The Extent of the Atonement: God's Intent for the Sufficiency and Efficacy of the Atonement


In 1 John 2:2, the Apostle John celebrates that Christ, “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Superficially, this text appears to demonstrate the divine intent of the atonement involves Christ satisfactory appeasement of the wrath of God towards sinful humanity universally. In other words, the extent of the atonement is universal in scope and the record of debt owed to God because of sin has been canceled because of the propitiator work of the cross (Col 2:14). [1] However, within the parameters of orthodox evangelicalism differing positions on the extent of the atonement are held. Positions that are persuasively defended exegetically. Selective exegesis of individual passages provides proponents of the varied positions ample biblical weaponry to magnify their personal view on the extent of the atonement. Unfortunately, an examination of some of these positions reveal theological presuppositions and not objective hermeneutics. In other words, a biblically faithful position on the extent of the atonement mandates consideration of the totality of the Scriptural teaching and not isolated passages.


Varied positions are understandable considering the ambiguity and lack of explicit texts definitively advocating one position over the other. Numerous questions are, therefore, prevalent in the atonement discussion. “Was the death of Christ sufficient for all people?” “For whom did Christ die?” “Did Christ’s death secure salvation for a particular group of people or does the atonement make possible the salvation of all people equally?” Therefore, this essay will argue and attempt to demonstrate that the atonement was intended by God to sufficiently satisfy His wrath for the sins of the elect only as well as efficaciously securing their redemption as represented in the definite atonement position. This will be accomplished by first providing a charitable presentation of opposing orthodox positions related to the subject of the extent of the atonement, then demonstrating the definite atonement view to be the position that objectively considers Scripture’s presentation of the Godhead’s harmonious intent and accomplishment in the sufficiency and efficacy of the atonement.


Positions on the Issue

In this section two opposing positions related to the extent of the atonement will be presented. Universal atonement or general atonement will be presented as it relates to the Arminian tradition. The second position will be hypothetical universalism or the multiple intentions view as held by Reformed believers not holding to a strict Owenic particularism.[2] Both views are considered scholastically to function within the paradigm of orthodox Protestantism. Admittedly, an exhaustive analysis of general atonement and hypothetical universalism will reveal variances that exist among adherents of each position. However, a comprehensive inquiry is not the purpose of this position paper. The intention of this section is to provide a broad overview of particular redemption opponents with specific focus on the varied understandings of God’s intent for the sufficiency and efficacy of the atonement.


The Universal Atonement Position

Among the extent of the atonement positions universal atonement is the historical position of Arminian theology. The extent of the atonement debate between Calvinist and Arminians originated when the Remonstrants, followers of Jacob Arminius, presented Five Articles of belief in Holland in 1610 in response to the popularity of Calvinistic theology and the Belgic Confession. Later, international delegates comprised of moderate and high Calvinist convened at the Synod of Dort and refuted the Five Articles of the Remonstrants in 1619. The Synod terminated with the Canons of Dort, articles containing what are contemporarily known as the five points of Calvinism.[3] Obviously, among the doctrinal issues addressed at the Synod of Dort was the Arminian view of the atonement’s extent, universal atonement.


The universal atonement view suggests that Christ sufficiently provided atonement for all of humanity without distinction and the intent of the atonement is applied to all whom, by their free choice, place faith in Christ’s redemptive work. General atonement is, therefore, a potential atonement and not an actual atonement. There is potential for one’s sin to be atoned for in Christ’s death if the condition of repentance and belief is met.[4] In other words, God has lovingly made salvation a possibility for all of humanity through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, but application of salvation is contingent on the person freely putting their faith in Christ.[5] The conditionality of general atonement gives God the right to offer salvation to everyone, but guarantees the salvation of no one. [6] Arguable, it is this universal nature of the atonement that allows for the universal invitation of the Gospel to all people.


Exegetically universal atonement is supported from passages of Scripture that speak of Jesus dying for the world, all people as well as God’s will to save everyone (1 Tim 2:1-6; 4:10; John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Pet 3:9). These texts show the universality of the atonement. Also, 1 Timothy 4:10 is a key general atonement text portraying Christ as, “Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” Paul appears to suggest the sufficiency of the atonement as unlimited while limiting its application. Another principal text is John 3:16. Defenders of general atonement magnify the glorious display of God’s love demonstrated in the giving of the Son and argue the intent of His love is universal without distinction.[7] Additionally, Arminians note that several passages indicate that many for whom Christ has died will receive eternal punishment (2 Pet 2:1; Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11; Heb 10:29).[8] Universal atonement, therefore, concludes exegetically that God in love has made atonement for all, but those who fail to make application of the atonement by their free will do not receive the eternal benefits of the atonement.


