Limited Atonement: Does Everyone Have an Opportunity to Be Saved?
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…. John 1:12
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36
To him(Jesus) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10:43
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it(the gospel of Jesus Christ and not sovereign election or predestination!) is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
For Christ is the end of the law for righteous to every one that believeth. Romans 10:4
…God our Saviour…will have all men to be saved , and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all…. 1 Timothy 2:3-6
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. James 5:20
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.33 This he said, signifying what death he should die. John 12: 32-33
The idea that God, before time began, preselected certain unborn people to be destined for salvation, while certain other people were pre-designated for hell, with no opportunity to believe and repent, is clearly and outrageously false – and fails when tested in the refining fire that is the word of God. We are to look to the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) for guidance on all issues, and the full counsel of God, as found in the eternal scriptures, obliterates the idea of limited atonement, along with several of the other pillars of Calvinism. However, for the purposes of this writing, I will focus on the error of limited atonement because it is a critical concept for believers since, if it is true, the Christian life of evangelizing, being a living example of Christ, and making disciples, has no value in terms of saving others from the flames…and both the piercing gospel of Jesus Christ (which is the power of God unto salvation, per Romans 1:16) and prayers for the salvation of others…are rendered meaningless.
From the dawn of time, men and women have had free will. In the garden, Adam and Eve had the choice to either obey God, or to listen to the deliciously wicked voice of the serpent. God did not make or want mindless robots, but instead, He has intentionally given each of us freedom – which is best illustrated by the opportunity we all have to choose life or death, good or evil (see, Joshua 24:14-15). More often than not, we have chosen evil. But the idea that we are all preordained to go to heaven or hell, without a volitional element, makes the life and brutal death of Jesus, as well as the commands of Jesus and the apostles, moot, a waste, a sham, a fraud, and an unfathomable cruelty perpetrated by a God who in reality has an unsearchable love for each and every one of His beloved children. We are far more than robots living an essentially meaningless, preprogrammed life. We are men and women who have received the gift of free will from the one and only God, and he wants us to use that will to seek him with all of our hearts. The evidence of his love and mercy…is everywhere.
My primary problem with Calvinism and all other structures and belief systems superimposed on the Bible, such as hyperdispensationalism, and pre/post-tribulation rapture, is that we tend to force every other scripture we find into the mold of those manmade phrases, even if there are 20, 40 or even 100 scriptures that seem to contradict the 3 or 4 verses that support our belief. We tend to cling to our position as an idol, rather than seeking the “whole counsel” of God on a subject. Why? Because we learned it from a trusted youth leader, a long-time pastor or from a wise seminary professor. Instead of trusting men, who will fade away like grass (1 Peter 1:24-25), we must take the eternal word of God, as a whole, gathering all of the verses on a topic we seek to understand, so that we can study every single word Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, et. al. said regarding that issue. That is the ONLY way to truly understand the things of God. We must all rely less on the teaching of men, no matter how much we love and respect them, and rely more and more on God’s everlasting word. As John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27 say, the Holy Spirit will teach us all things.
My hope is that we will all obey the Apostle Paul’s command in 2 Corinthians 10:5, and cast down every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. We must tear down the manmade paradigms that we place on the eternal scriptures, no matter the cost, and instead search the written word ourselves, diligently and in full, just as the Bereans did and were commended for it (Acts 17:11).
Below are an abundance of scriptures, most of which are self-explanatory, which establish the fact that every single person born on this earth has a chance to be saved. While I will never understand the thoughts and intents of the heart of God, or fully comprehend His foreknowledge (and Paul’s statements on predestination), I do believe that Jesus has made it more than clear to all of us who truly seek Him in His word, that no one, pre-birth is designated for hell at the whim of God, and that everyone has an opportunity to recognize and choose the only one who can save us.
Psalm 19:1-4 In this passage, David states that the heavens declare the glory of the Lord and the earth shows His handiwork. Day after day they pour forth both knowledge and night after night they pour forth speech. There is no language where their voice isn’t heard. Their words have gone out to the end of the world.
Psalm 97:6 The heavens declare His righteousness and all of the people see His glory.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….
Anyone who is weary and burdened is invited by Jesus to come to Him for rest.
Matthew 18:14 When Jesus is talking about children, He specifically states that it is not His Father’s will that even one of these should perish. Since Jesus was only minimally concerned about the temporal, I believe that it is clear that He is sharing about His and the Father’s hope that every single one of the children on earth will find Him.
Luke 2:9-11 When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, he told them that he was bringing tidings of great joy which will be “to all people.”
Luke 3:6 All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Luke 13:34 Jesus laments over the fact that He so desperately longed to gather all of His people to Himself – but they refused to come. They willingly rejected the one who made them and was calling them home.
