February 10, 2012

Evangelism and the Extent of the Atonement

by Mike Riccardi

At the time in my spiritual life when I began to embrace the doctrines of grace, the one that was hardest to swallow was the L in our beloved TULIP acronym: limited atonement—or perhaps better stated (though ruining the acronym): particular redemption, or definite atonement. To make a long story short, I eventually came to see that the doctrine was biblical. Both the intent and extent of the atonement was divinely ordained to infallibly secure the salvation of all those whom the Father had chosen from before the foundation of the world (John 6:39; 10:11, 14–15; Ac 20:28; Eph 5:25). Jesus’ death didn’t simply make salvation possible, and then leave the appropriation of the cross’s benefits to the sovereign will of the sinner. No, it actually purchased the salvation of God’s elect (1Pet 2:24; Rev 5:9).

Interestingly, one of my chief objections to the doctrine wasn’t so much on textual or exegetical grounds. It was that it contradicted the way I had always heard the Gospel preached in evangelism. All around me, I heard the Gospel preached as if it was merely: “Jesus died for you, so you should believe in Him.” Evangelism boiled down to telling people that Jesus died specifically for them, and that, if He loved them so much that He would die for them, the least they could do was live for Him.

That message that I heard so often never really told people why Jesus died for them—i.e., to satisfy the Father’s righteous wrath against my sin that otherwise condemned me to hell. It was always, “Jesus died for you,” rather than, “Jesus died for you.” It was as if the cross was only a demonstration of love, rather than love demonstrated by the payment of the debt my sin incurred through Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection.

So my embrace of the doctrine of particular redemption caused me to re-evaluate whether it was right to evangelize by calling people to faith on the grounds of Christ’s death for them. My back-and-forth reasoning went something like this: “I mean, I don’t know who the elect are, and if Christ’s death atoned only for the sins of the elect, how could I call a particular person to faith on the basis that Jesus died for them? Then again, it is possible that this person I’m speaking to was chosen by the Father in eternity past, and so then it would be true that Jesus paid for their sins. Besides, there are common-grace benefits that Jesus’ death secured for the elect and non-elect alike. In that sense, it may be true to say that Jesus died for someone (common grace for the non-elect) without actually atoning for their sins (special grace for the elect).”As you can see, I was quite confused.

But eventually my continued study of the Scriptures led me to realize that the Apostles and disciples never called people to faith on the basis of the extent of the atonement. Rather, they announced Jesus’ death as the purchase of the forgiveness of sins for all who would believe, and His resurrection as the vindication of Jesus’ righteousness and proof of their message.

Some time later, I read J. I. Packer’s classic, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God. On pages 65 to 69 (in my copy), he articulated the thoughts I couldn’t quite capture in my own words. He explained the relationship between the extent of the atonement and evangelism. I want to share that section with you, in the hopes that it will equip you to more effectively proclaim the Gospel in a way that is faithful to Scripture.

We must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ, as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: ‘Believe that Christ died for your sins.’ The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Saviour, who died for sins.

The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who made atonement. We must not in presenting the gospel isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person, and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Saviour. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ said Paul. ‘Come unto me…and I will give you rest,’ said our Lord.

This being so, one thing becomes clear straight away: namely, that the question about the extent of the atonement, which is being much agitated in some quarters, has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point. … I am not at present asking you whether you think it is true to say that Christ died in order to save every single human being, past, present, and future, or not. Nor am I inviting you to make up your mind on this question, if you have not done so already. All I want to say here is that even if you think the above assertion is true, your presentation of Christ in evangelism ought not to differ from that of the man who thinks it false.

What I mean is this. It is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement, ‘Christ died for every one of you,’ made to any congregation, would be unverifiable, and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his gospel preaching. You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon. But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say, or ever has reason to say, when preaching the gospel. For preaching the gospel, as we have just seen, means [calling] sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Saviour, who, by virtue of His atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all.

The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him. The basis on which the New Testament invites sinners to put faith in Christ is simply that they need Him, and that He offers Himself to them, and that those who receive Him are promised all the benefits that His death secured for His people. What is universal and all-inclusive in the New Testament is the invitation to faith, and the promise of salvation to all who believe. […]

The gospel is not, ‘believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore for yours,’ any more than it is, ‘believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not for yours.’ The gospel is, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers you Himself as your Saviour.’ This is the message which we are to take to the world. We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement; our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him.