In summary, universal atonement contends that the extent of the atonement is sufficient and available for all of humanity without distinction. God designed and intended the cross of Christ to atone for and provide salvation for all people. Almost universally “proponents of unlimited atonement make the universal nature of God's love one of the central arguments for their view.”[9] However, the efficacy of the atonement is not guaranteed for anyone because only a theoretical redemption exists contingent on the exercise of one’s faith in Christ. As John Frame rightly concludes, “the atonement does not actually save; it only makes salvation possible for those who freely decide to come to faith.”[10]Therefore, in an effort to amplify biblical text that describe God’s universal love proponents of general atonement have erroneously mitigated explicit biblical text related to the particular nature of the atonement’s extent for the elect only.


The Hypothetical Universalism Position

Among Calvinist the debate over the extent of the atonement is not a matter of efficacy as in the universal atonement position. There is universal agreement in Reformed theology that only the predestined elect of God will have the atonement applied to them by the sovereign grace of God. Therefore, both four and five point Calvinist affirm the Lombardian formula, “sufficient for all, effective for the elect.” [11] They agree there is limitation of the atonement in application. However, historically due to the ambiguity of the formula division on what is meant by “sufficient for all” has been debated. More specifically there is disagreement on God’s intention for the sufficiency of the atonement.


God’s intention of the atonement’s sufficiency according to hypothetical universalism is “universal provision of forgiveness and the satisfaction of God’s wrath” for all of humanity. [12] God has paid the penalty for sin for all mankind universally, however, the death of Christ had particular intention to effectually redeem only the elect. [13] Moderate Calvinist Norman Geisler summarizes, “the atonement is limited in its application, but it is not limited in its extent.” [14]From the Owenic position the atonement was sufficiently valuable enough to atone for the sin of all humanity, but that was not God’s intention. [15] Richard Baxter championed hypothetical universalism in his opposition to strict particularist John Owen. Baxter affirmed unlimited atonement, while still affirming unconditional election.[16]


To summarize, “hypothetical universalism asserts that Christ died for all without exception to make salvation conditionally available to all. People are dead in their sins and unable to believer, however, and therefore God also willed to only send the Spirit to apply the atonement to the elect.” [17] The hypothetical universalism view on the extent of the atonement is an exegetical attempt to mediate the biblical tension between the universal and particular texts. Scripture teaching Jesus died for the world and all people are taken at face value, while passages indicating His death was for His sheep and the church are not interpreted to exclude all of humanity (1 Tim 2:1-6; 4:10; John 1:29; 3:16; 10:11; Eph 5:25; 1 John 2:2).


Support of Definite Atonement

This section will transition the essay to a defense of definite atonement. Here the objective is to prove the thesis that the atonement was intended by the Godhead to satisfy the Father’s wrath for the sins of the elect as well as efficaciously securing only their redemption. First definite atonement will be defined. Second, this section will attempt to objectively consider the teaching of Scripture related to the Godhead’s harmonious intent and accomplishment in the sufficiency and efficacy of the atonement.


Definite Atonement Defined

The doctrine of definite atonement asserts, “Christ's actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was forever destroyed, and a title of eternal life was secured for them." [18] Packer clearly emphasizes the sufficiency and efficacy of the atonement for the elect as well as the Trinitarian nature of its design. The death of Christ accomplished the predetermined will of the Godhead to secure the salvation of the elect, which in time is applied to them by the regeneration of the Spirit. Definite atonement displays the glorious success of the Godhead’s intent, design and accomplishment of the cross.


Particular redemption upholds Jesus as an actual Savior, not a potential Savior as believed by proponents of universal atonement. Confidence in Christ’s salvific achievement is grounded in the Scriptural teaching that the passive and active obedience of Jesus jointly functioned to propitiate the wrath of God (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2) and expiate the sins of the elect (Isa 53:6; John 1:29; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 2:24). [19] By vicariously dying in place of the elect Christ became sin on their behalf (2 Cor 5:21). The infinite value of the bloodletting of Christ fully atoned for sin and satisfied the holy and just demands of God. Therefore, all for whom the atonement was intended must be saved because the prerequisites of salvation are accomplished in Christ. Definite atonement concludes that the worth and perfection of the atonement must limited the scope because all for whom it was intended have been ransomed.


