Limited Atonement, Part 2
Okay, I have defined limited atonement as the amends for the sin of specific humans made by the redemptive life and death of Jesus that brings about reconciliation between God and those specific humans.
Now, I’m going to change up the order of presentation a bit in this post and start with the biblical support.
I’m going to take a moment to clarify what I am going to do with this section. It is my view that many of the passages used to support limited atonement (i.e. passages that state things like “us all“) cannot in good conscience be used here because they are written specifically to Christians and as such we cannot infer a universal where Scripture is silent. Instead I want to use such passages that directly speak to a universal principle, in the hope of honoring this doctrine and doing it justice. Also, I am passing over these verses because they are interpreted in light of the universal principle passages, instead of at face value. Some of you will argue (and perhaps rightly so) that I am failing to “consider the whole counsel of Scripture” when presenting biblical support here. To that I ask if it is faithful to authorial intent, which in those cases were directed towards believers, to infer principles about those whom were not addressed. Hmm, that would be great fodder for another post. *note to self*
Anyway, the strongest passage of Scripture dealing with this doctrine, in my estimation, can be found in John chapter 10. As we see in verses 11-15:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
I think this passage is very clear in regards to limited atonement. First of all, Jesus himself explicitly says He dies for the sheep. It is obvious from the context of the entire chapter that the “sheep” spoken of here are the elect, those chosen by God from before the foundation of the world for eternal life. Second of all, we know for certain that “sheep” here refers to the elect because of the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. So it seems that Jesus is explicitly claiming to give up his life solely for the elect.
From this passage I think we can rightly point towards Ephesians 5:25, which states, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….(emphasis added)” This passage very clearly points specifically towards the elect body of believers as those for whom Christ died.
Other passages that are sound in their support include:
John 6:37 & 39 – implies that only the elect are in union with Christ. By extension, this means that only the elect share in Christ’s death. Very powerful, for only those whom have been given to Christ by the Father are delivered by Christ.
John 11:49-52 – Caiaphas the high priest prophesied that Jesus died not only politically for the nation of Israel, but spiritually to gather together the children of God who are scattered abroad. This is a very specific statement that says Jesus died specifically for the children of God, the elect.
John 17:9-12 – supports John 6 above in that Christ again states that none of those given to him perish. All whom the Father has given to Christ (the elect) are delivered by Christ’s death.
Revelation 5:9-10 – very clearly states that Jesus died for a specific group of people that are taken out of every tribe and language and people and nation in the world.
There are also other verses that support this doctrine in the way that I have attempted to show it here, but I think this is a good sampling. It is a very convincing sampling on its own, I would hope. This is why I wanted to set aside verses such as the “us all” passages which were written specifically to believers, because those verses are interpreted in light of verses such as the ones I have listed above, as I stated in the beginning. I hope that the result of doing things this way is that we have come to an understanding of why those passages are interpreted the way they are.
Also, I want to interject that none of these passages can be understood without first understanding the doctrine of election. No one who holds limited atonement can do so without holding unconditional election (for my posts on this doctrine, click here: Part 1 and here: Part 2).
Now, I think here is a good place for us to pause and digest. Tricia wants to go to a nice dinner and to see Ice Age 2, so I will return after laughing at the squirrel.