A few weeks back in our discussion of God’s sovereign decree (WCF, Ch III), we happened upon the doctrine of limited atonement (which in recent years has been recast in the phrase “Particular redemption.”) In essence, the doctrine states that all were saved whom God was pleased to save. The death Jesus died for the forgiveness of sin was certainly sufficient to cover the sins of all people everywhere, but the Lord in His grace made His death efficient–that is, effective–for those he’d predestined to save. As we said in our discussion, the extent of whom God saves corresponds perfectly to His intent for whom He purposes to save.
The doctrine naturally raises a few eyebrows for the way it seems to insinuate that God’s love is limited in scope. It may also seem to contradict Scripture’s references to God’s love being exerted for “the world.” If John’s gospel says that God so loved the world, then how can the Divines say Jesus died only for some? Does that not suggest there are two competing wills in God?
John Piper is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He takes up that very question here in his essay on the God’s will in salvation. (For those of you new to blogs, you click on the emboldened text to go to the source it mentions) It’s not a short read, but it’s worth the time. Feel free to raise questions!