Particular Atonement for People in the Pew

by Jacob Abshire on December 22, 2023

It may sound like an easy bucket, but the question of the intent and extent of the atonement has boggled believers throughout history. It asks the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Put more clearly, “Did Christ die to atone for the sins of all human beings who will ever live, or did He die to atone only for the sins of a particular people—namely, His people who are the elect?” 

Traditionally, there are two major views. One of which, the Reformed view summarized by the second question, has been historically called Limited Atonement. Since a case can be made that both views limit the atonement in some way, alternative labels have been used to communicate this view. Particular Atonement, an alternative title, more precisely articulates the belief that Christ died to atone for the sins of the elect, who are the people who have and will believe by faith.

Particular Atonement, often nestled within the broader context of soteriology—the study of salvation—is one of the five fundamental doctrines that form the heart of Reformed theological understanding. While it might initially appear as a complex theological concept, its relevance and impact extend far beyond academic circles. This doctrine touches the core of our understanding of God’s character, His plan for redemption, and how we live out our faith in a tangible, daily context.

In this three-part series, we will introduce the doctrine by looking at it from its biblical perspective, heated opposition, and practical application related to divine justice. The first article, a biblical perspective, will guide us through the scriptural foundations of this doctrine. We will trace its origins from the Old Testament typologies to its fulfillment in the New Testament, understanding how it is intricately woven into God’s justice.

The second article will defend and explain the doctrine in light of some of the most pressing moral and ethical questions surrounding it. By examining the delicate balance of justice and mercy inherent in Particular Atonement, we’ll see how it upholds the integrity of God’s character and responds to human concerns about fairness and love.

Finally, the third article will focus on the practical application of the doctrine, bringing it into everyday Christian experience. Here, we’ll explore how Particular Atonement influences pastoral care, shapes personal devotion, fuels evangelistic efforts, and guides mission work. This part of our series aims to demonstrate the practical outworking of this profound theological truth in the life of the believer and the church.

As we navigate these subjects, we aim to highlight this vital aspect of Christian doctrine, making it accessible, relatable, and applicable. Whether you are a long-time believer, a new Christian, or simply curious about the deeper tenets of Particular Atonement, this series offers insights and encourages spiritual growth and understanding.

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Particular Atonement for People in the Pew

Explore this fundamental doctrine’s biblical perspective, heated opposition, and practical application in easy-to-read language.

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