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Doctrine of Christ: The Atonement II

November 21, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: John 17

Scripture: John 17

Review/ Introduction

Today we are continuing our discussion on the Doctrine of the Atonement.

Last week we corrected some present-day prevalent errors related to:

  • ERROR: An incorrect emphasis/ understanding of election
  • ERROR: A belief that salvation can be found outside of Christ
    • Thus, the absolute necessity of Christ
  • ERROR: A belief that salvation has man as a participant
  • ERROR: A belief that salvation can be lost or even forfeited
    • Thus, the absolute certainty of the Atonement

The atonement, remember, is the only way to be reconciled to God.

But the question today is, whom does the atonement apply?

The Extent of the Atonement: Limitation

Let us start by saying that most ALL Christians agree that the Atonement is limited though they may not consciously realize it.

The Atonement is absolutely limited in its design

The question is – in what way is it limited.

  • Is it limited in its effectiveness?
  • Or is it limited in its application?

Most Christians will agree:

  • that Christ’s obedience and suffering were of infinite value.
  • that if God had so willed
    • the satisfaction rendered by Christ would have saved all humanity
    • the satisfaction rendered by Christ would have required no greater obedience or suffering than it did to secure salvation for the elect only

We must first qualify what we mean when we use the word “limited” ….

We mean to say that Christ's saving work was limited

  • but limited in that it was designed to save some and not others.

Christ’s saving work was also not limited

  • it was not limited in value
  • it was of infinite worth
  • it would have secured salvation for everyone if it had been God's intention

Our position, and I believe the Biblically grounded one, is that

  • Christ came into the world to represent and to save only those given unto him by the Father. This is what we mean when we say the atonement is limited. (see John 17:9, 20)

Others, such as the Arminian, also place a limitation on the atonement

  • But the limitation is of a different nature.

They hold that Christ’s saving work

  • was designed to make possible the salvation of all men
    • possible only on the condition that they believe
  • does not, in and of itself, certainly secure or guarantee salvation for anyone

Now, since all men will not be saved

  • A limitation must be admitted
    • Either the atonement was limited in that it was designed to secure salvation for certain sinners but not for others
    • Or it was limited in that it was not intended to secure salvation for any but was designed only to make it possible for God to pardon sinners

The Extent of the Atonement: Central Truth

To better understand, lets remind ourselves of the central truth of redemption

  • The central work is with the covenant which Christ fulfills
    • the difference bears upon the understanding of how God restores fellowship with men.
    • the difference really centers on the doctrine of the covenant

If God covenants with a certain people to be his own

  • He is not going to send Christ to redeem those who are outside of that relationship, outside of that covenant
  • He is going to secure forever the salvation of the elect, those that are within the covenant

The Extent of the Atonement: The Direct Purpose

In this we see there is a direct purpose for Christ's redemption…

  • The purpose was to fulfill the desires of God concerning the elect of God
  • The purpose was that Christ would come and stand on their behalf (the elect) and be their redeemer
  • The purpose was, as the surety, as the subsitution, to pay the punishment for sin for the elect

If there was not a direct purpose for Christ’s redemption…

  • because God was satisfied in the work of Christ, no man could be lost
  • and the infinite value of Christ’s sacrifice and the acceptance and certainty and the completeness of it could not fail to save all man.

The only place denying a direct purpose leads to is universal redemption.

The idea that man can choose to be saved because Christ merely made it a possibility has been refuted. This is an imagination of man and not biblical.

But let us look at some of the consequences of entertaining such a thing:

  1. Christ would then be called the Savior of those who will not be saved. Having redeemed everyone but not saving them? He loves everyone so much that He gave His life for them but wouldn’t finally save them?
  2. Universal redemption means the debt of every man has been removed
    1. This, then, means there is no reason any man should be estranged or separated from God. We must, therefore, have universal salvation.
  3. If Christ redeemed all men, He must have done so with the intention of saving all men – without exception. But if salvation is dependent upon man’s choice, then if man can choose, he is either
    1. Frustrating the will of God, subjecting Him to disappointment
    2. Completing the insufficient satisfaction of justice accomplished by Christ by man’s own good work of making said decision


  • God's justice is not satisfied in the work of men
  • God's justice is not satisfied that men make a profession of faith.
  • God's justice is only satisfied in the work of Jesus Christ himself.

Nowhere is redemption and reconciliation based on something man does

  • It is based upon the work of Christ - Christ's work of redemption accomplished full salvation for His people.

Christ's work of redemption was not a partial salvation

  • It was actual reconciliation through justification and sanctification.

Christ came to save his people.

  • Not simply to enable His people to make them a way of salvation for themselves.

We need to make sure we understand this.

The work of redemption has been fully accomplished by Christ.

  • God was not satisfied with the sacrifice of animals as a sacrifice for sin.
    • Year after year after year they keep coming back and sacrificing and yet it does not satisfy God's demand.
    • But not so with Christ.
  • Christ the Redeemer came
    • to atone for the sin of His people and His people alone
    • to redeem His people and His people alone
    • by one act of sacrifice.

The Extent of the Atonement: Scripture References

Christ has secured eternal salvation

Matt 1:21 -> for His people

  • The purpose of Christ is to save His people from their sins.
  • The purpose of Christ is to be salvation for his people.

