Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for
Perseverance of the Saints
In our last article, we considered the doctrine of “Unconditional Election”. By this biblical truth we learned that God chose His people out of Adam’s fallen race, not by any foreseen merit on their part, but simply because He loved them with an everlasting love. But something else must be done for them. Even though God loved them, and chose them, He must also cleanse them from their sins to make them fit subjects for heaven. This work is rightly expressed by our next term, “Limited Atonement”. The sins of the elect must be atoned for.
When we say that sin has been atoned, we mean that its damning power has been cancelled or removed. This work was carried out by Christ upon the cross. The sin of the elect was placed upon Him there. Jesus was the scapegoat, the substitute, and He bore our sins in His own body. This was His greatest pain. The thorny crown, the spikes in His hands and feet, were nothing compared to the pain of sin laid upon His spotless body. Every sinner should rejoice in the atonement of Christ.
When we use the word, “limited”, we are not saying that the atoning blood of Christ is limited in power. We mean that it is limited in application. Or to say it succinctly, the blood of Christ is limited to the elect! That is why this doctrine is also referred to as “particular redemption.” Christ died for a particular people referred to as the elect.
This truth is taught throughout the scriptures. The blood offered by the high priest on the Day of Atonement was for Israel alone. The Day of Atonement was first observed the night Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage, when they applied the blood upon their doorposts so the destroying angel would pass over them. That blood was also for Israel alone. But let’s hear it from another preacher. Jesus spoke of “Limited Atonement” as He prayed to His Father in heaven. His prayer resonates with the doctrines of Unconditional Election, and Limited Atonement. Listen to His words: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that they Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”(John 17:1,2). Jesus claims that He has power over all flesh. We must believe that He had power to give eternal life to all. Yet, it is also clear that Jesus is going to give eternal life only to those that were “given Him”. Words could not be plainer.
If there are any who still doubted His words, He continues in prayer in the same vein: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”(v9). Christ didn’t even pray for all of humanity, all the world. His prayer was limited, specific for those the Father gave Him to die for. When we read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotton Son”, we need to remember Jesus’ prayer. The world that Christ is referring to in John 3:16, is the world of God’s elect. The fact that they will believe in Him is the result of their election, not the cause of it. Belief is an evidence of eternal life, the result of God’s call, not the cause of it.
“Limited Atonement” is the only doctrine that makes sense, or that is reasonable. If Christ died for all of humanity, the sins of all of humanity must be atoned for because of the power of Christ’s blood. Then all of humanity would be fit subjects for heaven. We know this can not be true. We must believe one of three things: either Christ paid for all the sins of all people; or Christ paid for some of the sins of all people; or Christ paid for all of the sins of some people. Only the later can be true. That is why we believe in “Limited Atonement.”