The Doctrines of Grace (Part 8 of 10)

John MacArthur – Grace to You

The Doctrine of Actual Atonement, Part 1

Well, how many of you have always wanted to go to seminary?  You’re about to go tonight.  I’m going to challenge your thinking a little bit as we talk about this issue of the question, “For whom did Christ die?”  We have been looking over the last number of weeks at some very important doctrines, the doctrine of perseverance, or the preservation of the saints; the doctrine of sovereign election in salvation.  We have looked at the doctrine of total or absolute inability, that is the depravity of the sinner which renders it impossible for him to respond to the gospel.  And tonight I want to talk to you about what I’ve chosen to call, trying to give it a more accurate name, the doctrine of actual atonement…the doctrine of actual atonement.

Now you need to understand that these doctrines that we’re talking about are at the very heart and soul of our theology.  They are the very doctrines that were dealt with in the great Reformation and rescued out of the darkness of Roman Catholicism.  Now it may seem obvious to most Christians for whom Christ died, but it is because we tend to take things at a rather superficial level and not think about them deeply, and thus we miss the very essence of some of these glorious truths that we need to dig a little more deeply.  And I’m going to try to do that tonight and obviously the preliminaries took a long time and rightly so, those were wonderful testimonies and a great time of singing.  So I’m sure this is going to spill over to next week, so please, I’m going to leave you hanging a little bit tonight and I know many of you are going to rush me afterwards with all your questions of things I didn’t cover.  But if you’ll hold it until next Sunday night, we’ll…we’ll get there.

Let’s begin in a simple way, and I hope this is clear to you.  You know, as I tell young preachers, it’s…it’s very easy to be hard to understand, that’s really easy.  All you have to do is not know what you’re talking about, nobody else will either.  And somebody might say, “Well it was too deep,” but it might have been only an illusion that it was too deep, it was just that he didn’t understand it so how could you.  It’s hard to be clear.  To be clear you have to really understand the subject and work hard to get it to an understandable way, and understandable format.  And that’s what I’ve tried to do and I hope it’s clear to you.

But let’s start with some simple things.  If I ask the average Christian for whom did Christ die?  The traditional answer would be, “Everybody…everybody, Christ died for the whole world, He died for all sinners.”  And most people then in the church believe, and I’m sure many people outside the true church, many people associated with Christianity, believe that on the cross Jesus paid the debt of sin for everyone because He loves everyone and He wants everyone to be saved.” That’s pretty much the common evangelical view.  Jesus died for everybody, He paid the price for the sins of everybody.  And all we have to do is tell sinners that He loves them so much that He paid the price and He wants them to be saved and all they have to do is respond.

Now if that is true, then on the cross Jesus accomplished a potential salvation…not an actual one.  That is, sinners have all had their sins atoned for potentially and it’s not actual until they activate it by their faith.  So, what we need to do is to tell sinners that they need to pick up the salvation that’s already been purchased for them.  Since Christ died for everybody, everybody therefore can be saved, it’s just a matter of them coming to receive that salvation.  And so, our responsibility is to convince people to come and take the salvation that’s been provided for them, to convince them to come and accept the gift.  This is so deep in the fabric of evangelical theology that the most popular book on the church currently, The Purpose Driven Church, in it the author says, quote, “I can lead anyone to Christ if I find the key to that person’s heart.”  The assumption is that if you can just figure out the technique of getting to some emotional point, you can win anybody on the planet to Christ because, after all, He’s died for all of them.  That’s the popular idea.  And I know many of you are thinking, “Well…well it seems to me that that’s what I’ve always believed in, that’s what I’ve been taught.”  Well we may be taking you some places you’ve never gone before, but that’s good.  That’s the popular idea.

The fallout of that would be like this.  Hell is full of people for whom Christ died.  I’ll say it another way.  Hell is full of people whose sins were paid for in full on the cross.  That’s a little more disturbing when you say it like that, isn’t it?  Another way to say it would be that the Lake of Fire which burns forever with fire and brimstone is filled with eternally damned people whose sins Christ fully atoned for on the cross.  God’s wrath was satisfied by Christ’s atonement on behalf of those people who will forever stay in hell.

Now by the way, heaven will also be populated by the souls of those for whom Christ died.  So Christ did exactly the same thing for the occupants of hell as He did for the occupants of heaven.  That makes the question a little more disturbing.  The only difference is the people in heaven accepted the gift, the people in hell rejected it.  That’s pretty much the traditional evangelical view.  But it just sound strange when you start to kind of pick it apart a little bit, doesn’t it?  That Jesus died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of the damned and died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of the glorified, that Jesus did the same thing for the occupants of hell that He did for the occupants of heaven and the only difference hinges on the sinner’s choice?  That is to say the death of Jesus Christ then is not an actual atonement, it is only a potential atonement.  He really did not purchase salvation for anyone in particular.  He only removed some kind of barrier to make it possible for sinners to choose to be saved.

