Particular Redemption

by Michael Bremmer

Michael Bremmer
"Worthy are Thou to take the book, and to break the seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5.9).

Two opinions are generally given regarding the extent of Christ's atonement. One is that Christ's atonement was unlimited--He died for all. He did not die for any particular group or person, but died to make salvation possible for all people. This is the opinion customarily held by Arminians.

Calvinists, on the other hand, believe Christ's death is sufficient for all, but efficacious for only those whom the Father has given to Christ, the elect (1). Christ died not to make salvation possible, but to make salvation sure for the elect. The Westminster Confession of Faith reads: "As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only" (2). The Puritan John Owen writes: "The death and blood shedding of Jesus Christ hath wrought, and doth effectually procure, for all those that are concerned in it, eternal redemption, consisting in grace here and glory hereafter" (3). In other words, Jesus Christ died for, and redeemed only, the elect. This is what Calvinists mean by limited atonement or particular redemption. I favor the phrase particular redemption over limited atonement since it accurately describes the doctrine Calvinists believe.

Having said this, some may be surprised at how much these two antithetical views agree: Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that Christ's atonement is sufficient for all. Christ's death is sufficient to atone for the whole race of fallen Adam, whatever may be the number. A. A. Hodge, a staunch Calvinist, explains: "The Lord Jesus, in order to secure the salvation of His people, and with a specific view to that end, fulfilled the conditions of the law or covenant of works under which they and all mankind were placed. These conditions were (a) perfect obedience, (b) satisfaction to divine justice. Christ's righteousness, therefore, consists of his obedience and death. That righteousness is precisely what the law demands of every sinner in order to justification before God. It is, therefore, in its nature adapted to all sinners who are under that law. Its nature is not altered by the fact that it was wrought out for a portion only of such sinner, or that it is secured to them by the covenant between Father and Son. What is necessary for salvation of one man is necessary for the salvation of another and all. It is of infinite worth, being the righteousness of the eternal Son of God, and therefore sufficient for all" (4). The Council of Dort, while condemning Arminianism, said: "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world" (2.3).

Perhaps this illustration will help. A loving father, seeing his family in peril aboard a sinking vessel, takes a boat out to sea to rescue them. Although the boat is large enough to rescue all aboard the sinking vessel, the father's intention is only to save His family. Yet he is not without compassion for the others, so he offers all safe return to the shore. Failing, however, to recognize their peril, they refuse his offer, so he takes only His family to safety. This illustration is similar to the Calvinist view that Christ's death is sufficient for all, but effective for the elect alone (5). While the atonement is sufficient to save all, the atonement is NOT efficaciously applied to all; This Arminians and Calvinists must both agree, for if God efficaciously applied the atonement to all equally, then all are saved. Yet the Scriptures clearly teach, and experience confirms that all are not saved.

Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that God offers the gospel to all. Since the death of Christ is sufficient for all, no contradiction exists between particular redemption and the free offer of the gospel, or even with the command to evangelize the world. God's plan for calling His elect out of the world is through preaching the gospel to all.

Both sides would also agree that the elect and non-elect both receive benefits from the atonement made by Jesus Christ. John Murray writes: "Since all benefits and blessings are within the realm of Christ's dominion and since this dominion rests upon his finished work of atonement, the benefits innumerable which are enjoyed by all men indiscriminately are related to the death of Christ and must be said to accrue from it in one way or another. If they thus flow from the death of Christ they were intended thus to flow" (6).

We say all this to emphasize that the actual point of disagreement is the design of Christ's substitutionary death. This is, as far as the question of the extent of the atonement is involved, the source of controversy. True Calvinists hold that the design and purpose of Christ's death are the redemption of the elect alone. In other words, the intent of the atonement is identical with its extent. A. A. Hodge says: "The design of Christ dying was to effect what he actually does effect in the result. 1st. Incidentally, to remove the legal impediments out of the way of all men, and render the salvation of every hearer of the gospel objectively possible, so that each one has a right to appropriate it at will, to impetrate temporal blessings for all, and the means of grace for all to whom they providentially supplied. But, 2nd., Specifically his design was to impetrate the actual salvation of his own people, in all means, conditions, and stages of it, and render it infallibly certain. This last, from the nature of the case, must have been his real motive.' " (7).

