Is Christ's Atonement Limited?

posted Dec 7, 2013, 11:55 AM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Dec 7, 2013, 11:56 AM ]

Reformed understanding of Romans 5 
This post is in response to an article titled Limited atonement—is it biblical?

My brother posted the picture to the left on Facebook, and in reading through the comments, I decided to write a blog post rather than responding on Facebook.

Firstly, I would comment that the doctrine of limited atonement is actually a red herring. The scope of Christ’s atonement does not equal the scope of salvation as the author of Limited atonement—is it biblical? argues. John makes it abundantly clear that our salvation is based on our position in Christ: those that have (believe) the Son have life (John 3:16,18,36, I John 5:21.) In fact, it’s not limited only to John’s writings but is found throughout the Old and New Testaments (Habakkuk 2:4, Mark 16:16, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 3:18-19). Look specifically at John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:18-19. Both of these texts make it abundantly clear that people are condemned because they did not believe in Christ, which DIRECTLY contradicts the doctrine of limited atonement. “A major problem with unlimited atonement is that i[t] makes redemption merely a potential or hypothetical act. An unlimited atonement means that Christ’s sacrifice is not effectual until the sinner does his part in believing… In effect, it [unlimited atonement] makes God unjust. Either God punishes people for the sins that Christ atoned for, or Christ’s atonement was somehow lacking in that it does not sufficiently cover all the sins of those for whom He died.” 

Secondly, I would add that the picture is an accurate representation of Limited Atonement, along with all the negative connotations. Romans 5:18-19 reads "Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous." The irony of the picture is that it completely encapsulates the false conclusions of limited atonement. Reformed theology vigorously defends the depravity of all human kind but completely ignores the redemptive work of Christ for ALL humankind, even though both doctrines are so clearly linked in these two verses.

The author of Limited atonement—is it biblical? quotes a bunch of verses which talk about Christ dying for “the elect” but plays word games by saying that the word “all” does not mean "all" for the verses which make a clear distinction between believers and non-believers. For example, in 1 John 2:2 and John 4:41, “world” is translated from the Greek word κόσμου (cosmos) which literally means the whole world or all of creation. However, in Luke 2:1, “world” is translated from the Greek word οἰκουμένην (oikoumenay) which means inhabited world and was used to draw a distinction between the “Greek inhabited world” and the “barbarian inhabited world." My biggest problem is that there are many Greek scholars in the reformed camp, yet deceptions like this readily abound. Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 and 1 Timothy 2:6, " who gave himself as a ransom for all," are mentioned in the article but are included with the “world” argument. The usage of the Greek word πασ (pas) is completely ignored, which incidentally means individually, each, every, or all.  How can Reformed theology explain/translate/reconcile the "all people" as sinners in Romans 5:18a and a "righteous act...leading to life for all people" in Romans 5:18b? 

Consider the following quote from the article: "The vicarious atonement of Christ means He was acting as a representative for a specific group of people (the elect) who would receive a direct benefit (salvation) as the result of His death. This concept is clearly seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21 'He [God the Father] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.' If Jesus actually stood in my place and bore my sin on the cross as the Bible teaches, then I can never be punished for that sin. In order for Christ’s atonement to truly be a substitutionary or vicarious atonement, then it must actually secure a real salvation for all for whom Christ died." I would agree with this quote right up to the concluding sentence. At this point, the author abandons scripture and attempts to draw a logical conclusion to support his theology.

We can see that scripture does not support this conclusion by looking at the verses previously mentioned. However, let us look at Hebrews chapter 10, particularly verses 10, 14, and 29. In verse 10 we read, “we are sanctified” and in verse 14 we read “them that are sanctified.” I looked at nine English translations, and they all use either the phrase "sanctified" or "made holy," and the context clearly refers to the sanctification of believers which was made possible by Christ’s sacrifice (or atonement, see vv 11-12, 17-18,19). Now look at verse 29: “How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace?” This verse has in mind those that have rejected the gospel (v26) and thus have no hope of salvation (v26) and are reserved for fiery judgment (v27) but have still been sanctified (made holy) by Christ’s blood (v28). The same Greek verb (ηαγιαζο) is used in all three verses, regardless of whether the believer or the unbeliever is in view. Christ’s atonement was even for those who rejected the gospel.  How can Reformed theology explain/translate/reconcile these verses if they equate Christ's atonement of sin with salvation? 