So the message then, the typical evangelical message, is to sinners, “God loves you so much He sent His Son who paid in full the penalty for your sins and won’t you respond to that love and not disappoint God and accept the gift and let Him save you since He already paid in full the price for your sins?”  The final decision is up to the sinner.

And it kind of carries the notion that God loves you so much, you’re so special, He gave His Son and He paid in full the penalty for your sins and that’s suppose to move you emotionally to love Him back and accept this gift.  And so you kind of work the sinner and kind of manipulate the sinner in that direction trying to find a psychological point, a felt-need point, play the right organ music, sing the right invitation hymn.  You know, grease the slide and get him moving in the direction of making the choice.

Now you’ve got a problem here, folks.  We’ve got a big problem.  We saw in our last study that no sinner on his own can make that choice, right?  This is the doctrine of absolute inability.  He can’t make it.  He cannot make that choice.  All people…all people are sinners and all sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins.  All of them are alienated from the life of God.  All do only evil continually.  All are unwilling and unable to understand, to repent and to believe, all have darkened minds, blinded by sin and Satan, all have hearts that are full of evil, all are wicked, desperately wicked.  All desire only the will of their father who is Satan, all of them are unable to seek God, they are all trapped in absolute inability and unwillingness.

So how then can the sinner make the choice?  I don’t care what felt need you might find.  I don’t care what you might think you see, quote/unquote, in his heart that will let you lead anyone to Christ, I don’t care how many invitation verses you sing or how much organ music or mood music you play to try to induce some kind of response, the sinner on his own cannot understand, cannot repent, and cannot believe.  Remember what we saw in John 1?  To as many as believed He gave the authority, the right to become children of God but not by the will of man or the will of the flesh.  Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “By grace are you saved through faith but that not of yourselves.”  It is through Him that you are in Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:30, salvation is from God.  We saw that.  He has to give life to the dead.  He has to give sight to the blind.  He has to give hearing to the deaf.  He has to give understanding to the ignorant.  He has to give repentance to those who love sin.  He has to give faith to those who can’t believe.  He has to move the heart to seek Him who otherwise would not.  So that all the elements that caused the sinner to come to Christ are God-ordained and God-induced.

And as we have learned, the doctrine of absolute inability means that people will only be saved if God saves them, and therefore salvation is based upon the decree of God, the sovereign doctrine of election.  No one could be saved unless God saved him and God saves those whom He chooses to save.  You cannot expect the sinner on his own, no matter how he’s emotionally prodded or psychologically prodded, no matter how he’s threatened, no matter what you say to him, on his own you cannot expect him to quote/unquote decide for Christ.  Those who will come to Christ are those whom the Father draws and the Father gives to the Son because He’s chosen to do so.

Now with that in mind, looking back at those doctrines, the doctrine of election, the doctrine of absolute inability, we can ask the question again…for whom did Christ die?  Did He die a death that is a potential salvation for everyone and therefore on the largest part it was useless?  Or did He die a death that is an actual atonement, not a potential one?  For those who would believe because God calls them and God grants them repentance and faith, because God in eternity past chose them?

Well the only answer to the question that makes any real sense is that Jesus Christ died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of all who would ever believe so that His atonement is an actual atonement and not a potential one that can be disregarded.  If Jesus actually paid in full the penalty for your sins, you’re not going to go to hell, that would be double jeopardy.

Now someone is going to say, “Well wait a minute.  That sounds like limited atonement.”  You say the word “limited atonement” and people’s antennas go up because we’re used to that kind of evangelical idea that Jesus paid the sins in full, paid the price for the sins in full of everybody.  But that is fraud with so many obvious problems.  But that’s what the evangelical church believes and that’s why it uses manipulation to move people emotionally and according to felt needs and by what other means it might come up with, believing that the penalty is paid in full for everybody so that most of the people that Jesus died for are in hell.  Then what in the world kind of atonement did He provide for them?

And so you say, “You must believe the atonement is limited.”  Of course, so do you.  You say, “I believe in an unlimited atonement.”  Well then you must be a universalist.  A universalist believes that everybody’s going to heaven, there is no hell.  Everybody is going to heaven.  And that’s consistent.  If you believe that Jesus paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the people who ever lived, then you have to be a universalist.  But we know better than that.  We know the atonement is limited.  We know not everybody is going to heaven.  To be a universalist you have to ignore Scripture.  So let’s…let me give you just a handful of points, okay?  Let’s see how far we go.

Number one, the atonement is limited.  And by atonement I mean the sacrifice of Christ by which He paid the penalty for sin.  The atonement is limited.  Now let’s look at this at just some obvious passages.  Matthew 10…Matthew chapter 10 and I’m not going to wait for you, so you might want to write these down.  Matthew 10:28, we’ve got to go, verse 28, gird up your loins, here we go, Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear…do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That’s also quoted in Luke 12 as we’ve been learning.  There is a hell and God is going to send people there.  That tells me the atonement is limited.  There is a hell and God is going to send people there.