These are the two positions. Either Christ died for all men equally, securing salvation for no one in particular, but only making salvation possible for all equally, or Christ died savingly for those whom the Father gave to Him--the elect. One is historically Arminian, the other is historically Calvinistic. It is the purpose of this article to prove the Scriptural basis for the Calvinistic position of particular redemption.

The best way to begin to understand the extent of the atonement is to first understand the nature of the atonement. For example, if one's view of the extent of the atonement exceeds that of it nature, then the view is wrong. For instance, all agree that the atonement does not avail equally for angels and people, because the nature of the atonement does not avail for angels. Likewise, if one's view of the extent of the atonement excludes that which the nature of the atonement includes, then the view is wrong. For example, if one says that the extent of the atonement includes all by making salvation only a possibility for all, but the nature of the atonement includes the actual redemption of some, then we must reject this view. The nature of the atonement, then, is the best gage of its extent.


The atonement includes four elements of the work of Christ. His death was, (a) a substitution, (b) a propitiation, (c) a redemption, and (d) a reconciliation. We will examine each of these elements of the atonement.


"By His stripes we are healed" Isa. 53.

Substitutionary atonement, also called by some writers vicarious atonement, is the work of Christ in which He freely and graciously took the place of His people and bore the punishment of their sins: "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt. 20.28). The word "for" is the Greek word anti, and is used almost exclusively in the sense of "instead," or, "in the place of." The word is used "in order to indicate that one person or thing is or is to be replaced by another, instead of, in place of" (8). Our Lord says that His mission in the incarnation was not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life in place of the many. Either Christ accomplished this or He did not. If He did then Christ atones for the sin of the many, if not, He atoned for no one. Likewise, if He atoned for the many, then He did not atone for all.

However, in most other Scripture passages expressing the substitutionary element of the atonement, the Greek word translated "for" is huper and normally carries the meaning "on behalf of, or, on the account of." However, as the DNTT notes, "The emphasis in huper is on representation, in anti on substitution; yet a substitute represents and a representative may be a substitute. That is, huper sometimes implies anti" (9). Since we know that our Lord understood His death as substitutionary, and since huper can mean substitution, then when huper is used to represent the relationship between Jesus' death and the sinner, the meaning must be substitutionary. For example, "For Christ also died for sin once for all, the just for (huper) the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Pet. 3.18). Obviously, "for" means "in place of." Another example is 2 Cor. 5.14, "For the love of God controls us, having concluded this, that one died for (huper) all, therefore all died." The only possible meaning of huper in this context is "in place of" since the result of Christ's death is "all died."

Is this theological quibbling of the meaning over a word necessary? Indeed it is, for Jesus did not merely die on our behalf, which is true, but He died in our place. The difference is significant. It is not merely that Christ's death has the potential of atoning for sin, but His death has, for all of God's elect, atoned for sin. As surety for His people, He stood in our place, taking in our stead the punishment for our sins.

Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding surety's hand
And than again at mine.


"Being justified as a gift by grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith' (Rom. 3.24-25) .

To propitiate means to placate, pacify, appease, conciliate. Propitiation means Christ has, through His sacrifice, satisfied all of God's demands, making expiation for sin, and propitiating God's holy wrath. Christ's death did not potentially appease God's wrath, it did -- for all those the Father has given to the Son. If Christ propitiated the sins of everyone, then God's wrath has been propitiated for all. Yet Romans 1.18 clearly states that this is not true: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

Complete atonement Thou has made,
And to the utmost Thou has paid,

Whate'er Thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place,

If sheltered in Thy righteousness
And sprinkled with Thy blood? -- Toplady


The biblical idea of redemption means to set free by the payment of a price. Redemption presupposes that someone or something is in bondage. In the atonement, Jesus Christ, by His blood, purchased God's elect and secured for them release from the bondage of sin, Satan, and the curse of the law. "The language of redemption is that of securing release by the payment of a price, and it is this concept that is applied expressly to the laying down of Jesus' life and the shedding of His blood. Jesus shed His blood in order to pay the price of our ransom. Redemption cannot be reduced to lower terms" (11).

