Limited Atonement?

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Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, This would be my first post here. I have been reading the different topics for awhile and am very glad to see some competent answers.

I do have a couple questions though, I know that the "L" in TULIP means limited atonement. I understand the other parts of TULIP, but I can not quite find sufficient evidence for the limited atonement part. I do not mean to cast doubt on it, for so far as I read up on the reformed theology doctrines I have been very happy to see them abundantly in scripture.

I ask only to learn. I wish to understand this. I know in the Greek, all and whole, do not normally mean that so how should I take a verse like - 1st John 2:2 "And He is the propitiation concerning our sins, and not concerning ours only, but also concerning the sins of all the world. "

I am sorry for bringing up a question that may be basic and seem elementary, but I myself do not understand this. I thank you in advance.

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Alright private, get in line. Crank up the barrel. batton down them hatches, shiver me timbers and all that! (Sorry, could't resist).

Limited Atonement is always the biggest stumbling block.

You have think through the OT sacrifices first - who were they for? Hittites? Amalekties? or those in the camp?

Then, you need to think thourgh what it means for the Father to "give" the Son. "...that He gave his only Son..." (John 3:16). What does it mean to give? is giving mypothetical or actual? Does Jesus make a "way" of salvation, or does He actually secure it?

then think through the other letters of TULIP. If the U and I are right (and you agree with them) then it would not follow that God predestines some to salvation, but uses that which actually saves them (the cross and Christ's blood) and applies it to the whole world. Why woudl God apply the blood of Christ, wiping out the sin of the whole world and then not save the whole world??

The maxim on this stands:

Christ either died for:
"all of the sins of all men." (Thus all are saved.)
"Some of the sins of all men" (Thus we become Roman Catholic.)
"all of the sins of some men." (biblical position)

John 6:37-40, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."

Matthew 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."

John 10:15, "As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for [b:1ec514b83b]the sheep[/b:1ec514b83b]." (not the goats)

John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for [b:1ec514b83b]his friends[/b:1ec514b83b]." (cf. Romans 5:8)

Acts 20:28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed [b:1ec514b83b]the church of God,[/b:1ec514b83b] which he hath purchased with his own blood."

Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also [b:1ec514b83b]loved the church[/b:1ec514b83b], and [b:1ec514b83b]gave himself for it[/b:1ec514b83b];" (There is that "gave" again!)

I you understand "gave" then this will make sense:

"[If Jesus died for all men]...why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe." But his unbelief, is it sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be sin, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it; If this is so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then he did not die for all their sins."
John Owen


Puritan Board Professor
Welcome to the forum. Glad you could join us.

[b:d0f1a9b2f7]SoldierOfTheRock wrote:[/b:d0f1a9b2f7]
I am sorry for bringing up a question that may be basic and seem elementary, but I myself do not understand this.

I'm glad you asked the question. That's one more question that I won't have to ask now.

Rest assured that you are not alone in the "Elementary School of Reformed Theology". Its a nice school and I've been attending the school for some time now, There may be others at the school, though I haven't peeked at the roster.



Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
A good short way to think about this doctrine is to forget about the TULIP acronym and get rid of "Limited atonement." Unless you are a universalist (i.e. everyone including Hitler is saved eventually) , the atonement is limited by everyone. The only question is whether it is limited in [b:e7bb1a104f]purpose and design[/b:e7bb1a104f] (Calvinism) or [b:e7bb1a104f]extent and effectiveness[/b:e7bb1a104f] (Arminianism) .

Think not in terms of "limited atonement" but rather "particular redemption." That is, God has set His love on a people, and [b:e7bb1a104f]actually[/b:e7bb1a104f] redeems them. He does not make it possible for them to be saved (in some sense save themselves) but he actually saves them.


Puritan Board Freshman

That was really quick. I thank you all for the help. I think I need to go re-read John 6 and all those spots about the sheep.



Puritan Board Freshman
Scott, Josh, & Fred: [b:fcd95bd51c]Excellent[/b:fcd95bd51c] posts!!! :thumbup:



Puritan Board Freshman
Amen and amen!:thumbup::thumbup:

You be in the right place. That L in TULIP can be tough, and how tough it is can depend on your previous upbringing. It's one every Reformed believer has struggled to understand. It's not a dumb question. (I'm the Queen of Dumb Questions.) You are absolutely right about going back to John 6. Actually, John all-the-way-through. But be assured that once you grasp it, it will leap out at you from everywhere, and especially Paul's writings. May God bless you as you seek to know Him intimately.

[Edited on 3-29-2004 by fredtgreco]


Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member

I'm sorry. Your previous post was somehow double posted (that happens occasionally and intermittantly - I don't know why) and so I tried to remove one of the two. For some reason (perhaps known only to Fixato) both were deleted instead.


Thankfully, I still had the post in my cache and I appended it to your last post.

I didn't want you to wonder what was going on - just some housecleaning gone awry.


Puritan Board Senior
Fred is absolutely correct that we should refer to it as "particular redemption" or even better yet, "definite atonement."

Here are a few articles to read as you work your way through John 6 and other relevant texts:

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement - a statement by the elders at my church.]Summary of the Five Points by John Piper[/url]

For Whom Did Christ Die? by Charles Spurgeon

Particular Redemption by Charles Spurgeon

The Nature of the Atonement by Phil Johnson

Was Anyone Saved at the Cross by James White

A Study of 1 Timothy 2:4 by Gary Long



Puritan Board Freshman
Hey thanks for the articles to look at. I think I am starting to understand that "everything" was done at the cross. I thought I understood it before, but now it really really seems clear. That view of universal salvation reminds me of some heresies that popped up way back in history, just does not make any sense at all.

Thanks again everybody!


Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Fred. One dumb post is enough. We don't need duplicates!
Phillip, your links are wonderful....I've read them all before.
Now for my Dumb Question of the Day. (Ya'all knew it was coming.) Is anybody familiar with Jay Adams' [i:0b184af4a4]The Grand Demonstration[/i:0b184af4a4]? That was the very first book I stumbled upon that dealt with the sovereignty/grace issue. Later I found Pink and Sproul. I doubt if it's in print now, but it was short and to the point. Pretty good read for a non-theologian. Just wondering. Duh.


Puritan Board Junior
People go to hell to be punished for their sins. When Jesus died on the cross, He was punished for all of our sins. If Jesus died for you, then all of the punishment for all of your sins has already been taken care of.

A question to ask someone if he believes that Jesus died as a substitute for everyone is this: If the punishment for a particular person's sins has already been taken care of by Jesus' death on the cross and that person goes to hell, then what is he being punished for?
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