John 10:11 - 26

  • This must certainly teach that there are some, distinguished from the sheep, for whom Christ did not give His life
  • This “knowing” includes a knowledge with affection, something that exits before any response is made by the sheep

John 17:9,20

  • Christ does not intercede for the whole world, only for those that the Father has given Him (sheep and goats, inside/ outside the church)

2 Cor 5:18-19

  • The purpose of Christ was the reconciling of the world unto God (all kinds of men / all believers, Gentiles and Jews – not all inclusive)

2 Cor 5:21

  • The purpose of Christ was to be made sin for us, who knew no sin, for our sake.
  • The purpose of Christ was that we might become the righteousness of God.
    • We might become right before God.
    • We might become justified before God.
    • We might be reconciled unto the law of God.
    • We might have a restoration of fellowship and no longer condemnation upon us.

Eph 2 -> The purpose of Christ

  • was to abolish in his flesh the enmity/ division between God & His elect
  • was to abolish the law of commandments contained in the ordinances.
  • was to make himself of Twain one new man so making peace and that he might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross having slain the enmity thereby.
  • was to make reconciliation both for Jew and Gentile.
  • was to make to bring Jew and Gentile into one man, one body.
  • was to reconcile us under the father in one body by the cross.
  • was complete, it satisfies the demand of God's divine justice.

Colossian 1:21-22

  • We were alienated and enemies in mind and by wicked deeds.
  • We would not think to serve God in our mind.
  • We would not obey the commands of God.
  • The purpose of Christ was to reconcile us.
  • The purpose of Christ was to present us holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight.

1 Tim 1:15

  • The purpose of Jesus was to save sinners and not just to make a way of salvation.

1 Pet 3:18

  • The purpose of Christ was the Atonement
  • The purpose of the Atonement is the redemption of man from sin.
  • The purpose of Christ was to satisfy the requirements of God and that His sacrifice only needs to be made one time.
  • The purpose of Christ was to bring us to God through His death for sin, once for all once, it never has to be repeated.
  • Christ died not as a potential but an actual sacrificial death on the cross

Christ has secured righteousness and pardon needed by his people for their justification

Rom 3:24-25 -> we cannot be reconciled through our works.

  • Redemption is an act of God's grace.
  • God sends His redeemer to save his people and we are freely justified
    • Through the sovereign acts of God and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
  • God has set forth Christ is our substitute through faith and the redemption of his blood.
    • Redemption is appropriated for us in time through faith.
    • It is not our faith, but the faith God gives to the work of the Spirit
      • Eph 2:8-9

Rom 5:8-9

  • God sent His Son and redeemed us.
    • There is nothing that we are doing to please God; we are sinners in enmity with God, opposed to God
    • There is nothing that we are doing for God to show such love.
  • God gives grace, unmerited.
  • Based on His covenant, God sent His own mediator to redeem those who are elect , those justified through the blood of Christ 

1 Cor 1:30

  • Christ is the one who makes us unto wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption

Gal 3:13 -> the substitutionary work of Christ on our behalf.

  • We could not fulfill the obligation of the law.
  • He fulfills it for us
  • He redeemed us from the curse

Col 1:13-14 -> Christ alone redeems

  • Christ delivers us from the power of darkness.
  • Nowhere does Scripture speak of man delivering or translating himself out of the kingdom of darkness and enter the kingdom of light.
  • God has delivered us through Christ from the kingdom of darkness
  • God has translated us out of darkness into the kingdom
  • This transformation/ deliverance comes through the blood of Christ
  • Forgiveness comes through the redemption in his blood.
  • Deliverance comes from His dear Son.

Heb 9:12

  • Salvation is not by the blood of goats and calves.
  • Salvation is through the blood of the high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice according to God's covenantal plan of redemption.
  • Christ enters once into the holy place having thus obtain eternal redemption for us.
  • Christ becomes the legal surety.
    • If redemption were dependent on man, it could not be eternal.
      • Man can never satisfy God.
      • God would only be reconciled to us based on how we are reacting to God.
  • 1 Pet 2:24
    • Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree
    • Christ atones for sin and provides redemption as His work.
    • Christ secures the pardon necessary for sinners to be reconciled by God through his act through his redemption through His death upon a cross.

Conclusion & Uses

We have seen here that

  • There was a direct purpose for the atoning work of Christ
  • Christ propitiated, reconciled, and redeemed all those for whom He died
  • Christ’s atonement is limited by design to His sheep, His friends, His elect
    • Otherwise, all mankind’s sins would have been atoned for
    • Otherwise, there would be no hell or eternal punishment
    • Otherwise, if anyone would not go to heaven, then God would be guilty of punishing sin twice and not being satisfied with Christ’s sacrifice of infinite worth –
      • thus, really, not being infinite.
      • thus, not really being sufficient.
      • thus, not being able to save anyone.
  • Christ, therefore, did not atone for each and every man.
  • Christ, therefore, did not create a possibility for salvation (which is really no possibility at all)
  • Christ, certainly and effectually, saved those who believe --- those elected.
  • We rest upon the promise by the Word of God and Christ’s cross work.
  • We know that God is satisfied when we look at the doctrine of justification.
    • God is satisfied with the work of Christ
    • God hath declared the work complete.
  • We know in Christ alone there is redemption.
    • Not in ourselves or in any other.
  • We should find great comfort in the work accomplished by our Savior.
  • And we are free to be obedient to Christ without fear
    • We are free to repent and to stand strong for Christ
    • We are free from doubting our standing in Christ --- this is the way.

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