Can Someone Who Believes in Limited Atonement Plead With Sinners?

If you believe that Christ did not die for the entire world what then of proclaiming the gospel?

“A belief in limited atonement does not make you unable to proclaim the gospel directly to every sinner. In fact if taken whole such a doctrine may actually give you more confidence in proclaiming—knowing that His sheep will indeed answer the gospel call.”


When we think about what Christ accomplished on the cross we really have three options.

One option is that Jesus died in the place of every single person. This would, then, mean that either Christ failed in his intended plan (because some are in hell) or that every single person is actually saved (universalism).

The second option is that when Christ died on the cross he died to make every person savable. He doesn’t actually accomplish the salvation of anyone but he opens up the way for men to be saved by grace when they repent and believe the gospel.

The third option is that “Jesus died as a substitute to secure the salvation of particular people.” (Proof, 38) The blood of Christ was sufficient to save the soul of every person that has ever lived—but God’s plan for His blood was to purchase a particular people as the bride of Christ.

The doctrine of Limited atonement is just a terribly worded way of saying you believe the third option to be the most biblical. You believe that

…Christ’s propitation on the cross is unlimited in its sufficiency or value. In this sense Christ makes an atonement for the whole world. But the efficacy of the atonement does not apply to the whole world, nor does its ultimate design. (Sproul, 177)

So, if you believe that Christ, at least in some sense, did not die for the entire world what then of proclaiming the gospel? Can you plead with sinners and tell them to come to Christ if it is possible that “the efficacy of the atonement does not apply” to them?

John Newton’s Answer

It is without doubt that Newton would have embraced the third option above. That fact is indisputable when assessing the life of a young John Newton. One can see this in his sermon on The Lamb of God, the great Atonement. Here Newton answers the question directly and obviously sides with our third option.

Some have attempted to show that Newton softened in his later days and no longer taught limited atonement. While it is true that Newton became less rigid in nailing down minute arguments, it is untrue that he moved away from a belief in particular redemption. Even as late as 1794 Newton pointed the Hannah More to this particular sermon to explain his views on the subject.

Read More