J. I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 65–69.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Weird. Comments were off. Not sure why. Fixed now, though.

    • elainebitt

      Weird indeed. I could swear I saw a ps at the end of your article that said something like “comments are closed, take it up to the blogger/writer”.

      • Yeah. That’s the default response from WordPress when comments are off. Hopefully that issue is taken care of.

        • elainebitt

          ah ok. At least I know I am not going crazy. haha

  • Ualtaher

    Awesome book,

    Had the same effect on me & it was listening to Pastor MacArthur teach on the “L” , (I listened to it 10 times I think), that changed evangelism & apologetic s for me and opened me up to the Doctrines of Grace.

    Thanks for the reminder,


  • Brad

    I have been wondering about this question for the last couple of weeks.

    One observation, and one question.

    1) My observation is about this quote: “The gospel is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers you Himself as your Saviour.’”

    To me that statement is basically the same as saying “Jesus died for you.” I just can’t conceive of any major difference. If Jesus offers Himself to me as my Saviour, I’m assuming he died for me and loves me.

    2) My question: Since God is love, is it ok to tell everybody that God loves them? I want to tell people that God loves them, but my reformed reading make me hesitate to do so.

    Looking forward to your answers. Thanks Mike!

    • Hi Brad. Thanks for your thoughtful interaction.

      1. There is a difference between Packer’s Gospel summary and “Jesus died for you.” The difference is precisely that “Jesus died for you” (i.e., died in your place to atone for your sin) commits one to a certain view of the extent of the atonement; namely, unlimited or universal atonement. “Believe on Christ who died for sins” doesn’t commit the evangelist to a certain view of the extent of the atonement. And Packer’s point is, Scripture presents the latter as the Apostolic model. Our Gospel preaching shouldn’t be limited [heh] to a certain view of the extent of the atonement.

      Continuing a bit on that thought, I think the reason “Jesus died for you, now live for Him” was/is so popular, is because people imagine Jesus’ death merely as a demonstration of love, merely as a way for Jesus to show us how great He thought we were. Instead, when the NT talks about Christ dying for sinners (e.g., Rom 5:8) the preposition huper is used, which means “on behalf of, in the place of.” The emphasis isn’t: “Jesus just thought the world of you and so He died for you.” It’s: “Your sin condemned you to death, and Jesus died for you.”

      And I think that distinction is another thing that makes those two phrases (Christ died for sin; Christ died for you) different.

      2. I think the most accurate way to speak about the love of God for unbelievers is that God loved them (love as a verb, not a noun) by sending Christ to atone for the sin of those who believe. That’s what John 3:16 says. God loved (past time) the world (humanity as a whole) in this way: He sent His Son to die for sin, so that the believing ones might not perish but have life. The free offer of the Gospel is an act of love, something the angels didn’t receive when they sinned (Heb 2:16; cf. 2Pet 2:4). The fact that the sun shines and the rain falls on the just and unjust (Matt 5:45) is an act of love. All of common grace is God’s love–as an action, not a mere sentiment–to elect and non-elect alike. Of course, God’s love to His own is different than His love to everyone.

      So if what you mean when you tell an unbeliever that God loves them is that God feels really good about them, finds them loveable, or esteems them highly in their unbelief and wickedness, stop doing that. But if what you mean (and explain to them) is, “God has loved you, given you grace and mercy, by waking you up this morning, by granting that you enjoy parts of your life, and chiefly by sending His Son to pay the penalty for sin,” then yeah, go for it.

      • Brad

        Thanks Mike!

        This is helping clarify some things.

        1. I see how the words “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins” isn’t saying anything about unlimited atonement. But isn’t Packer’s statement that, “Jesus offers you Himself as your Saviour” the same as saying “Jesus died for You.”

        2. I’ll have to think about what you wrote here some more. It is kind of confusing. I guess I just think if Christ died for humanity as a whole and unbelievers are part of humanity as a whole then Christ died for unbelievers and loves them.

