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Particular Atonement


If it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has he been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood.” By: Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Both Arminians and Calvinists limit atonement yet the two views limit it in different ways. Arminians limit the effect of the atonement and Calvinists limit the scope. Arminians say Christ died for all, but secured salvation for none. They believe that Christ’s atonement was a potential atonement only. Calvinists limit atonement in its scope. Christ died specifically for the elect. The atonement is not limited in its effectiveness, but is limited in its scope. Christ actually accomplished salvation for all whom he died for. The design is limited, but not its power. God has accomplished all that He purposed to in Christ’s death.

Four points on the doctrine of Particular Atonement.

1. Scriptures that qualify those for whom Christ died:

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” (NASB)

His people, not all people.

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NASB)

Many, not all.

Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (NASB)

On behalf of many.

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 “He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. 13 “He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. 17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (NASB)

For the sheep.

John 10:26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. (NASB)

He’s not laying down his life for all because not all are his sheep.

Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (NASB)

Not all people, He purchased the Church.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. (NASB)

Not all people, He gave Himself up for the Church.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (NASB)

The men he died for, He made to be a kingdom and priests to our God. You can’t say this about all.

2. Four headings under which Christ’s work is organized:

• Propitiation;

Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (NASB)

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (NASB)

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (NASB)

This is not potential atonement; He appeased the wrath of God.

• Sacrifice;

Hebrews 10:12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. (NASB)

Hebrews 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (NASB)

Again not potential.

• Reconciliation;

Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (NASB)

We’ve been reconciled to God, again not potential.

• Redemption;

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree “– (NASB)

Christ accomplished, once again not a potential atonement.

3. Jesus’ high priestly ministry includes His atonement and intercession for His people.

John 17:6 “I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. 7 “Now they have come to know that everything Thou hast given Me is from Thee; 8 for the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me. 9 “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine; (NASB)

Vs. 9 – If Jesus died for all why isn’t he praying for all?

Hebrews 7:25 Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (NASB)

4. The Fathers’ work in salvation is the election of a people to Himself. The Father then gives those people to the Son to redeem. The Holy Spirit applies the work of the Son through regeneration and all that follows it. The Fathers work is limited to a particular design. In other words, election and the Sons work is consistent with the fathers particular design.

Next article in this series: Effectual Calling

About the author

Buddy Woods

Buddy Woods is an elder in good standing at Covenant of Grace Church.