Trinitarian Harmony in Redemption

A biblical understanding of the extent of the atonement begins with a proper understanding of the harmonious relationship of the Godhead. Scripture does not present a redemptive plan by which the Father predetermines a remnant of humanity to redeem, but nevertheless propitiates the sin of all equally. Consequently, opposing positions to particular redemption unwillingly portray discontinuity among the Trinity. For, if God is orchestrating His will through meticulous sovereignty then it is impossible for Christ to atone for the sins of all mankind and only have that atonement thwarted by man’s unbelief.


Rather, God has elected a people to gift to the Son and it for that group that Christ sacrificially died and them alone that the Spirit effectually regenerates (John 6:39-40). Reformed theologians rightly recognize that “those whom God planned to save are the same people for whom Christ also came to die, and to those same people the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, even awakening their faith and calling them to trust in him.” [20]Scripture presents each Person of the Godhead harmoniously accomplishing the redemption of a specific people.


The Acts of the Father

The Trinitarian harmony in the design of the atonement begins with the sovereign acts of the Father. There are three acts of the Father that mandate and precede the atonement. The first act is the election of the Father in eternity past of a particular people (Rom 8:29-30; 9:11-13; Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8). Unconditional election states, “that God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adam’s race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and these only, He purposed to save.” [21] It was the intent of God to redeem a remnant of humanity and that remnant was elected by the Father and gifted to the Son (John 17:9).


Owen recognizes another two acts of the Father in the work of redemption, the sending of the Son and the pouring out of punishment for sin on Him as a divine substitute (John 3:16; 10:36; Rom 8:3-4; 3:25; Gal 3:4-5). [22] The acts of the Father in Scripture reveal the plan of the Godhead was for the Father to send the Son to die as a substitute for those who by faith believe in Christ. Prior to the advent of Christ the Father saved individuals who by faith trusted in the promised Messiah. This is a dangerous gamble placing the justice of God at risk if there is no guarantee that the Son will atone for those who have been forgiven. However, because of the unity of the Godhead the Father with confidence forgave Old Testament believers knowing the Son would display the Father as just and the justifier in the atonement (Rom 3:25-26).


The Accomplishment of the Son

Christ Jesus, in agreement with the Father was chosen before time to shed His blood as the purchasing agent of the elect’s redemption (Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:20). It is because of the end objective of redeeming a people for the glory of God and the praise of the Lamb that Christ came as a means for that redemption. Christ is explicit that He came to do the will of the Father and in His active obedience perfectly obeyed the Law of God. Furthermore, in His passive obedience laid down His life as the sinless substitute to ransom the church (Matt 26:39; John 5:19; 6:38; 10:30; 14:31; Eph 5:25).


As the Great High Priest Christ accomplished His work by serving as a substitute and mediator of a particular people. First, the accomplished work of Christ as the substitute. This is a foundational element of definite atonement. The concept of substitution operates within the framework of the penal substitution theory of the nature of the atonement. [23]Substitutionary atonement is depicted in the Old Testament and fully demonstrated in the cross of Christ. During the yearly Day of Atonement the High Priest would take two goats with the purpose of atoning for the sin of Israel (Lev 16). One goat would symbolically have the sin of Israel placed on its head and then released to carry away the sin of Israel (Lev 16:10). This is expiation. The second goat would be sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat, satisfying the wrath of God (Lev 16:9; 15). This is propitiation. In both instances the goat serves as a substitute sacrifice for God’s chosen people. Those chosen people are His sheep for whom the Good Shepherd came to give His life (John 10:11).


Secondly, Christ represents those for whom He substituted Himself as their Mediator. The Trinitarian harmony in the atonement is observed by noting that Christ was appointed by the Father as High Priest (1 Tim 2:5; Heb 5:4-6). It is the will of the Father that the Son serves as Mediator and intercedes on behalf of His people, mediation that is made possible through His atonement (Heb 7:26-27; 9:12). Therefore, as the faithful High Priest He mediated during His earthly ministry (John 17) and continues to mediate today (Rom 8:38).


