are paid for how can he still go to hell? Man’s will does not nullify or verity Christ’s work on the cross. It stands alone as a particular work of God and does accomplish that which it intends to do…actually save His people.

    The Value of the Doctrine

    Christ actually accomplished His purpose, to save His people. His blood atonement worked. God’s will to save His people cannot be stopped. His is supreme.

    Difficulties and Objections

    Objections stated: Man can reject Christ’s atonement.

    Objection answered: First, the view that man can reject God actually contradicts the biblical definition of Christ’s redemptive work, but it also contradicts itself.

    The Three Options Regarding Christ’s Atonement

    1) Christ paid the price for all the sins of all men.

    2) Christ paid the price for all the sins of some men.

    3) Christ paid the price for some of the sins of all men.

    If #3 is true then all men still are guilty and none would be saved. Is rejecting Christ’s work a sin? Do not people go to hell because they reject His work on the cross? Then, in this view, since you can reject His atonement I guess Christ did not die for that particular sin since some are punished for it. But, if He did die for the sin of unbelief then no one goes to hell, since that is the only sin that is the difference between #1 and #3. So it is either all go to heaven #1 or all go to hell, since the sin of unbelief was not paid for #3. The only option is #2, definite atonement. You see, you cannot say “man refuses to believe in Christ so they go to hell.” Because unbelief is a sin, it is either paid for (which means it would not matter whether you believe or not, it’s paid for, all go to heaven) or it is not paid for, which means even if you believe, Christ did not pay the price for that sin you once committed and you go to hell anyway.

    So, you cannot say He died for all the sins of all people – there’s no way for those who worship the human free will to get out of this problem.

    Two Options

    The bible teaches that many people go to hell. So either you believe that God never intended to save all men or that He intended to save some. Is God unable to save all men, If He wanted to? Is He not sovereign? The idea that God surrenders His will to man’s will is clearly unscriptural.

    Problem Passages

    Problem stated: Christ died for “all men” or the “world”.

    Problem answered: One important principle is that scripture cannot contradict itself. The clearer passages (above) must be used to interpret the less clear ones.

    “All Men”

    The word “all” biblically almost never carries the definition of all men without exception. It is always interpreted by the context.


    Matthew 10:22, “And you (apostles) will be hated by all for my names sake.”

    Mark 11:32, “All counted John to have been a prophet.”

    Acts 26:4, “My manner of life from my youth…all the Jew know.”

    John 3:26, Matthew 3:5-6, Mark 1:5, “…Behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.”

    Acts 22:15, “You will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.”

    “All” in these passages cannot possibly mean all men without exception.

    2 Peter 3:9

    “All” is restricted by the pronoun in the context “us”. Who is this “us”? He is clearly referring to believers (2 Peter 1:1). So to say that Christ would have us “all” (believers) come to Him is not a problem for the doctrine of definite atonement. Once again if He meant that God wishes that all men, without exception, came to Him we have to reject God’s sovereignty (along with all the passages that teach it). Just to wrestle this passage to mean what we want.

    2 Corinthians 5:14-15

    Does “all” mean the whole human race or all of God’s elect? Once again if Paul is saying Christ paid the price for all men, is it all the sins of all men? Then we go back to that brain twister. The contest of this passage is the Christians greater obedience and their judicial union, death and resurrection with Christ. So, if “all” means every man this passage would prove too much. Can it be said, “the love of Christ constrains us”, and that “us” being “all” men, including those who reject God? So, if the things that Paul attributes to those united to Christ in His death and resurrection cannot be attributed to all men, then in this passage Paul cannot be referring to all men, but to all the elect only.

    1 Corinthians 15:22

    Once again, if “all” means everyman, then every man would be saved. Since all men do not have eternal life, “all” cannot mean all men without exception. Parallel passages: Romans 5:12-21. The word “all” must be restricted to believers.

    2 Timothy 2:3-6

    The context is of “all kinds of men”. 1 Timothy 2:1, “That supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.” All people, all classes need prayer and there is not a certain class that God does not want to save some out of.

    John 17:9; “I pray for them, I do not pray for the world.” Jesus did not even pray for the salvation of every person.”

    Other places in the New Testament the same Greek word pas “all” is translated as “all kinds”, or “all manner of”. (Matthew 4:23, 5:11, 10:1, Luke 11:42, Acts 10:12, Romans 7:8, Revelation 21:19)
    Once again one must reject God’s sovereign power to actually save those who He wants to if we wish to interpret this passage as “offering salvation to all men without exception.”

    Objection, objected to: If God desires all men, without exception to be saved? Why are there vessels of wrath? Why did God forbid Paul to preach the Gospel in Asia (Acts 16:6)? Why does God hide truth from some (Matthew 11:25, Isaiah 6:9-10)?