The problem with arguing about TULIP (Reformed theology) is that it turns into just that, arguments based on man’s logic rather than adhering to the Word of God (truth). Reformed theologians cannot give a SINGLE verse that unequivocally states that Christ’s sacrifice was/is limited only to the elect. The author talks about “unlimited atonement” not being logical. But what is not logical is that a holy God would send His one and only Son (One wholly undeserving of death) to die on the cross for our sins (the ones who crucified Him) and that God knew and planned all of this before He created this cosmos (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Acts 2:23).

Set backs and fire!

posted Sep 9, 2013, 9:56 AM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Sep 9, 2013, 10:06 AM ]

Burned WiresIn June, I wrote a post about the wires that I was working with in one of our Cessna 206s. The wires were scrambled spaghetti and pretty messy. Over the past two months, I've been working on installing some new equipment, adding wires to the bundle, and getting everything back together again. Last week though, I had a bit of a set back. 

I had finished installing the radio racks, circuit breakers, switches, and had even put on two panels with the pitot/static instruments. I was leak checking the pitot/static system to make sure every thing was sealed properly. The pitot/static instruments provide vital information to the pilots such as air speed, altitude, and vertical climb/descend rates.

More Burned WiresOne of my last checks was to make sure that the heater in the pitot tube was working. Under the right conditions, ice can build up in this tube which is on the leading edge of the wing and disrupt the pitot/static system, so it's important to have a heater on this tube. Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 due in part to a frozen pitot tube. 

To check the heater, I applied power to the airplane with our ground power cart, and within seconds, the cockpit of the plane was filled with smoke. Before I could remove power, one of the main power wires was glowing bright red and was melting everything around it. In less than five seconds, I had destroyed weeks worth of work installing wires and bundling everything neatly together. Only one wire had a problem, but it affected about thirty other wires in the bundle, melting their insulation as well. 

As I started pulling everything back apart so I could replace the burned wires, I kept thinking of multiple parallel situations that we encounter on daily basis (one bad apple spoils the barrel, etc).  However, what I kept coming back to was Philippians 1:6:  "For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." 

No matter how often the airplane gets messed up, I'm going to kept working on it until it is completed. What a blessing it is to know that no matter how often we mess up, God is still working in our lives, and will continue until we are complete, just the way He wants us. I also had several opportunities to fix other little mistakes. So take joy in the troubles that come your way, knowing that God is using them to shape you into the person He wants.

Lots of Wires

posted Jun 29, 2013, 1:19 AM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Jun 29, 2013, 4:12 AM ]

Wow, I can't believe that its been more than a year since I posted anything on here. Bad Joe, bad Joe. 

Wiring Rats Nest
Over the past two weeks, I have been working on the wiring for one of our Cessna 206s. We are changing several pieces of equipment and adding several additional instruments, so there have been lots of changes in the wire bundle. Right now, bundle would be a very optimistic term. I think a better description would be "rat's nest," "snake pit,"  or even "wire anarchy." Whenever anyone comes to look at what I'm doing, I get similar comments like "I'm glad you're doing it and not me" and "how do you keep all the wires straight and figure out what goes where." I respond with the same line every time: "One wire at a time."
Working on the C206 Wiring Harness

When we consider the Great Commission that Christ gave the church, we can often feel overwhelmed. Are we being effective ministers of the Gospel, and telling others of Christ. I think often we get lost in the vastness of forest, rather than looking at the individual trees. All we need to do is concentrate on "One person at a time." If we look at the vastness of the task in is entirety, it is very easy to get discouraged and feel like we are not making progress. Just like the wires, we only need to share the Gospel one person, one neighbor, one friend, one co-worker, one boss at a time. 