John 1:1-18 The gospel of John is a tour de force against calvinism, tearing it down from every angle. This extended passage, which I believe is one of the most important in the entire Bible because it establishes exactly who Jesus Christ was, is and is to come, is an excellent place to start in proving that Jesus came to save everyone…yet all would not receive him.
In the opening four verses, the Apostle John states, with great clarity exactly who our savior is, and he makes it abundantly clear that: Jesus “was the light of men.” Jesus was not the light of some men. He was not the light for certain chosen men. He was the light of all men. John then goes on to state that John the Baptist came as a witness to Jesus so that through Him all men might believe.(V. 7). Again, it was Jesus’ hope that every single person on this earth would believe in God, not just some men, not just certain preselected men, but all men. In verse 12, John also specifically said that anyone who receives Jesus, to him he will give the power to become a son of God. Clearly, John is emphasizing the fact that there is a strong volitional element to salvation. Anyone who receives Jesus Christ can become a child of God. John 1:16 goes on to state that we have all received the grace of God. Men predesignated for hell, with no chance to choose between Jesus and the god of this world, would not have the opportunity to receive God’s grace, thereby making John and the word liars if calvinism were true. I believe the clear, specific words of John the apostle, whom Jesus loved, over any man, no matter their reputation or scholarly record.
John 3:16-21 In this well-known passage, Jesus restates the point made by John in chapter 1 noted above, by stating that anyone who believes in the name of Jesus will not perish but will have everlasting life. Verse 17 goes on to state that God sent Jesus into this world not to condemn it but to save it. He did not come to save a few preselected people who were already marked for salvation. Why would Jesus come and die a brutal, torturous death to save people who were already saved? Why would Jesus and Paul tell us to preach the word of God, to make disciples, and to contend for the faith if it was already predetermined who would and wouldn’t be saved? In the rest of this passage, we learn, from the mouth of Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation, that we all have a choice…darkness or light, good or evil. (See also, John 3:36, which is just as strong on this topic. It is quoted in the heading).
John 5:22-24 Jesus states that all judgment has been committed to Him by the Father, and it is the Father’s hope that all men would honor the Son. Jesus then goes on to state that whoever hears His words and believes that He was sent from the Father, has eternal life. Again, there are no limitations placed by Jesus or the Father on who can hear and believe in Jesus Christ and Jesus specifically states that it is His Father’s actual hope that everyone would honor Jesus Christ. The only person who seems to place limitations on who can hear the word of God and be saved is John Calvin.
John 5:39-40 Jesus tells His fellow Jews that they search the scriptures daily, but do not choose to come to Him, the very one whom the scriptures point to, so that they might have eternal life. Jesus is pointing out the fact that having eternal life does not involve academic exercises…but it does involve willingly coming to Jesus Christ.
John 6:45-47 Jesus again states that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life, not just a preselected few.
John 12:32 Jesus says that, if He is lifted up from the earth He will draw all men to Himself.
Many men will ignore Him, but He says with unmistakable certainty, that He will draw ALL men to Himself.
Acts 7:51 When Steven, “full of faith and power” is explaining the prophesies of Jesus from the Old Testament to the Jewish council, he informs them that, just like their fathers, they resist the Holy Ghost. Steven would not need to waste his time preaching this message to the Jews if it were predetermined who would and wouldn’t be saved. He also makes it very clear that their forefathers chose to resist the Holy Spirit. In both Deuteronomy 30:19-20 and Joshua 24:15, God commands His people to choose…this day life or death, blessings or curses…so even in Old Testament days, God gave men the choice as to whether or not they would follow Him. Most of them, sadly(like us today), chose the golden calf or Ashtoreth poles over the Living God. We all have the ability to resist or accept the unchanging truth of our great God. He speaks to our hearts through His eternal word and through the glory and beauty of creation, so that all of us are without excuse. See, Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-20.
Acts 10:34-44 When Peter was sharing the gospel with Cornelius, he stated that God is not a respecter of persons, and that every nation that feareth Him and works righteousness, is accepted by Him. In verse 43, Peter teaches that through God’s name, whoever believes in Jesus shall receive the remission of sins. We also see throughout Acts and the epistles that Peter, Paul and many other Apostles spend their lives relentlessly preaching the gospel throughout the world knowing that all men everywhere have an opportunity to hear the truth of Jesus Christ and be saved.
*****Acts 17:24-31 In this powerful passage, when Paul is preaching to the philosophers at Athens on Mars Hill, he lays out, in very clear terms, the fact that God, who made everything, created each person at a specific time and in a specific place that “they should seek the Lord and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.” So even the godless Greek philosophers were placed on earth at a specific time and in a specific place, so that perhaps they too might seek God, find Him an be saved. This is true for every person ever created says Paul.
