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Monday
Apr142008

Theological Term of the Week

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definite atonement

The teaching that “God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save…. Therefore the primary benefits of his death(especially as an atonementwere designed for and accrue only to believers”;1 also called limited atonement or particular redemption.)2
  • From scripture:
    He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:32-34 ESV)
    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:14-17 ESV)
  • From the Canons of Dordt, the Second Main Point of Doctrine:
    Article 2: The Satisfaction Made by Christ

    Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God’s anger, God in his boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.

    Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

    This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.
    Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death

    For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

    Article 9: The Fulfillment of God’s Plan

    This plan, arising out of God’s eternal love for his chosen ones, from the beginning of the world to the present time has been powerfully carried out and will also be carried out in the future, the gates of hell seeking vainly to prevail against it. As a result the chosen are gathered into one, all in their own time, and there is always a church of believers founded on Christ’s blood, a church which steadfastly loves, persistently worships, and—here and in all eternity—praises him as her Savior who laid down his life for her on the cross, as a bridegroom for his bride.
  • From the London Baptist Confession, 1689, Chapter 8:
    5. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him….
    8. To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. 

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1This definition comes from Theopedia. I used it because I it was the best succinct definition I came across during my research, and anything I tried to come up with on my own was suspiciously like it.
2 Definite atonement is definitely my preferred term.
 
Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

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Reader Comments (3)

Definite atonement is definitely my preferred term.

Interesting. Why is that?

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthreegirldad

Because right from the start, the word "limited" gives the wrong idea to someone unfamiliar with the term limited atonement. The question isn't really one of limitation or not. Everyone limits the atonement in one way or another, unless they're a universalist.

The question is whether there is a defined (or definite) purpose and scope to the saving benefits of the atonement. Are there primary benefits of the atonement (like the gift of faith, for one) that are accrued to a definite group of people? That's why I like the word "definite" much better than "limited".

"Particular redemption" is okay, but there are people who make a distinction (wrongly, IMHO) between particular redemption and limited atonement, so that term has a little baggage to overcome, too.

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I like that explanation in your comment Rebecca. I'm one of those that has been a bit confused and concerned by that specific wording.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen elslager

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