Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 9, 2014.
Today we are continuing through the Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as Calvinism, and we find ourselves examining the doctrine of Limited Atonement. It is the “L” in TULIP. Having said that, many people do not like the term limited atonement because they believe it is misleading, and I would agree. For it causes Christians to focus on the wrong side of the equation. Other terms that are commonly used instead of limited atonement are actual atonement, particular atonement, and definite atonement.
What does limited atonement mean?
This morning I want to start with a definition, so that you have a category in your mind to place the truth that you will hear through God’s Word. So here is one from RC Sproul.
For those who were with us last week, you can see the very close connection that limited atonement has with unconditional election. I believe these two doctrines rise and fall together, so if you were convinced last week, this sermon is just icing on the cake.
The Decree from Eternity
Last week we examined Ephesians 1:3- 6. Let us look at that text again as we start this morning.
Here is the question we didn’t ask? How is Jesus involved in this choice? What is his role? The first thing we want to nail down is that Jesus was actually present when the choice was made.
Now I want to switch gears and instead of looking back, I want us to look forward. Turn with me to Revelation 5:9-10. This is the picture of the celebration song in Heaven for Jesus in his achievement of accomplishing the work given to him in Ephesians 1. This takes place sometime in the future.
When Jesus came to earth to save, he was not providing an opportunity for salvation; He was on a mission to rescue specific people. There was a definite, particular, actual atonement, or ransom, to be made for a chosen group of people. This is what a ransom is, a full payment for the kidnapped. Jesus paid it all. He actually achieved the ransom. Lets continue to unpack this idea, that Jesus didn't come in general but came specifically.
Old Testament Evidence
We have looked at the beginning and the end. Let us know look at the in-between to see if we see text that support that when Jesus came to die, he came to die for the elect. Let’s start with the Old Testament. First, I want us to think about the old testament? Who is it about? Israel. Who is Israel? God chosen people. The whole Old Testament points to the reality that God limits his redemption. Moses was sent to save Israel, not Egypt, nor any other nation. Judges were raised up to save Israel, not other nations. David was the King of the Jews, not the world. Prophets and Angles were sent to Israel not China. God is a God who limits his grace, you cannot read the Bible and come to any other conclusion.
In Leviticus 16 God is implementing The Day of Atonement. This is a foreshadow of Jesus' atonement. This was the most holy day for the Jews. It was the one day of the year that the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and he would offer a goat to be sacrificed for the covenant people of Israel. This offering was to atone for their sins. This sacrifice of atonement was not for the sins of the world, it was for the sins of the covenant people of Israel.
New Testament Evidence
Lets now turn to the New Testament. Turn with me to Matthew 1:21. I think this text is extremely interesting. For these words come from an angel of the Lord and are spoken to Joseph before the birth of Jesus. This is what God’s messenger says.
Next, lets see what Jesus says early on in his ministry about who he came for. Turn with me to Luke 4:24-29. Listen to what Jesus tells his home town and what there reaction is.
Next, let us look at John 10:14-16. These verses spoken by Jesus, may be the most convincing of them all. I cannot see how one can argue with limited atonement after reading this passage.
Who is Jesus dieing for? The World? No, he is dieing for the nation. Who is the nation? The children of God? Who are the children of God? The ones chosen before the foundation of the world to be adopted through Jesus Christ. The more you have a category for Jesus particular redemption for the elect, the more you will see it everywhere. Turn now to Ephesians 5:25-27. I text that I look at a lot when I am providing marriage counseling to couples.
Why would he do such a thing? Look again at verse 25, “As Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” Christ laid down his life for you because he loved you.
And this is why this doctrine is so crucial in your sanctification. Last week we ended talking about how God's love for his elect is an eternal love. We said we need to hear the words from God, “I have loved you forever.” The message of unconditional election is the width of God's love. From forever and to forever. Limited atonement is the depth of God's love. It is God's love in action.
God not only has love for you before time, but he loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die for you. The death of Jesus was not impersonal. It was not Jesus opening up a door and waiting around to see who would chose to walk through, that is not love. No Jesus came and rescued his bride. God chose us personally and sent Jesus to save you, completely. SO once again we will end with Romans 8