A Defense of Unlimited Atonement


For Whom Did Christ Die?



Saved by grace alone
This is all my plea:
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.

From the Hymn Grace! ‘tis a Charming Sound
Words by P. Doddridge

* * * * * * *

"Lord, I believe were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made."

by Nikolaus L. von Zinzendorf, 1739

* * * * * * *

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought!

4th stanza of The First Noel, Old English Carol


For Whom Did Christ Die? Introduction

"What saith the Scriptures?" (Romans 4:3)

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have [desires] all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9).

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

The Bible Declares that...

He died for ALL (1 Tim. 2:6).
He died for ALL MEN (Rom. 5:18; 1 Tim. 4:10).
He died for US ALL, for ALL OF US (Isa. 53:6).
He died for the UNGODLY (Rom. 5:6).
He died for CHRIST-DENIERS (2 Peter 2:1).
He died for SINNERS (Rom. 5:8).
He died for EVERY MAN (Heb. 2:9).
He died for MANY (Matthew 20:28).
He died for the WORLD (John 6:33,51; John 1:29 and John 3:16).
He died for the WHOLE WORLD (1 John 2:2).
He died for the WHOLE NATION of Israel (John 11:50-51).
He died for the CHURCH (Eph. 5:25).
He died for His SHEEP (John 10:11).
He died for ME (Gal. 2:20).

The Scriptures teach that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God involved the sin of the world (John 1:29) and that the Saviour’s work of redemption (1 Tim. 2:6; 2 Pet. 2:1), reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), and propitiation (1 John 2:2) was accomplished on behalf of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10a). However, the cross-work of Christ is efficient, effectual and beneficial only for those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10b; John 3:16). To say it another way, Christ died a substitutionary death and made a payment for sins which was SUFFICIENT for all men, EFFICIENT only for the elect.  A payment was made and provided for all, but only those who believe on Christ receive the benefits of this payment.

Definition Of Terms

It might help to begin by defining some of the terms which will be used in this paper:

The atonement: For our purposes here we are using this term to refer to the cross-work of Christ in general, with special emphasis upon Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins.

Unlimited atonement (general atonement, universal atonement): This is the doctrine which says that Christ died for the sins of all men, for all mankind, for every person, for the whole world. However, individuals do not benefit from the death of Christ in a saving way until they come to Christ and believe on Him. God’s gift has been purchased, offered and extended to all (1 John 5:11), but must be personally received by faith (1 John 5:12; John 1:12).

Limited atonement (definite atonement, particular atonement, limited redemption): This is the doctrine which says that Christ died only for the elect. He did not die for those who will eventually be in hell (such as Judas or Pharaoh). This is the third point of 5-point Calvinism, the letter "L" in the term TULIP.

The Elect: We use this term to refer to the saved of all ages. The term includes any or all of those who will eventually be in heaven and counted among the redeemed (compare Col. 3:12).

The Non-elect: We use this term to refer to those who will eventually perish in hell. It refers to those who persist in their unbelief and reject Christ even to the day they die. They are in hell, not because God elected them to damnation, but because "they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (see 2 Thess. 2:10-13). Those who go to heaven have only God to thank; those who go to hell have only themselves to blame.

Extreme Calvinism (Hyper-Calvinism, 5-point Calvinism): In this paper this term is simply another way of referring to those who believe in a limited atonement, that Christ died only for the elect.  

Note: We recognize that no one likes to refer to themselves as "hyper" or "extreme." Most consider themselves to be quite balanced. When a five-point Calvinist uses the term "hyper-Calvinist" he is referring to an even more extreme group of Calvinists who, for example, may not believe it is necessary to preach the gospel to sinners. They reason that those whom God has chosen will come to faith in Christ whether the gospel is preached or not. William Carey met such an extremist when he proposed his missionary work. His name was Mr. Ryland Sr., and he rebuked Carey with these words: "Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to converse with heathen He’ll do it without consulting you or me." On the other side were strong Calvinists such as James Morison and Richard Baxter, but because they held firmly to an unlimited atonement and universal redemption, they were labeled as "low Calvinists."

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