Dialog on Limited Atonement

 Mat 1:21b … for He shall save His people from their sins.

Lately there has been a lot of talk and blogging concerning Limited Atonement.  Limited Atonement can take on more than a few different twists but it basically states that the atonement that Jesus made at the Cross was limited in the scope of efficacy and/or application.  Simply stated, the atonement of Jesus Christ is limited to the people who it is actually applied to.  Some would say that the atonement was limited in its efficacy, meaning how broad the possibility of salvation of men and limited in its application as to the salvation of men.  Others would claim that it is not limited in its efficacy, that the blood of Christ is enough to save the entire world, if in fact the entire world would repent and believe, but that the atonement is, however, limited in its scope of application to only those who will repent and believe, which are the elect.  These two thought patterns have been pigeon-holed in what is known as the Calvinistic thought pattern.  Another thought pattern concerning the atonement of Christ is that it is not limited in effect or in application.  This thought pattern belongs in the Arminian camp or free will.  Now some would say they are not Arminian but the thought pattern on this subject belongs there.  This pattern of thought on the atonement is known as unlimited atonement.  All I will say here on unlimited atonement is that this seems to fly in the face of known truth that the atonement has not been applied to everyone because we know that hell does have occupants.  That Jesus seemed clear He came for a specific people and a specific number known only to the Godhead and in the hearts and mind of God this number is and was fixed.  Of course, we have to bear in mind that this is based on the omniscience of a holy and just God whose ways are higher than ours and whose thoughts are much too deep for us.  Now on to the doctrine that seems to be so dear to many of our historic Baptist fathers, the doctrine of limited atonement.

Many moons ago, General Baptist Dan Taylor had argued with Particular Baptist Andrew Fuller that “the position that the only proper ground for universal invitations for sinners to believe the gospel was in a universal provision in Christ’s death.”  I assume the point for using this statement was that one should not make a universal call for all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel unless one believes that all men everywhere will be saved?  Or can be saved?

Even the statement is based on supposed hypothetical results.  We know for a fact that ALL men are not saved.  Hell has a large congregation already.  To write and talk of this subject and put forth the idea that all men will respond is really not logical, for we are told already all men will not respond and actually Jesus uses the word “few” that find that narrow path; Mat 7:14  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The atonement of Christ is limited in some fashion, no matter what outlook one takes in the Scriptural realm, unless one falls into the heresy of universalism. For those who say the atonement is not limited in neither its efficacy nor its application is to ignore or to re-interpret some Scriptures.  In the first chapter of Romans we read that God turns some sinners’ hearts to a reprobate heart.  This would mean plainly that they will never respond to the gospel with repentance and faith.  We also read in the Old Testament that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and in the New Testament of Judas’s heart being hardened.  Now we know these guys still lived for some time after their hearts were hardened or made reprobate.  This would be evidence that there are living people who will never, under any circumstance, respond to the gospel in a positive way; thus God is limiting His atonement in these instances.  Some may retort, ‘but we do not know who those people are’.  True and we do not know who the elect and non-elect are so we plead with all men, everywhere, to come to Christ.  The question has been put to me lately, ‘if you truly believe the number is limited as to who will respond to the gospel, how can you issue a broad call of salvation?’  This is no more of a problem for the Calvinistic pastor than the Arminian pastor.  The Calvinistic pastor, according to his view of soteriology, doesn’t know who the elect/non-elect are and the Arminian pastor has no idea if he has some reprobates or hardened hearts in his congregation.  It is no more disingenuous for the Calvinistic pastor knowing the number is limited by God’s election than it would be for the Arminian pastor knowing the number is limited based on bound-will or free-will.  Both have a limited view of the atonement.

I, for one, as more of a Spurgeonist can issue a call for all men, everywhere, to repent and believe the gospel for:

  1. I am commanded to do so.  This is the most important, to obey God.
  2. Because I firmly believe that God’s elect will respond to that call (for whatever reason you want to ascribe to that, I have my own).
  3. We are commanded (there is that command thing again) to Love the Lord our God first and love our neighbor as ourselves (Jesus set the neighbor standard),  if I truly love my fellow man I will issue a call to repent and believe the gospel to all even though I know all will not respond.
  4. Because I believe that the blood of Christ is powerful enough to save whosoever will repent and believe though some will not.  Their response is not up to me, just the message.  If one says it is disingenuous to offer a call to all men, everywhere, to repent and believe the gospel if one doesn’t believe that all men will (or can?) respond then it would (seem to me) to stand to reason that to issue the same call knowing all will not respond for whatever reason (even free will) is just as disingenuous.  However, I do not believe that either is disingenuous but both are following God’s command to issue the call while seeing the end results worked somewhat differently.

To illustrate: Many on here are pastors and preached this past Sunday morning (at least) and I am quite sure we all issued a call to repent and believe the gospel based on the gospel we just preached (or I hope so!).  How many of us saw every last sinner in the building come to faith in Christ?  None of us… (though there can be a setting where this happens, but not every time).  Now, was it disingenuous for the Calvinistic pastor to issue that call with his belief that some will not respond based on his view of election?  Was it not just as disingenuous for the non-Calvinistic pastor to issue the same call, knowing full well Jesus has told us that not all will respond?  I personally see neither as disingenuous and will continue to issue the call with a clear Christian conscience and stand back and watch God work through His Word and Spirit saving the elect.  Mat 1:21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Sola Scriptura,
Pastor Alan Davis
September 29, 2012


About Jerdon Creek Outpost

Alan Davis is lead pastor at Woodland Baptist Church in Waynesville, NC and author of Jerdon Creek Outpost. Woodland Baptist Church is a body of born again regenerate Christians with a desire to fulfill the great commission from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and bring glory to God. Woodland is a voluntary member of the Haywood Baptist Association, North Carolina Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention, True Church Association of Churches and a Founders ministry church. Even though we are in full co-operation with these institutions we are fully free to make our own decisions here at the local church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and in accordance to God’s inspired and inerrant Word. We chose to be affiliated with these institutions in order to better fulfill the great commission. Woodland Baptist believes in mission work at home and at large. We believe that there is no other way to God but through His Son Jesus Christ by personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. WBC believes in and holds high the historic doctrines of our Baptist faith. Therefore we believe in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all we come in contact with. We believe the Church’s sole support should come from the tithes and offerings of the people of God. Everyone is invited to worship with us here at Woodland Baptist Church. We hope you find a friendly and warm atmosphere where God can develop you into the Christian He wants you to be.
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One Response to Dialog on Limited Atonement

  1. parsonsmike says:

    Pastor Alan,

    Great Post!
    The call is that anyone who comes will be saved.
    We witness to Jesus, who tells us that all who call on Him will never be put to shame.
    There is nothing disingenuous in the call because we believe God chooses whom to save.

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