Yes He did. But how if all are not saved?
This high-Calvinist model of the atonement defines the doctrine in commercial, or pecuniary terms. The word “pecuniary” is derived from the trade of cattle, and in regard to the atonement, refers to Jesus’ blood being just so efficacious so as to purchase all of the elect, but not one more person than that. Yet the Bible does not unambiguously define the atonement in such language.
So then in what way did He die for those who will end up in hell for eternity? We see that He died to propitiate the wrath of God, “not for our sins only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2), and that in His death, He effectually purchased His entire elect people (Matt. 1:21; Eph. 5:25 et al).
We see that He “tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), but the atonement, we see, results directly in the salvation of the elect (Heb. 9:23-28).
So then does the effectual redemption of the elect preclude His having made a redemptive payment for all people? Scripture does not seem to draw the line of limitation here. The limiting of the atonement, rather, is in how it was designed to be applied – “to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). If we pay careful attention to each passage that teaches us about what happened in the atonement, we nowhere see that the effectual redemption of the elect necessarily means a payment has not been made for the sins of all individuals at all times. The Calvinistic “L” in TULIP is a logical construct, but it fails to regard the full picture of redemption Christ accomplished.
The difference from the pecuniary model is that Christ’s payment is infinite, and it covers all sin for all humankind. The reason for this is that it is an infinite atonement by virtue of an infinitely valuable life paid to the account of infinite wrath for a world of sin. It is in the application that God exercises His sovereign, limiting prerogative.
The Scriptures teach that Jesus pushed away the wrath of God for every last person, elect or not. That’s called propitiation (Rom. 3:21-25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). Jesus placated the holy anger of God against a sinful world by Himself standing in the place of God’s judgment, absorbing the judgment for human sin unto Himself.
How then could someone still be punished for their own sins in eternal hell, if Jesus absorbed the wrath of God for them? Simply put, God retains the right to pour out that same wrath on any or all who have died in their rebellion against Him. The death of Jesus paid the penalty of all sin, including unbelief, but in rejection of God’s terms for salvation, that penalty may be recalled. The only argument I know of against this is to claim language from human courts of justice: “He cannot put anyone through a double jeopardy. The penalty paid at Calvary is forever paid, and cannot be paid again by the sinner in hell.” Show me one verse, friend.
Scripture and Christian tradition indicate that in actuality Jesus did cover the sin debts of all individuals, elect or not. His blood shed does not have a pecuniary value in it as in a calculated efficacy that runs out as the last sinner atoned for is received into the presence of God. The efficacy is actually, totally real in the eyes of the Father – for all people, everywhere, always – until death.
Click here for helpful articles that define these terms in detail, with historical sources.
And so… Atonement refused is wrath aroused…
Why couldn’t God punish someone eternally for the sins Jesus already atoned for? Is not their guilt all the more heightened by their refusal to receive this truly offered gift?
In other words, the atonement is truly made for those who refuse it, yet God then applies its benefits to the elect only, according to the election of grace, actuated by the sovereign regeneration of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of dead sinners to the glory and grace of Christ Jesus.
Scripture teaches that salvation is all of the Lord, from start to finish (Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2). Repentance and faith are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the atonement of Christ purchased the juridical latitude of the Spirit to give its blessings to whomever He wills.
I believe there is a marked difference between efficacy and application – and so many good Calvinists would even go as far in agreeing with me as to affirm that common grace is an effect of the atonement. Think about it – Jesus’ death for sin somehow purchased common benefits for the reprobate (God’s immediate wrath somehow placated for the just and the wicked – Matt. 5:45). How does that work?
Has not God withheld His just wrath from us, the bride of Christ, before we came to Christ in repentance? How was His wrath upon us before we were saved, if indeed Christ had already paid for our sins and placated the Father? In the pecuniary TULIP model, this is a very sticky question:
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Here Paul shows that the Christian, saved by the atonement of Christ, was still under the real, dangerous wrath of God before justification by grace through faith. If Jesus extinguished the wrath of God in a pecuniary, strict commercial payment, then from whence was this wrath upon the elect?
Not that 5-Point Calvinism is Heresy
It is not. It is just a lesser, incomplete expression of the full picture of Jesus’ cross-work. Where the Calvinist assigns to the cross the direct effect of regeneration for the individuals who make up the elect, I agree but go further to point out nothing in Scripture demands God apply the atonement to all for whom it is made, besides a perceived logical necessity.
I am the greatest friend in the world to 5-point Calvinists, and I see in the high-Calvinist Limited Atonement doctrine nothing but logical purity and Christocentric glory, but I cannot fully embrace a limited efficacy of propitiation and redemption in light of the Scriptures.
Atonement refused is wrath aroused.
Please, let us discuss. I am sure there are much more learned brothers and sisters who can add helpful points to what I have written.