Doctrines of Grace - Particular Redemption
This third distinctive of Calvinism teaches that Christ offered Himself on the cross not for every person without exception, but specifically for the elect given to Him by the Father. It might be put this way: did Christ die to make the salvation of all merely possible, or did He die to render the salvation of His elect certain? It clarifies the issue to put the focus not on the extent of the atonement (for how many?) but on the intent (for what purpose?). Those who believe that Christ died redemptively for all without exception believe in "universal redemption"those who believe that Christ died redemptively only for the elect believe in "particular redemption" or "limited atonement".
Some difficulties posed by "universal redemption"
It presents a redemption which doesn't really redeem; an atonement which doesn't atone; a ransom which doesn't actually set free.It presents Christ's work on the cross as a partial failure; for if Christ died with the intent and purpose of saving every person without exception then he has manifestly failed.It doesn't do justice to the Word of God, that the Bible doesn't present Christ?s atonement as something which merely makes salvation possible, but as something which actually saves.It does a disservice to the justice of God, for it suggests that Christ has been punished for the sins of those who are in hell and who are therefore being punished for their sins. God therefore exacts punishment for their sins twice - first in Christ and then in them.
Scriptures which indicate a "limit" on those for whom Christ died:
Isaiah 53:11,12; Matthew 20:28; 26:28; Hebrews 9:28. These verses speak of Christ dying for "many".
Scriptures which indicate that the "many" are a definite group:
John 10:11,15 note v 26; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25; Matthew 1:21
Scriptures which indicate the purpose of Christ's coming and death:
Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:18. He came to save.
Scriptures which indicate what Christ's death actually accomplished:
Romans 5:10; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:12
These verses indicate that Christ came not just to make the salvation of sinners possible but to actually save them. Not just to make sinners "redeemable" but to actually redeem them. Not just to make them "reconcilable" but to actually reconcile them. That this is not the state of all people would indicate that not all were the objects of Christ?s atoning work, unless we are prepared to accept that His mission was less than successful. The faith by which a sinner becomes a partaker of Christ's salvation is itself the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9). It is part of the salvation purchased by Christ for His people. That is why the Bible can speak in terms of a real, definite atonement; an atonement which actually atones, a redemption which actually redeems, a ransom which actually sets the prisoner free. For when Christ died He purchased all that was necessary to "bring to God" all those for whom He died. This included the grace of repentance and faith and the gift of the Spirit.
The significance of the terms used of Christ's atonement
1. Redemption This means the delivery from captivity and misery by the intervention of a price or ransom. Matthew 20:28
2. Reconciliation This means the renewing of friendship between parties previously hostile. Colossians 1:21,22.
3. Propitiation This means the turning away of wrath by means of an offering. To appease, pacify and reconcile Good in respect to His aversion to sin. 1 John 4:10.
4. "Dying for us" The Greek prepositions "huper" and "anti" (usually translated "for") clearly imply substitution. Romans 5:8; Galatians 1:4; Titus 2:14; Matthew 20:28.
At the heart of the Biblical doctrine of the atonement is the idea of substitution: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities...the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5,6).
"Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Saviour"
True substitution and universal redemption cannot exist together. One or the other has to go!
As stated by John Owen, either Christ died for:
All the sins of some men, some of the sins of all men or all the sins of all men.
But does not the Bible speak of Christ dying for "all" and for "the world"? It does indeed; but the following needs to be remembered: "world" is frequently used in the Bible to speak of large numbers e.g. John 12:19; 1 John 5:19. It is also used of "Christian universalism" as opposed to "Jewish nationalism". e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; compare John 11:50-52.
What is the practical relevance of this doctrine?
It magnifies the work of Christ.It gives hope in evangelism.It ministers gloriously to a believer's assurance.It deepens the believer's love for His Lord.It enables us to offer to sinners a truly finished work.
"All" is often used to speak of all without distinction rather than all without exception. e.g. John 12;32; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6