John S. Torell
“Limited atonement” is a term that is used in Calvinistic
doctrine that has caused a lot of problems for the last 400 years. In this
brief article, I am only pointing out the main teaching in this doctrine.
Should the reader want to educate himself further, there is ample
information from books and the internet.
The Reformation against the Roman Catholic Church began in
1517 when Martin Luther, a German Roman Catholic priest posted his 95
theses on the door of his church building. John Calvin was an eight year
old French boy in 1517, who would later develop the Protestant theology.
He left the Roman Catholic Church as a young man, became born again and
joined the Protestant movement. He moved from France to Geneva,
Switzerland, due to persecution where he became a theologian and a
minister. He became the founder of the French Protestant Church in France
in 1550, which was called “The Reformed Church.”
French Protestants were called “Huguenots” and their
persecution was so severe that the French Reformed Church was never able
to get established due to hundreds of thousands of its members being
murdered. Survivors were able to flee to the British colonies in America,
South Africa and other nations. Due to persecution of born again
Christians in England, many British Christians ended up in Geneva and were
influenced by the theology that Calvin had developed. As a result,
Calvinism was transplanted to Scotland by John Knox (Presbyterian Church)
and by the Puritans to England who eventually ended up in the American
colonies. Hyper-Calvinism was developed by “Particular Baptists” in
England during the 1700s, which in time also spread to the United States.
THE DOCTRINE OF LIMITED ATONEMENT
The question was raised in the mind of John Calvin: Did
Jesus die for the entire human race or only for those who would accept him
as Lord and Saviour? I do not believe that it was the Holy Spirit that
planted this question in his mind; rather, this was from the Devil, since
it brought in confusion and threw many people into torment. As Calvin
developed the doctrine of limited atonement, he believed that Jesus only
died for the elect, those who were predestined to be born again. Was
Calvin right or wrong? Let’s find out what the Bible says on this matter.
WHAT DID JESUS TEACH?
Jesus never brought up the subject of election concerning
individual people. When Jesus sent out the apostles to preach and to heal
(Luke 9:1-2), He never told them to check out if the people were chosen of
God for salvation. It was a blanket order to go and preach to whosoever
they would find along the way. The same was true for the 70 others, they
were sent out on a similar mission. Jesus did not tell them to check and
see if the people in question were elect or not and then minister to the
ones who qualified. (Luke 10:1-3) In what is known as the Great Commission
(Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus told His disciples to teach all nations.
There was no mention on His part concerning a selective salvation for
certain individuals; rather, it was a general call to all humans.
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 16, a portion of scripture
that both fundamental and liberal Christians claim is not part of the
Bible, Jesus clearly tells His disciples to go into the whole world and
preach the Gospel to every creature.
(Mark 16:15-20) In those contested verses, Jesus makes the following
statement: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” It is
important to note that there is no discussion about being elect first. In
the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the crowd that “if any man thirst,
let him come unto me and drink…” (John 7:37-39) Again we can see
that Jesus did not tell the crowd that those who were the elect could come
unto Him. We are told in chapter three of the Gospel of John that God so
loved the world…that whosoever believes in Jesus will never
perish. (John 3:16)
Jesus never taught how a human being could know who is
God’s elect and eligible for salvation. Preaching the Gospel is like
fishing, you don’t know what is down in the water, you simply aim for any
fish that is willing to bite your bait and be hooked. This is why Jesus
told Peter and Andrew that He would make them “fishers of men.” (Matthew
Jesus did not complicate the process of preaching the
Gospel. He had one simple command: go out to the people and preach
repentance. The Devil did not like that message so he made it more
complicated to bring men into bondage. No man, regardless how Calvinistic
he is, has the gift to tell if a person has been elected to be saved or
not. To have a doctrinal debate on this subject is a waste of time and
WHAT HAS GOD SAID ON THIS SUBJECT?
When God called Abraham, He told Abraham that he would be a
blessing to all families on the earth. (Genesis 12:3)
Years later God confirmed to Abraham that he would be a
blessing to all nations in the world. (Genesis 22:16-18)
The prophet Isaiah spoke on behalf of the Lord to all
people in darkness, not just an elect group. (Isaiah 9:1-7)
God spoke through Isaiah to the people of Israel, that
everyone who is thirsty may come. (Isaiah 55:1-9)
When God sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh, He didn’t tell
Jonah to do an investigation first to see who was elected for salvation,
and then only preach to these people; instead, he was told to go to the
city and preach judgment if the people were not repentant. (Jonah 1:1-2;
WHAT DID THE APOSTLES TEACH?
When Peter preached his first sermon after the day of
Pentecost, he told the whole crowd to repent and be baptized in the name
of Jesus. (Acts 2:37-41) Peter did not tell them to fill out an
application so that the apostles could get back to them after they had
been checked out that they were worthy of being led in the sinner’s
prayer. Instead, the apostle Peter brought out that God is not a respecter
of persons. (Acts 10:34)
This is also later confirmed by the apostle Paul. (Romans
2:11) He makes it crystal clear that Jesus died for all men, not for just
some elect. (Romans 5:17-19) In his letter to Timothy, Paul again confirms
that it is the will of God that all men will be saved. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
It is in chapters nine and ten of Hebrews that Paul once and for all
establishes what the atonement is, who it is for, and what it will do to
cleanse a sinner from sins and bring them into the kingdom of God.
It was Jesus who finalized the truth of the Gospel when He
told the apostle John that if any man heard His voice and opened the door,
He would come in and sup with him. (Revelation 3:20-22)
THE DEVIL HATES EVANGELIZATION
The Devil does not want you to be saved; it is his will
that you will perish and end up in the Lake of Fire. If you get saved
despite his resistance, he will put doubt in your mind whether or not you
are saved. After John Calvin developed his doctrine on limited atonement,
it caused havoc in the Church for the last 400 years. There have been many
debates by so-called “learned scholars” whether the church should
evangelize and send out missionaries. Since Hyper Calvinists believe God
has in advance selected who will be saved, it is futile for man to witness
or establish missions. According to them, the church should concentrate on
helping the saints to grow and leave the conversion outside to God.
You don’t need to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar to get an
understanding on this subject; the Bible has clearly addressed this topic
in a language you speak and read. Jesus made it simple by telling us to go
out to every nation and preach the good news that Jesus saves!
Do not complicate the Bible. Just read it and simply do
what God and Jesus has told us to do. Stop trying to split hairs. Do not
try to discuss issues which we have no knowledge about and are unable as
humans to understand.
If you want to analyze and debate the issue of limited
atonement and be tormented whether or not you are one of God’s elect, go
ahead, but I will not join you because I am going to rest secure in the
bosom of Jesus and lead as many people to Christ as I can!
“Ho, every one
that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come
ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without
price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your
labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and
eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of
Behold, I have
given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the
people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and
nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy
God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye
the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let
the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and
let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to
our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts
are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh
down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth
the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to
the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth
out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall
accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing
whereto I sent it.
For ye shall go
out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills
shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the
field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir
tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it
shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not
be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:1-13)
Volume 2, 2008