Darkness to Light Home Page

Books and eBooks by the Director

Questions on Limited Atonement

In the following e-mail exchanges, the e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


>I also hold to the Calvinistic doctrine. I have a couple questions pertaining [to] Limited Atonement. I hope that you will be able to give me an answer back.

1John 2:2---who is "our" and who is "the whole world"?<

"our" refers to the Jews; "the whole world" refers to all the nations. The point being, God's choice of who to save does not depend on their nationality (cp. Rev 5:9).

> 2Peter 2:1---what does "bought" mean?<

A Jew writing to Jews. Refers to when the LORD "bought" the Jews out of slavery in the Exodus. It does not refer to the atonement. Gordon Clark has a good explanation of this passage in his commentary on 2Peter contained in the book New Heavens and New Earth published by The Trinity Foundation.

> 2Cor 5:19;<

"world" in Scripture does not necessarily, in fact rarely, refers to all people everywhere (cp. 1John 5:19; Christians are not "under the sway of the evil one"). Or again, "world" can refer to all nations as opposed to just the Jews.

> Heb 2:9;<

The word "man" (KJV) or "one" (NKJV and most other versions) is NOT in the Greek text. It should read, "tasted death for every" (or better, "for all)." The antecedent to "all" needs to be determined by context. Note the terms in the following verses: "sons" (v.10), "brethren" (v.11), "children" (v.12), "the seed of Abraham" (v.16). All of these terms refer to those who are saved, i.e. the elect. So the LITV renders the phrase in verse 9, "tasted of death for every [son]."

> 1Tim 4:10.<

Jesus is the "Savior" of all men in the sense that the world is a much better place because of His coming. But it is only to "those who believe" that He is the Savior from sins.

> Also, in Rom 5:18 it says that "...one trespass was condemnation for all men...one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

In a commentary, John Calvin wrote about this verse. He said, "Though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive Him." This sounds like Calvin taught Universal Atonement.<

I believe Calvin is saying the atonement is OFFERED to all people. But it is to the condemnation of the reprobate that it is offered. In other words, by having the Gospel offered to them and then having them reject it, the damnation of the reprobate is that much more just. But the elect accept the Gospel to their salvation.

But since we do not know who is elect and who is not, we are to proclaim the Gospel to all people and leave the results to God. And again, "whole world" simply means all nations not just the Jews. So we are to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples.

As for the verse itself, all who are connected to Adam are condemned; all who are connected to Christ are justified. It is by physical descent we are all connected to Adam; it is by spiritual descent (i.e. by faith) we are connected to Christ. So all physical descendants of Adam are condemned; all spiritual descendants of Christ are saved. That is the parallel in the passage.

> I am really looking forward to your reply. Thank you very much.

In HIM-----Gabe
10/7/1998<

I hope the above is helpful.


>I want to thank you very much for taking the time to explain these. I e-mailed a few others and even some who call themselves "Calvinists" said that the atonement is limited in its EFFICIENCY, but universal in its SUFFICIENCY. A few said that Christ died for sin as a whole---not just certain people, but His propitiation is only to the extent of those the Father has predestined. Can you please let me know what you think about this.<

Neither explanation is quite accurate. I would say the sufficiency of Christ's death (since He is God) is infinite. So it would be sufficient for all people. But it's efficiency or effect are only for the elect.

Remember, we all are sinners. So God would be just to damn us all. But He, purely by His grace, chose to provide a way of salvation for some. But in doing so, He is in no obligated to provide the way to all. To whom would He be obliged? So though Christ's death would be sufficient to atone for everyone's sins, in actual fact, Christ only died for "many" (i.e. the elect); not "everyone" (see Mark 10:45).

> Referring to God's desire: 1 Tim 2:4---"all men"---is this all of the elect or all types of men?<

The latter. Throughout 1Timothy the word "all" is often used; but it rarely means all items of all classes. It generally means all types of something. The most obvious example is 6:10. Money is not the root of every evil which has ever occurred (lust, hatred, desire for power, and many other motives also cause evil). But money can cause all kinds of evil (i.e.. lust can cause fornication; but so can money via prostitution).

> Does Jesus' parable in Matt 18:23-35 show that all men---even those who will go to hell [are] forgiven by Christ's death?<

I don't see this idea in this parable at all. It simply means we are to forgive others when they trespass against us, as Christ explains in v.35. It is comparable to Matt 6:12.

> I know that some Calvinists say that the Father's will and His actions can be different---doesn't seem right.<

I agree. The idea of a revealed will versus a "secret" will of God as used by some to explain passages like 1Tim 2:4 I think is unnecessary. The above exegesis is simpler and I believe more accurate. But, of course, that is just my opinion.

> Again I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. The time that you take is a real blessing to me. Keep on serving our Lord---

In CHRIST---Gabe
10/12/1998<

You're welcome.