    “The World”

    Once again, like “all” the Greek word for world (kosmos) is determined by the context. There are at least eight different uses of the term “world” in the New Testament. Once again, if it were always taken to mean “all peoples” it would prove too much in many cases. Romans 3:19, Revelation 12:9, 1 John 5:19, Revelation 13:13, (Revelation 14:9-10), John 15:18, Luke 2:1, Romans 1:8.

    2 Corinthians 5:19

    Once again, if God does not count the sin of the entire world, all would be saved, which contradicts other passages.

    John 4:42

    Christ came to save people form every nation, not just Israel. (Revelation 5:9). The context is Christ’s ministry to the Samaritans and their surprise that anyone outside of Israel would be saved. The common view in Jesus’ day was that He (the Messiah) would come and only save those from Israel.

    Once again the idea that every individual in the world would actually be saved is absurd.

    1 John 2:2

    John, once again being a Jew viewed his nation as being separate from the rest of the world, and is teaching that surprisingly God is going to save Gentiles also! Parallels that interpret this passage – John 11:51,52, Romans 11:12, 1 Thessalonians 2:15:16, Colossians 3:11, Joel 2:28: Romans 1:5, Ephesians 2:14-17, Acts 13:45-50, Romans 11:12,15,32. This passage would also teach universalism (all are saved) if interpreted “all people”.

    John 3:16

    The Whosoever Debate:
    “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13 KJV.

    The word KJV translates as “whosoever” is hos in Greek. Strong’s Lexicon has it’s meaning: “who, which, what, that”.
    Kohlenberger’s Lexicon has it:
    “who, which, what, that; anyone, someone, a certain one”.

    The USB 3rd. ed., Revised: “who, which, what, that”.

    Even the KJV translates hos as “whom” in 262 places, and “who” in 84 places!

    So, there’s no universality implied by the original Greek of these two verses. Rather, a straight declaration that those “who” call on the name of Christ shall be saved.

    The only remaining question being, exactly, “who” are they?

    Romans 3:11 informs us: “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God” (NASB, NKJ)

    Only those whom Christ reveals the Father to, know Him (Matthew 11:27). They are: “The elect whom He chose” (Mark 13:20 NASB, RSV, NRSV).

    Not “whosoever”…but, “those chosen of God” (Titus 1:1 NASB).

    The rest continue to be “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 NKJ, KJV). Dead. They can not call on the name of the Lord. They’re “dead”. Dead people CAN NOT call anyone!

    “World” is restrained by those “who believe” in Him. Christ died for all those who will do or will believe in Him, God’s elect. It cannot mean, “God loves the whole world without distinction, but only those who believe or especially believers.” Once again only believers have their sins removed and have eternal life. So the whole world can not be in view here or all would be saved. God does not love everybody, Romans 9:17, Exodus 17:14, Deuteronomy 20:16, 23:3, Psalm 5:5, Romans 9:22, 9:13.
    Once again to make this passage not contradict other passages we must interpret it, as “fallen man kind in it’s various nations and kinds”. God did not just love Israel.
    The Gospel is preached to “all”, the “world” to “whosoever” and this is because He has some elect in all the world and who ever comes to Him will be His sheep (His elect) since they and only they will hear His voice. (As seen earlier).

  21. Kevin says:

    I think this sums it up guys… The word of God is the final authority, not your lame interpretation of the word “world”

    Jesus died for everyone

    * John 1:29, “The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

    * John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

    * John 4:42, “and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

    * 1 Tim. 4:10, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

    * 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

    * 1 John 4:14, “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

    The Savior of ALL MEN! The Savior of the WORLD! You can try your best to limit the definition of the word “world” but what about “ALL MEN”? How can you even try to change the definition of that? How about instead of trying to study you way to a knowledge of the Almight you try a diffrent route. Pray and ask that God would guide you in to all truth and wisdom, stop using your own understanding to explain away scriptures that you dont agree with. Take the word of God in its entire form and stop the justification. This rebuke is only out of love. It is my prayer that this message is recieved with a humble and teachable sprit. And remember its pride and a haughty spirit that will be angered by a rubuke. And the Lord hates and finds pride detestable. God Bless

  22. erik says:


    Frankly everyone limits the extent of the atonement. That is everyone within orthodoxy. It is only the univeralist who believes that everyone in the world is going to be saved. Are you a universalist?

    I’m curious if you read through the post and the comments attending the post.

    The question is did he or didn’t he atone for the sins of the world.

    All I am saying is that Jesus accomplished exactly what the Father designed for him to do. The atonement is infinite in value but is particular in application/scope.

  23. Josh says:

    The Father crushing His Son(Isaiah 53:10) was sufficient for all but only effective for His elect.

    If Christ died for everyone’s sins, no one would go to hell.

