Who did Jesus die for? What did Jesus’ death actually achieve?
These two questions point to the heart of the third so-called point of Calvinism1, “Limited Atonement2“. Most Christians would say that Jesus died for all the sins of every person in the entire world. In other words, Jesus paid the price for each sin of every person and we apply that forgiveness to us personally when we put our faith in Jesus.
The doctrine of Limited Atonement, however, says that Jesus died to actually save those God elected. When Jesus was crucified on the Roman cross he did not simply make salvation a possibility, but rather he actually redeemed God’s elect (the “many”, Mark 10:45), propitiated God’s wrath (Romans 3:25), made atonement for God’s people (Hebrews 2:17) and reconciled the elect to God (2 Corinthians 5:18).
The New Testament does not speak of potential possibilities that Jesus’ death may or could achieve (depending on personal faith or not), but rather the definite salvation that Jesus’ death did achieve for those God has chosen. Jesus’ death saved and redeemed (past tense) God’s people.
Jesus himself said he would lay down his life for his sheep, not the goats.
The opposite of the doctrine Limited Atonement in the theory of General Ransom (i.e. Jesus paid the price for every person’s sins). But this can logically not be true. How could a just God punish an unbeliever for his or her sins if Jesus has already received their punishment? You cannot be prosecuted for the same crime (or parking ticket!) twice.
When God the Son died on that Roman cross in the first century AD, he accomplished the eternal salvation of all whom God the Father had unconditionally elected.
1. Total devravity; Unconditional election; Limited (or Definite) atonement; Irresistible grace; and Perseverance of the saints.
2. An evangelical book has recently been published on this subject called, “From heaven he came and sought her“.