The doctrine of Limited Atonement seems contradictory to the Bible verses that talk about Jesus dying for all people. I had difficulty accepting the doctrine because of such verses myself, so I do sympathize with my Christian brothers and sisters who believe God’s Word refutes it. Consequently, I pray that I can maintain an attitude of humility as I demonstrate how to understand these Scriptures while still affirming that Christ shed His blood specifically for those who would believe in Him.
Obviously I can’t examine every verse that people use to support the belief that Christ died for everyone in this single article. And it would probably be tedious if I wrote a separate article about each verse in question. So I’ve decided to show you just one passage, which I believe offers helpful context. I will also explain how the passage fits into the broader context of the apostle Paul’s teaching. Once you see my hermeneutic in understanding this passage, I pray that you’ll apply it to the other Scriptures on this issue.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-15 (ESV)
I see verse 11 as clearly as you do. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,” it says. But verse 14 says with equal force that He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.” This verse makes it evident that God has formed a particular group of people, distinct from the world in general, to belong exclusively to Him. Therefore Christ’s sacrifice only applies to this select group.
How does verse 14 then square with verse 11? Looking at Titus 2:1-10 provides the needed context:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)
Notice that Paul addresses a variety of sub-groups within the church in Crete. Although each sub-group has its own distinct responsibilities, they all function in ways that bring honor and glory to the Lord. Salvation crosses lines of gender, age and socioeconomic position. Paul affirms the same principal in Galatians 3:25-29.
Having once been a Jewish Pharisee who believed salvation was limited to his ethnic group, Paul delighted in knowing that Gentiles could enter into God’s Kingdom through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:16 and Ephesians 2:11-22). Titus 2:11, therefore, ties in with these Scriptures (and others like them) to celebrate the glorious fact that Christ opens salvation to every race and nation. Salvation appears, not just to Jews, but to believers from every nation!
Praise the Lord that all who believe in Him, not just the physical descendants of Abraham, have the privilege of His salvation. We should feel humbled by His generosity to include us in His elect, mindful that we’ve done nothing to deserve His favor.