There is little disagreement that Jesus as the High Priest and the Lamb of God accomplished redemption and reconciliation through His substitutionary atonement (John 1:29; 2 Cor 5:18-19). Neither is there dispute that He continues to intercede as Mediator (1 Tim 2:5; Heb 10:1-4). The debate, however, is for whom was Christ a substitute, humanity as a whole or a particular subgroup? Was the substitutionary atonement intended to sufficiently atone for all humanity equally? Does Christ intercede for all of humanity without exception? This essay has repeatedly noted that it was for a particular group that Christ died and intercedes. Having identified the High Priest role as substitute and Mediator the essay will explain how these two roles mandate a definite atonement view.


The divergence between moderate and high Calvinist is directly related to how one answers the question of substitution. [24] Was Christ a substitute for all of humanity or for the elect alone? Either He saved the world universally, saved the elect only or saved no one and only made salvation possible pending the exercising of faith. If the atonement is universal and not particular then Jesus is a Savior of no one, but a potential co-Savior with believing individuals. Definite atonement, however, asserts that Christ atonement was limited in scope for only the elect. Meaning, Jesus on the cross legitimately saved sinners fully. This was the intent of the Father. For the high Calvinist the atonement was sufficient for the elect only because of the substitutionary nature of the atonement. [25] It is illogical to accept the hypothetical universalist’s limitless scope argument that Christ the divine substitute ransomed all equally. Illogical because if the death of Christ paid the penalty of sin for all people without exception all are freed of their debt and will be saved. This is universalism, a heresy, but the natural evolution of the limitless sufficiency and scope position.


Those who hold Owenic particularism rightly conclude that if Christ, as substitute, satisfied God’s holy justice for the sins of all humanity without exception then God is unjust by sending any to hell for unbelief. [26] Owen argues that if:

Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. [27]

In other words, although Christ’s substitution adequately expiated and propitiated the sin of all people, if they do not believe they will be eternally punished for their unbelief. Definite atonement rightly abhors this idea arguing correctly that the atonement would cover unbelief. More importantly the penal substitution of Christ in the atonement makes provision for regeneration and belief through the efficacious call of the Holy Spirit.


Christ has wholly paid the ransom to God for a people through the atonement (Gal 3:13-15). Sufficiently the atonement canceled, “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14). God no longer has a legal case against the sinners for whom Christ died. For those whom the atonement is intended there can be no second demand of payment. In eternity past their salvation was determined and later in time accomplished at the cross. Matthew demonstrates this view of the atonement’s limitation. Christ “will save His people from their sin” (Matt 1:21). The mission of Christ was to make atonement for His people, the bride of Christ, efficaciously saving them (Eph 5:25-26). The Father ordained for the Son to die a substitutionary death, to save His people, effectually making peace between God and the elect (John 10:18; Rom 5:1; Gal 1:3-4; 1 Tim 1:15). [28]


Additionally, Jesus, functioning in the office of High Priest, demonstrates the exclusivity of the atonement in His intercession. John 17:6-19 explicitly shows Jesus interceding for His sheep only. Also, recognition that Israel was an Old Covenant type of the New Covenant church further solidifies the particular redemption position. [29] Just as the Old Testament High Priest only mediated for the people of Israel, so too Christ mediates for the elect of God only. Steve Wellum notes, “there is no evidence that He intercedes salvifically for the non-elect, as is seen clearly in several New Testament passages.” [30] It is inconceivable to propose that Christ sufficiently ransomed all and only intercedes for some. Rather, Christ as Mediator demonstrates the particularity of the extent of the atonement by interceding only for those His atonement reconciled to God.


To summarize, definite atonement affirms the Godhead intended for Christ to be a sacrifice and mediator for the elect alone. As the substitute of the elect all their sin was placed on Christ and propitiated at the cross (Romans 3:25; 2 Cor 5:21). “The atonement thus appears as an effective propitiatory transaction that actually redeemed, that is, secured redemption for those particular persons for whom Jesus on the cross became the God appointed substitute” (Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7; Col 2:14). [31] Jesus sufficiently ransomed a particular people from their debt to God while also wholly satisfying the just demands of God. As Mediator Christ now intercedes securing the eternal salvation of His people. [32] As eternally designed by the Godhead the sufficiency of the substitutionary sacrifice and the intercession of the High Priest guarantees the efficacy of the atonement.


The Application of the Spirit

All the necessary perquisites for the redemption of humanity have been secured at the cross of Christ (John 19:30). The Trinitarian design of the atonement is that it now be effectually applied to all the elect. An application that is certain because their salvation has been secured (2 Pet 3:9). [33] “In the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of His sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit.” [34] Perfect harmony among the Godhead in the atonement.

