A recent conversation led me to reflect afresh on the wonderful doctrine of particular redemption (sometimes called ‘limited atonement’). It is the comforting truth that Christ achieves fully what he sets out to achieve in his death and resurrection, that is the salvation of the elect. Christ’s death does not simply create the possibility of salvation. If that were the case, it might be said that I contribute to my own salvation by taking that possibility and making it a reality through my faith. No, Christ does not create the possibility of salvation, Christ died as the Great Shepherd laying down his life to save his sheep. His death achieved all he intended it to.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.’ (John 10)
The conversation, as so many great conversations are, was a spur not only to go back to the Scriptures and be nourished by God’s Word, but also to revisit great works of older saints and hear again their wisdom. At this point, there is an almost limitless supply of quotes I might post, but, for your edification, here’s a snippet from a sermon Charles Spurgeon preached in February 1858:
“We hold that Christ, when He died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly, and beyond a doubt, be accomplished. We measure the design of Christ’s death by the effect of it. If any one asks us, “What did Christ design to do by His death?” we answer that question by asking him another—”What has Christ done, or what will Christ do by His death?” For we declare that the measure of the effect of Christ’s love, is the measure of the design of it. We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the atonement, can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold—we are not afraid to say that we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.”