A gracEmail subscriber writes: “How do you view the issue of man’s choice or God’s decree with regard to our salvation? Is limited atonement true or did Christ die for all?”
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The biblical point is not “limited” atonement, which sounds like God intentionally excluded some people from salvation. It is rather “particular” or actual atonement, which means that Jesus actually saved real people with names and faces. He did not merely make salvation theoretically possible without really saving anyone. By his faithful doing and dying, Jesus actually saved everyone who will finally be saved. Scripture tells us that these men and women, boys and girls, were given to Jesus by the Father before the world began (John 6:37-39; 17:1-2).They are also called God’s “chosen” or “elect” (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thes. 1:4). Such people also choose God during their lives.
As it turns out, this includes everyone except those who refuse to be saved — those who reject God throughout life, however they might encounter him (2 Thes. 2:10). Those finally saved will be too many to count — God’s undertaking will overwhelmingly succeed (Rev. 7:9). The New Testament clearly teaches that salvation is all of grace — the saved must give God all the glory (John 3:16; Acts 13:48). But the New Testament also teaches that the lost are totally responsible for their condition and that they cannot blame God for it (John 3:19-20; Acts 13:46).
We must learn to leave room for mystery here. Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts; his ways are higher than our ways (Rom. 11:33-36). No mortal can fully explain divine grace and human responsibility — and we need not trust anyone who claims to do so. I do not understand the Bible to teach that God ordained anyone for damnation, although it teaches that God has the right to do that if he wishes and no human would have a right to complain (Rom. 9:18-23).