        I guess I just want to tell unbelievers that Jesus “died for YOUR sins.” What’s the point of the Gospel if Jesus died for sins in the abstract and not people’s sins? In other words, why should an unbeliever care about the Gospel if the Gospel doesn’t have anything to do with the forgiveness of their particular sin?

        But at the same time, I can see how the Bible talks a lot about Jesus dying for “my” sin or “our” sin etc., only after they have become Christians. I think I should probably study more of the conversion/evangelistic texts in the Bible to see what they have to say about presenting the Gospel to non-believers.

        I think I am confusing myself more now.


        • But isn’t Packer’s statement that, “Jesus offers you Himself as your Saviour” the same as saying “Jesus died for You.”

          No, it isn’t. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to make that clear in a compelling way for you. I tried to explain it in my last comment. Maybe if you phrase your question differently, I might be able to approach the issue from a different angle.

          …if Christ died for humanity as a whole and unbelievers are part of humanity as a whole then Christ died for unbelievers and loves them.

          Well, I don’t mean to say that Christ died merely for humanity as a whole. In using the phrase “died for,” I’m emphasizing the wrath-bearing substitution of Christ’s death. In that sense, He died only for the elect. If you believe that Christ’s death purchased from God such blessings as common grace affords (which I do believe), then in that sense He died for the whole world. I just think it’s important to be specific and clear about what we’re talking about when we use that language.

          I guess I just want to tell unbelievers that Jesus “died for YOUR sins.”

          But what if He didn’t? What if that person is not elect, and Jesus’ death did not propitiate the wrath of the Father against their sins?

          What’s the point of the Gospel if Jesus died for sins in the abstract and not people’s sins?

          Again, I don’t men to say that Jesus died for sins in the abstract. I think Jesus’ payment for sin was very personal. That Mike Riccardi’s sins were punished entirely in Christ 2,000 years ago. I know that for sure because Christ has saved me. But apart from evidence of salvation, we can’t know who the elect are. An unbeliever may be elect, but may have not yet come to faith. On the other hand, he may not be elect, and thus will never come to faith.

          Better to say: “Jesus’ death paid for the sins of all those who would ever believe in Him, such that if you repent and believe [need to explain what this means], your sins will have been paid for, and forgiveness purchased particularly for you, all the way back in AD 30.

          My best shot at presenting the Gospel faithfully to an unbeliever is here: http://thecripplegate.com/an-open-letter-to-you-in-2012-the-same-old-message-for-a-brand-new-year/ (particularly the “Our Response” section). I hope that can be of some help.

  • Dear Mike thank you for writing on this issue, it fascinates me. I cannot expand the entire minutia related to this subject, but I would like to offer you an alternative. As you said, for centuries the dichotomy has been TULIP versus EMPTOR. The extent of the atonement swung from limited to unlimited. Hence, when writing on this issue the tendency is to present the weaknesses and strengths of both theological systems—Calvinism versus Arminianism. Nonetheless, in light of the full scope of God’s work in redemptive history, we see a third option: unlimited extension with definite applications or unlimited multiple reconciliatory intentions.
    In the letter to the Colossians Paul presents Christ as the effect, cause and explanation of all things. Everything was created through and for Jesus (Col 1:16). He is, in fact, the πρωτότοκος of creation, that is, He is the first cause and as such He is infinitely the greatest in the hierarchy of creation. Hence, all things ought to be in perfect submission to Him. Thus, through His death and resurrection all things have been reconciled to Him (Col 1:20). The initial order of creation will be restored in the New Creation. Notice that Paul further explains what “all things” are—the things in heaven and on earth. Hence, what the apostle has in mind is more than salvation, since redemption has not been accomplished for the invisible things. This is also highlighted by the repetitive use of the word πάς (Col 1:15, 16[2], 17[2], 18, 20).
    The word “reconciliation” (ἀποκαταλλάσσω) is only used in Christian literature and the idea depicted is that the universe is to form a metaphysical unity (this sentence is not at all used to depict pantheism, but to refer to a cosmological restoration of all things in submission to God; see BDAG, “ἀποκαταλλάσσω,” 112), which has its goal in Christ. We should take into account that when this word appears the stress is on the activity of God; reconciliation is a response to something that God has done (See Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965], 235). It was His good pleasure that reconciliation should be effected. It is also noticeable that each time this word is mentioned we have a reference to the means, “through the blood of His cross,” (Col 1:20) and “in His fleshly body trough death,” (Col 1:22). Thus, it is clear that reconciliation is linked to the cross of Christ. His death removed the barriers that sin brought upon the creation. Furthermore, the participle εἰρηνοποιήσας (making peace) in verse 20 reflects that Paul is indebted to a broad Old Testament theme for his teaching here. Thus, it seems that “reconciliation” should be understood as the imposition of the peace (F.F. Bruce calls this “pacification”). Therefore, everything created has been subjected to Christ, who is the creator of all things (Col 1:16). By this reconciliation, every realm of creation is subdued to the will of God and ultimately they will fulfill God’s intended purpose, whether they please or not (Phi 2:10–11). Ergo, the scope of reconciliation includes the material creation, the animal world, humanity, and spiritual beings. So, the blood of Christ—His atoning work—reconciled all things to Him, meaning everything invisible or visible will be united to Him in subjection, restoring the initial order lost with the entrance of sin.
    In light of this, the extent of the atonement has multiple intentions. Christ died to reconcile to Him the elect, the non-elect and the order of nature. Once we see that Christ’s death has several purposes we can account for the variety of biblical teaching. There are the three main categories of the atonement:
    1. Limited reconciliation of the elect for glorification. Christ died to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given Him. In words of A. A. Hodge: “If God purposed that the elect should certainly be saved, and others left to the just consequences of their sins, Christ could not have designed the benefits of his death indifferently for all men,” (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology [New york: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878], 418). The elect are the spiritual seed of Abraham, who are the “children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52). Scripture clearly presents that Christ died to secure the salvation—past, present and future—of His own (John 10:11, 15; Acts 20:28; Rom 8:31–39; Eph 5:25, etc.).
    2. Limited/unlimited reconciliation of the non-elect for condemnation. Notice that the issue is not double predestination but that condemnation is limited and imminent for those who reject the person and work of Christ (John 3:18, 2 Pet 2:1). Bear in mind that in order to be condemned for rejecting the Gospel, it has to be a real and genuine offer. Hence, when Jesus laments over Jerusalem, He condemns them because they rejected His genuine call to repentance (Matt 23:37). Thus it is an unlimited offer of salvation, and this is because Christ’s atoning work makes possible for all who believe to be saved—unlimited (2 Cor 5:14–19; 1 Tim 2:6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2, etc.). Even those who do not believe will be subjected to Christ, sadly in this case, for condemnation.
    3. Unlimited reconciliation of subhuman creation for restoration. Death reigns over creation. The atoning work of Christ is unlimitedly applied to all creation since death has been rendered powerless (Rev 20:14), reason why even the non-elect will be raised from the dead (1 Cor 15; Rev 20:13), and the creation restored to a deathless and glorious state (Rom 8:20 – 23; Col 1:19–20; Rev 21, etc.).
    In sum, the main aspect of the nature of the atonement is reconciliatory, and since all things will be reconciled to Jesus, the extent is unlimited. However, the atoning work of Christ also secures the salvation of the elect, provides additional condemnation for those who do not believe and restores creation, but since these are subsets of a greater category the extent is limited to each specific subset. This is simply an attempt to offer a comprehensive model that would represent the biblical relationship between the nature and extent of the atonement—multiple reconciliatory intentions. It is a mere introduction to the subject, further exhaustive study is needed, but I hoped that it would trigger thoughts and would lead the reader to marvel at God’s grace and all-encompassing reconciliatory work, according to His steady plan.

    • Hey Ruben,

      Dude, if you wrote that whole thing impromptu for this thread, I’m taking you out to lunch.

      I have a twofold response. One, whatever differences you and I might have on the doctrine, it shouldn’t affect the way we evangelize. That was Packer’s point, and was what I was after in this post.

      My more general response is simply that I’m focusing on the word “atonement” or “propitiation” (hilasmos, hilasterios). I think Scripture defines that as the payment for sin unto the appeasement of the wrath of God. Strictly speaking then,

      (a) Christ’s death (i.e., the atonement) did not propitiate the Father’s wrath against the sins of the creation; the creation itself didn’t sin, but was subject to futility when man sinned (Gen 3:17; cf. Rom 8:20).

      (b) His death didn’t propitiate the Father’s wrath against the sin of the non-elect, otherwise hell would be empty. There’s no wrath to exercise on those for whom wrath has been satisfied/appeased.

      (c) Rather, His death propitiated the Father’s wrath against all those who believe — those whom the Father elected in eternity past and gave to the Son as a gift (e.g., Titus 2:14; Rev 19:7-8), of whom the Son will lose none (John 6:39), and who will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

      • Well… I got excited =) But in order to be fair I need to admit that my ThM thesis—Cosmic Reconciliation and Environment—is rooted in Col 1:15–20, hence I’ve been reading, writing and thinking a lot about this specific issue and its implications to other areas of our theology.

        Now, regarding your reply. I totally agree with everything that you said. I do not reject the definition of propitiation as the appeasement of God’s wrath. I do not say that the cross achieves propitiation for creation or the non-elect. Instead I tried to offer a different approach to the Cross. Let me explain, I think that the current debate is simply because at one end of the spectrum some take the limited application of a determined recipient of the benefits of the cross and extent it to the whole (i.e. hypercalvinism). At the other extreme, we find the opposite, the limited nature of a subset is interpreted in light of the unlimited extension of the reconciliatory sacrifice (i.e. pelagianism or universalism).

        Why I am trying to understand is the nature of the cross itself. Among our Reformed circles the tendency is to see it as propitiatory. Thus, it clearly has to be limited, or actual. Nevertheless, what about if propitiation is simply one subset of the whole? What about if the cross achieves much more than propitiation? or even what about if the cross achieves more than anthropologic implications? Should we then define the cross in light of the subset or the entire set? Even the OT seems to express reconciliation as the natural understanding of Jesus’ atoning work. I do not have the time and space to explain the levitical sacrificial system, but let me simply share that although the sacrificial system is central to the book of Leviticus, there is more to it, which is holiness (Lev 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). God gave instruction that enabled Him to live among His people and His people to have fellowship with Him. I believe that this is crucial to understand the full scope of the sacrificial system. God chose Israel to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests for Him in the world (Ex 19:5–6) so that and only when they were set apart from the world would they be useful in God’s plan to restore his blessing to the world. Ergo, the universal purpose of God for the world.

        Genesis begins with creation, rebellion of man, sin, its judgment, and divine intervention to restore creation (Gen 1–11). Then it traces the development of God’s plan from the first covenant promises made to Abraham to the nation of Israel in Egypt (Gen 12–50). Exodus moves from beginnings to redemption. God redeemed the covenant people from Egypt’s slavery so that they might become his unique possession, and dwell among them, in order that they might be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests to the world. This is the practical and theological foundation for the book of Leviticus, which reveals that the ultimate reason God established his covenant was to restore holiness in all the earth. Hence the nature of the atonement is more than simply propitiation, expiation, redemption and substitution. These are subsets of a larger category, and that is reconciliation.

        In other words, and I say this only for the sake of the argument (it is an oversimplification), the nature of the cross is reconciliatory in itself. Thus, it has a cosmic application. But then, this larger category is composed of smaller subsets, one, for instance applies to the elect. Hence, how is this cosmic reconciliation applied to them? Well, by means of the propitiatory work of the cross, it brings redemption. So in the end I am not denying what you are saying, I am simply asking if propitiation alone should define our understanding of the nature of the cross. The question itself is, what is the nature of the cross? and this is what I am trying to answer, and I myself, despite bringing out these issues, have not come to final conclusions yet. I and you as well desire to have a theology determined by our exegesis, and that is what has raised some questions in my mind.

        In the end, I totally agree that theological differences should not affect how we share the gospel. Simply, your post triggered some thoughts in my mind =).

        • I am simply asking if propitiation alone should define our understanding of the nature of the cross.

          I gotcha, and I think you’re right — that propitiation isn’t the sum total of the cross. But, it is the concept represented by “atonement,” and so for the sake of this post, which was designedly narrow in scope, I was focusing on that central aspect.

          Thanks for all the thought you’ve put into this issue. Send me a copy of your ThM thesis when you’re through!

  • Steve

    Excellent. Super-helpful. Thank you.

