State & Defend: The Atonement

I believe in unlimited atonement, that Christ died for the sins of all people. Scripture includes passages that both state Christ died for the entire world, and that Christ died for His elect. We therefore must assume that Christ died for everyone, which includes His elect.

Passages that seem to support limited atonement

There are several passages, which at first glance seem to support limited atonement. In Romans 8:31-39 we read that God gave up His Son for us all – all defined as those who know Christ. Those who are in Christ are not condemned; nothing can separate those who love Christ from him. The word “all” in this passage does seem to focus on the elect.

Ephesians 5:25 teaches that Christ gave himself up for the Church. Husbands are instructed to love their wives that way. In Acts 20:28 we read that God obtained the Church by his own blood.

In John 10, the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, those who are part of his flock. He leads out his own sheep, implying that there may be other sheep that are not his.

Passages in support of unlimited atonement

There are also many passages that seem to refer to the penalty for all of man’s sin having been paid for through Christ’s death on the cross.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 is a key passage. We read that Christ has died for all, that all who live might live for God instead of for themselves. We are not to regard people according to their flesh. How then might we regard people? In terms of their eternal spirit. Of those who might live for God instead of themselves, those in Christ are new creations. Those in Christ were given a ministry and a message of reconciliation. In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Those who know Christ are ambassadors on Christ’s behalf to implore the world to place their trust in him.

In, 1 John 2:2, we read that Christ is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

In John 3:16, we read that God so loved the world – not only His chosen – that He gave His only begotten Son. It is interesting to note that in John 3:18, whoever does not believe is condemned because of lack of belief in the name of the son. The basis of condemnation mentioned is not sinful actions, but lack of belief.

In 1 Timothy 2:6, we read that Christ gave himself as a ransom for all… which is the testimony given at the proper time. If we are to share with nonbelievers that Christ was the ransom for all, rather than the chosen, then how can we proclaim that He only died for a few?

In 1 Timothy 4:10 we toil and strive, because our hope is built on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. How can we say, of all, including those who believe, and all not mean all? Why add the clause “especially of those who believe,” if those are the only people we are referring to?

Drawing Conclusions

We know that all scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), and because of that we must affirm that all of these scriptures are true. Knowing that scripture so often says that Christ died for all of the world, it is impossible to affirm that Christ only died for the elect without explaining away all passages about the world as referring to believers alone because of their context. I do not think it is possible to explain away all of those passages, therefore I believe in an unlimited atonement. Christ did die once for the sins of the entire world, not only those who have, do, or will place their trust in his name.