Christ Did Not Die For All Sins: A Look At Limited Atonement

One of the things we hear most in Christianity is the idea that Christ died for every sin that was ever committed. But is that accurate? Did Christ truly die for all sins or did he only die for the sins of those who would believe in Him?

The question comes down to what you believe about the atonement. Was the atonement limited or was it universal? Limited Atonement, of course, is one of the five points of a theological viewpoint called Calvinism. Some people refer to this doctrine as definite atonement since limited can be misleading.

The controversy comes when people misunderstand definite atonement. They tend to believe that this means Christ’s sacrifice was not good enough to save everyone. On the contrary, it was sufficient for all, but not meant for all.

You run into a major problem if Christ died for the sin of every man. Some will not be saved, we know this from many passages of Scripture. If some are not saved then Christ’s atonement was not good enough. Some of Christ’s atonement was wasted. He was powerless over them. You also run into the issue of double jeopardy which causes God to be unjust.

People try to overcome this last point by saying, but salvation is a gift that must be accepted. That is not how justice works. Imagine this, you are convicted of a crime and are ordered to pay a penalty. If the penalty is paid for you, it does not matter if you wanted to accept it or not. The price has been paid. You are free to go. You would not be punished for a crime that has already had the punishment fulfilled.

So the plain fact is that Christ did not die for every sin that has ever been committed. No, He died only for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

7 thoughts on “Christ Did Not Die For All Sins: A Look At Limited Atonement

  1. DCorpus February 5, 2019 / 1:16 am

    Hi Brother, I read your post on limited atonement and don’t agree with your understanding of it. If you don’t believe Christ died for the “world” and only those who would believe in Him, how can those whom He didn’t die for be held responsible when they were never elected in the first place?

    I John 2:2 says “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

    Notice in I John 2:2 that John the author indicated clearly that Christ not only died for “ours” meaning himself and other fellow Christians, but also for the whole world. John clearly distinguishes two groups here. One group in which John is apart of and another group of which Christ also died for. Seems to me that this is unlimited atonement.

    In Isaiah 53:6 it says “All we like sheep have gone astray, We have turned every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

    This is clearly referring to the atonement. God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. In the context who is Isaiah referring to when he says “all”? Clearly, this cannot be referring to “the elect” since we have all turned to our own way. Everyone has turned to our own way.

    It is clear in scripture that Christ died for sinners, for those who are sick, for the ungodly, etc. Christ did not die for the righteous.

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    • David February 5, 2019 / 8:26 am

      Thank you for your comment. There are a few problems with the verses that you use, namely that they are taken out of context.

      1 John 2:2 does say for the whole world. But when you look at the context, and even the word itself, it does not say every person in the whole world. John is writing to a very specific community of people and he is saying that it is not only that community that can be saved, but people from all people groups.

      The same situation with Isaiah 53:6, in no way does it say that he took the iniquity of every person.

      Yes, it is clearly referring to atonement, but it does not say what you try to make it say when you look at the whole context of both the passage and all of Scripture.

      Let me ask you this, if Christ made atonement for every sin of every man, why is there any punishment remaining if the sin has already been paid for?

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      • DCorpus February 6, 2019 / 1:18 am

        Thank you so much for responding! In response to I John 2:2, you mentioned that I took this verse out of context and that the very word itself does not mean every person in the world. You also commented that John was writing to a specific community and was saying that not only that community can be saved but also people from other groups.
        I think that is a forced and unnatural interpretation. The word “propitiation” means “the appeasement of wrath”. John plainly states that Jesus appeased the wrath of God not only for our sins meaning the Christians but also for the sins of the world. There are clearly two distinct groups here. The fact that Jesus appeased the wrath of God on behalf of his little Christians, but also for the sins of the rest of the Christians scattered all over the world is an unnatural interpretation. Are we really to believe that the Christians to whom John wrote thought that Jesus didn’t atone for the sins of all believers around the world and that John wrote to correct their misunderstanding? Later on in the same epistle in I John 5:19 where it says “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”. There is that word again “whole world”. Was John saying that all the other Christians outside his little group were not of God and that they were lying in the power of Satan? The answer is obvious.

        In Isaiah 53:6, you mentioned that in no way does it state that he took the iniquity of every person. It is clear that it does reference every person.
        The same “all” who like sheep have gone astray are the same “all” whose iniquity fell upon Jesus. Don’t you believe that all people have turned to their own way?

        In response to you question that you posed “if Christ made atonement for every sin of every man, why is there any punishment remaining if the sin has already been paid for?

        The answer is because although I believe Christ died for all that does not necessarily mean all are saved. If I offer you $1000 dollars and you accept it, you responded by saying yes to my offer. But, someone else may say I reject your offer and therefore is not saved. The Bible indicated there is punishment for those who reject Christ’s offer of salvation. That is why there is still punishment.

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      • David February 8, 2019 / 4:11 pm

        Again, you argue that these verses claim the entire world as in every person in the world. I have clearly shown that they do not so we are at an impasse. I would encourage you to study biblical interpretation and learn to look at the whole context and not just cherry-pick verses.

        With regard to your $1,000 analogy that is not an equivalent analogy. Salvation, while a gift of grace, is not a gift in the same sense as if someone were to give me $1,000. It is the payment of a penalty. If the penalty has been paid, it has been taken care of and you no longer receive the penalty because it is already paid for, period.

        If Christ paid the penalty for every sin of every person but not every person is saved then his sacrifice was not good enough. Is that really your theology?

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      • DCorpus February 11, 2019 / 12:18 am

        With respect to your response, you claim that I cherry pick verses and need to learn to look at the whole context. I would say the same for you too. You mention you clearly showed that I John 2:2 does not mean every person in the world. I don’t see anywhere where you showed that. I mentioned John’s phrase “whole world” in the same chapter but later on as well. You did not respond to my question on that.