Therefore, to apply the atonement the Holy Spirit regenerates all the elect upon their hearing of the Gospel (John 6:44; 1 John 5:1; Acts 16:14). Calvinists are in agreement with Arminians that faith is a condition for the atonement’s efficacy. However, definite atonement maintains that faith is a gift of God purchased and procured by the atonement, not an exercise of free will (Eph 1:8; Phil 1:29).[35] The Holy Spirit, therefore, completes the work of Christ’s atonement by ensuring its efficacy (Eph 1:13). The unity of the Godhead orchestrates all things to ensure that all for whom Christ died will hear the Gospel followed by the imputation of the full righteousness of Christ (John 10:27; Rom 8:28-29; 2 Cor 5:21).


In summary, it is the harmonious unity of the Godhead in the work of redemption that serves as the primary defense for definite atonement. The glory of God is at stake if the intent of the atonement is not realized because it demonstrates dysfunction between the Godhead. [36] Therefore, before time the Father gifted the chosen elect to the Son as an expression of love, a gracious gift that terminates in the eternal worship of the Son. This gift required the Son to empty Himself and endure the cross, all ordained by the Father, but it was done with joy because of the guaranteed outcome, the forgiveness of sin for His bride (Phil 2:5-10). Following the earthly ministry of Christ the Holy Spirit now actively calls and regenerates, through Gospel proclamation, all for whom the atonement was intended ensuring its efficacy.


Objections to Definite Atonement

The final section of this essay will address two objections to the definite atonement position. First, a response will be given to the objection that definite atonement diminishes universal saving will of God. The second objection to be contested is the accusation that if definite atonement is true then it negates both evangelism and a universal offer of the Gospel.


First Objection

One of the most popular objections is that definite atonement is irreconcilable with biblical text related to God’s universal saving will. Few opponents of definite atonement are more outspoken than David Allen. Allen argues, “the basic issue is this: if Christ did not die for the non-elect, how can this be reconciled with passages of Scripture such as John 17:21, 23; 1 Tim 2:4–6; and 2 Pet 3:9 that affirm God desires the salvation of all people?” [37] The passages mentioned by Dr. Allen are frequently considered to be problematic texts for definite atonement. Therefore, in this section, a brief response will be given as to how definite atonement can be reconciled with two of those texts 1 Timothy 2:4-6 and 2 Peter 3:9.


In Paul’s letter to Timothy he states God, “desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” and Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:4; 6). Admittedly, this is a difficult text that appears to advocate universal atonement. However, like other difficult passages context is key to accurate interpretation. The context of the 1 Timothy indicates that Paul was writing to confront some sort of exclusivism heresy in Ephesus. [38] A false teaching was being propagated that suggested the Gospel was not intended for all people, that is all types of people. The passage in question is located in the context of Paul’s urging of Timothy to pray for all types of people, “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim 2:2).


One should conclude that the “all” of verse 4 and 6 is not referring to all humanity without exception, rather all humanity without distinction. [39] This interpretation is further supported by the inclusion of Paul’s apostolic calling to the Gentiles (1 Tim 2:7). This passage is not teaching a universal atonement or an unlimited scope of the will of God to save. Rather, Paul is refuting the false teaching of exclusivism and reiterating that the Gospel is for all people without distinction.[40]

Secondly, 2 Peter 3:9 appears to express God’s universal will to save all of humanity without exception. He writes the Lord “is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). God’s will is that none perish and all come to repentance. Repentance here “involves the repentance that is necessary for eternal life.” [41] This means the will of God is that all people are saved from His eternal wrath.


Understanding this verse must be done in two steps. First, the Bible speaks of two concepts in relation to the will of God, His decretive will and permissive will. Owen argues it is the decretive will of God mentioned here. [42] Thus, if it is His sovereign decretive will that all are saved then all must be saved. The conclusion is that Peter is refereeing not to all of humanity without exception because that would result in universalism because nothing can thwart the sovereignty of God’s will. [43] Although Peter does reference God’s desire to save in this text this is not a universal desire to save without exception. Contextually Peter’s intention is to justify the delay in Christ’s return. A delay that is the result of God’s desire to ensure the salvation of all of those for whom Christ made atonement for at the cross.


