Atonement: questions and answers

Pastor Joseph Flatt provided the following answers to common objections against particular redemption in a seminar he offered church members last year.

1.  The gospel cannot be offered freely to all men if the atonement is limited.  However, this free offer is valid only a limited basis (salvation is offered, not the provision of it).  Christ’s work and the offer of the gospel made indiscriminately are not necessarily co-extensive with the offer.  Yet, our task is to share the gospel indiscriminately.  We should preach the gospel to all men (Rom 1:16, Mt 28).

2. How can I tell men that God loves them and died for them?  You can’t and you shouldn’t.  This is not how you should approach the unbeliever.  Tell them they’re sinners and must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved, etc.

3.  This view limits God’s love.  Yes, it does.  Rom 9:13; Ps 5:5, 11:5.  If God’s love is measured by how far it extends, then the general redemptionist also limits it (it’s not available for angels . . .).  But God does love every man in a non-redemptive sense; in that he gives common grace to every man.  God has compassion on men everywhere, but this is different from a redemptive love for all men—a distinction in His love.

4. The sin question has been cared for by Christ for all men; people go to hell for their unbelief.  But Scripture lists sins for which people will go to hell.

  1. Rev 21:8 – cowardly, unbelieving, immoral, idolaters, etc., à lake of fire
  2. Rom 2:6-16
  3. Rev 20:11-13
  4. 1 Cor 6:9-10

5. The passages which exhort men to believe and be saved argue for the potential nature of Christ’s death on the cross (the “whosoever will” passages). 

  1. Acts 16:31 – believe and you will be saved (≠ regeneration, which comes first; you must be alive to believe!).  This is not a condition; it is a FACT.  Men can’t and won’t “will” (1 Cor 2:14; John 1:13; John 6:44).
  2. Rom 10:13 – everyone who . . .

Final thoughts: 

Boettner notes, “For the Calvinist, the atonement is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian  it’s like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across.”  There’s a disconnect between a Savior who died for all men and the Father who doesn’t save everyone.  Why the difference?


For a definitive defense of this position please read “The Death of Death In the Death of Christ” by John Owen.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Phil Johnson summarizes the 5 points of Calvinism this way at

    We’ve been taking note of five important truths implied in the eight words of 1 John 4:19 (“We love Him because He first loved us”). I alliterated the five implications of that text I highlighted for you, but if you simply give them slightly different names, they spell TULIP:

    * The perverseness of our fallen state—that’s the doctrine of Total Depravity.

    * The priority of God’s electing choice—that is the doctrine of Unconditional Election

    * The particularity of His saving work—that, as we saw, entails the doctrine that is often called Limited Atonement.

    * The power of His loving deliverance—that, once more, is the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

    * The perfection of His redemptive plan—that is nothing other than the doctrine of Perseverance.

  2. […] Caleb Kolstad ( continues his series on limited atonement with a question and answer post. […]

  3. […] Question and answers. […]

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