Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unlimited Atonement, Jesus Died For All

One of the five points or beliefs of Calvinism (aka Reformed Doctrines, Doctrines of Grace) is limited atonement. Limited atonement says that Jesus did not die for everyone. He shed His blood only for the elect, or those who would get saved. This is also called particular atonement.

While I agree with some aspects of Calvinism, I believe that the Bible clearly teaches unlimited or general atonement. In other words, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all mankind, all humanity.

Unlimited atonement does not endorse universalism. Jesus died for all, but only those who receive Him as Savior will have their sins forgiven and be saved (John 1:12; 14:6; 1 Timothy 4:10; etc.).

The normal, natural meaning of a number of verses make it clear that God loves all, wants all to be saved, and that Jesus died for all.

Scripture that teaches unlimited atonement:
1. Who takes away the sin of the world! -John 1:29

2. For God so loved the world… For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. -John 3:16-17.
Notice how the word “world” is used.

3. I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. -John 12:47.

4. Christ died for the ungodly. -Romans 5:6.
Who are the ungodly? Both the elect and those who are not elect.

5. If One died for all, then all died; and He died for all…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. -2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 19.

6. Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. -1 Timothy 2:4.

7. Who gave Himself a ransom for all. -1 Timothy 2:6
Compare with the meaning of “all” in these verses and in Romans 3:23 and Ephesians 1:11.

8. Who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. -1 Timothy 4:10.

9. [That Jesus] might taste death for everyone. -Hebrews 2:9.

10. Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. -2 Peter 3:9.

11. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. -1 John 2:2.

12. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! -Matthew 23:37.
Jesus would have saved them all, but they “were not willing.”

13. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. -2 Peter 2:1
Even the false prophets were bought by Jesus. Christ is the Savior of all men, even false prophets. He has purchased their salvation. But only those who believe will be saved.

Some who believe in limited atonement point to verses that speak of Christ’s death for, and His love for, those who are saved. This in no way negates the other Scripture that says Jesus died for all, and loves all. Someone may say, “Bill loves Mary and Jeff.” That in no way means that Bill does not love anyone else. To say Jesus loves Daniel and Brittany, does not mean He loves no one else.

The above Scripture is the reason that most Baptists believe that Jesus shed His blood for everyone on the face of this earth. You can speak to any human on this earth and say with confidence, “Jesus loves you. He died for your sins and rose again so that you can be forgiven and made right with God. Jesus offers His salvation to you.”

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, October 27, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
Limited or Universal Atonement by Dr. David L. Allen; part 1 of 2
See other articles under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in lower right column.


  1. A counter argument to this would be that if Christ died for every sin of every man, which would include the sin of unbelief, then how is it that unbelief prevents "unwilling" individuals from being saved? Would this not make God unjust for requiring a double payment? By double payment I am referring to Christ bearing God's wrath on their behalf and then them bearing God's wrath in hell.

    Another counter argument would be that if Christ's purpose was indeed to save the world, referring to every individual, and clearly every individual is not saved then we have a messiah who is unable to fulfill the purpose for which God sent Him. How would you address this?

    I look forward to your response.

  2. Good post.

    I agree with both you and John Calvin who wrote, “Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and in the goodness of God is offered unto all men without distinction, His blood being shed not for part of the world only, but for the whole human race.” God sent the Son into the world that the world through Him might be saved (Jn. 3:17). That's why Jesus is referred to as the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42; 1 Jn. 4:14). In dying for the whole world, Christ tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Jesus is truly the Savior of all men (1 Tim. 4:10). Atonement is unlimited in scope in that the offer of salvation is for all men. Atonement is limited in effect in that only believers are truly saved.

    Clearly, Limited Atonement is the weakest link in the TULIP.

  3. Keith,
    My response is very simple. It is to again refer you and everyone else to the Bible passages listed above. I notice you offer no argument against those verses.

    I know sometimes we need to get into philosophical discussions. But these verses are crystal clear that Jesus died for all. There are also some serious philosophical concerns if Jesus only died for the elect, yet offers His salvation to those who never had a chance to get saved.

    I think most believers like to keep it simple; and, in my humble opinion, biblical: Jesus loves all, He died for all, He provided salvation for all, He offers His salvation to all.
    David R. Brumbelow

  4. Joe,
    Great comments, and I agree.

    I love your quote from John Calvin; maybe I’m more of a “Calvinist” than I thought :-). Or, to put it another way, was John Calvin really a Calvinist?

    I agree that limited atonement is by far the weakest link.
    David R. Brumbelow

  5. I agree most would prefer to keep things simple; however, we must recognize that some aspects of Scripture are hard to understand (II Peter 3:16). I would argue that I did offer an argument against those verses. Scripture comes to us as God’s inerrant word and as such it must be internally consistent. My argument is from those verses. If God is just and Christ died for every sin of every man then you will ultimately end up in a universalistic position, because “every sin” ultimately includes the unbelief that Arminians posit as the reason why all men are not saved. From those verses I think it is clear that either salvation is either universalistic or Scripture as a unified whole provides a fuller context in which we must understand these texts.

    My second argument is likewise from the verses you quoted. Either Christ indeed saves all men, which would be universalism, or He does not. If He does not then you are faced with two possible positions. Christ indeed came to save all men and He is incompetent and failed to accomplish His purpose, which I am sure we would all disagree with. Or the whole of Scripture provides a fuller context in which we can reconcile God’s desire for all to repent and the reality that all men do not repent, which reformed theology does by describing God’s revealed and hidden will.

    I am not trying to be complex or philosophical but to reconcile the verses with verses such as those found below. How would you understand these verses?

