“There are different types of Calvinists though. There are some who believe that Jesus didn’t die for all. I don’t take it that you’re one of those.” These words resounded in my ears. They came from the mouth of my old best friend, a thoroughly Charismatic Christian.
The acrostic TULIP is a well known summary of the “Doctrines of Grace.” The “T” stands for Total Depravity; the “U” for Unconditional Election; the “L” for Limited Atonement; the “I” for Irresistible Grace; and the “P” for Perseverance of the Saints. By far, the most controversial of these points is the “L,” the one hated the most, mainly by people who have a completely fallacious understanding of what Limited Atonement actually signifies and conveys. This is a review of why we believe that Jesus Christ came to “save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21b)
For this specifically short undertaking I will be taking safe haven in John 17. Most definitely one of the most amazing chapters in the entire Bible (if such a thing could be said). Right after having the most intimate moment with His disciples, teaching them about deep things concerning Himself (Jesus), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, Christ leads them into courage and faith. They have been told that the Shepherd shall be struck, and the sheep will scatter. The disciples were facing the darkest moment in the history of the universe, the betrayal and crucifixion of God the Son. When Jesus ends His teaching by graciously encouraging them in the midst of anguish, He lifts up His eyes and prays for them. This astonishing prayer is known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, for it is here where Christ’s role as our Intercessor is made patent.
Having awaited in God’s time schedule, Jesus makes it clear that “the hour has come” (17:2a) for the Son to be glorified. By His death on the cross, Christ would suffer the ultimate humiliation for His people and for the glory of God’s just demands. By this same death He would “draw all people unto Himself” (12:32b), all of God’s people scattered around the earth would be successfully drawn to their Savior. In verse 2 of chapter 17 we read “since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.” It suffices to mention that these words spoken by Christ are worthy of a lengthy book. Christ has been given authority by God the Father over all flesh. In eternity past, the eternally begotten Son of God shared in all the deity of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He had always held authority over all flesh. This authority is not only over animals, but over every single human being that has and ever will exist. Christ had authority over Hitler, over Nebuchadnezzar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Kim Jong-Un, and He always retains that authority.
The whole thrust of John 17 is not simply Christ’s power over the political arena or the military arena, it is power over salvation itself. The following words make that crystal clear, “since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.” Jesus has authority to dispense eternal life to whomever He pleases, more specifically, to all whom the Father has given Him. This same group of individuals are referred to in John 6:37a, “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me,” there is a definite group of people who have been singled out by God and handed over to Christ. They are the Father’s gift to the Son, and the Son would travail the darkest path in order to never reject His Father’s gift, “whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” (6:37b). How dare anyone think that Christ would lay aside and despise a gift from His blessed Father?
This eternal life, which is knowledge of the true God and of His eternal Son (17:3) is given by the Son to those whom the Father gave Him, and none can snatch any one of them from Their hands (John 10:27-28). This is as certain a promise as the reality of Christ’s crowning glory. Having glorified the Father on earth, Jesus Christ says something no creature would ever dare to whisper, “glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” This is the surety, the guarantee that every person who has been given by the Father to the Son will be glorified together with Son.
This is glory of Limited Atonement, which I have not even touched the surface of with the tip of my finger. Christ gave Himself for a specific people with a specific purpose. He will not be let down, “out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied,” Christ will not be frustrated because people wouldn’t “open the door to Him.” Hell will have no one for whom the blood of Christ was shed. God will not punish the same sins twice, on the cross and in hell. Unbelief is a sin, a sin for which Christ also atoned for, yet not for every single person in the world, otherwise all would be saved. We are left with three choices: (I) Christ paid some of the sins of all people. This option is as hopeless as any false religion out there, mainly, Roman Catholicism. (II) Christ paid for all the sins of all people. This begs the previous question, “why then, do some go to hell?” If this is the case–as 90%± of Evangelicals believe nowadays–did Christ somehow not atone for their unbelief and rejection? Do people need to add something to Christ’s atonement in order to make it valid? This leaves us with only one option. (III) Christ died for all the sins of some people. Who are these people?
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” John 17:9
Written by Paul Tkaczuk, @reformed.wretch