The Error of Limited Atonement

Next to Martin Luther, John Calvin is probably the most revered and influential Protestant theologian. The famous TULIP acronym is based on his teaching. Below is a definition of TULIP with an explanation that most Calvinists accept.

T = Total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be; it means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.
U = Unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.
L = Limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.
I = Irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.
P = Perseverence of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.

This blog deals only with the false teaching of limited atonement, the “L” in TULIP. Limited atonement says that Christ died only for those who would eventually be saved and not for those who would eventually be lost.

The vast majority of the error being taught today (and historically) is related to the Mosaic Law being reintroduced into the Gospel message. So, an explanation of the Law is necessary to understand why the teaching of limited atonement is so utterly false.

The first thing that Jesus accomplished while here on this earth was to live under the Mosaic Law perfectly. No one had ever been able to do this before. By fulfilling the Law, Jesus ended the Old Covenant (based on what man could do) and introduced the New Covenant (based on what God can do). Jesus, Himself, is the New Covenant in that both righteousness and righteous living now come through Jesus Christ, not any attempts to follow the Law.

The Bible teaches that the Law, although holy, bought only death and condemnation.

2 Corinthians 3: 7-9 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, [8] how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? [9] For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.

In fact, the power of sin is in the Law; the Law causes sin to increase, not decrease.

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

Romans 5:20a The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; …

So, how does this relate to the subject at hand. It is because of the error of limited atonement does not recognize that there is more to salvation than the forgiveness of sins. This was a case of human reasoning trying to resolve a perceived contradiction, “If all people are not saved, then it must be true that all people are not forgiven.”

The fact is that God forgave and forgot all sins of all people for all time on the Cross of Jesus Christ. The issue of forgiveness was fully resolved 2,000 years ago. All are forgiven but not all are saved because salvation is more than forgiveness. The forgiven person is still a sinner. Only when God transforms the forgiven sinner into a righteous saint are they saved.

Here is the key to understanding. One single sin was not forgiven on the Cross – the eternal and unforgivable sin of unbelief. Contrary to the popular belief, the Holy Spirit is NOT convicting believers of their sin; the Holy Spirit is convicting the world of its unbelief.

John 16:8-9 And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;

Only when you turn from unbelief to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior does God remove your old sinful spirit and replace it with a brand new, clean heart filled with His Holy Spirit. You are made righteous because the Righteous One lives in you; and, you possess eternal life because Eternal Life now lives in your born again heart.

A new, righteous heart is what saves you. This is why the doctrine of limited atonement diminishes the Cross of Jesus Christ. The true Gospel message is simple: God loves you so much that He forgave all of your sins through Cross of Christ; and, He will give you a new heart when you turn from unbelief to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

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These additional verses will help you understand this blog:
All Sins Forgiven: Mark 3: 28; John 1:29; Acts 13:38; Romans 5:10a; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:20; Colossians 2:13; Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 9:22,26; Hebrews 10:12,17,18; Hebrew 2:9; Hebrews 7:27; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:2,12.
Believers Receive a New, Clean Heart: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:25; John 3:3,7; Acts 11:9; Romans 6:1-2,6,7,11,14,17-18,22; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 5:24; Titus 3:5; 1 John 1:9b; 1 Peter 2:24a.
God Makes Believers Righteous in Their Born Again Heart: Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 5:17,19; Romans 6:18; Romans 8:10b; 1 Corinthians 6:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 4:24; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:9.

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