The Practical Importance of Limited Atonement

I have confidence that all those for whom Christ has died will turn from their sins in repentance

“If Christ’s atonement is unlimited, then He universally dies to save every human being. So is my salvation fully accomplished by Christ? Not completely, since I can still suffer the judgement of condemnation for my sins in unbelief. Christ’s offer of salvation becomes provisional, depending on my response.”

 

All too often, when the doctrine of limited atonement is considered, people only see it as a theological debate over the extent of Christ’s atonement. Rarely is a direct connection drawn between this doctrinal divide and its implications in the Christian life. Of course a biblical study on the atonement is foundational for what we believe, but we must also remember that what we believe impacts how we live. Our theology drives our practice. In other words, living the Christian life flows out of the doctrinal truths that we believe. This is why we are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewal of our minds. When our minds are renewed by the Word of God, then our lives will be transformed in living a life according to the will of God. So what difference does limited atonement make in our lives?

My Salvation is Accomplished by Christ

Christ fully accomplished my salvation on the cross. As one chosen by God, He sent His Son to save me from my sin. In love, He sent His Son to live a life of righteousness for me. In love, He sent His Son to receive my condemnation in my place through His death on the cross. In love, He sent His Son to exchange my sin and unrighteousness for Christ’s obedience and righteousness. I have been saved through the sacrifice of Christ!

Now let’s consider what happens when we deny limited atonement. If Christ’s atonement is unlimited, then He universally dies to save every human being. So is my salvation fully accomplished by Christ? Not completely, since I can still suffer the judgement of condemnation for my sins in unbelief. Christ’s offer of salvation becomes provisional, depending on my response. As one well-known contemporary theologian has written: “all are savable, but only those who believe will be saved,” “everyone is potentially justifiable, not actually justified,” “reconciliation of all (‘the world’) did not guarantee the salvation but the savability of all,” and “reconciliation by Christ makes salvation possible.”

By denying limited atonement, Christ does not actually save me—He makes salvation possible. But I need Christ as my actual Savior, not as my potential Savior! My hope of eternal life depends completely on Him. Apart from Christ, I have no hope of salvation. His limited atonement accomplishes my salvation, which gives me eternal life.

My Salvation Does Not Depend on Me

Since Christ accomplishes my salvation, then my salvation does not depend on me. This truth is the flip side of the coin of an atonement that guarantees my eternal life. And what a glorious truth it is! If my salvation in any way depends on me, then I am doomed. Outside of Christ, I am dead in my trespasses and sins. I am a slave of sin. I will not seek God because I love my sin too much. This is why Christ’s atonement is so glorious. He has done everything for me.

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