The Atonement: Universal or Particular (Limited)?

Also posted at Exploring Theology.


This is one of the “hot button” issues in the debate between reformed and non-reformed believers.

Reformed (Calvinistic) brothers believe in a particular (or limited) atonement. They say Jesus died on the cross to save only the Elect.  That He accomplished His intended task which was to save the Elect.  They cite verses like Matthew 1:21 to make this point.  It says “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [emphasis added] This position says that only the Elect will have the opportunity to be saved and that all the Elect will be saved because this was the intention from the beginning.

Non-reformed (Arminian) brothers believe in a universal atonement.  They say that Jesus died for every and all men but that the atonement is only effectual on those who knowingly and willingly accept it.  This position basically says that everybody will have an opportunity to accept the call to salvation but only some will do so.  They cite verses like John 3:16 to make this point.  It says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [emphasis added]  This position says that people must agree to accept the gift of the atonement before it is applied to them.  Basically it says that Jesus died only to make salvation possible for all people.

This was a very brief description of the two alternatives.  Much longer posts could be written about both positions but that is not my purpose here.  I have a simple purpose:  to get you to share what your position you hold and why.  So here is the question:  DID JESUS DIE TO SAVE HIS PEOPLE OR TO MAKE SALVATION POSSIBLE FOR ALL PEOPLE?  DO YOU BELIEVE IN UNIVERSAL OR PARTICULAR ATONEMENT?  WHY?  PLEASE GIVE YOUR REASONS (WHATEVER THEY MAY BE).


6 Responses to The Atonement: Universal or Particular (Limited)?

  1. josh says:

    I think John 6 really leaves no argument. Jesus died for those the Father has given Him. If the Father gave the Son all mankind, the Son would loose none of them, and we would have universal salvation. Something scripture clearly does not teach. Plus, in John 17, Jesus says that he does not pray for the world, but those the Father has given to Him.


  2. calvinandcalvinism says:

    Hey there,

    You say on the other post:

    “At times like this I wish I was better read in the writings of the historical figures.”

    If you wish, check this out:
    Classic and Moderate Forms of “Calvinism” Documented Thus Far

    What Daniel says is spot on according to my research.



  3. calvinandcalvinism says:

    Can I ask why only two alternatives?

    You say:


    Why not both? I am serious here. Christ died to make the salvation of all men legally possible, and he also died especially for his elect, to effectually secure their salvation?

    This actually was the position of a lot of Reformed folk in the 15th and 16th centuries.



  4. Seth McBee says:

    I would agree with David here.

    Especially when reading Luther, Edwards, etc. They spoke of both happening.

    Christ died for all men, and yet especially for the elect.


  5. Kathy Hoglund says:

    This is a futile discussion because our knowledge of God and his purposes are GREATLY limited. Believers live for the purpose of bringing glory to God by lifting up Christ for all to see so He may draw all to Him. We do not know whom God has “chosen” or who will “choose” God because only God knows the heart, all we see is what a person is willing to show us. God does not have that limitation. We must present the gospel as though everyone may at some point be part of the harvest of the redeemed. However, it is egocentric for us to believe that we somehow control God by our behavior or our choices. God knew from the beginning whom he would “choose” and who would “choose” Him. He also knew from the beginning those to be condemned, ie Judas. Did Jesus love Judas and die for him? I say yes because of His BOUNDLESS mercy even with the foreknowledge he was rejected by Judas. Our evangelism must assume that everyone we meet has the opportunity for salvation and that Christ died for them (Arminianism). We must also realize that God knows His sheep, they hear his voice and MUST follow Him (Calvinism). It is a great comfort and blessing to know God is in complete control of time, space, light, life, etc and that in His infinite mercy “chose” to love me and relate to such an insignificant steward of His creation. My question is why do we fail in presenting to others so great a salvation? Could it be we are spending all our time in our comfort zone discussing who will and wont be saved instead of getting out there and presenting this incomparable salvation message and having the faith that God can handle the rest?


  6. Excellent manner of looking at the issue David. If we look carefully at the scriptures we will find attestation to universal atonement – (1 Tim 2:5-6) “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all men.” (Also Heb 2:9) We read also of the atonement being efficacious in particular for those in the elect. We don’t want to get off topic but we need to go one step further and determine what it means to be elect.


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