Romans 1:16 This verse is self explanatory. The power of the God unto salvation is NOT predestination. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ransoms men from the flames of hell: 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The great passage on Grace in Ephesians 2:8-9, also makes it clear that we are saved by “grace through faith,” not by “grace through predestination.”
Romans 1:19-23 Paul essentially restates what David said in Psalm 19, that all men are without an excuse when it comes to knowing God because God has revealed Himself to everyone from the dawn of time, through the glory and power of creation. Yet men choose to ignore what God has placed right in front of their five senses, and instead choose to degrade each other and embrace the darkest of sins.
Romans 5:18 Just as judgment came upon all men by Adam’s sin, so by the righteousness of Jesus, the free gift of justification unto life came to all men.
***Romans 8:29 In this verse Paul explains predestination as “foreknowledge,” just as Peter defines the “elect” as those God “foreknew,” in 1 Peter 1:2. The point is, that God did not preselect men to go to heaven or hell, but he, in his omniscience, “foreknew” who would choose to believe on his name, and those who would reject him. See below:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ….” 1 Peter 1:2
Romans 8:32 Paul states that God the Father delivered His Son to death “for us all.”
Romans 10:4 Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone that believes.
Romans 10:13-17 Paul then teaches us, without any limiting language, that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (See also, Joel 2:32) Paul then goes on to implore the Roman church to preach the gospel, since the only way that people can believe in Jesus is by hearing the word of God. He states, “How shall they believe in him of whom they haven’t heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans10:14).
***Paul does NOT say that people believe in Jesus Christ because they are part of the “elect.” He makes it clear that people will not, and cannot believe unless we preach, and they hear…the word of the living God.
In summary, Paul is telling us in Romans 10, in clear and powerful language, that salvation wasn’t accomplished at the pre-creation whim of God, but instead Paul exhorts us to go out into the world and preach the gospel in order to give more people an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus Christ…and perhaps be saved.
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 5:11 “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we pesuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”
This passage is one that motivates me to evangelize perhaps more than any other. Not only is the terror of the Lord on the day of judgement very real, but Jesus Christ has called us to labor tirelessly to “persuade” people, via the gospel, to repent…while there is still time. If the false, Calvinist understanding of predestination were indeed true then this scripture is a lie because no one could be persuaded.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Christ died for all, thus if any man be in Christ he is a new creature and all things become new.
2 Thessalonians 2:12 Those are damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. Who is damned? Those who choose not to believe.
1 Timothy 3:6-7 God’s wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, for He gave Himself as a ransom for all.
1 Timothy 4:10 We labor and suffer reproach because we trust God, who is the savior of all men.
1 Timothy 4:16 We must be careful how we live and with our doctrine for in doing so we shall save both ourselves and our hearers. Clearly, our words and actions may have a bearing on who is and isn’t saved.
Hebrews 2:9 Jesus, was made a little lower than the angels and was crowned with glory and honor so that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.
James 5:19-20 James tells us that many of our sins will be covered if we, through the truth, convert a sinner from the error of his ways, saving him from death. Jude 1:22-23 also emphasizes that by our actions, as followers of Christ, men can be pulled from the fires of hell.
1 Peter 1:5-9 After describing several virtues that come with maturity in Christ, Peter tells his readers to be diligent in acting in accordance with those virtues in order to make their calling and election sure, and to protect themselves from falling away.
2 Peter 2:9 God is long suffering toward us and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
1 John 2:2 Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus Christ, the one who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made; the one in whom is life and that life is the light of men; the one who gave us grace and truth; the one who bore our sins in His body on the tree; the one whose head and hair are white like wool as white as snow and whose eyes are like blazing fire; The one who holds the keys of death and hell; the one who someday will appear in an open sky, riding on a white horse wearing a robe dipped in blood with a name written on Him which no one knows but He Himself; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and the author of such a great salvation, makes it clear, through His own words and the words of His Apostles, that He wants every single person born on this planet to be saved from the flames of hell. Why would He waste so much time teaching the jews about the dangers of hell if it was already predetermined who would and wouldn’t go there? Why would he give us the great commission or have us pray for the salvation of others, if everything was already set in stone? Why would he have allowed his son to be brutalized and murdered if we are all simply preprogrammed, predestined robots?
Because of His surpassing love, He gives all people everywhere an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. However the road is narrow…and few find it. Let us all seek the kingdom of God through His everlasting word, unpolluted by the doctrines of demons and men, and let us joyfully share it with others who might also choose His glorious free gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ.
I strongly recommend that each one of us ask God to tear down ANY man-made belief system, which we have placed on His glorious word, no matter who taught it to us. Jesus promises us in John 14:26 (and John says essentially the same thing in 1 John 2:27), that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, so I humbly suggest that we pick up our Bibles, and ask the Spirit to destroy any preconceived notions we have about anything related to God…and then simply read.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20