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The Doctrines of Grace for Kids – Part 3

November 2, 2011

Also see: Total Depravity and Unconditional Election

As I have been writing this series, it has occurred to me that it is as much for children as it is for adults. The primary purpose of these articles is to give us a solid foundation to stand on when we speak of and think of the Doctrines of Grace so that we can be sure of what we believe in and teach those truths to our children. Today we arrive at a doctrine that is a logical deduction from total depravity and unconditional election – limited atonement.

Recent debates in the blogosphere over Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, have brought the doctrine of limited atonement into question. If Christ’s death is sufficient for the sins of the whole world, then why will only some be saved? I believe it is proper to say that Christ’s death was sufficient for the sins of the whole world, but not efficient for the regeneration of all because of the penetration of sin into the hearts of all mankind. If we believe that mankind is totally depraved – having nothing good on his own apart from God – and in unconditional election – that God ordains who will be saved, then the doctrine of limited atonement is a natural and biblical progression. The problem, I believe, exists when we dwell on the term”limited” and miss the “atonement.” We overlook the awesome work of Christ reconciling us to the Father in the work of atonement and choose to focus on the so-called “exclusive” nature of the doctrine. The truth, however, is that none of us deserve the atonement and the fact that it is limited to some should not bring us to a point of disgust, but one of hope in knowing that Christ has redeemed some from the lake of sulfur. Let’s look at some Biblical support for the doctrine of limited atonement.

First, in establishing what atonement is 2 Corinthians 5:21 is helpful. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ is the perfect, spotless lamb who is the only one who could provide atonement for our sins.

Romans 8:30 states that, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.” If the point of the atonement was salvation for everyone, Paul would not have made the point of using the specific pronoun “those,” which indicates that there are also “those” who are not predestined, called, justified, and glorified. Thus, the atonement is limited in scope.

Likewise, John 10:27 records Jesus saying, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Just like Romans 8:30, the pronoun “my” implies that there are some that are not united to Christ as his sheep.

Finally, Matthew 1:21 states that Jesus, “will save his people from their sins.” This is a repeated prophecy from the OT (Isa. 40:2, 53:6, Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 36:25-27, Dan. 9:24, Zech 13:1) that essentially states that the mission of the Messiah was the save an elect group of people who naturally resist God. His mission is not to bring salvation to the entire human race but to “his people.”

Now, how would you go about teaching this to your children?

Children are familiar with the idea of “guilt by association.” I remember one time I was sitting with a group of boys in 5th grade who got into a food fight in the cafeteria. I didn’t throw one piece of food, yet I still received one week of detention. In essence, a few people’s decision had ramifications for me.

Help you children imagine a scenario where the action of one person or a few people affects an outcome for a larger group. This is essentially what the actions of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 did for the human race. One poor decision set in place the fate of mankind. Now, imagine that one person was able to change the mind of the leader of that large group so that some people did not have to experience the full effects of the outcome of the decision. Certainly, some people would still have to deal with the effects of the outcome otherwise there would be no justice in the matter. This is what Jesus does in the atonement. In order for the God to be a just judge, some will still face the full judgement of the fall of Adam and Eve. However, someone has paid the price so that some would not have to bear the full brunt of the outcome of the fall.

Even as I type this, it seems strange. The whole situation seems contrived and abstract as if nothing in our experience actually mimics what the atonement did. But, maybe that is the way it was meant to be. Who can know the mind of God? Who can be his counselor? (Romans 11:34)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jayme permalink
    November 3, 2011 9:51 pm

    “Help your children imagine a scenario where the actions of one person or a few affects an outcome for an entire group”…

    I am been very intrigued by the Trin Kids blog. It seems as though this blog has been reading the questions that go on in my mind. Even more so, the questions that I am not even sure how to ask, yet the blog seems to cover/ answer them.

    Not only does this give me insight on how to discuss these tops with my future children, but it will also help me in my classroom at school.

    The story about not being involved with the food fight at the lunch table, yet being there when it happened weighs heavily on my mind. I do wonder how many times I might have accused a child of doing something when they may not have done anything wrong at all. I feel sometimes as a teacher I am on a reality TV show, like Survivor, and you just never know which student is really telling you the truth.

    There are times when I just wish I could read into my student’s minds and hearts and see what they are think and feeling, and I wish they could do the same. But there are times when I would not want this as I would be ashamed and embarrassed of my bad attitude.

    Thank you for this blog, apologies for the rambling, it has been a blessing to read!

    A thankful teacher “)


  1. The Doctrines of Grace for Kids – Part 4 « TrinKidsTuscaloosa
  2. The Doctrines of Grace for Kids – Perseverance of the Saints « TrinKidsTuscaloosa

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