Proof for the Doctrine of Limited Atonement
Mathematics is a school subject which has challenged us, or may still be challenging us today. Whether we learn about integers, decimals, algebra, or even calculus, we should realize that without the basic facts learned in our earlier years, math in higher grades would almost be impossible to understand. When we had the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables memorized, we usually found the subject much easier to understand.
The same thing is true with respect to our religious beliefs. As young people in the church, we are taught catechism. The catechism gives us the basic facts from the scriptures which form the foundation for what we believe. When we memorize the questions and answers, we should find the Word of God easier to understand.
But this in itself is not enough. We need to test what we have learned for its accuracy. Is it true? In math we find the truth quite quickly by solving practical problems. In our catechism instruction, we test for the truth by using the scripture. When it stands this test, we know that it is accurate.
When we look at Lord’s Day VII, we find this question and answer: “Are all men then, as they perish in Adam, saved by Christ? No; only those who are engrafted into him, and receive all his benefits, by a true faith.” By testing this with scripture, we test what is commonly called the idea of limited atonement – where only a certain group of people will have their sins covered by the blood of Christ and thereby inherit eternal life. This does not mean that Christ is powerless to save all mankind, but that God chooses whom He will. For we read that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardeneth. (Romans 9:16).
There are many examples throughout the Bible which prove that the atoning power of Christ’s blood is limited to only God’s elect. We read in Genesis 4 that, after murdering his righteous brother, Abel, Cain left the presence of the Lord; God then raised up Seth, a new spiritual seed, in the place of Abel.
God showed a limited type of salvation at the time of the flood (a picture of the final judgment). God opened Noah’s eyes to the coming destruction and how to prepare for it. When the flood waters came, only his family of eight souls was saved on board the ark. The rest of the people were destroyed.
In Geneses 25, we read of the two nations and two manner of people at war in Rebekah’s womb. God clearly states in Malachi 1:2 and 3 that one of these nations, Esau, was hated by the Lord; the other nation, Jacob, was loved by the Lord.
In the New Testament, we read more about these two nations. Jesus explains to His disciples, after telling them the parable of the sower and his seed, that there are people who have ears but do not hear, and who have eyes but do not see (Matt. 13:14-16, and Mark 4:11 and 12). This spiritual nation of Esau has closed its spiritual eyes and ears to the word of God, and they are lost.
Jesus opens the eyes of His disciples, the nation of Jacob, by explaining the parable to them. Jesus also explains to them that the truth is hidden in parables so that the nation with closed eyes and ears will not hear the voice of the Lord. For if they did “hear” the word, they would be converted and their sins would be forgiven (Mark 4:12).
We also read in John 17 that Jesus, knowing that He would soon leave His disciples, prays for them. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (17:9).
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recorded many instances in which those given to Christ by God are converted. There were those who believed the words spoken by Peter and the other disciples at Pentecost. There were about three thousand who believed, and “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). In the city of Antioch, during Paul’s first missionary journey, we read that the Gentiles were glad to hear the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48). Not all were saved, but only those whom God had chosen believed.
These chosen ones are mentioned in Revelation as well. They are the symbolic number of 144,000 spoken of in chapter 7:4; they have been chosen from the spiritual tribes of Israel. This nation of people has had the names of its members written in the book of life, which is sealed until Christ’s return. The names of these people will be remembered, and they will be given eternal life. To the other nation God will say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41); then He will cast them into the lake of fire. They will be no more remembered, but will be fuel for the fire (Ezekiel 21:32).
Our comfort, then, is found in knowing that our God is just. We know this because God opens our eyes and ears through the work of the Spirit in our hearts. By studying our textbook, the Word of God, we find that all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All mankind, therefore, is deserving of death. But our God is merciful, too, and He loves His chosen children. He sent His only begotten Son to this world that whosoever believeth in Him (those who “hear” and “see”) should not perish but have everlasting life. Our salvation comes only through the blood of Christ; may we be eternally thankful to God for this.