So, back story. This isn’t structured as a paper, but is a quick defence I made for Limited Atonement in a Facebook chat. I was told my Calvinistic views were a heresy, specifically limited atonement, so I wanted to show why I believe the way I do. The person I wrote it to probably won’t read it, so I thought I mind-as-well share it and not let the time go to waste. It was fast so it is not thoroughly cited, also not quite as thought out as some of my stuff on this blog. My thanks go to Michael Horton, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John Owen, and Wayne Grudem for showing me the thoughts I have in this comment;
“For the record there are many people who hold to Calvinism that only believe in the four points. I personally think that Scripture teaches limited atonement(Most scholars prefer the term Particular Redemption because we believe that Christ died for the elect specifically, that He was 100% effective in Redeeming those He came to redeem, but His sacrifice is not limited in any way.) in the sense of; Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of anyone who come before Him for salvation. but I think Scripture teaches that when He came He gave Himself up specifically for His Sheep; and there for His atonement was effective for every single person for which He died.
On the flip side, universal atonement leads to the conclusion that Christ’s atonement was ineffective for everyone of itself, only upon someone’s act of faith does it become effective in their life. If you argue that as a propitiation He removed the sins of all man and all that needs to be done is to put our faith in Jesus and then we receive the positive righteousness of his life given to us, you run into another problem. If Christ propitiated (bore the wrath of God against sins) for everyone, then how can anyone be sentenced to Hell? If they don’t except Jesus then they will not have a positive state of righteousness, so they cannot come into heaven, but they have no guilt of sin; so they cannot be sent to Hell. If you say that they are sent to hell for the rejection of Christ then you are left back at square one; Christ’s sacrifice was not 100% effective in bearing EVERY SINGLE SIN WE EVER COMMITTED, including the sin of rejecting Him. Now, is this taught in Scripture? Because that is the one and only deciding authority; In Jesus’s High priestly prayer before His crucifixion He prays to the father and repeatedly says that He is praying for the ones the Father is giving Him, and them alone. They are why He sanctifies Himself, He knows that it is for them that He is going where He is going (John 17). In Ephesians 5 in Paul’s exhortation on submission in different relationships he writes; “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,”. Here Christ is said to have loved the church gave himself up for her. In Romans 8:32 Paul writes of God delivering His Son “over for us all”, in this context the “all” refers to believers, who are told that all things will work together for their good because of God’s promised plan. This verse links Christ being given as a sacrifice with the giving us all things pertaining to Salvation. In Acts 20:28 the elders in Ephesus are exhorted “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” In John 10:15 Jesus says that He lays his “life for the sheep.” In John 10:11 He says that the good shepherd lays His life “for the sheep.” In this context His sheep are those that God has elected and called (Read John 9-11). In Romans 5:8 Paul writes that God demonstrated His love for us(the believers he is writing to) by sending Christ to die while we were still sinners. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Galatians 3:13; “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree””. Over and over again Christ’s work on the cross is pictured as a completely effectual work done for His sheep. In Romans 5:10 Christ’s death is seen as having a specific reconciling work for the Elect; “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Another consideration to make is that if Christ’s sacrifice was for all people, then it could only be limited to the forgiveness of sins, it could not purchase for the Church specific things; but the Scriptures teach that His blood purchased for us things that are definitely not for unbelievers. The main point here is that Christ bought for us the New Covenant in His blood. The New Covenant where by we are given the Holy Spirit, Justified by Faith, and have a mediator in heaven was made in Christ’s blood on the Cross. (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24 (cf. Eph. 1:3-4;2:8; Phil. 1:29). Now, what about these verse that you say teach that Christ’s view was for all man. The main texts here are; John 1:29, John 6:51; 1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 Cor. 8:11; and 2 Peter 2:1 (cf. Heb. 10:29). Lets look at each of these verse individually;
John 1:29; First off, we are going to run into the word “world” a lot, so we best talk about it now. So it can have many referents the big three we are going to be dealing with are; humanity in general (as in “Hitler was a scourge to humanity”), humanity without any discrimination (“I love all people”; i.e. I love Africans, Europeans, Asians, etc. I love women and men and gays and straights.), and humanity individually (“we are called to love the world”; we are called to love all men, each individual we meet no matter how bad they are). Again, the removal of the sins of the whole world would mean that all would be saved; because they have no sins to be condemned. No side would see in this passage as referring to all humanity individually, but context also suggests that this probably refers to humanity in generally. This would be the same for 2 Corinthians 5:19, no one believes that all will be reconciled to Christ (except Rob Bell). This is referring to a reconciling of sinners in general, not every single sinner without exception.
