We have reached the pinnacle and usually the most difficult to grasp of the doctrines of grace as we take a look at the atonement. What most people know as “limited atonement” (the ‘L’ of TULIP in Calvinism), I personally prefer to think of this doctrine as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption”. These latter two phrases seem to better articulate what took place over 2,000 years ago on the cross of Calvary – the work of Christ to secure the salvation of every ungodly person (Part 1) chosen by God for redemption before the foundation of the world (Part 2).
The Lord Jesus Christ did not die on the cross to make salvation a mere possibility for all men. Neither did He atone (make payment) for the sins of the whole world, meaning every single person. If these things were true, Christ’s work on the cross was insufficient to save all and, what’s more, a great injustice would have been committed as Christ and sinners would both pay for the same crimes committed against God (known as double jeopardy). Moreover, the claim that Christ died for all (in the same way) logically concludes with universalism. No doubt most who believe in an “unlimited atonement” would not affirm universalism, but therein lies the inconsistency.
the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.
In other words, God saves us by Himself for Himself in order to save us from Himself through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
I decided to break this post into two parts as the Scriptures proved overwhelming for a single post. I want to be sure these verses are thoroughly examined instead of quickly glossed over for sake of time and energy.
In this first post, let’s take a look at the Scriptures to show the ultimate purposes for why Christ came to redeem His people in accordance with His Father’s will. The latter Scriptures will then transition from the Son’s relationship to the Father to His relationship with His people in God’s marvelous plan of redemption:
1. Christ sovereignly redeems to glorify Himself and the Father
John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
John 13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once…”
John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
2. Christ sovereignly redeems to be obedient to His Father’s will
John 6:38-40 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
3. Christ sovereignly redeems to secure the gift the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world
Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to me…
John 17:6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
4. Christ sovereignly redeems to satisfy God’s wrath against His people
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Isaiah 53:5, 10 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed…10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…
Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
5. Christ sovereignly redeems to demonstrate His love toward His people, His treasured possession, by purchasing them with His own blood
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
6. Christ sovereignly redeems to make intercession for His people as their High Priest
John 17:9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
As we see from these Scriptures, our redemption is ultimately for the glory of God. Before the foundation of the world, Christ purposed in Himself to secure the gift promised to Him by His Father. In obedience to the Father’s will, He came to satisfy His own wrath in the place of His people to demonstrate His love towards us that we would become the righteousness of God.
Now Christ is our Intercessor and High Priest, which plays a crucial role in the atoning work on the cross. Just as the high priests of the Old Testament sprinkled the blood of sheep and goats on the mercy seat to make atonement and intercede on the behalf of Israel, Christ, our High Priest, atoned for our sins once and for all by His own blood sprinkled on the altar of heaven. He now lives to make intercession for us always. How great is this amazing work of God!
In preparation for part b of this section, I encourage you to listen to the following message from Albert Martin titled The Doctrines of Grace #3: Limited Atonement. This message will be helpful as we transition from Christ our High Priest to His atonement on the cross in 14 Reasons Christ Sovereignly Redeems (b).