The Greek uses several words to describe redemption. One is agorazo, and means to buy or purchase. For example, in Rev. 5.9: "Worthy art thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou was slain and didst purchased for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." When agorazo is used in 1 Cor. 6.20, 7.23, and 2 Pet. 2.1, the meaning is clearly redemption through the atonement of Christ. It is deliverance by purchase. Another word is exagorazo and is "From ex . . . out or from and agorazo, to buy. To buy or redeem from as applied to our redemption by Christ from the curse of the Law" (12). The word Lutron, along with its word group, however, is the most significant for understanding the NT idea of redemption. B. B. Warfield noted that: "In the group of words built up around [lutron] the Greek language offered to New Testament a series of terms which distinctly said ransom'; and just in proportion as we think of the writers of the New Testament as using Greek naturally we must think of them as feeling the intrinsic significance of these words as they used them, and as using them only when they intended to give expression to this their intrinsic significance. It is safe to say that no Greek, to the manner born, could write down any word, the center of which was [lutron], without consciousness of ransoming as the mode of deliverance of which he was speaking" (13).

In ancient times, the victor in battle would take as many survivors as possible for slaves. Afterward, they notified the conquered enemy of the capture of the more important prisoners so that the enemy could redeem or purchase them back from captivity. This is one way many would understand the words ransom and redemption. A more prominent image, however, that lutron would bring to the mind of the NT person is Sacral Manumission. According to ancient law, a slave can free himself by paying a ransom price in a rite of sacral manumissions. Deissmann describes the process: "Among the various ways in which the manumission of a slave could take place by ancient law we find the solemn rite of fictitious purchase of the slave by some divinity. The owner comes with the slave to the temple, sells him there to the god, and receives the purchase money from the temple treasury, the slave having previously paid it there out of his savings. The slave is now property of the god; not however, a slave of the temple, but a protégé of the god. Against all the world, especially his former master, he is a completely free man; at utmost a few pious obligations to his old master are imposed on him" (14).

Morris cites this inscription:

"Chaeremon to the agoranomus, greeting. Grant freedom to Euphrosyne, a slave, age 35 years, born in her owner's house of the slave Demetrous. She is being set at liberty under . . . by ransom [(epi lutrois)] by her mistress Aloine, daughter of Komon, son of Dionysius of Oxyrhyncus, under the wardship of Komon, the son of Aloine's deceased brother Dioscortus. Aloine's deceased brother Dioscorus. The price is 10 drachmae of coined silver and 10 talents, 3,000 drachame of copper. Farewell" (15).

The meaning of redemption is clearly that of buying back a person or thing that was in bondage through a ransom price. The idea is not unlike our present day pawn shops. In NT thought, Jesus Christ, through His substitutionary death on the cross, buys back His people out of bondage--His blood is the payment of that price. Are all people set free? The only people set free are those whom the price has been paid. Arguing that the ransom applies only on the condition of faith is useless since faith is a gift from God (16). Yet, all do not have faith since all evidently do not believe. So then, does God apply Christ sacrifice to all, equally, yet deny many the gift of faith to appropriate this sacrifice?