In Mark chapter 9, and these are just samples that tell us that the atonement is certainly limited.  In Mark 9 verse 43, “If your hand causes you stumble, cut it off.  It’s better for you to enter the life crippled than having your two hands to go into hell into the unquenchable fire.” And some texts says, “where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is not quenched.” Again, another reference to hell.  Verse 48 again repeats verse 47 and 48, “If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out, better to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than having two eyes to be cast into hell where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is not quenched.”  You come, as I noted, to the gospel of Luke chapter 12, you have the same statement as in Matthew 10:28, but go to the gospel of John and I just want to take you sort of briefly to this gospel and a few glimpses of the obvious reality of the atonement being limited.

It is limited.  Chapter 8 makes it very clear.  Chapter 8 verse 12, “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said, “he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”  Here’s a condition.  You have to follow Christ.  It is limited then to those who follow Christ.  You find over in verse 24 a similar saying.  “I say therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”  There is a hell and people are going there.  In fact, Matthew 7 says, “Many are going there.”  And the only way to avoid going there, the only way to avoid dying in your sins, that is dying without a sacrifice for your sins, the only way to avoid that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

How could Jesus say you could die in your sins if their sins had been paid for?  They had not been paid for if they died without believing in Him.  And there are other parts of John, if you go back to chapter 3, “God did not send His Son,” verse 17, “to judge the world but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged, but he who does not believe has been judged already because he’s not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” There is a hell and people go there who don’t believe in Jesus Christ.  And then there are so many other places where you can see this very same emphasis made.  I don’t want to burden you with an endless list of them, but there are perhaps a couple of others maybe to think about.  Matthew 22:13, “The king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness, in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” A further description of horrific punishment and judgment.  Chapter 25 verse 30, “Cast the worthless slave into outer darkness in the place where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  And then in a Pauline letter, 2 Thessalonians chapter 1, it talks about the coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven.  Second Thessalonians 1:7, “With His mighty angels and flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus and these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.”

So the Bible promises there is a hell.  The only way to avoid it is to not die in your sins.  And to not die in your sins, you have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And if you don’t, you’re going to pay the penalty of eternal destruction.  That proves that the atonement is limited.  It does not apply universally.  God did not intend to save everyone.  He is God.  He could have intended to save everyone.  He could have saved everyone.  He would have if that had been His intention. The atonement is limited.

Now we all have to accept that or be universalists.  We know not everyone is going to heaven.  In fact, it is a little flock, it is the few which if we were to hold on to this sort of evangelical idea means that the vast majority of people for whom Christ died and paid in full the penalty for their sins are going to go to hell.  And that’s just something very difficult to believe.  So we do believe in a limited atonement.  It is limited to those who believe.

How is it limited?  That’s the second point.  Number one, is the atonement limited?  Answer; yes.  Number two, how is it limited?  Well first of all, it’s limited because not everybody is saved, only those who repent and believe.  That’s how it’s limited.  Only those who believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord are saved.  Only those have their sins atoned for.  It is limited to those who believe.  That’s how it’s limited, okay?  Very important that you grasp that.  We’ll come back to that.

Now here comes the key question.  To whom is it limited?  By whom?  We know it’s limited.  We know how it’s limited, it’s limited to those who believe.  It is only applicable to those who believe, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved.”  Now by whom is it limited?  And the popular view would say this, “The atonement of Jesus is unlimited but sinners limit its application.” And we’re back to what we said before.  It is a potential atonement, the actuality of which is limited by the sinner.  Now we have to believe then that God has provided a sacrifice for sins in His Son that in and of itself is not sufficient.  In and of itself is not actual.  In and of itself is not real because the sinner can neutralize it.  I don’t mind believing God can limit the atonement, God does limit the atonement.  But listen carefully to me.  He limits the atonement as to its extent.  You have to believe that because He didn’t choose everybody and not everybody’s going to heaven.  And that’s in the divine mind and that’s the decree of God and that’s the purpose of God and you have to come to grips with that.

I don’t have any problem at all saying the atonement is limited.  I don’t have any problem at all saying how it’s limited, it’s limited to those who believe.  And I have no problem saying and those who believe are those whom God grants faith and therefore the atonement is limited because God limited it.  I’m much more comfortable with that than that sinners can limit the atonement that Christ has provided, or that the atonement that Christ has provided is wasted on the vast majority of people.  If you say that God provided an atonement which is only potential, which only removes the barriers so that the sinner can be saved if he chooses to be, you know what you’ve done?  You have said that God not only limited the atonement as to its extent, and you have to believe that, but He limited it as to its effect.  Okay?

In other words, if you believe in an unlimited atonement, and you think you’re one of those magnanimous people who believed Jesus died for everyone.  Then by saying the atonement is unlimited as to extent, you have also said it is limited as to effect.  It covers everybody but not potently.  It covers everybody but not powerfully.  A little while ago you sang a hymn, “Jesus…what?…paid it all,” you believe that?  Well, potentially.  Did He pay it all potentially or actually?  Did He actually bear in His body your sins on the cross or only potentially?  If you decide that He did.  If you’re going to say that the extent of the atonement is unlimited, then the effect of the atonement is limited.  If you’re going to say that the extent of the atonement is limited, then you’re going to say the effect of the atonement is unlimited.  For those to whom it extends, it has no limits.  So when you say you believe in a limited atonement or unlimited atonement…I believe in a limited atonement as to its extent.  It is limited to those who believe who are those who are called, who are those who are chosen.  But I believe it is unlimited as to its effect.  For those to whom it is granted, it is a full atonement.  Jesus did pay it all.

So, you know, these people who…who want to say, “Well, you know, we believe the atonement is unlimited.”  You say, “Wait a minute.  You mean Jesus died for everybody in the whole world?”  Yes.  “Well you may think it’s unlimited to its extent, but you have just confessed that it’s limited as to its real effect because people are going to go to hell even though He died for them.  What kind of an atonement is that?  Even people who say, “We believe it’s unlimited,” don’t believe that.  They don’t mean that.  They know God limited it to those who believe and they believe that sinners limit it by making wrong choices.  And then they believe there’s some limits in the very atonement itself so that it really doesn’t do the work of atonement, it just makes it possible for the sinner to activate it.

You know, you look at the Bible and it’s pretty clear.  The hymn writer got it right and that hymn is a pretty simple hymn, and I don’t know what was in his mind when he wrote it but when he wrote, “Jesus paid it all,” he meant that.  What He did on the cross was not a partial atonement.  What He did was not a potential atonement.  It was not some kind of virtual atonement.  It was a real actual atonement.  It was limited in its extent to those who would believe who are the called and the chosen.  But it was unlimited in its effect.  For them it was a full and complete atonement.  There is no such thing as an atonement by Jesus Christ on the cross that is less than a true and actual atonement.  There is no such thing as some kind of potential atonement, some kind of half-way atonement.  There’s no such thing as Jesus paying in full for your sins and then you paying in full for your sins forever in hell.  That diminishes the work of Christ, that mocks the work of Christ.

What are you saying?  Your saying Jesus only partially activated this and it’s up to the sinner to fully activate it?  If Christ paid the sins of everybody and everybody doesn’t go to heaven, then whatever He paid wasn’t the full price.  So we’ve got to change our hymn and say, “Jesus paid half, the rest is up to you.” That would be a good line.  “Jesus paid the first half, the rest is up to you.”  I just can’t bring myself to believe that hell is full of millions of people whose sins were paid for in full by Christ on the cross.  I cannot see the Father fully punishing the Son on the cross for the sins of people who will then be punished for those sins forever in hell.  What is the point?  What Christ did on the cross was a true and full and complete atonement for the sins of all who would believe and since no one can believe unless God grants them faith, it is the sins of those whom the Father has chosen to call to Himself.

You hear people say, “Well, you know, when you say the atonement is limited, people don’t feel very special.”  Well, I’ll tell you what.  I don’t feel very special if you say to me, “Christ died for you, He loves you just like He died for the millions in hell.”  That doesn’t make me feel very special.  That’s kind of a hard way to do evangelism.  Christ died on the cross for your sins and all the people in hell, too.  That’s not special.  That’s anything but special.  You mean to tell me He paid for my sins and I’m paying for them forever?  Then I’ll tell you, whatever His payment was, it was bogus.  You see, it’s not biblical to limit the atonement as to its power.  It’s not biblical to limit the atonement as to its effectiveness.  It’s not biblical to limit the atonement as to its accomplishment.  If He paid in full the penalty for your sins, you will receive that salvation.  The atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross has to be in perfect harmony with the eternal decree.  It is not biblical to limit the atonement by making it potential and not actual.  It is not biblical to limit the atonement by the will of the unwilling and unable sinner.  The atonement is limited by God to the elect.  But it is unlimited as to its effect, for them it is a full and complete atonement.

Now the sum of it comes down to this.  Is the death of Christ a work that potentially saves willing sinners or is it a work that actually provides salvation for unwilling sinners who by God’s sovereign grace will be made willing?  The only possible answer is that God provided a sacrifice in His Son, a true payment in full for the sins of all who would ever believe and all who would ever believe will believe because the Father will draw them and He will grant them repentance and faith and regeneration.  Jesus’ death then is to be understood as a full satisfaction to God’s holy justice on behalf of all whom God will save.

I didn’t invent this, this doctrine goes way back, back to the Reformation, back to John Owen, and even back to Charles Spurgeon.  Listen to what Spurgeon said, “We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men or all men would be saved.  Now our reply to this is that on the other hand our opponent’s limited.  We do not.  The Arminians say Christ died for all men.  Ask them what they mean by that.  Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men?  They say no, certainly not.  Or we ask them the next question, did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any person in particular?  They say no.  They’re obliged to say that if they’re consistent.  They say no.  Christ has died that any man may be saved if…and then follow certain conditions of salvation.”

“Now who is it that limits the salvation of Christ?  Why you, you say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody.  We beg your pardon.  When you say we limit Christ’s death, we say, ‘No, my dear sir, it is you that do that.’  We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number who through Christ’s death not only may be saved but will be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazzard of being anything but saved.  You are welcome to your atonement,” said Spurgeon.  “You may keep it.  We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.”

The atonement is an actual atonement, not a potential one.  It is a real atonement, not simply a barrier removed.  And it is in behalf of all who would ever believe and since the sinner is unable and unwilling to believe apart from divine intervention and regeneration, it comes then down to the power of God based upon the decree of God.

Now, are you with me?  I have listed here about fifty passages of Scripture, 5-0.  And this is really the rich part of this.  I just kind of set it up tonight and I’m going to leave it there because if I get into this, we’ll be here till the Rapture of the church, I’m afraid.  So you understand the issue and how to think it through reasonably and logically and fully.  And next Sunday night, I want to take you down into the depths of what the Scripture has to say to support this marvelous view of an atonement that God has by His own sovereignty limited to those who believe but an atonement which in itself is unlimited to all for whom it is provided, salvation will be given in its fullness.

Now I want to add hastily to that, people say, “Well how do you know whether Christ died for you?”  The answer is, “That whosoever will may come, and if you come and believe in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then the death of Christ was for you.” And don’t hold back, come to Christ.  You know, there was a preacher in London when I was over there doing that conference and he pulled me aside and he said, “Do you actually encourage people to come to Christ?”  And I said, “Yeah!.”  He said, “I find it so hard, I’m so restrained in my spirit.” That’s where your theology has plugged up in the wrong place.  Look, we don’t know who it is, other than those who have already come.  We don’t know who’s out there to complete those for whom Christ paid a full atonement, so we plead with sinners.  And I said to him, “Paul said we beg you in Christ-stead.”  Paul said, “I could wish myself accursed for my own people Israel that they would come to know the Savior, the Messiah.”  We plead with sinners.  We take the gospel to the ends of the earth and we leave the secret things to the Lord but we follow the responsibility to call sinners to faith, knowing that those who come will have had a full atonement provided for them.  And we’re here to talk to you about that in our prayer room.

Father, thanks for a great day and the glory of our faith and our salvation coming more and more clear to us in those things we’ve learned today.  And we bless Your name and thank You.  Amen.

Copyright 2004, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

14 thoughts on “The Doctrines of Grace (Part 8 of 10)

  1. Elmarie,
    Good morning!
    Listening to the message now. This is the part that I have kinda struggled with — limited , and actual atonement ect. I really need to pay attention to this part .


    • Sylesa

      Hello there, there will also be a part 2 posted tomorrow, I do hope it is helpful to you. I will also listen to this tonight when all my work is up to date. Maybe we can exchange our understandings of this after we have both listened to both sermons?

      God bless


  2. Elmarie,
    Thank you, that sounds good! I need to listen to these messages on the atonement a couple times over. I want to really understand this part of the Tulip, and how they arrive at their conlusions concerning the atonement.

    Thanks for the articles!


    • Sylesa

      I have also asked Grant to “yelps” in his understanding. 🙂

      Of to have a Cuppa hazelnut coffee and oh my mix is almost done will have to go hunting for more in the week lol lol


  3. If necessary, we can spend a lot more time on this point in the future. Of course, it is important to become confident, secure and comfortable in our understanding of God’s Word, how else are we able to contend for the truth? God’s Word is not obscure to the believer or to those who seek the truth. Neither is the truth too complicated for the non-intellectual or unsophisticated believer, but it must become so for those who wish to oppose the truth.

    My feeling is therefore, when a doctrine such as this seems to be “hard” or intricate for us to understand, rather than getting too entwined in all the possibilities and analysis of available interpretations, we should keep in mind that the Gospel is “easy” and is not there to create frustration or confusion for the believer. For, if it is the same Gospel which we read or hear, that saves the illiterate or childishly young, surely it will not be God’s intention to cloud the true meaning for us.

    Let us trust in the fact that it is Him Who saves according to His Will and according to His plan. Let us trust in Him completely that He will enlighten us each according to His good time and to the extent that He will. There is tremendous comfort in knowing that, in truth, we did nothing to deserve our election to start with, and that a perfect understanding of the intricacies we perceive cannot add anything to maintain, or complete, that salvation. Rest in Him, it is done. If we understand that His Will is Sovereign in all these matters, let us not question it, but praise Him for the wonder of it.

    Nevertheless, here is a question to ponder which may provide more clarity to the understanding of the truth in this doctrine. There are three options, only one of which can truly be correct:

    1. Christ died for all the sins of all men,
    2. Christ died for all the sins of some men,
    3. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.