Second Objection

The accusation that definite atonement negates evangelism is prominent. The reasoning is that if the atonement does not make provision for all people without exception then a universal offer of the Gospel cannot be made. To contest this objection one must first acknowledge Scripture clearly mandates the believer to proclaim the Gospel liberally and to all of creation (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). This is nonnegotiable and must be obeyed.


Secondly, advocates of definite atonement establish their confidence in obeying the biblical mandate to universally preach the Gospel in the sufficiency and efficacy of the atonement. Evangelism is done with full assurance that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the hearts of His elect and bring them to salvation (Acts 13:48; 16:14). Moreover, particular redemption safeguards the purity of the Gospel. It prevents the evangelist from compromising the message in order to manipulate a response to the Gospel. For the Calvinist, definite atonement emboldens a universal offer of the Gospel knowing that as the message of Christ is proclaimed His sheep will hear His voice and will follow Him (John 10:16).


Conclusion

In summary, this essay has demonstrated that the atonement was intended by the God to sufficiently satisfy His wrath for the sins of the elect only as well as efficaciously securing their redemption as is presented in the doctrine of definite atonement. Scripture teaches the unified intent of the Godhead in the atonement is to exclusively atone for the sin of the elect only through the substitutionary death of Christ. In this substitution Christ bore the sin of the elect as He suffered the wrath of God in their place and consequently expiated their sin debt. He continues today to ensure the success of the atonement through His mediation. The atonement is the climactic moment in the Trinitarian orchestration of God’s redemptive plan for His chosen people. Christ is a successful Savior who has accomplished a fully sufficient and fully efficacious redemptive work for the Father’s predestined elect.


[1] Atonement is sometimes used by scholars in a broader sense to refer to the work of Christ both in His life and death. However, for the purpose of this position paper the atonement is used in reference to Christ’s death and its propitiator work of paying the sin debt owed to God. See Ware, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994) 568. [2] Proponents of the multiple intentions view contend the extent of the atonement has five general intentions. For the purpose of this essay only the intentions related to the sufficiency of the atonement to pay for all sin universally and the specific intention to effectually save the elect are addressed. It is for that purpose the multiple intentions position is coupled with the hypothetical universalism position. For a thorough exanimation of all five intentions see Shultz, A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentioned View of the Atonement (PhD diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008) 161-222. [3] Mark A. Snoeberger, Introduction, in Perspectives On The Extent Of The Atonement , ed. Andrew David Naselli and Mark A Snoeberger, 1-17. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015) 15. [4] John Piper, Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Publishers, 2005) 325. [5] Within the universal atonement position the decisive agent in regeneration is man who freely decides to trust in Christ or reject Christ. This choice is made possible through prevenient grace, a cornerstone doctrine for adherents of universal atonement. Prevenient grace asserts that in order to restore human freedom from their morally depraved condition God bestows on all humanity a non-salvific grace to restore their free will of contrary choice. This bestowal of grace allows the unsaved individual to apply the atonement or reject the atonement of Christ. See Schreiner, Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense, in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge and Grace, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000) 229-246. [6] Packer, J.I., Saved by His Precious Blood, in In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement, ed. J.I. Packer and Mark E. Dever, 110-144. (Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 119. [7] Grant R. Osborne, Introduction, in Perspectives On The Extent Of The Atonement , ed. Andrew David Naselli and Mark A Snoeberger, 81-141. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015) 118. [8] Jerry Vines, Sermon on John 3:16, in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke, 13-28. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010) 17. [9] Gary Shultz, A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentioned View of the Atonement (PhD diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008) 199. [10] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2016) 905. [11] Lee Gatiss, The Synod of Dort and Definite Atonement, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 143-164.(Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 149. [12] John S. Hammett, Multiple-Intentions View of the Atonement, in Perspectives On the Extent of the Atonement, in Perspectives On The Extent Of The Atonement , ed. Andrew David Naselli and Mark A Snoeberger, 143-211. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015) 193. [13] God’s design for the extent of the atonement as unlimited sufficiency and limited efficacy within the hypothetical universalism position is sometimes known as, unlimited/limited atonement. [14] Norman L. Geisler, Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of Gods Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House, 2010) 79. [15] John Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1959) 157-158. [16] Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind (Shropshire, England: Quinta Press, 2008) 286. [17] Shultz, A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentioned View of the Atonement, 4. [18] J.I. Packer, Introductory Essay, in The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ by John Owen, 1-25. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1959) 7. [19] John Frame rightly distinguishes between expiation and propitiation as uniquely different works accomplished by the atonement of Christ. Although some contemporary scholars use these terms interchangeably they are not synonymous. Expiation means that Christ took on the sin of the elect by bearing them on the cross and thus removed the liability of the elect to suffer punishment and condemnation. The atoning work of Christ fully removed the responsibility of sin through expiation. Propitiation refers to the bearing of God’s wrath and anger toward sin. Christ’s atonement fully propitiated the wrath of God or satisfied the anger of God toward sin. See Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 902-903. [20] Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 595. [21] David N. Steele, The Five Points of Calvinism. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publications, 2004) 27. [22] Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ, 51. [23] Although the purpose of this essay is not to defend penal substitution it is pertinent that the reader understand the atonement theory from which the doctrine of definite atonement originates. Tom Schreiner summarizes penal substitution, “the Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son, who offered himself willingly and gladly, to satisfy God’s justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.” See Schreiner, Penal Substitution View, in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic 2006) 67. For a more exhaustive explanation of penal substitution and the nature of the atonement See R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing 2014) 160-163; and Schreiner, Penal Substitution View, in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, 67-98.

