Reposted in whole from “A Puritan’s Mind”
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not limited in its power to save, but in the extent to which it reaches and will save certain individuals.
Limited atonement is a theological term that has been used for centuries to define a very important aspect of the Gospel. It is a fundamental Christian doctrine which states that Jesus Christ came and died for a limited number of people. He did not die, or redeem, every individual for all of time, but for some individuals, i.e. His sheep and His church. This does not mean that the power of His death could not have saved all men if He wanted to. The power and efficacy of His death in and through one drop of His blood could have saved a million-billion worlds. That was not what God intended. The Scripture does not dabble in “possibilities.” It does, however, state that the scope of His death is limited.
Jesus Christ, much like the lamb of the Old Testament sacrifice, died for some people, and secured the salvation of those people through His death which took away their sin and imputed (or accounted) His own righteousness to them. This is something Christ accomplished on the cross; not something individuals initiate. It is true, as the Scriptures state, that he died for “all men” and that God loves “the whole world”. In these cases “all men” does not mean every individual inclusively for all time including Judas and Pharaoh. Nor does it necessarily follow that Christ died for the whole world because God loves the whole world inclusively. (For a study of these passages see “the all and world passages” in Owen’s Death of Death or in Calvin’s the “all” passages.) Jesus secured the salvation of those for whom He gave his life, and for those God imputes His righteousness upon them. Jesus does not infallibly secure the salvation of all men, for thence, all men would be saved.
As the Maxim goes:
God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for either:
1) All of the sins of all men – which means all men are saved.
2) Some of the sins of all men – which means men are still in their sins.
3) All of the sin of some men – which is the biblical position.
Those who hold to a deviant “gospel” must grapple with the fact that Jesus does His saving on the cross. All those for whom he died will be saved in time and justified by GOD.
It is not that Christ’s power is “limited” but rather His intent or use OF THAT POWER is limited to those for whom He died, and chose.
The “limitation” of the extent is a deciding factor in the Gospel message as to whether one believes that the God of the GOSPEL SAVES, or that men save themselves because Jesus did not save anyone directly, but made it hypothetically possible that they could reach out and save themselves. Hypothetical salvation is no salvation at all.
Jesus died and secured the salvation of all those that the Father gave Him, and that cannot be snatched out of the Father’s hands. It is not that Christ “might save, but that He IS the Savior. He does not lay His life down for all, but for His sheep. He does not give His life for Judas, but only for His friends. It is the church, not the world, which Christ has purchased with His own blood.
John 6:37-40, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
John 10:15, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
Puritan Quotations on Limited Atonement:
“Election is ascribed to God the Father, sanctification to the Spirit and reconciliation to Jesus Christ. This is the chain of salvation and never a link of this chain must be broken. The Son cannot die for them the Father never elected, and the Spirit will never sanctify them whom the Father has not elected nor the Son redeemed.” – Thomas Manton
“Application is the making effectual, in certain men, all those things which Christ has done and does as mediator.” – William Ames
“As for the intention of application, it is rightly said that Christ made satisfaction only for those whom he saved.” – William Ames
“[If Jesus died for all men]…why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But his unbelief, is it sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be sin, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it; If this is so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then he did not die for all their sins.” – John Owen
“We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men. They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question–Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, “No.” They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No, Christ has died that any man may be saved if…” –and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say that we limits Christ’s death; we say, “no my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.” – Charles Spurgeon