There are about a zillion different terms used to describe this doctrine. "Limited atonement" is probably the most widely known and most hated, as well. Another common one is "particular redemption". So why throw another name into the mix? Well, I was thinking about this last night. I think this is one of the simplest ways to show what the doctrine teaches. It describes a definite or defined redemption. That is, according to us who believe this doctrine, the Bible teaches that God has defined the atonement from before the beginning of time -ie., the group for which the atonement is intended to redeem is pre-defined. Some people really don't like that idea. They want everything to be open for our "free-will" so that we can be the ones making the final decisions. In the end, we determine if God's plan will succeed or fail, so we think.
But that is not what the Bible describes. Check out these very clear examples. I will break this up into three headings and examine only two passages of Scripture. Take a look at the uniformity of teaching presented by Jesus in these two settings.
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
45 "It is written in the
prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.
26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one
will snatch them out of My hand.
(for the full effect, check out these chapters in their entirety. I quoted these verses for the sake of brevity).
Here's what we have:
I. A Definite People
In both of these there is a pre-defined people. In John 6, they are the ones the Father has given to the Son. They are the only ones who will come to the Son (v.44-45). In John 10 we have the sheep. Notice that believing in Christ, hearing His voice and following Him, is characteristic of the sheep. They do not make one a sheep. In fact, the reason Jesus gives for the unbelief of those speaking with Him is that they are not of His sheep! Again, believing does not define sheep-hood. Sheep-hood defines those who will enter the gate, believe, follow the Shepherd.
II. A Definite Plan
In John 6 the plan is clear. Jesus was given a group by the Father, the Father draws them, they will come to the Son, and Jesus will not lose a single one of them. They will all be "raised up on the last day". This is echoed almost exactly in John 10. The sheep will hear and recognize His voice, they will follow, and He gives them eternal life. They will never perish. No one shall pluck them out of His hand. He won't lose a single sheep. This is language of purpose and certainty. Notice also that there are sheep who have not yet heard His voice. This mirrors John 6 where we are told that those give to Him will come to Him. The obvious implication is that there are many belonging to this group who have not heard from Him yet. They have not heard, have not recognized His voice, and have not believed. Yet they will hear and will believe. Amazing.
III. Definite Results
Lest we should doubt the words of our Lord, who has said quite clearly that these things will take place and that the sheep shall never perish -the very same ones for whom He explicitly says He lays down His life for- there must be evidence in the Bible that shows that His death has actually accomplished this, right? Yup. Here are just a few.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
[comment: He purchased with His blood (past tense) men from all over... not every individual, but from all races of men]
Acts 20:28 "Be on 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.
[comment: God (Jesus) purchased with His own blood the church of God. This is, again, past tense completed action. The church here is referring to the true church -all who do believe and will believe in Christ throughout the ages.]
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"--