Limited Atonement (Part 2)

Calvinism 101: Session 11

Limited Atonement, Part 2


Arminians pretend…that Christ died for all men, yet, in effect, they make him die for no one man at all. – John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ


What’s New about the New Covenant?


“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jer 31:31-34


  • Israel broke the Mosaic covenant—but even the Mosaic covenant looked forward to a day when God would grant them a new heart (see Deut 30:6; 29:4; 10:16).
    • “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second,” (Heb 8:7).
  • If this new covenant is to be unlike the old, then it must, therefore, be unbreakable.
  • The law of the covenant will be internal, not external; written on hearts, not tablets of stone.
  • Everyone who a member of the covenant community will know the Lord, everyone will have their sins forgiven.


And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. – Jer 32:38-41


  • Israel will receive “one heart”—not a divided heart, but united
  • This covenant is “everlasting”
  • Israel will be given a heart that fears God so that they cannot turn away.
  • God cannot turn away from doing them good—in fact, it will make God happy to do them good with his whole heart and soul.


And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. – Ez 11:19-20


  • God will remove stony, hard hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh so that they obey.
  • Here we see the connection between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant.


I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. – Ez 36:25-28


  • The “new spirit” here is explicitly identified with God’s own Spirit. The promise of the new covenant is the giving of the Holy Spirit to everyone who is a member of the covenant (see Joel 2:28-29).
  • Again, God will “cause” the members of the covenant to walk in His statutes and obey His rules.


The old covenant failed because of Israel’s hard, unbelieving heart.

  • But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deut 29:4)
  • And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deut 30:6)


The new covenant is the promise of a new heart that is now not only capable of loving and obeying God, but is guaranteed to love and obey God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the regeneration of the heart, and the forgiveness of sins.


Jesus’ Death Purchases the New Covenant


And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Matt 26:27-28 (cf. Mark 14:24)


And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” – Luke 22:20 (cf. 1 Cor 11:25)


  • Jesus is echoing the words of Moses in Exodus 24:8, where the Mosaic covenant was inaugurated: “And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenantthat the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
  • Jesus understands that it is His blood, His atoning work, that secures the gift/promise of the new covenant (Heb 9:11-28).
  • And one of the gifts of the new covenant is that the members of the covenant now are given believing hearts. In other words, faith is not a condition to receive the new covenant, it is a gift of the new covenant.
  • Therefore, the atoning work of Christ purchases the gift of faith for all who believe and therefore the atonement is not universal on scope but definite, effective, and limited.


The Promise of Romans 8


For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. – Rom 8:29-33


  • Here is the question: who is the “we” and “us” of verses 31-32? The answer seems most naturally be to the elect mentioned immediately before (vs. 29-30) and after (vs. 33).

  • Paul’s aim here is to encourage the reader: If God is for us, who can be against us? Assuming that (1) the reader knows that God is indeed for them and (2) therefore, no one—Satan, demons, the world, myself—is capable of stopping God’s good purposes.

  • To prove this, Paul draws your attention to the giving of Jesus Christ “for us all.” If God is so for us that He is willing to give His son up to die, then we can be certain that God will also give us everything else we need, so we ought never be discouraged.

  • But what happens to Paul’s argument if Jesus’s death on the cross is universal, not only for the elect? If the “for us all” of verse 32 means every person who has ever existed? Then there would be individuals who were intended recipients of the atoning work of Christ, who do not graciously receive all of God’s benefits, who do not have “God for them, and thus no one against them”—they perish.

    Here is how John Piper puts it, “The logic is [then] destroyed. It becomes: ‘If God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for all people in the world, then, since many of them are lost, it is not true that they will most certainly receive all things with him.’ That is not the point of the verse. It says, Because of God’s giving the Son for his people, those people—foreknown and predestined from the foundation of the world—will receive everything God has to give. Therefore, the design of God in giving the Son is not only a general offer to the whole world, but a rock solid securing of infinite riches for his people.” (John Piper, Five Points, p. 51).


Jesus Lays Down His Life for His Sheep


  • I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:15-16)

  • “…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Rev 5:9).

  • But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (John 11:49-53).