A Defense of Unlimited Atonement


Some Common Objections Answered

"Christ did not pay the penalty of sin for those who reject Him, because if He did then they would not have to pay it themselves in hell."

Dr. Charles Smith in his booklet Did Christ Die Only For the Elect? deals with this objection:

If Christ died for all men, then why must, or how can men be required to pay for their own sins in hell?....Due to the infinite value of His Person, He bore a penalty which was more than equal to the penalty that could be paid by all humans throughout all eternity. Exact equivalence of punishment was unnecessary and impossible. The infinite God paid a greater price in those moments on the cross than all men could ever pay. He did not pay the payment which we would otherwise be required to pay. He made a greater payment which may be applied to our account instead of the penalty that we would have to pay (pages 13-14).

This same thought is echoed by James M. Gray:

When Peter says that Christ "bore our sins in His own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24) he means, of course, that He bare the guilt of those sins which were laid upon Him. But this is not to say that he suffered the very same sufferings in kind and degree, or duration which would have been inflicted upon us in whose stead he suffered. Doubtless, the truth is however, that He suffered precisely that suffering which Divine justice demanded of His Divine Person standing in our place. A suffering which satisfied Godís justice and which rendered the exercise of His love consistent with His righteous and holy character. [From a sermon entitled "Christ our Sin-Bearer; or, The Nature and Scope of the Atonement," published in The Death of Christ edited by Wilbur M. Smith, p. 184.]

Though an adequate payment was made on behalf of all, the payment is not credited to our account until we respond in faith to the Spiritís work in our hearts in calling us to Himself.

Sinís awful penalty was paid by Christ completely. The death He died was so sufficient that the Scripture even says that Christ "bought" and paid the price for the Christ-denying false teachers (2 Peter 2:1). And yet, the cross-work of Christ does not benefit us personally until we personally appropriate it by faith.

Will the unbeliever have his sins paid for twice (once by Christ on the cross and once by himself in an eternal hell)? No, the payment that Christ made on his behalf never actually became his. The benefits of Christ’s death were never actually put to his account, and to that man the Lord will impute sin (compare Romans 4:8 and John 8:24). The careful student of Scripture must make a difference between REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED (by Christ at the cross) and REDEMPTION APPLIED (by the Holy Spirit to the heart of the believing sinner). The benefits of the cross-work of Christ are never put to the account of the sinner unless and until he believes.

Illustration:  A billionaire puts money into an account designated for me, with funds ample enough to cover any expenses I might have the rest of my life, not only for me but for my entire family.  It could be said that this payment was put to my account, at least potentially.  All I need to do is go into the bank, show proper identification, sign certain papers, and the money is then actually put in my account, so that I can use it and draw upon it.  If I fail to do this, then the money will not benefit me at all, even though the payment was made for me and it was given sincerely on my behalf.  All the sinner needs to do in order to draw upon the rich benefits of Christ's redemptive work is to receive Christ and believe on His Name (John 1:12).

The extreme Calvinist must also distinguish between the cross-work of Christ that was accomplished and the benefits of that cross-work which are applied to the heart of the believing sinner by the Holy Spirit. Did Christ die for Saul of Tarsus who was persecuting the church of God? Every Calvinist must say YES to this question. If Christ paid the full penalty for the sins of Saul of Tarsus, then why was Saul not forgiven while he was yet persecuting the church? The answer is that he was still in unbelief and it was not until his conversion that the benefits of the cross-work of Christ were put to his account.

People are not lost because Christ did not die for them. People are lost because they reject the Christ who died for them. If Christ died only for the elect, then we would have a gospel only for the elect. However, those who are lost are not without a gospel. The problem is that they have rejected and disobeyed the gospel that they had. People are not lost because the water of life is not available to them. The springs of living water abound! People are lost because they refuse to drink! "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).

Go to Next Chapter

Return to Main Index


The Middletown Bible Church
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0907

  More articles under Doctrinal Studies


Home Page