Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 10, Number 37, September 7 to September 13 2008

The Extent of the Atonement

Chapter 7

By Charles W. Bronson

Charles Wesley Bronson was born and reared in the tiny village of Muncie, Kansas during the worst part of the depression. This was in the dust bowl and the parched, cracked ground cried for rain from above. These were days when men preached righteousness from God's Holy Word. The author's father was an old time Baptist preacher and his sermons left an indelible impression on the author who was hardly more than a baby. He seems to have caught some of the charisma that rested on his father for he too, when he came of age. felt impelled to preach the gospel of Gods' grace. He has had wide and varied experiences in the ministry and has held various pastorates including some 7 years as a missionary to Korea. While there he learned to love the Korean people while in the service of his country there during the Korean War. His only desire has been to preach Christ crucified, saying "He must increase, but I must decrease." He feels perhaps the message most needed today is the fact that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. The author is available for evangelistic service wherever the Lord may lead and wants to share his message with the Lord's people everywhere.


As has been indicated previously, the general teaching of the entire body of Scripture, in type, prophecy and precept is favorable, to say the least, to particular redemption. It is consistently taught by the Apostles and by our Lord Himself. The entire fifty-third chapter of Isaiah very definitely teaches that the atonement was made for God's people only. A careful study reveals that in the language of Isaiah fifty-three the atonement is limited in its extent.

Biblical terms concerning the atonement and its object S are carefully worded by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:13) and the elect are described in such terms as believers, sheep, the elect, us, many, etc.

Some of the greatest of soul winners have believed in particular redemption, as well as the other doctrines of grace. Some of the holiest of God's saints, such as the Pun-tans, have believed in the limited atonement. Spurgeon, in his sermon on "Misrepresentations Of True Calvinism Cleared Away," makes mention of such names as Luther, Knox, Calvin, Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Huss, Wickliffe, Wishart, Bradford, M'Cheyne, Chalmers, Wardlaw, Livingstone, Haldane, Erskine, Toplady, Gill, in his defense of true Calvinism. 1 No doubt the list of names could be multiplied.

Spurgeon, in the aforementioned sermon, is speaking of Calvinism in general, but this would also be an answer to those who misrepresent the doctrine of particular redemption. He further says:

A yet further charge against us is, that we dare not preach the gospel to the unregenerate, that, in fact, our theology is so narrow and cramped that we cannot preach to sinners. Gentlemen, if you dare to say this, I would take you to any library in the world where the old Puritan fathers are stored up, and I would let you take down any one volume and tell me if you ever read more telling exhortations and addresses to sinners in any of your own books. Did not Bunyan plead with sinners, and whoever classed him with any but the Calvinists? Did not Jonathan Edwards preach to sinners, and who more clear and explicit on these doctrinal matters? The works of our innumerable divines teem with passionate appeals to the unconverted. Oh sirs, if I should begin the list, time should fail me. It is an indisputable fact that we have labored more than they all for the winning of souls. Was George Whitefield any the less seraphic? Did his eyes weep the fewer tears or his bowels move with the less compassion because he believed in God's electing love and preached the sovereignty of the Most High? It is an unfounded calumny. Our souls are not stony; our bowels are not withdrawn from the compassion which we ought to feel for our fellow-men; we can hold our views firmly, and yet can weep as Christ did over a Jerusalem which was certainly to be destroyed. 2
Spurgeon himself was apostolic in his labors for the salvation of others. He reached literally thousands and tens of thousands with the gospel and God honored his labors by giving him much fruit. His printed sermons belted the globe and it is said that his written works would fill a 12 foot shelf. Preachers were taught in his college, missionaries were sent forth, orphans were fed and widows clothed. 3 Yet he believed and preached the doctrine of the limited atonement.

To have compassion on the lost and to earnestly seek their salvation is Christ-like. His servants, who have learned to weep over lost sinners, learned this secret from the bosom of Christ Himself. For our Lord wept over His enemies and prayed for those who put Him to open shame when on the cross He prayed "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Lk. 23:34)

His great servant, Paul, had a Christ-like love and compassion for lost sinners, for he said, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." (Rom. 10:1) For Israel he had a continuous burden and a Godly sorrow over their lost condition. (Rom. 9:1-3) Yet, he knew perfectly well that God's Word was effectual and that God's covenant purpose was being carried out in the True Israel. (Rom. 9:6-8)

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught particular redemption, for He called the special objects of His redemption many, His sheep, His friends, etc. 4 (Mt. 26:28, Jno. 10:15, Jno. 15:13) Yet He could weep over an impenitent Jerusalem. (Mt. 23:37)

To suppose that God's eternal covenant purpose in Christ relieves either saint or sinner from responsibility is erroneous. Hyper-calvinism is a deadly error and it is this attitude which destroys evangelistic fervor, not the true doctrines of God's Word of election, predestination, grace and particular redemption.

To have lofty, exhalted views of the atonement, as it is taught in the Scriptures, and to combine with this a passionate, fervent, zealous affection for lost souls is Divine and approaches that love which resides in the bosom of our dear Lord Himself from which the atonement had its source.

The value, worth and dignity of the ransom was infinite and immeasurable, fit for the accomplishing of any end and the procuring of any good, for all and every one for whom it was intended, had they been millions of men more than ever were created. 5

Perhaps in Heaven we shall understand something of the height, depth, breadth and extent of Jesus' love and the atonement which He made for His lost sheep that He might redeem them to God by His own blood.


1. C.H. Spurgeon, Sermons On Sovereignty, p.18-22.

2. Spurgeon, Ibid, p.19.

3. J.B. Cranfill, Sermons And Life Sketch Of B.H. Carroll, p.24-33.

4. George Smeaton, The Doctrine Of The Atonement As Taught By Christ Himself.

5. John Owen, The Death Of Death, p.119.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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