    If we choose (1), it stands to reason that all men should be saved, even if they are unbelievers. But, it is true that not all men are saved. Therefore then, that could only mean that Jesus did not cover the sin of unbelief. Does it sound right that His sacrifice was insufficient?

    If (2) makes more sense, we agree that Christ took the punishment which we deserve for all our sins, on behalf of the chosen according to God’s will. This is Biblically correct.

    If it is to be (3) that we agree with, then it is accepted that no man will be saved, because no man is sinless or can justify himself. Therefore all men will pay the price for the unforgiven sins, and that price is death. Are no men saved and did Jesus die in vain?

    It is clear from Scripture, no matter how cleverly we try to dispute it, that the Atonement of the cross is limited to those whom God enables and chooses.

    The Atonement of Jesus Christ, is the biblical doctrine around which all others revolve. Why anyone, who has received the free gift of salvation, would want to dispute it, try to devalue the miracle of it or argue it away, is simply beyond reason.


  4. Elmarie, That would be good! More input is helpful!

    You have hazelnut mix? The actual hazelnut coffee ground that you put into a electric drip or perculator is even better than the prefab mix! Do they sell Maxwell House brand hazelnut coffee grounds in Africa? That’s the brand that i buy. Also I sometimes buy Millstone brand also. There is also hazelnut /cinnamon coffee grounds, that is also yummy!

    Do you have Walmart stores in Africa?

    Well, i better finish listening to the programs!

    God Bless


    • Sylesa

      You say:

      Do you have Walmart stores in Africa?

      aaah Africa ….lol No, not what I am aware of but we have lots of wild animals like lions, elephants, Buffalo, cheetah, and more here in Africa !! lol I just had a good giggle now, Walmart sounds like “Whale” , “Wallrus” or some other kind of American wild animal lol lol the closest I can get to is Woolworths foodstores 🙂 Africa is wild and America is uhm a Whale of a place lol (a big place one can get lost there ?) it must be the coffee I am drinking lol lol .

      I did hear somewhere that Walmart is coming to Africa or South Africa …….and Grant also mentioned it to me now.

      Thanks for the brand names I am sure if I start looking around here where we live I will find one of the names. The hazelnut /cinnamon coffee grounds sounds interesting too…..will keep da eyes open. The hazelnut coffee I bought was the actual coffee beans that they ground up for me in a machine and put it in a nice silver packet 🙂

      Enjoy the listening !!



  5. Good morning Elmarie & Grant,

    Here are some of the thoughts that I have, i am not totally convinced at this time as to this doctrine of limited atonement(don’t be mad:)

    In Hebrews it speaks of not escaping if we neglect so great a salvation. That seems to indicate that while an actual atonement exists , it can be neglected. I do not believe that this in any way contradicts the doctrine of election. I believe that for a person to neglect (and remember that soveriegnty and freedom) , they are responsible at the same time, though God has not awakened them by His grace. This is the judgement, their unbelief.

    Is our human reasoning of double jepordy enough to base a doctrine on? Is it not just reasonings?

    I disagree that we are automatically universalists simply by believing Christ died for all. Reason being, in order to be a universalist , we must believe all are going to heaven , i do not believe that, but neither do i reason double jepordy. I believe that Christ died for those who will refuse (and by God sovereignty, who did not choose to awaken them) and thereby the greater judgement on those who neglect so great a salvation.

    What do we do with this scripture:

    And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world

    I am doing some research on this scripture , and the various ways in which whole and world are used in scripture , as well as the greek use and meaning of the words.

    I am just giving thoughts off the top of my head , not set in stone exactly. so for what it’s worth…. lol , this is where i’m at…

    I am going to listen to the snd part of the atonement message again.

    Thank you for your input!


    • Hello Sylesa

      Never never can we be mad…………we are here to help each other 🙂

      I am sure Grant will give more input a bittie later this evening if time permits. Ah yes i am also still busy working through part 2 🙂 and will be done by this evening 🙂

      You say :

      I disagree that we are automatically universalists simply by believing Christ died for all. Reason being, in order to be a universalist , we must believe all are going to heaven , i do not believe that, but neither do i reason double jepordy. I believe that Christ died for those who will refuse (and by God sovereignty, who did not choose to awaken them) and thereby the greater judgement on those who neglect so great a salvation.

