Tag Archives: Redemption

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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.


The "L" part of TULIP..."Limited Atonenent".

Also known as "definite atonement" or "particular redemption".

Now...I'm going to take this post in an entirely different and political course.

On another blog, I'm hearing about our "Christian" Bible calling Jews "children of the devil" and I'm hearing about the sinful history of the persecution of Jews by Christians.

Yes.  It happened.  Yes.  It was sin.

The popular epitaph is "Christ-killer".

Who took Christ's life?

John 10:17-18 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

My first question:  if Christ had not been crucified, where would we be?  The "religious Jews" were instruments of God, prophecied.   Jesus' death was the necessary sacrifice, ordained by the Father from the beginning of time.  If God had demanded the sacrifice, are the people who brought that sacrifice about to blame?

Now...on to "the L".

From a Reformed perspective, who is responsible for the death of Christ?   When I was an Arminian, my answer would have been "all of us".

But if I buy into the "L", that is not the right answer.

The short definition of "limited atonement" is: Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them.

If Christ's redeeming work was intended to save only those who would believe on Christ the Saviour, His blood in not on the hands of the Jews, it is not on the hands of unbelievers.

The blood of Christ is on my hands.  My hands...the hands of a believer.

Romans 5:8-11  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

That is the "L".   The "L" lays the blame of Christ's death on me.

Sola Scriptura
Solus Christus
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Soli Deo Gloria

God alone be Glorified.

I saved this one for last, because the other four are truly summed up here.

Sola Scriptura: in Scripture alone is our only ultimate and infallible source of authority. The proper roles of tradition or the officers of the church are equal - in submission to Scripture. Through Scripture, God alone is glorified.

Solus Christus: the second person of the Trinity, it is to Christ that the prophets and Scripture point. There is no other mediator, no other redeemer, no other sacrifice. In Christ's finished work on the cross, God alone is glorified.

Sola Gratia: it is only by God's grace that we stand before Him blamless, Christ's righteousness imputed to us. Through His grace, God alone is glorified.

Sola Fide: it is through faith that God's grace has its effect. If it were not faith, it would not be grace. Even this faith is a gift of God. By grace, through faith, only God is glorified.

Whenever we cease to put God first, to give God alone the glory, it falls apart. When we glorify the church, we find abusive clergy. When we glorify a man, we find a cult. When we glorify the culture, we find all kinds of bad things. When we glorify the family, we find good things, but in the wrong order. When we glorify freedom, we find unsubmission.

When we glorify God alone, everything else falls into place more easily.

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.