Note: Previous to the following e-mail exchange, I told the person I would classify myself as a Sublapsarian, or more commonly, low-Calvinist. This is opposed to a Supralapsarian or high-Calvinist. The difference between these is rather technical. Suffice it to say here, the Westminster Confession advocates a low-Calvinist position. The person then e-mailed me back.

>Could you explain what you meant about these different views?<

The Sublapsarian position teaches the logically order of events was first the Fall, then after (or "below" i.e. sub) the Fall God looked down the corridors of time at the mass of sinful humanity that would be born and decided whom He, by His grace, would save and whom He would pass over, thus necessitating their damnation.

The Supralapsarian view is that before (or "above" supra) the Fall, or even before creation, God decided He would created humankind. He also foreordained the Fall so that, to glorify Himself, He could then choose to save some and to damn others. In other words, the view teaches God specifically created some to be saved and some to be damned.

To put it another way, the sub view is single predestination whereas the supra is double predestination. In the sub view some are predestined to be saved and the rest are rightly damned for their sins. In the supra view some are predestined for salvation and the rest are predestined for damnation.

> I am currently trying to figure out the "L."<

Note: The writer here and later is referring to the Calvinist acrostic "TULIP." See the Scripture Study Five Points of Calvinism found in my Scripture Workbook for an explanation, and Scriptural proofs thereof, for each of these points.

That point is the stumbling block many have in regards to Calvinism. In fact, my own pastor describes himself as a "4 1/2 point Calvinist."

In any case, it of course means "Limited Atonement." But this simple phrase needs to be correctly understood. It does NOT mean the atonement was limited in its ability to save. The atonement was sufficient to save all humankind.

However, what it means is the atonement is limited in its effect. God has chosen to only apply the effects of the atonement to His elect. So the elect receive the grace of God through Christ's death; the non-elect simply do not have the blood applied to them. So God's wrath passes over the elect but falls on the non-elect.

If the other four points are true, then this one logically follows. If God Unconditional choices whom to save, then if you do not have a "limit" on the extent of the atonement then you would have universalism.

In other words, if all who God calls to Himself come, and God calls all, then all would be saved. But if God only effectively calls His elect, then only some are saved. It was a denial of the "L" that led Karl Barth, for instance, to end up an universalist.

> I have a pastor in Texas helping me out with understanding some of the Calvinistic stuff. It will probably be one of those things that I'm not too vocal about. The main reason being that my grandfather & dad accept the "foreknowledge-only" view as being correct.<

A very common view; but of course, IMO, Biblically wrong.

> This really doesn't change all that much for me. Really, Calvinism is more of an understanding of what happens at Salvation. I think that it is important to know the T & P, which my dad and grandfather believe, yet they don't feel as strongly about the "T" as Calvinists.<

An essential point. Again, it shows how the five points are a system, if one is true then the others logically follow. If one is not true, then the others are not.

> I think they think that you can get saved and then be regenerated. They teach that if you want you can come forward and accept Him; I have no problem with that, because only the elect will WANT to come forward anyways, so it probably won't change the way I view Evangelism.<

Calvinists, despite many claims to the contrary, are just as strongly evangelistic as Arminians, if not more so. If I thought I was up to me and how well I explained and defended the Gospel for the hard-hearted atheists I deal with on the 'Net to get saved, then I would have given up in despair a long time ago.

But I know the results are in God's hands. As such, I simply have to fulfill my calling and explain and defend the Gospel to the best of my ability and leave the rest up to God.

> I do think it should be important to say, "if you feel the Holy Spirit moving in you and you want to get saved, come forward." MANY Baptists say stuff like this that aren't even Calvinists, so I think it's safe for them to stay the way they are; they really aren't hurting anybody.<

Very true. Very often those who say they are not Calvinists sound very much like them in evangelism and prayer.

>That is the main reason why, although I can normally talk to them about anything concerning the Bible, I cannot discuss election with them.<

It can be a very "hot" topic and one someone will only come to believe through much Bible study and God working on their hearts.

> The "I" they probably don't believe, but it doesn't matter if they do or not, it's still there. Also, the "U" they obviously don't believe because "foreknowledge-only" is what the "U" considers a condition. The only one I'm still trying to figure out is the "L." ...

Anyways, I would very much appreciate your help in understanding the "low-point Calvinist," etc. stuff. THANKS AGAIN!!!<

I hope the above helps some.

>May the Lord guide, bless, and keep you in His will!

Justified by Faith Alone,
Kenny

P.S. Sorry if I bored you with all the family info...just trying to let you know where I was coming from.(-:
10/1/1998<

No problem; and God bless.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Calvinism - Limited Atonement and Free-will
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

Text Search     Alphabetical List of Pages      Subject Index
General Information on Articles      Contact Information

Darkness to Light Home Page
www.dtl.org

Click Here for Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla