Jonathan Gibson: 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, 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. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite in its nature—his death really does atone for sin. 2. Definite atonement has courted controversy in the Christian church.
Alex Kocman: “Sit down, young man. When God decides to save the heathen, he will do it without your help.” These were the words of John Ryland to a passionate, young English Particular Baptist named William Carey, now known to us as the father of the modern missionary movement. Since then, the temptation to pit Reformed theology and missions against each other as enemies has continued to plague the broader evangelical movement, despite the Calvinistic bona fides of Carey and countless others like him. “If you’re a Calvinist, you must not really believe in evangelism”—so goes the logic. Men like William Carey and Andrew Fuller, and more modern writers like J.I. Packer in his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, have demonstrated repeatedly that the Reformed emphasis on particular redemption is the sweet companion of the missionary endeavor and not its antagonist. But in our day and age, for some observers, another sticky question remains—the question of that pesky “L” in the “TULIP.”
Jarvis Williams: When you hear the question, “For whom did Jesus die?” what do you think? The answer may seem obvious: for the world. After all, John 1:29 says that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And John 3:16 declares that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” As a result, many interpreters assert that Jesus died for the entire world, and not for a predestined number of people. But what does the term “world” mean when used in association with Jesus’s death? Does it refer to everyone without distinction or to everyone without exception? There is a difference. Everyone without distinction would mean that Jesus died for all kinds of people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Everyone without exception would mean that he died for every single individual person without any exception. This
R.C. Sproul: The doctrine of limited atonement (also known as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption”) says that the atonement of Christ was limited (in its scope and aim) to the elect; Jesus did not atone for the sins of everybody in the world. In my denomination, we examine young men going into the ministry, and invariably somebody will ask a student, “Do you believe in limited atonement?” The student will respond by saying, “Yes, I believe that the atonement of Christ is sufficient for all and efficient for some,” meaning the value of Christ’s death on the cross was great enough to cover all of the sins of every person that ever lived, but that it applies only to those who put their faith in Christ. However, that statement doesn’t get at the real heart of the controversy, which has to do with God’s purpose in the cross. There are basically two ways in which to understand God’s eternal plan.
David Mathis, Desiring God: It is, by far, the most contested of the Five Points. And confusion over the term makes it all the trickier. “Limited Atonement” is the middle letter in TULIP, but as author and pastor Douglas Wilson explains, that name might give the wrong impression. “The problem with ‘limited atonement’ is that it makes everybody think ‘tiny atonement.’” And, of course, no good Christian wants to cast the cross-work of Christ as diminutive. The better term, says Wilson, with a growing number of voices, is “Definite Atonement.” Same doctrine, better name. This way of putting it emphasizes the extent of Jesus’s accomplishment, rather than its restriction. He Died for His People Definite atonement teaches that Jesus died to fully secure the salvation of his people, not just make the offer. Its anchors in the biblical text include, among others, John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” Ephesians