Furthermore, The only condition made between the one receiving the ransom and the one paying the ransom is the ransom price. One may enter negotiations for another, yet the condition remains the same: the payment price. Suppose for instance, a friend pays your electric bill. The bill is paid and the debt is canceled, and you are grateful for the kindness of your friend. Suppose for a moment, however, that having paid the debt he informs you that the gift is yours if only you will meet a certain condition. If this condition is not too difficult perhaps you will agree. But what if you refuse to meet the condition? Is your electric bill not still paid? Will the Electric Co. Come and disconnect your service because you do not pay the canceled debt? In other words, the ransom made by Christ is not potential. It is not a possibility. It is a fact. Christ paid the ransom price. The extent of the atonement, therefore, is limited to those who are set free by the ransom price. Paul writes, "For you have been bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6.20). Paul says we are bought through the death of Christ. Luke echoes the same point: "The Church of God, which He bought with His blood" (Acts 20.28). Nevertheless, Arminians sometimes argue that since Christ died equally for all, then He naturally died for the church. However, if Christ atoned for everyone (including the Church) than all in the Church must also certainly be saved which they are not.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed Church of God Be saved to sin no more. -- Cowper


Reconciliation is another biblical image defining the nature of the atonement. The Scriptures clearly demonstrate that through the death of Christ we are reconciled to God (17). Have all people been reconciled to God? Of course not! Why? Because the reconciliation accomplished at the cross is applied to only those for whom the ransom price was paid -- God's elect.

John Owen, in Life by His Death, an abridgment the classic, Death of Death, concludes that: "If the death of Christ actually obtains redemption, cleansing, purification, bearing away sins, reconciliation, eternal life, and citizenship in a kingdom, then He must have died only for those who do get those things. It is not true that all men have those things, as is very clear! The salvation of all men therefore cannot have been the purpose of the death of Christ" (18).

He goes on to say: "Christ then, by His death, purchased, for all whom he died, all those things which the Bible says were the effects of His death. The value of His death purchased deliverance from the power of sin and God's wrath, from death and the power of the devil, from the curse of the law and the guilt of sin. The value of His death obtained reconciliation with God, peace, and eternal redemption. These things are now God's free gifts, because Christ purchased them. If Christ died for all men, then why do not all men have these things? Is the value of His death not enough? Is God unjust, not to give us what Christ bought for us? It must be immediately obvious that Christ cannot have died to purchase these things for all men, but only for those who actually enjoy them" (19).

The atonement, (a) accomplishes the redemption of all of God's elect (Heb. 9.12-24). By it God's elect are forgiven (Eph. 1.7), reconciled (Col. 1.21-22), justified (Rom. 3.24), adopted (Gal. 4.4-5) and given eternal life. (b) The atonement gives a time of grace for all to repent, and gives temporal blessings to all. (c) The atonement made objectively possible the salvation of the human race, and is the basis for a sincere offer of salvation. (d) The atonement is the basis for the just condemnation and eternal punishment for all who reject the gospel. (e) The atonement reveals God's glory, mercy, truth, and justice. The question is, Who are the SAVING benefits given to other then the elect of God? The answer to this question establishes the extent of the atonement in relation to its redemptive benefits. If Jesus came to this earth and with His own blood redeemed people who nevertheless perish, then the very nature of the atonement must be altered. The atonement now must be a satisfaction that does not satisfy, a redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate, a reconciliation that does not reconcile. Those who universalize the extent of the atonement by saying Christ died for all, also limits its efficacy. In other words, it is the Arminian notion that limits the atonement -- not the Calvinist!


God has ordained or decreed, by an act of His sovereign will, all that comes to pass, and apart from His knowledge, purpose, and predetermined plan, nothing will come to pass. The scriptures declare that "God works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph.1.11). The Scriptures do not say God ordains some things, or only the good things, much less do they say only those things that man's free will allows, rather the Scripture declares that God ordains ALL things (20). And God does whatever He has purposed to do, and none can thwart His purpose: "But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitance of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, What hast Thou done?'"(Dan. 4.35). Since the Scriptures teach that God works all things after the counsel of His will, and since all are not saved, we can rightly deduce that God did not intend for Christ's death to save all people. Salvation is through the atonement of Christ, and since all are not saved we must conclude that the design and purpose of the atonement are the salvation of those who actually receive its benefits. God's purpose in the atonement is exactly its effect, the salvation of God's elect.


