|The Crucifixion, by Vouet, 1622|
There are several views of Christ's atonement. The first view says that Christ died for all people who ever lived, and who ever will live. This view is called universalism. It asserts that all people will go to heaven, since we know that we are saved by His work on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). This view contrary to scripture. Over and over again in scripture, God says that the wicked will be punished in eternal damnation. Furthermore, there are numerous calls to repent.
The second view of the atonement (which is most popular among Evangelicals) says that Christ died for all, but a work of faith and repentance must be added on the part of the believer. The implication for this is also contrary to scripture. This view asserts that Christ died for all people, but that those people must also have faith and show repentance. The basic fallacy of this view is that it adds to Christ's work of atonement. This is salvation by works.
The third view of the atonement states that Christ's death was infinite, but was offered only to those whom God had graciously chosen beforehand. This is the Reformed view of limited atonement. Despite its attack by Fundamental Evangelicals, is backed by ample scriptural proof.
God graciously chose those for whom Christ would die. John 6:37-40 says that God leads His elect to faith, and that Jesus will raise up all that the Father has given Him. In Romans 8:28-30, Paul wrote that God's elect have a specifically ordained purpose; God has chosen the objects of His saving love; and only those called by God have been justified by Christ. Paul also wrote, in Ephesians 1:3-10, that Christ makes holy those for whom He died. In love, He has adopted His elect, who were previously estranged due to sin. Redemption can only come through Christ.
Christ died for only those whom God graciously chose. Christ died specifically for "us", the elect. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:8-10). Christ saved His people from the wrath of God. The elect were once enemies of God, but Christ saved them and brought them reconciliation with God. In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote that Christ represented His people in both His death and resurrection. Finally, Jesus prayed specifically for those whom He would redeem (John 17:9;20).
Knowing that God chose His elect and that He sent His Son to die specifically for them has brought assurance and humility to the hearts of believers. The doctrine of limited atonement should not cause the believer to be arrogant, but should bring a spirit of humility, knowing that they were once enemies of God, but have now been cleansed and brought to reconciliation by Christ's blood.