Unlimited (Kinds of) Atonement

31 days bigA little pun for you.  So from yesterday, limited atonement is the idea that Jesus died to save people completely – his death saved them without any action on their part, and since not all people are saved, we must assume that then his death only functioned for the elect.

But what about 1 John 2:2? or John 3:16? or 1 Timothy 2:5-6? These don’t make any discrepancy about Christ’s death being only for the elect. And a lot of people have a beef with limited atonement: so-called “Four-point Calvinists” think that Limited Atonement is where you ought draw the line.


Okay, so what are our other options? They are legion, but they all fall under the heading of “unlimited atonement,” the idea that Christ died for all people, but only some accept that gift. I’m not going to go over every single theory that falls under the heading of unlimited atonement. There are a lot of them, and many of them are kinda the same thing.


Here are a few of the interesting / important ones:


The particularly Arminian view is governmental atonement, the idea that Heaven is a court from which God judges all men, and the punishment we earned is happening so justice can be meted out. Christ stands in the way of that punishment happening to us.


Ransom theory is the idea that Christ was a ransom for us. Ransom is a payment, made to an abductor, to return the abducted to their rightful place. We were kidnapped by Satan at the fall, and Satan demands payment for our return.


Christus Victor is a fancy latin phrase that translates “Christ is the winner!” It means that Christ crushed Satan at the cross, the powers of evil were defeated. A war happened, Christ won.


Substitutionary atonement (which is popular enough to have sub-categories) is the idea that Jesus died in lieu of someone or something else. Whether that’s the sheep we’d have to sacrifice or our own souls, or a little bit of both, that depends on the flavor of substitutionary atonement you’re talking.


Penal substitution specifically suggests that we have broken God’s law. We are standing for punishment, but Christ takes that punishment. He takes what we deserve, and the punishment is over.


Satisfaction theory is another form of substitutionary atonement. It means that God is not honored by man’s poor behavior, and sinners die without making it up to Him. On the other hand, Christ died while totally perfect, AND his death glorified God completely – enough to make up the debt for all the sinners. In contrast to penal substitution, adherents believe Jesus wasn’t taking our punishment so much as paying our debt, and thus restoring harmony to the world.


Here’s a very small list of relevant Scripture:


Matthew 20:28,  Mark 10:45 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many

Romans 3:24-26  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:22  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.


Published in: on October 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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