  • Karl Heitman

    Hey Mike, great article. Maybe it’s a good thing the comments were turned off or you’d be reading/answering/arguing with anti-Calvinists for hours on end…. 🙂

    I do have one clarification for you to address: it seems like your point is that even though the great doctrine of Limited Atonement it true and biblical, you’re saying it doesn’t really matter. Since Christ clearly did not die for every single man, woman, and child who ever lived, can we tell people that Jesus died for their sins like He died for mine and yours? I see that Packer omitted “your” sins in his definition of the gospel (which I agree with).

    In other words, even though we don’t invite people to initially embrace the doctrines of grace off the bat in evangelism, are you ending up where you left off in the beginning trying to reconcile the “L” and your evangelism? Thanks for your well thought out responses.

    • Hey Karl. I’m not sure I totally understand your question. I’ll take a shot at it and you can ask follow-up questions if I missed the point.

      I do believe that limited atonement is true and biblical, but I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t matter. If it’s biblical, it matters (2Tim 3:16-17). I am saying that belief or non-belief in the doctrine doesn’t have to affect our evangelism / gospel presentation.

      So in reconciling the L in my own evangelism, I say things like what I laid out in this post (http://thecripplegate.com/an-open-letter-to-you-in-2012-the-same-old-message-for-a-brand-new-year/ ). For example (from that post):

      What was happening on the cross was: God was carrying out the punishment against my sins—i.e., the pouring out of His wrath—on His innocent Son. Jesus voluntarily laid down His life in order to pay the penalty for sins. On the cross, God treated Jesus if He lived my life. And because I believe in Him, He treats me as if I lived Jesus’ life. … And now, God promises that…if (a) you acknowledge that you are a sinner—that you have broken His law, and if (b) you admit that there is no way that you could earn His favor and His forgiveness, and if (c) you purpose to turn away from your life of sin and commit your life to Him, and if (d) you trust in Jesus’ righteousness alone for your acceptance before this holy God, then He will have treated Jesus as if He lived your life, and will treat you as if you lived Jesus’ life. You will be saved from the penalty of your sin, and will be able to enjoy fellowship with God forever in heaven, and even fellowship with Him starting now.

      Does that help?

      • Karl Heitman

        That half answers it.

        Since Christ clearly did not die for every single man, woman, and child who ever lived, can we tell people that Jesus died for their sins like He died for mine and yours even though we don’t know that for sure? Christ did not die for the non-elect. Therefore, it seems as if we would be lying by telling someone who never comes to faith and repentance that Christ died for them. Does that makes sense?

        • …can we tell people that Jesus died for their sins like He died for mine and yours even though we don’t know that for sure?

          I don’t think we should, no. And what Packer’s saying is: the Apostles didn’t think so either.

          • Karl Heitman

            Thank you. That changes my evangelism because I will no longer tell unbelievers that Christ died for them since we don’t know. That’s how the “L” affects my evangelism / gospel presentation. That’s what I was trying to reconcile. If you put it that way, doesn’t it affect yours too?

          • Well, yes. If my evangelism was already slanted in favor of one view of the extent of the atonement, then Packer’s point will affect my evangelism. And, granted, if you subscribe to unlimited atonement, it’s likely to affect yours more than someone else’s.

            But his point is also that both camps (limited and unlimited) can preach the Gospel effectively — and even identically — by recognizing that no one view of the extent of the atonement needs to be presented in the evangelistic encounter.

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  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Hi Mike,

    Good post. Have you ever wrestled with “P” the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints too? Have you ever written about “P”?

    “L” never really gave me a problem. But “P” just always leaves me scratching my head. When someone apostasizes, the Reform response is to always say that that person was never a genuine Christian.

    Anyways, didn’t mean to hi-jack the thread since it’s about “L”. If you or your cripplegate co-authors have written something on “P” and apostasy, please provide a link. Thanks.

    • Hey TUAD,

      No, I’ve never really struggled with the P. Romans 8:29-30, John 10:27-29, and especially 1 John 2:19 really put the nail in the coffin on that issue for me.

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  • hey Mike,

    On the terms of a limited satisfaction, what is God offering the non-elect? Like this, how does God offer a remedy to a man for whom the remedy was not made? Keep in mind, in Scripture, God makes his offer through the preached word.


  • virgil

    great articles, great posts! a big thank you to all!

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