FIVE VERSES: Unlimited Atonement – Part 17 min read
Limited Atonement is the third premise for Calvinism’s TULIP acronym, and it is the belief that Christ’s blood was only shed for the elect and that there is no provision made for the reprobate to be saved, since he has been elected to Hell, which in the Calvinist’s mind begs the question “Why would Christ ‘waste’ His blood on those who wouldn’t be saved anyway?” To some it may sound like nice logic, but it is simply not Scriptural. And if unlimited atonement is, indeed, Scriptural, then Christ’s blood wasn’t wasted, because He always did that which is perfect. As Scripture defines its doctrine on this issue, we will look at what it actually says, not what some would like it to say. Because of the clarity of the Word on this issue, we will have two parts to this article, thus having ten verses to clearly refute limited atonement. If you, dear reader, do believe in limited atonement, do not take man’s word for any of this (not even this man’s words). Simply look at the infallible Scriptures provided and ask yourself whether God meant what He said.
1 John 2:2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
When faced with a clear verse that proves unlimited atonement, the Calvinist will often add the phrase “of the elect” to satisfy the claim of limited atonement. For example, the phrase would be hypothetically added like this “not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world of the elect” as if the phrase was implied in Scripture. But this simply does not work for this verse. For one, John already concerned himself with believers in the first part of the verse in saying that propitiation was not only for us (believers), but for the whole world. 1 John was a general epistle, not written to any specific church, but was rather for the universal church – the Body of Christ. And so, when he speaks of “not for ours only” he refers to believers in general, which refutes the Calvinist’s interpretation that this was referring to a contrast between believers in a certain area and believers of all nationalities and position as if John was saying “Not only for we who are here (e.g. Jews), but even for all believers, even Gentiles.” But since it is assumed that one who is a believer is one who has had Christ’s blood applied to him, there is no need to say that His blood was shed for all believers as opposed to certain believers in a locality: that is quite obvious. Rather the point John clearly was trying to make was this: the blood of Christ was shed fully. Therefore, it is enough for all of God’s wrath to be satisfied. Therefore, all have the opportunity to receive His offer of forgiveness and cleansing. And in reality it is a very serious thing to interpret this verse wrongly, because He is the propitiation, meaning our view of His Person is at stake when we endeavour to interpret the meaning of this verse.
John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’”
Again we see a verse that many would like to tack on “of the elect” at the end of it, but it simply does not work. This is very closely linked with 1 John 2:2, because they both have to do with Christ’s Person and identity as the sacrifice for sin. And both clearly say that sacrifice was for all. Just because all are not saved, this does not mean the provision is not there for them. To say that His atonement would be limited it would severely demean His purpose of coming to be the ultimate sacrifice which the Old Testament eagerly pointed toward. If He only paid for the sins of the “few who find” eternal life, then the cross was no ultimate, glorious sacrifice: it would have only been a better one. Secondly, limited atonement defies His Person, for if He did not bear the sins of the whole world on Calvary, he could not rightly be called the Lamb of God. Therefore, John was pointing out a fraud for no reason to a crowd that desperately needed hope. Again, these matters are vital. (As a side note, how do you think John’s audience would have interpreted this verse?)
1 Timothy 2:3-6 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have 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.”
These verses are filled with plain truth regarding unlimited atonement.
1). The ransom for all is in context of God’s will for all men to be saved: this is a very clear and unmistakable statement.
2). The ransom for all is in context of God’s desire for all men to come to the truth. If this “all” is only “of the elect,” does God then wish to keep the majority living in their lies?
3). Verse 7 says that Paul was appointed to preach this message truthfully to Gentiles; he freely preached salvation to as many as would hear him, and he could confidently say that Christ was the ransom for all. Though some of his hearers would never be saved, Paul boldly preached that all were able to be saved.
We must understand that there is no way to fit limited atonement into the parameters God has set in this verse. In order to show His desire to see all men saved, He made a way for all to be redeemed if they would only repent. Otherwise, God limits Himself in spite of His own desires in that he would have allowed no possible way for all to be saved, though He deeply desired it. But since He has made a way for all, it is now man’s fault for rejecting salvation rather than God’s.
Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
No one would argue that the first “all” literally means “all.” It is no question that man has universally rebelled and turned his back against God. This is reaffirmed when Isaiah says that we have turned every one to his own way. But for some reason limited atonement says that we can change the meaning of the second word “all” (though it is the same Hebrew root word) to mean “all of the elect.” But this ruins the meaning of the verse. If one is going to be a consistent Bible interpreter, he must also add that phrase to the beginning also, making it read “All we of the elect have gone astray.” It doesn’t work so well in the context. All have gone astray, just as all have had their sins borne by the Lord Jesus. To say otherwise is simply biased and inconsistent interpretation.
Act 17:30-31a “And the times of this ignorance God overlooked; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.”
True repentance is the means to one’s salvation. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” If God commands ALL men EVERYWHERE to repent (there is absolutely no way to limit the scope of this verse), then he commands ALL men EVERYWHERE to obey the gospel and be saved. This is why Scripture says “What shall the end of them be that obey not the gospel of God?” Salvation is an obedience issue. And so, because all men everywhere must be saved, all men everywhere can be saved, which means God offers salvation to all. God would contradict His own justice if He offered something He cannot righteously supply. To do this is called fraud in the business world. The practice of offering and selling something one cannot supply is simply illegal. When God commands something, it is expected of men that they obey. And God would not command all men to repent if He was not ready to respond to their obedience. Thankfully God offers full and free salvation to all, and now man’s excuse is not that God didn’t provide a way, but that he disobediently rejected the provision. This is the truth of the gospel and of God’s nature. He is always just in His workings. However, limited atonement negates that.