The Doctrines of Grace: Limited Atonement
Limited atonement, as has been pointed out by many is an unfortunate name for this point. The name is certainly misleading in terms of what is meant by it. It in no way means that the power of Christ’s sacrifice is limited in its power to forgive sins. Christ’s sacrifice is certainly sufficient for all of our sins, and we reject the notion that we need to add anything to His atonement. What is meant by this phrase is that God was particular in who this redemption was accomplished for. And so it has also been called particular atonement. In this it is meant that it is limited in its intent, but not in its power. Another way of approaching this topic is by stressing that Christ affected an actual atonement, not a provisional one. That when He died He actually paid for the sins of His elect, making the salvation of His elect certain not merely provisional/potential/possible. So we can speak of an actual atonement not merely a theoretical one. The point being that Christ actually accomplished something in His death, not merely opening the door for potential salvation. The opposite view espoused by the Arminians would be universal redemption as opposed to particular redemption; or provisional redemption as opposed to actual redemption.
Of all the five points of Calvinism that has been the toughest to swallow, but you will see that it is believed by Reformed believers not because they enjoy philosophical speculation, or deliberately upsetting other Christians. It is because the teaching is profoundly biblical. We will set forth the teaching positively, and then we will seek to engage some of the criticisms. Might I say that all concerns will not be addressed in this lecture, but many relevant aspects will be dealt with in the next 2 chapters as well.