John 6:51 makes most sense in reference to the free offer of the gospel that is made to all people
1 John 2:2 again runs into the problem of sins being removed and what Scripture teaches about guilt. The grammar in both this verse and 1 Tim. 2:6 makes most sense with the idea that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for all. Scripture makes it clear that only those who are drawn by God will be saved (John 10) but Christ’s sacrifice is enough to cover the sins of any who come (though only the elect will because the world hates God (rom. 1-3).
Heb. 2:9; the Greek word here pas is best understood as every one of God’s people, seeing as the immediate context talks about those redeemed to glory (v. 10), those who are sanctified (v. 11), and those God has given (v. 13). See Heb. 8:11 for the similar use of this Greek word to refer to the People of God.
1 Cor. 8:11 the language of “ruined” does not refer to eternal damnation, but instead spiritual damage (see Matt. 18:14). Looking later in the passage you see mention of the causing a brother to stumble, to fall into sin. Maybe even to backslide, but this does not refer to total lose of salvation. This is a major hindrance to sanctification though. (cf. Rom. 8, Heb. 6, 1 Pet. 1:1-7, John 10, etc. for why this definitely does not refer to a brother falling away completely).
Lastly in 2 Peter 2:1 it is filled with some language that is ambiguous. The master in this context could refer to God or Jesus, if God then this would bring into parallel with Deut 32:6 where the Atonement is not in sight but instead God’s active work in saving people, in restraining sin, in delivering people, even for a time, from the power of Idols, etc. It would also be a mistake to assume instantly that the word we translate as “bought” is a technical term for the redemption through the Cross. It can refer to many other things. It is very probable that Peter is drawing an allusion to this passage here. The Jewish people were bought by God the Father in the Exodus, this includes there descendants. The Jews in this time and, probably even the gentiles in their Churches, would have identified themselves as a people bought by God.
I have not had much time so I have drawn together these answers based on the resources and knowledge I have at hand, the best address given to this issue is in a book called the Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology and R.C. Sprouls “What is Reformed Theology?” Also look at all the Scriptures on this subject and try to see what the Scriptures are teaching well. I have have some better answers as I grow more and learn more about the Scriptures. I would suggest that one huge thing to keep in mind is a huge part of hermeneutics; the use of “analogy of Scripture”. All Scripture is God-breathed and inerrant, so it will in the end all be consistent (see 2 Timothy 3:16 and the Scriptures about God being truth). With analogy of Scripture you move from those passages that are most clear to the more implicit ones that seem to contradict. Scripture is pretty clear in the John and Romans passages that Christ died for His sheep, and the nature of Justification and the final judgement of God would seem to teach against a propitiation for all man without exception. All the Scriptures uses against the idea of Limited Atonement use grammar that is not technical, it all can have different referents (see the look at the word World earlier). In these Scriptures the context never demands us to take the words as “all man without exception” and a close look at the context seems to teach “humanity, sinners, in general” or specifically even just Believers. In those that could go both ways it is best to look at the greater context of the Teaching of Scripture and even the book within which they are found to see the teaching given by Christ, He says; “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15).
A good description of this doctrine is “To be sure, Christ’s propitiation on the cross is unlimited in its sufficiency or value. In this sense Christ makes atonement for the whole world. But the efficacy of this atonement does not apply to the whole world, nor does its ultimate design.” (R.C. Sproul)
That’s my two cents.