"The Scriptures tell us that those who are to be saved in Christ are a number definitely elected and given to Him from eternity, to be redeemed by His mediation. How can anything be planer from this than that there was a purpose in God's atonement, as to them, other than that it had as to the rest of mankind?" (21).


Jesus declared that He came to this earth to accomplish the will of the Father (Jn. 6.38). The will of the Father was "that all that He has given Me I lose nothing. The primary mission, then, of the glorious incarnation was to secure a people. To this end was His goal. In His life, death, and resurrection He eternally secured multitudes of people the Father gave to Him. But "If the Lord Jesus has decreed, desired, purposed the salvation of all mankind, then the entire human race will be saved, or, otherwise, He lacks the power to make good His intentions" (22).


John Owen points out in His classic work, The Death of Death, that only three positions are possible regarding the extent of the atonement: (a) Jesus died for the sins of all people, (b) Jesus died for all the sins of some people, (c) Jesus died for some sins of all people. Now, if position c is correct, then all are still in their sins. If position a is correct, then why are all not saved? If the answer is because of unbelief, we ask: Is not unbelief a sin for which Christ died to atone (Jn.17.9)? If Christ died for the sin of unbelief for all people, then why are people punished for the sin of unbelief? The only consistent position is b, for it satisfies both reason and experience.

If Christ died to make salvation possible for all people, a salvation contingent on faith, and a faith that comes from the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10), then why do not all hear the gospel? We have an all wise God who supposedly desires the salvation of all people, yet He providentially sets some people -- the very ones He desires to saved -- in a time and place that ensures they never hear the gospel. Owen goes on to explain that if God by the atonement of His beloved Son, purposes all to be saved and yet some do not hear the gospel, which is absolutely necessary for salvation, then one of two things must also be true. Either salvation is possible apart from faith, or God cannot bring to pass that which he has purposed from all eternity to do. We must reject both conclusions. The only Biblical solution is the doctrine of Particular Redemption. If God's purpose and design of Christ's death is the salvation of all people, without exception, then one must either question God's wisdom in the use of the means for which He intends to accomplish this purpose, or question His power and skill to use appropriate means.

The argument offered against Calvinists is that if those who never hear the gospel live up to the light that is given to them, then God will save them. Several problems exist with this view. First, by living up to the light within can only mean doing what we know we ought to do. If we do this, according to this view, God will save us. Yet this is salvation by works, something which the Bible rejects throughout. Secondly, the Bible does not support this view, and in fact states clearly that salvation is only through Jesus Christ and faith in Him. Finally, if God purposed to save all, then why does the Gospel of John states: "For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts; lest they see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them" (Jn. 12.39-40)?


Those who object to particular redemption point to such texts as 1 Tm. 2.4, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" and then smugly point out that "all" means just what it says, ALL. If the Calvinist differs with their interpretation of "all" they are quickly accused of corrupting the "obvious" meaning of the text.

However, in Scripture "all" often does not mean all universally. In other words, all does not always mean all. For example, in 1 Tm. 6.10 we read: "For the love of money is the root of all evil" (KJV), yet common sense tells us the love of money is not the root of ALL evil. All, in this instance, cannot mean all universally. The NASV recognizes this when it translates the verse: "For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil." Another example is 1 Cor. 6.12 where the apostle Paul writes: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable." Obviously, one cannot take all in the universal sense. Paul probably means all things lawful, are lawful for him. In Rom. 5.18 Paul writes: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." By Adams sin, Paul says, all are condemned. However, are all justified by Christ's one act of righteousness? Unless one adopts a universal salvation view, the word "all" in the phrase, "justification of life to all men" must be limited. In Acts 22.15 we read: "For you shall be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard." Did God literally mean Paul was to witness to "all" men? No. Clearly Paul was to be a witness to all kinds of men, which he was. There are examples also with the word "world." In Rom. 11.12 Paul writes: "Now if their transgression be the riches of the world and their failure be the riches for the Gentiles, how much more will be their fulfillment." World, in this context, cannot mean everyone since it does not refer to the Jews. One is forced by the context to limit the word "world" to mean Gentiles. In 2 Cor. 5.19 Paul writes: "God was in Christ reconciliating the world." God, however, is not reconciling everyone whoever lived, therefore, "world" must be limited. Paul himself limits it in the second half of the verse: "Not counting their trespasses against them." These are the "world" God is reconciling to Himself.