Don't get lost and discouraged looking at the "rat's nest." Instead, look at the individual, and "be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

Going to Jail

posted Apr 28, 2012, 2:39 AM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Apr 28, 2012, 2:51 AM ]

In Kenyan Jail for Speeding Jail Bird Joe 

Today was another first for me. I got thrown into jail and I have the picture to prove it! We were taking a long weekend to take some time off. About 100 km from Nairobi, I got stopped at a police check-point. The police man said give me your license and walked away. About 5 minutes later, they walked passed the car and said, "you are being escorted to the police station because you were speeding" and continued to walk away. I had no opportunity to talk to the police man or reason with them. So much for talking your way out of police trouble. At the police station, I was told that I was going 120kph in a 100kph zone (FYI: speed limits are understood here but never posted). From the police station, we (the other speeders) were escorted across the road to where the court house and jail was. We were put in jail while we waited for the court to be ready. By talking to the others that were in jail, I discovered that if I plead not guilty, I would be released on bail, and then would have to drive back up at a later date to appear in court. If I plead guilty, the fine would be 2000 ksh (about $25 US). So I plead guilty. The other speeders said that we were the "sacrificial lambs" for that day, and that part of the road was now safe speeders once again.  After paying, I was put back into jail to wait for a receipt for my fine. The entire process took about 3 1/2 hours. Not really the way I wanted to spend my weekend, but at least, I did not have to spend the night. :)

Surprises this week

posted Mar 25, 2012, 1:20 AM by Joe Wagnell

  •  I was surprised that Esther was surprised to find a bug in our flour! Isn't that normal for Kenya?
  • We've been potty training Ezri this past week. Esther hears Benjamin and Ezri discussing "going" potty and rushes upstairs, expecting the worst. Surprise, surprise the stinky deed was done in the potty chair with no adult intervention. YES!
  • I had to recover all my data (1.5TB) from backups. I was surprised at how easy it actually was and that I did not loose anything vital.

Differences in Culture

posted Jan 28, 2012, 12:17 AM by Joe Wagnell

This past week I went to an "auto parts" place (the Ford dealership in Nairobi) to get an oil filter for our car. I asked how much it was. (I had already confirmed they actually had one. That was the first hurdle. I have not yet put it on, but hopefully its the right size and fits, that will be the second hurdle) The sales rep types on the computer for a couple seconds and then quotes me a price, which included a 10% discount. I then ask if I can get a "better" discount, can I get a 20% discount. He types for a moment and replies. "If you're comfortable with it, I can give you a 20% discount." At this point I'm thinking I would actually be comfortable (his word, not mine) with a 90% or 100% discount, but I'll take the 20%. 

What I really found interesting was that before I even mentioned anything about a discount, the sales person offered a 10% of the price. I think this must tie into the African culture. Not only does everyone want to feel like they are getting the best deal, they but they want to be/feel important. "I must be a special customer to automatically get a discount."

I can just image the looks I would get if I walked into an Auto Zone and asked for a 20% discount.

Send us a Note!

posted Dec 26, 2011, 1:18 PM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Jan 27, 2012, 11:54 PM by Joe Wagnell ]

Post-It Note
We are adding more information: added an e-mail form on the contact page. Send us a note if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Old Website

posted Dec 13, 2011, 3:03 PM by Joe Wagnell

The old website will be online until the middle of January 2012. It can still be accessed at

Thanks for your patience.

The "pieces" are starting to work together!

posted Dec 13, 2011, 12:32 PM by Joe Wagnell

Working Together
Well I think I'm finally making some progress. The site still has some issues and problems that I would like to fix, but for the most part its starting to come together. More to follow.

First Post

posted Dec 11, 2011, 2:27 PM by Joe Wagnell   [ updated Dec 12, 2011, 4:42 AM ]

I'm trying to use Google Sites to make communication via the website a little easier. Getting all the information (Facebook, Pictures, etc) in one spot I think is a great idea,  So far, it is not going well and is proving much more challenging that anticipated. However, I will prevail. :)

1-10 of 10