    As far as election, John 10:26 clears that up quite well, “You do not believe because you are not My sheep.”

    Modern day evangelical churches would teach the complete opposite. They would teach “You are not His sheep because you don’t believe.”

  24. Tony says:

    It’s obvious that God’s most important message is being missed just as so many believers are lost because of that. It’s no wonder non-believers remain lost no thanks to the many so-called Christians that proclaim to be people of God. The greatest of all wonders, miracles, parables, stories etc., is the fact that Jesus died for our sins on the cross so that we could live in Heaven with Him forever. His selfless act of LOVE was what He showed us by taking on the punishment we deserved for being sinners and also being unable to change our sinful nature. The fact is that we need God regardless of our state, because our state is already apart from God. We live in sin and can’t help the act of sinning at times. This in no way means that we don’t love God, it just means that God loves us even more than we could ever Love Him. If we could stop sinning what would we need a saviour for? It makes perfect sense for those lost, stubborn, prideful, right-ites who we encounter often times and feel sorry for. God even loves them as they are and it’s His perfect time and will that will bring the change in that person to bring glory to Jesus. It’s not for us to know that time and as people of God, shouldn’t we pray for those who are lost so that they too can be restored to man’s orignal state. His perfect will in each and every life is exactly that. His perfect will. We will always argue about the scriptures and the interpretation of the word, but do you think God is pleased with that. Wouldn’t you think that God would much rather us Love eachother instead of in our own feeble and limited minds, try to disprove or prove our own interpretations of His everlasting and perfect Word. His Word should not be used as a device of the adversary. God is the Perfect Prince of Peace and we need not oppose the very God we claim to serve by warring with eachother over His Word. Please! In Jesus name use this energy Loving others as Christ loved the WORLD. ALL SOULS BELONG TO GOD!!! Why argue that. If God is the judge and is to give a sentence for our disobedience/sins, Christ is the atonement and sacrifice of those very sins. It’s really not that complex, we make it that way and distort His perfect will and plan which is to eventually reconcile all men/women to God. Lastly, God is faithful when we’re not, He loves us when we don’t love ourselves or our neighbors, He’s patient beyond measure, gracious through and through, merciful like we are to our children, He’s the giver of peace during our most troublesome times, the lover of our soul, keeper of His promises, and all good things cometh from Him. We should just humbly accept His Love and share it as well. God Bless!

  25. Steve Corsello says:

    This a very awesome testimony that defends the Holy Scriptures testimony brought about by the power of God that proclaims that all of salvation is HIs … even that which comes from our head and heart. I am thankful that God did not tolerate my sin that Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice bore for all the perversities of my depravity. He even died for the sinful deception that would assume that the work of my decision cooperates with the work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The power of God has convicted me to recognize the pride that that belief assumes.

  26. natalie says:

    As someone raised in an evangelical home/church/school (who has just recently returned to church after many years), the Calvinist argument is new to me. I will admit, some of the arguments are persuasive–but I guess my question is: does is matter if peoeple believe in predestination or not? I have to say, the whole idea had me obsessing and wondering if I’m one of the elect or if I just THINK I believe and I’m really being fooled b/c I’m not one of the elect, etc. Unfortunately, the joy I felt at returning to church and really believing for the first time has been tempered by this fear that I will forever wonder if I am one of the elect. Also, I can understand how one can fear a God that would condemn people arbitrarily to hell (for isn’t a tenant of Calvinism that God decided before time whom he would and would not save) but how can one truly love and trust a God that would do such a thing? It would be like having a father that is kind and loving to me but horrible beyond words to my step-sibling–can I truly be grateful for the love he shows me without being at least troubled by the hate he demonstrates toward my step-sibling?
    I hope it’s not blasphemous to even bring up questions like that–as I said this is all new to me and I am trying to work things out in my head so any help would be appreciated.
    For now, I am trying to trust in the promises of the bible–as a believer I am saved–without getting TOO wrapped up in the predestination debate…

  27. Robin says:

    1 John 2:1,2

    My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

    And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

  28. Robin says:

    Mark 4:14-20

    The sower soweth the Word.

    And these are they by the way side, where the Word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the WORD that was sown in their hearts.

    And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the WORD, immediately RECEIVE IT with gladness;

    And have no root in themselves, and so ENDURE but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the WORD’S sake, immdeiately they are offended.

    And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the Word

    And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, CHOKE THE WORD, and it BECOMETH UNFRUITFUL.

    And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the WORD AND RECEIVE IT, and BRING FORTH FRUIT, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

  29. Jerry says:

    i have read John 3:16 were it says that “For God so loved the world” but i havent seen anyone quote 1 John 2:15 where it says “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
    or James 4:4 that says “You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”. think about that my friends

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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