Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

11 Arguments for Limited Atonement

Dr. Robert Shaw offers 11 arguments for limited atonement as he comments on WCF 8:8:

The sacrifice of Christ derived infinite value from the dignity of his person; it must, therefore, have been intrinsically sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole human race had it been so intended; but, in the designation of the Father, and in the intention of Christ himself, it was limited to a definite number, who shall ultimately obtain salvation. This important truth may be confirmed by the following arguments:

1. Restrictive terms are frequently employed in Scripture to express the objects of the death of Christ: “He bare the sin of many.” “He gave his life a ransom for many.” (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28). Does not this intimate that Christ died, not for all men, but only for many?

2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from others by discriminating characters. They are called the sheep, John x 15; the church (Eph. 5:25); God’s elect (Rom. 8:33); the children of God (John 11:52).

3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to be “redeemed from among men” (Rev. 14:4), which, if Christ had redeemed all men, would be an unmeaning and inconsistent phrase; they are also said to be “redeemed out of every kindred,” &c. (Rev. 5:9), which certainly implies that only some of every kindred are redeemed.

4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those who were “chosen in him,” and whom the Father gave to him to redeem by his death (Eph. 1:4, 7; John 17:2).

5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or for his spiritual seed (Isa. 53:10).

6. The intention of Christ in laying down his life was, not merely to obtain for those for whom he died a possibility of salvation, but actually to save them—to bring them to the real possession and enjoyment of eternal salvation (Eph. 5:25, 26; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Thess. 5:10). From this, it inevitably follows, that Christ died only for those who shall be saved in him with an everlasting salvation.

7. The intercession of Christ proceeds upon the ground of his atoning sacrifice; they must, therefore, be of the same extent with regard to their objects; but he does not pray for the world, but only for those who were given him out of the world; his sacrifice must, therefore, be restricted to that definite number (1 John 2:1, 2; John 17:9).

8. An apostle infers from the greatness of God’s love in delivering up his Son to death for sinners, that he will not withhold from them any of the blessings of salvation; we must, therefore, conclude that Christ did not die for all mankind (Rom. 8:32).

9. The same apostle infers the certainty of our salvation by the life of Christ, from our reconciliation to God by his death; now, since all are not saved by his life, we must conclude that all were not reconciled by his death (Rom. 5:10).

10. Christ, by his death, procured for his people not only salvation, but all the means leading to the enjoyment of it; consequently, his intention in dying must be limited to those who do repent and believe, and not extended to the whole human race.

11. The doctrine that Christ died for all men leads to many absurd consequences, such as: That Christ shed his blood for many in vain, since all are not saved; that he laid down his life in absolute uncertainty whether any of the human race would be eventually saved; that he shed his blood for millions who, at the very moment of his death, were consigned to the pit of everlasting destruction; that he died for those for whom he does not intercede; that he died for those to whom he never sent the means of salvation, yea, to some of whom he even forbade his gospel to be preached (Matt. 10:5; Rom. 10:14); and that God acts unjustly in inflicting everlasting punishment upon men for those very transgressions for which he has already received full satisfaction by the death of Christ. To affirm any of these things, would be blasphemous in the highest degree, and, therefore, that doctrine which involves such consequences must be unscriptural.

Taken from The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (pp. 158-59)