[24] The debate regarding substitutionary atonement is not an issue for the universal atonement position because they historically hold to the governmental theory of the atonement. Although some Arminians like John Wesley do affirm penal substitutionary atonement. The governmental theory argues that Christ did not bear the actual sin of the sinner or suffer there specific punishment, but was punished as an alternative in order to maintain the justice of God. See Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009) 224. [25] Particularists affirm the Lombardian formula, but understand the formula not to mean the sufficiency of the atonement is for all people equally without expectation. Meaning it was not God’s intention to expiate and propitiate the sin of all humanity. It is sufficient in value because of the infinite value of Christ. Owen explains, “The value, worth, and dignity of the ransom which Christ gave himself to be, and of the price which he paid, was infinite and immeasurable; fit for the accomplishing of any end and the procuring of any good, for all and every one for whom it was intended, had they been millions of men more than ever were created.” See Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1959) 119. [26] Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ, 246-247. [27] Ibid., 61-62. [28] The argument of substitution is not merely logical rationalism as some suggest, but Scriptural. Scripture teaches that in His vicarious role Christ’s atonement accomplished, redemption (Mark 10:45), justification (Rom 3:24-25; 5:8-9), reconciliation (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:17-20), righteousness (Rom 5:19), regeneration (Acts 5:31; Phil 1:29; Titus 2:14) and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30; Heb 9:14; Heb 13:12). One can see each of these concepts provides greater clarity for the Godhead’s intention of the atonement. [29] Carl R. Trueman, Definite Atonement View, in Perspectives On The Extent Of The Atonement , ed. Andrew David Naselli and Mark A Snoeberger, 19-61. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015) 44. [30] Stephen J. Wellum, The New Covenant Work of Christ, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 517-539.(Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 529. [31] J.I. Packer, The Love of God: Universal or Particular, in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge and Grace, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware, 277-291. (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2000) 288. [32] Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ, 71. [33] R.C. Sproul rightly argues that 2 Peter 3:9 is a demonstration of the atonement’s design for the elect to always come to saving faith. This is the decretive will of God. See Sproul, What is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2005) 171. [34] David Gibson, Sacred Theology and the Reading of the Divine Word, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 33-53.(Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 33. [35] Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ, 81. [36] Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 595. [37] David L. Allen, The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016) 785. [38] Thomas R. Schreiner, Problematic Texts for Definite Atonement in the Pastoral and General Epistles, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 375-397.(Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 376. [39] The same hermeneutical method used to discern the authorial intent for “all” in this passage should be employed in other “world” and “all” text (1 Tim 4:10; John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Superficial reading does suggest universal atonement, but further investigation reveals these passages to be speaking of all of humanity without distinction and not all of humanity without exception. [40] Thomas R. Schreiner, Problematic Texts for Definite Atonement in the Pastoral and General Epistles, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 375-397.(Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 377. [41] Ibid., 395. [42] Owen, The Death Of Death In The Death Of Christ, 236. [43] Schreiner disagrees with Owen and argues Peter is referring to all of humanity without exception and believes this is the permissive will of God not decretive. He recognizes the tension, but advocates it is the most textually faithful interpretation. See Schreiner, Problematic Texts for Definite Atonement in the Pastoral and General Epistles, in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her: Definite Atonement In Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, 375-397. (Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2013) 395.