      I agree and in part 2 the little bittie I have hear JMA says the following:
      Quote – Clearly then salvation is all of God. It’s His holy seed. It’s His holy offspring in the language of Isaiah 53. It’s His people he has already identified. Now, their salvation is not apart from their will, but it is in harmony with their will when their will is altered by the power of God. So that raises the question then…for whom did Christ die? For whom did He die? And we said last time, I’ll just quickly review, most people in the church think that He died for everyone potentially and no one actually, right? He just died for everybody potentially, it’s sort of out there, and you can pick it up if you want it or you don’t, it’s not going to be applicable to you. So He died for everybody potentially, and no one actually. Therefore the actualizing of the atonement depends upon the sinner deciding to actualize the atoning work of Jesus Christ on his own behalf. And if the sinner never believes, if he chooses never to receive Christ, then the death of Christ for Him remains an unrealized potential. So those who believe that, believe…now listen carefully…that the atonement of Christ is limited in its effect, okay? It’s limited in its effect, they like to say they do not believe in a limited atonement, they believe in an unlimited atonement. That’s not true. They believe in an atonement that is limited in its power, that is limited in its effect, that is limited in its impact to the will of the sinner. That’s a very limited atonement. They believe that it is unlimited in its extent, that it extends to the whole of the human race, but it is very limited in its effect.

      What the Bible teaches is just the opposite. It is limited in its extent to those whom God chooses and saves. And for them it is unlimited in its effect, in its power. It is then not a potential salvation for all, it is an actual salvation for the many. Who is our, and our, and us, and us, and the many, and the many for whom He died, for whom He actually bore sin’s judgment? It is the holy seed. It is the holy offspring. It is the chosen of the Father. It is the bride of the Son. See, this changes everything. If you believe there’s this sort of hanging sort of a potential atonement floating around the world and you just have to convince sinners to pick it up to take advantage of it, then evangelism takes on a completely different approach. It all becomes working on the will of the sinner to get him to actualize this only potential atonement.

      And you have to ask yourself the question…who gets the credit for that one? Right? It doesn’t sound like the way to glorify God. See, that’s the idea that Jesus’ atonement is unlimited in its extent but very limited in its effect. In fact, it isn’t enough to save you. Is that amazing? Jesus dying on the cross, paying the penalty for your sin under that theology isn’t enough to save you. You’ve got to do something to complete it which sounds to me like salvation by works. But how is the sinner going to do that when he’s absolutely unable to do that and unwilling to do that? Dead in trespasses and sin, blinded by Satan, so we know not everybody’s going to be saved. The atonement is limited in its extent and the question is, who limited it? Who limited it? God.

      I know that’s sometimes hard to take. But He did. There is hell and most people who live in this world end up there. That’s how it is. The real hard doctrine is the doctrine of eternal punishment. If there were no hell, we wouldn’t even need to debate these other issues, they’d be academic. But it’s God who decides who He’s going to save and who chose them before the foundation of the world.

      I just can’t look at the cross and see Jesus at the very end of the cross looking up and saying, “It is started.” What? “It is potential.” That’s not what He said, is it? Was the death of Christ a full and complete payment to God satisfying His just wrath for some particular chosen people? Or was it a potential for nobody? An actual for nobody, a potential for everybody. unquote

      Me thinks maybe part 2 can help clear up what is unclear ? I do hope and pray so……..
      ok I am off to listen now………….:-)

      God bless


    • I disagree that we are automatically universalists simply by believing Christ died for all. Reason being, in order to be a universalist , we must believe all are going to heaven , i do not believe that…

      You are correct that those who believe that all will go to heaven are universalists. Universalism is not biblical.

      But, believing that Christ died for all is not biblical either. That would indicate that in many instances, Christ died to save some who didn’t want to be saved. That implies therefore that Christ failed in certain instances because He didn’t know who would refuse, which would also indicate that God is not omniscient.

      What do we do with this scripture:
      And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world

      This verse teaches that the Atonement which Jesus made, is enough to cover not only our sins (the believers), but also any other sin committed by anyone else in the whole world, IF they accept the invitation, IF they keep His commandments, IF they walk in the way He walked. This verse does not indicate that the whole worlds sins are forgiven, but can be IF they believe because the Atonement is sufficient to do that.

      All men, in every land, and through successive generations, are invited by means of the outward call of the Gospel, to come to God through this all-sufficient atonement, and by this new and living way.

      It is important that we recognize the distinction between those who are invited to partake in the Atonement (which would be through an outward call of the Gospel to all people), and those who are able to accept the invitation (which would be through an inward call to the elect).

      Concerning the Gospel, we find what is called an “outward” call, and an “inward” call. The outward call goes out to every individual. The inward call goes specifically to God’s people, the redeemed, or His sheep.

      The outward call goes out to ALL in the great commission as God has commanded, including those who are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life(1), for ALL have willfully alienated themselves from God(2), so He holds ALL responsible for their disobedience(3), for they “are without excuse”(4).”

      The inward call actually reaches the heart (or nature), by the Holy Spirit which produces change in life(5), through REGENERATION(6), subduing the sinner in his guilt(7), and God preparing beforehand in him(8 ), to have the desire to receive Christ(9).

