Did Jesus Pay the Price?
An old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.” It is referring to the atoning work that Jesus did when He died on the cross. The doctrine of actual atonement answers the question: Did Jesus really pay it all?
In the gospels we find the angel Gabriel revealing the name of God’s son and Messiah as Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins.” Isaiah prophesied that He was punished for the sins of others (Is. 53:4-6). Paul wrote that He paid the ransom (1 Tim. 2:5-6) as did Jesus himself (Matt. 20:26-28).
The word atone means, “to make amends for one’s crime.” Biblically speaking, the crime of man was sinning against God and the penalty for this crime is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, to amend for this crime there must be death. This is how Jesus amended for the crime. He died on the cross. Thus, He atoned for the sins of man.
To skip to the end of this flow of thinking, those who are welcomed into heaven are those who have had their sin atoned. There crime against God has been amended and paid for by Jesus’ death. And, in contrast, those who are eternally punished in hell did not have their penalty paid. Otherwise, their punishment is wrong.
Now, to fill in the blanks here, we must reconcile the two realities: (1) Jesus paid the price, and (2) not all have had the price paid. Obviously, the atonement is limited in one way or another. Did Jesus actually pay the price or did He potentially pay the price? If Jesus really succeeded at paying the price for sin, then He intentionally paid the price for only some. If Jesus potentially paid the price for sin, the He intentionally paid the price for all and failed with some.
Of course, the doctrine of actual atonement says that Jesus actually accomplished that which He intended on accomplishing when He came to atone. He came, as the angel declared, to save his people from their sins. God had some people in mind. These people “were appointed to eternal life” according to Acts 13:48.
To say otherwise causes serious problems in several ways. If Jesus paid it all for all people, then first, we would have people in hell being punished for sins that have been amended. Second, we would have people in heaven who are no different than those in hell. This is at best. At worst, we would have a Jesus who failed at his mission.
The doctrine of actual atonement teaches that Jesus successfully paid the price for sin on the cross. In connection to the doctrine of limited atonement, His success was for the sake of those He appointed to save.
Verses for further reflection:
1 Timothy 2:5-6