    Matthew 11:25-26 - At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

    Romans 9:22-23 - What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.

    I Peter 2:8b - They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

    Jude 4 - For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    I doubt either of us will be persuaded by the others argument but I look forward to your reply and hope to better understand your position through our discussion.

    1. Pardon the late reply but II followed a link from the author from a 2011 sbcvoices thread.

      You give two or three options: God has failed or God chose who to save independent of human choice long ago and there is nothing any human can do about it. A choice between the options you give are not the only reasonable interpretations.

      Furthermore, you regard destiny in a manner that the scripture does not require.

      The following statements comprise a reasonable take on biblical passages and are cross compatible:

      1. Jesus was came (was "sent") to pay for and offer salvation to all.
      2. Jesus was sent to save all whose will could be sufficiently unviolated during the salvation process.
      3. Notwithstanding the payment and offering of salvation to all, some will not receive all the grace that is freely offered.
      4. Those who finally reject God's grace are destined to damnation.
      5. The conditions of final damnation for those who reject God's grace was destined before the world began.
      6. For God to make choices does not dis-empower God; to honor human choice in whether humans are saved cannot dis-empower God. Thus, for humans to have an impact on salvation would not and does not indicate a God who is not all-powerful.
      7. Jesus and our ministry includes influencing human choice unto salvation to an extent that stops short of forcing human choice unto salvation.
      8. God can and could foreknow on whom the full grace of salvation could be worked within the confines of God's choice to honor human will to whatever extent God chose to honor it regarding salvation.
      9. God appeals to all to repent and come unto Jesus for salvation and appeals to us to help in that redemptive work for the purpose of salvation.
      10. God prepares all his "vessels" - some destined to wrath and for vessels of mercy - according to whatever God knows each vessel will choose, not by treating them differently but by the fact that some will choose grace and others will not.

      "I Peter 2:8b - They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do" can be honorably understood to reflect the reality that some people destine themselves to disobey the word by choosing to not be hearers, choosing not to avail themselves to the preachers who are sent, by choosing against the hearing by which faith unto repentance comes.

      As an LDS Christian, I see this post as pure.

  6. Keith,
    You are probably right that neither of us will convince the other.

    There are aspects of the “Sovereignty of God” and the “whosoever will of man” that we will never fully understand in this life. I believe, however, that the Bible teaches both. So just try to lead everyone to Jesus; God will sort out the details.

    I agree with John Calvin that Jesus died for everyone.

    You offer a false dilemma (tri-lemma?) in saying that you have to choose one of the following three: 1. Jesus died for everyone and He failed because not everyone is saved. 2. Or that He died for everyone and everyone is saved. 3. Or that He did not die for everyone.
    The answer is “none of the above.”

    The real answer is obvious according to the Bible - Jesus died for everyone and everyone who believes is saved. And Jesus is the once for all perfect Savior and in no way failed or is incompetent.

    You still have not seriously replied to the 13 Bible passages listed above other than saying they are hard to understand. I maintain they are easy to understand.
    David R. Brumbelow

  7. David, ever since I started blogging and reading about the TULIP, which I'd always thought was a flower, I have heard folks debate the petals.

    John 3:18 says the world was condemned already...before Jesus came. All of it. Yet Hebrews names saint after saint who are saved by faith. And our sins are wiped clean by the shedding of Christ's blood--the perfect Lamb. Grace through faith is the procedure by which we are reconciled to our Heavenly Father. And yet, some chastize a person for believing they can pray and thank God for His deliverance, and repent and turn from his wicked ways?

    When I was in high school, I had to dissect a frog in biology class. It looked like a frog when they brought it to me. When I was finished cutting, dissecting and pinning that frog to the mat, it no longer looked like a frog.

    The simplicity of salvation is clear. The complexity comes when one begins to dissect salvation. It's a gift. It's either accepted or rejected. But the gift is there for all of us. The Bible is clear on that. The fact that the Bible also says that the gift includes the elect of God is simply part of the same thing as I see it.

    Can a person who "thinks" Jesus saves by grace and grace alone, still be lost even though they "think" it? selahV

    p.s. Great post!

  8. SelahV,
    Thanks for your comments. I especially like the example of the frog.

    Salvation is so simple a child can understand. Yet it is so complex no scholar will ever fully understand. But I think we sometimes err in knowingly or unknowingly making salvation too difficult or too exclusive. Never forget that Jesus died for all and whosoever will may come.

    Not sure about your final question. Can you elaborate?
    David R. Brumbelow

  9. Well, David. I have been told that just because a person thinks he is saved when he confessed his sin and prayed to God, that he wasn't necessarily saved because he didn't know all the ins and outs, overs and unders about all the facets of justification, sanctification, glorification and ???whatever other terms one needs to comprehend. So basically, I'm saying that if this person is not saved because he doesn't know all the doctrines, then just because a person agrees that Jesus saves by grace and grace alone, then that same person may "think" he is saved by what he "thinks", rather than what Jesus did. That's all. selahV

  10. SelahV,
    I agree.

    Some can make salvation too simplistic by saying just pray a prayer, walk an aisle, or sign a card - without the person knowing or accepting the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

    But on the other hand, like you point out, some seem to think you have to obtain a theology degree to get saved. Some are so concerned that someone will mistakenly make a profession of faith - that few, if any, ever get saved under their ministry.

    We should be faithful to proclaim all of the Gospel (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10, 13). But if someone has done what the Bible tells them to do, we should not hesitate to accept their salvation. If you believe in your heart, call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved. We have God’s Word on it.
    David R. Brumbelow


What do you think?