      1) Rev.13:8; 17:8
      2) Acts 7:51; Rom.3:11; II Cor.4:3, 4 Eph.1:17, 18; 4:18, 19; Col.1:21
      3) Rom.1:18; John 3:36; I Thes.5:9; II Thes.1:8, 9
      4) Rom.1:20
      5) I Thes.1:5, 6; II Cor.6, 6
      6) Titus 3:5; John 3:3
      7) Num.15:31; II Chron.27:13; Ezra 9:6; 9:13
      8 ) Phil.2:13; Rom.9:23, 24; Psa.10:17; 40:6; 61:7; I Chron.29:18; Psa.110:3
      9) Phil.2:13; Heb.13:20, 21; I Thes.2:13; John 4:42

      Here is more on the matter of understanding the difference between what the Scripture clearly defines as two different calls:

      The first one in the order of occurrence is known generally as the outward or external call. The following Scriptures refer to this call: Isa. 45:22; 55:6; Matt. 9:13; 11:28; 22:14; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; Rev. 22:17. The outward call cannot save and is the ‘ineffective’ call.

      The following Scriptures refer to the inward call: Acts 2:39; Rom. 1:6; 8.28, 30; 9:11,24; 1 Cor. 1:1,26; 7:15; Gal. 1:15; 5:8; Eph. 4:4; Col. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1.15; 2:9; 3:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3,10; Jude 1. The inward call saves and is the ‘effective’ call.

      Jesus did not shed His Blood for those who reject Him, because Scripture says so. I tried to indicate why in my previous comment by asking you to choose one of three options.

      Jesus bought us (believers) at the highest price and paid the ransom for our freedom from sin with His precious Blood. We know from Scripture that God is omniscient, that He foreknows all things and that He predestined those He chose to have His Son pay the ransom for. To suggest that God sacrificed His Son for those whom He knew would not accept Him, is not biblical.


  6. Good morning Elmarie and Grant,
    Thank you so much for your response.

    I understand what you are saying, but something still is lacking in my making the connection between the fact that , because the elect are effectually called, that that somehow makes Christ a failure if He died for the sins of the whole world and yet many are lost.

    I do not see this as being a failure on the part of Christ, but rather a failure on the part of the sinner. And for this failure he will be judged. And this would be ultimately to Gods glory who displays His attribute of justice to those who reject Him. He says…….”this is the judgement, that Light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light……”

    Hebrews says ….”how shall we escape IF we neglect so great a salvation”

    It would seem to me that although the sinner is unable to come without God first opening his heart to do so, yet i do not see that as automatically meaning that He did not die for all. I believe that it in no way contradicts Christs omnicience either. I believe that God knows all things , including the fact that had he chosen to awaken all people , He could have saved ALL.

    Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Luke 10:13

    I really and truly don’t see any contradiction of His attribute of omnicience in Him dying for the whole world and only some being saved. If anything, i struggle more with the fact that He could have awakened ALL people and has chosen not to. That is a seeming contradiction to His love. I say SEEMING because , there is no injustice or unrighteousness in God that He should be questioned just because i don’t understand His ways.


    This verse teaches that the Atonement which Jesus made, is enough to cover not only our sins (the believers), but also any other sin committed by anyone else in the whole world, IF they accept the invitation, IF they keep His commandments, IF they walk in the way He walked. This verse does not indicate that the whole worlds sins are forgiven, but can be IF they believe because the Atonement is sufficient to do that

    You say that it WOULD HAVE BEEN “IF”, this is in effect saying that the sacrifice was sufficient for the whole world , is it not?

    My question is , does sinners rejection of the sacrifice lessen the value of it? I don’t believe so. Neither does it in my mind thus far , contradict His omnicience. God knows what our reactions to all”what ifs” would have been HAD they happened ! God knows that for every sinner in hell, He could have chosen that sinner to awaken him. There is a tension and a balance that I am not quite grasping.

    Anyways, i need to look up all the scriptures that you have provided in this post and really think on these things and try to resolve them in my mind.

    I appreciate your input, and the many scriptures that you have provided. Thank you.

    I need to do some catching up on some of your latest posts, haven’t been home and won’t be home today either, but i will read them!

    Thanks again.


  7. Hello Sylesa

    Never never can we be mad…………we are here to help each other.

    Really, I’m not convinced, especially when you summarily refuse to place my comments and answer my questions.


    • On a public blog, comments are made which are deliberately provocative, argumentative, divisive, irreverent, unprofitable or abusively contentious. There are also comments made which are ostensibly honest inquiries and opinions of a peaceable, edifying and unifying and loving nature. Where possible, we prefer to place comments which fall into the latter categories.


  8. Tom Lessing,

    I saw some things posted on another blog site that you had submitted, and it was not at all a true representation of calvinism. And when i posted a link to the true chart based in fact, you did not give any response at that time.

    Only by truthful and open inquirey as to the meaning of scripture can there be honest conversation. I don’t mean to be contentious, but on the other blog you are and have been free to post misrepresentations while honest debate is not tolerated at all. I would not therefore respond to anybody again of such an agenda. I have learned a valuable lesson and am ashamed of my own behavior as well on previous mentioned website.


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