Since Scripture often reduces or limits universal terms, Calvinists are not tempering Scripture when we reduce these terms in certain Arminian proof texts. Given the biblical data for particular redemption, we only apply the hermeneutical principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture when we limit these terms. Otherwise, we are forced to believe that God speaks out of both sides of His mouth.

Furthermore, Arminians also reduce universal terms. For example Paul says in Ephesians that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." Is the Arminian prepared to say that God works ALL things after the counsel of His will? I doubt it. Calvinists generally understand 1 Tm. 2.4 to mean all kinds of people, much in the same manner as 1 Tm. 6.10: "The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil." The sense here, as the NAS translates, is "all sorts of." In 1 Tm. 2.4 and 6 "all" is used in the sense of all kinds of people, Jew, Greek, barbarian, women, etc. It cannot mean every person whoever lived. The context of the passage will not support this view. Surely Paul is not saying that Christians should pray for every person, but for all kinds of, all classes of people. However, lest I am accused of allowing my Calvinistic view to color my interpretation - which of course it does, but no less than the Arminian his -- I shall cite the following comment on 1Tm. 2.1-2 :

"Have we gone to our knees and buried our faces in our hands and wept before God for all men? - for the mighty and the lowly, the rich and the poor, the well fed and the hungry, the wicked and the "good," the responsible and the lawless, men in the Kremlin and men in the White House, the black, the white, the red, the yellow . . . all men (The ellipsis is the author's). When once we truly have prayed for all men, . . . we may understand something more of the mercies of "God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" (1 Tm. 2.4)."

These are not John Calvin's words, although I do not believe he would disagree with them. These are the words of Robert Shank from his book, Elect in the Son , P.91. Shank, in case some are unaware, is a staunch and prolific Arminian writer.

In 1 Jn. 2.2 we read: "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." This verse is a favorite for Arminians and for them settles the matter. Christ atones for the sins of all! But did He? Then either all will be saved, or His atonement was not real, or it is ineffectual -- since not all the world is saved. If the atonement is only potentially, then it is not a real atonement. In other words, Calvinists do not limit the atonement -- Arminians do. For if Christ's death has infinite value and universal extension, meaning, Christ died for all equally, then there must be universal salvation. Arminians, moreover, are forced to limit the value of Christ's death to only making salvation a possibility. One must either limit the words redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation, or limit the words "world" and "all" if we are to avoid the error of universal salvation. Regarding 1 Jn. 2.2, Calvinists limit the word "world." The word "world" means Gentiles, "And He Himself is the propitiation for ours sins; and not only our (Jews) sins, but also for those of the whole world (Gentiles)."

Lift we, then our voices, swell the mighty flood,
Louder still and louder, praise the precious blood!


"For the Son of Man is come to seek and save that which is lost" (Lk. 19.10). Note that Jesus did not come to make salvation possible, but to save.

"Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deed" (Ti. 2.14).

"But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . For if while we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5.8, 10). "We," according to verse one are believers. Note also that the death of Christ does not make reconciliation possible, but reconciles. This is due to the efficacious nature of the atonement.

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5.21). It is apparent that "we," those who become the righteousness of God, are believers. Clearly, the effect produced by what Christ did is that "we" are the righteousness of God. The design or purpose, then, is that believers become the righteousness of God. In other words, the effect is produce because of the intent, or purpose that God design by the atonement. This fact is clear from the beginning of this verse, "to be sin on OUR behalf." This is the intent. The result is "we" become the righteousness of God. If God's intent was that all humanity might become the righteousness of God, then Jesus would have died not on our behalf, but on behalf of all.

