For Whom Did Christ Die?
Like the doctrine of predestination, the doctrine of limited atonement is highly controversial. It seeks to answer the question, “For whom did Christ die?” The Bible teaches that Jesus died on the cross in order to make an atonement for the sins of people. That is, to make-up or pay the price for transgressions against God.
We know from the Scriptures that not all people go to heaven. Many go and will go to hell. And they do so because their sins were not atoned for. Therefore, all Christians believe in a limited atonement. Otherwise, he or she would be a Universalist (believing that all go to heaven).
Since only those who repent and believe will be saved, the real question is this: To whom and by whom is the atonement limited? One view says that humans limit the atonement. They argue that Jesus died on the cross to make the payment of sins possible. And by doing so, they limit the effect of the atonement. They argue that Jesus died for the whole world – meaning all people. But not all people have faith in His work. So people limit the power of His atonement.
Another view says that God limits the atonement. They argue that Jesus died on the cross to actually save those whom He predestined to save. And by doing so, they limit the extent of the atonement. They argue that Jesus died for those whom He elected – meaning some people. So God limits the reach of His atonement.
So the response is either of the two. God limited the extent of the atonement to those whom He predestined or man limited the effect of the atonement to those who are special enough to believe.
So the response is either of the two views. If man limited the atonement, than the effect and power of the work of Jesus is limited but the extent and reach is for all. Thus, those who are special enough to repent and believe do so. God shares the glory of salvation with man.
If God limited the atonement, than the effect and power of the work of Jesus was actual and certain but the extent and reach of such work was limited to some. Thus, those who repent and believe do so because of God’s work. God deserves the glory.
Historically, this doctrine has been referred to a Calvinistic belief, but as mentioned, all Christians must identify a limitation in some sense. To say otherwise is heretical for God is not saving all people.
Verses for further reflection:
Matthew 1:21; 20:28