        When I mentioned Isaiah 53:6, I did not just cherry pick that verse without providing the whole book as context. I specifically mentioned who Isaiah was referring to.

        If you look back at our posts, I answered all your questions but you failed to answer none of my questions. Look back at all my statements with a question mark.

        Lastly, the phrase “paid the penalty” is never found in the scriptures. The Bible plainly speaks of Christ “dying for our sins” or Christ “suffered for our sins”.

        In response to your question at the end of your response, my theology is not that Christ’s sacrifice not being good enough, but rather his dying on the cross to being life is made available to all who believe. Unfortunately, there are some who will choose to reject Christ’s death and his offer of salvation. That is what the scriptures teach.

        If you look back at the Old Testament Passover, you will see that it refers to all people. Look at Exodus 12:3,4 which says “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.”

        This was God himself telling Moses to tell ALL Israelites to get a lamb for the passover. Notice the phrases: “all the congregation of Israel,” “every man a lamb,” “a lamb for a house,” “according to the number of the souls.” Next, look at verse 7 in the same chapter. It says “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:7). Does this mean that every Israelite was delivered? No, only the Israelites who participated was delivered. Certainly this applied to the whole congregation of Israel, but only those who responded were delivered. The Passover is a type of Christ where Christ made salvation available to all, but that does not mean that all will respond. Do you honestly think that the Passover was only to the elect of Israel? That would be again a forced interpretation.

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      • David February 11, 2019 / 7:18 am

        Yes, it mentions whole world later in the chapter but it is part of the same overall context. You seem to assume that world only has one meaning. Say there is a big moment in the World Series and the commentator says “The eyes of the whole world are on this pitcher right now.” Does he literally mean that every person in the world is watching the game? Of course not. So why do you try to force that interpretation into each instance of the whole world being mentioned in Scripture when the context clearly shows it does not mean the whole world. Not just the context of the passage, but the context of the whole of Scripture.

        You mention that the phrase “Paid the penalty” is not found anywhere in Scripture. Do you deny that is what Christ did on the cross? This is a red herring argument. The word “Trinity” is also found nowhere in Scripture. Do you deny the Trinity?

        The Passover does not refer to all people. It refers to the chosen people. If it referred to all people, the Egyptians would have been spared as well.

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  2. DCorpus February 12, 2019 / 9:52 am

    Hello, the entire book of I John clearly distinguishes two groups of people, believers and non believers. Although John written to believers that does not necessarily mean that there were frequent moments where he spoke of the status of unbelievers. For example, look at I John 1:5-10, John speaks about the cleansing of Christ’s blood being conditional. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” It is very clear that John distinguishes two groups of people. He speaks about walking in the light which is synonymous with living a life of faith in Christ, verses pretending to live in the light but walking in darkness. Clearly John is not speaking of only the elect here. He is referring to those who are in the light and those who are not. You will find two groups mentioned throughout the entire book. So when you get to I John 2 and it refers to the whole world it means all people.

    In I John 2:2 Propitiation is a clear reference back to the Old Testament atonement system. The Levitical priests would kill a spotless lamb and offer its blood to God in order to atone for the sins of the people. This process, especially the offering to cover sins, is called the atonement.The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the Old Testament process itself couldn’t take away sins, but rather shadowed what Christ actually accomplished. Christ’s death and offering propitiates. But notice the passage does not say Christ has propitiated for our sins, but rather He is the propitiation for our sins. It’s in noun form, not verb form. So the reference is not to the action of covering brought about through the offering, but rather the offering made to cover sins. Thus Christ’s offering can cover the sins of the world, if the condition is met, but doesn’t actually cover the sins of the world.
    The “our” in the phrase “not for our sins only” is a reference to true believers. Throughout the book John is careful not to include pretenders within “us”. In chapter 2 verse 3 & 4, he says “we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar…” Notice how John contrasts “we” with he that says. This same care to distinguish between us (true believers) and others (even pretenders).

    They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

    The “our” then, is clearly only true believers.
    The term whole world is talking about the sins committed by people throughout the world. The passage is not talking about just part of the world. This is plain by the adjective “whole”. It’s not talking about the planet itself, which does not sin. Rather it’s talking about the people who sin. This is plain in Greek, because the term world is genitive, meaning it possesses something. Thus the passage is not speaking of geographic regions or the planet, but rather sinners in the planet. So what does whole word mean? Generally the world means one of three things: 1) the planet we live on or 2) the people living on the planet (i.e. mankind) or 3) or that which is at odds with God (i.e. worldliness). By process of elimination we can demonstrate that world refers to mankind.As we already discovered, world in 1 John 2 cannot refer to the planet, because the passage is talking about the sins of the world and Christ dying for the world. People sin, Christ died for people, not the planet itself. The definition of that which is at odds with God (namely sinners) might be relevant.

    If Christ died for sinners in contrast to the elect, then of course He died for the non-elect. So by process of elimination we are left with world meaning mankind.

    Do I believe Christ paid the penalty? What I believe is that Christ suffered for our sins. That he died for the ungodly. Who is ungodly? We all were ungodly? We all fall short of the glory of God, right?

    Who do you think Jesus was speaking to when he hung on the cross and he said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”? Was he speaking to the elect? Of course he wasn’t! He was speaking to this who wanted him crucified, those who beat him so bad. They were ungodly people and Christ out of his love said “Forgive them”. That is love to me.

    The Passover refers to all the congregation of Israel. It clearly says that. Remember gentiles we’re allowed to part of Israel too. If all people were to follow God they would be part of Israel. It refers to anyone who wanted to be part of Israel. By the way, Jesus is a type of the Passover in the New Testament according to Hebrews.
    ‭‭

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