The "L" - "limited atonement" - AKA "definite atonement", "particular redemption".
I know what the doctrine means, but there are folks out there who can put it much more simply than I can. From wiki:
The doctrine states that Jesus Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross is limited in scope to those who are predestined unto salvation and its primary benefits are not given to all of humanity but rather just believers.
Removing the "predestination" language, which is a debate all unto itself, we can "universalize" that definition.
Some folks define "predestined" to mean "those who God knew, from eternity, who would (in the future) believe). That's fine...for the purpose of explaining "limited atonement", we can use "those who will believe".
If I try to simplify, what I come up with is
"Limited atonement" means that Christ's suffering and death on the cross made atonement only for those who believe."
(my brain is working at half-speed - thank you, nyquil)
If we want to define "limited atonement", we need to define "atonement". Here we can get into a spiral: atonement = expiation = atonement, etc...(it is here I go off on a tangent, reading Anshelm...Subsitutionary vs. Satisfaction - which for the purpose of definition doesn't seem to matter much)
I found a "definition" of "atonement" that is more of a graphic than a definition.
"atonement" = at-one-ment. Sort of romantic, actually.
Who has the suffering and death of Christ on the cross made "at one" with God? Whose sins are paid for?
If the sins of all the people in all the world are paid for, how can God justly send anybody to hell? They've been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.
In the end, everybody except Universalists limit the scope of the atoning blood of Christ.
Outside of Universalism, both sides limit the effectiveness of atonement (atonement being the actual payment - either Christ being the our substitute on the cross OR Christ satisfying our debt to the Father on the cross). In unlimited atonement, the death of Christ does not pay the penalty for the sins of the unsaved; they go to the grave still owing the debt. In unlimited atonement, Christ is not the substitute
If atonement is limited to those who believe, then Christ's blood paid the penalty in a very effective way and it does exactly what it was meant to do: purchase souls.
If atonement is universal (for every person who every lived), then Christ's blood effectually purchases nothing, it merely raises the possibility of salvation.
Either atonement is limited, and only the sins of some are paid for; some are saved, or atonement is unlimited, and all sins are paid for and none will go to hell.
Has the suffering and death of Christ on the cross made all "at one" with the Father? Is the scope of effectiveness of the payment limited to those who believe?
Is all of mankind "at one" with the Father? All are bought and paid for, all have been purchased and all will find eternal life?
I started this post with an eye toward 1 John 2:2.
- Does the "whole world" mean every person who is living or who has ever lived? Is the scope of atonement unlimited?
- Or does "whole world" have a meaning that is pointed at "people groups" - Jews vs. the "whole world" (Gentiles).
Unless Universalism is true and all people, of all times are bought and paid for, if their sins are covered, and all will go to heaven, then atonement is limited...the question is: who limits it.