"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of the Father" (Gal. 1.4).

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for US--for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs from a tree-' " (Gal. 3.13).

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1.7). If Christ's blood was shed for all, equally, then all, according to this verse, must be forgiven. If some argue that only when we are united to Christ through faith that this forgiveness becomes actual, I would point out that the Scriptures state in no uncertain words that our union with Christ is all the work of God: "But by HIS doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to US wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1.30). If the purpose of Christ's death was to save all people, and if forgiveness through the atonement becomes actual through our union with Christ, and if this union to Christ can only be accomplished by God, then God did not purpose to redeem all, or God purposed one thing, but accomplishes another--in other words, God failed.

"Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph. 5.25). How effective is Paul's admonishment if Christ gave His life for all equally? Paul's admonishment is effective because he clearly had in mind particular redemption--not universalism.

"Worthy are thou to take the book, and to break its seal; for tho wast slain, and didst purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5.9). Note that Christ's death did actually purchase a people for God. The Scripture does not say Christ's blood purchased all men, but all sorts of men.

"That He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of My people to who the stroke was due?" (Isa. 53.8b).

"My Servant will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53.11b). Note that it does not say to make justification possible for all, but that Christ, through the atonement, will justify the many. And if "the many" means all people, then all are justified and therefore saved.

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him" (1Thess. 5.9-10).

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep . . . But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (Jn. 10.11, 27-28). From John 6 it is clear that God gave to His Son a people, and for them Christ lays down His life. Note carefully that Christ gave His life for HIS SHEEP, yet He plainly tells us that all are not His Sheep. Particular redemption could not be more clearly stated.

"Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20.28).

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10.45).

"For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people" (Lk. 1.68).

"For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mt. 26.28).

"For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that these who are called may receive the eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from under the first covenant" (Heb. 9.15 NRSV).

"So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him" (Heb. 9.28). Many cannot possible mean all since clearly all have not their sins taken away. Some have tried to argue that Christ has indeed taken the sins of all away and the only thing that will determine the destiny of people is their belief or unbelief. Yet, unbelief is as much of a sin as any other that Christ died for, and if He died for the sin of unbelief for all, then all are saved. Since all are not saved, Christ did not died for all.

"He has been manifested to put sin away by sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9.29) The only obstacle between God and man is sin. If Christ's death put sin away, and if the sacrifice availed to all equally, to the elect as well as to the non-elect, then surely all are saved. Yet Scripture clearly affirms that all are not saved. For example, Jesus told the Pharisees that they will die in their sins. If Jesus put away the sins of the whole world, then His statement found in Jn. 8.21 can not be true.


  • 1 Jn. 6.37
  • 2 WCF 3.6
  • 3 Death of Death, P.47
  • 4 Outlines of Theology, P. 419-20
  • 5 The illustration comes from C. Hodge
  • 6 Redemption Accomplished and Applied, P. 61-62
  • 7 Outlines of Theology, P. 417
  • 8 A & G, P. 73
  • 9 3.1197
  • 11 Murray, The Atonement, P. 21 (Pamphlet)
  • 12 WSD
  • 13 Biblical Doctrines, P. 340-341
  • 14 Light Form the Ancient East, P. 322
  • 15 The Oxyrhyncus Papyri, cited by Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, P. 13
  • 16 Eph. 2.8; Phil. 1.29; 1 Cor. 4.7
  • 17 Rom. 5.10; Col.1.22
  • 18 P.20
  • 19 P.44
  • 20 See also: Job 42.2; Ps. 135.6; Isa. 46.9-10; Dan. 4.35; Prov. 19.21; Lam. 3.37
  • 21 Dabney, Systematic Theology, P. 521
  • 22 Pink, The Sovereignty of God, P. 62.
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