What is limited atonement?
Why “limit” God?
Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of men to be saved. Because Jesus only died for those the Father gave Him to save – the elect – Calvinists generally say His death was a limited atonement for the elect only. God is not limited, but God did send Jesus Christ to die for the elect only. He limited the extent of Jesus’ death to them only. A better name for this doctrine might be definite atonement or particular redemption, meaning that Jesus’ death actually redeemed the elect.
Think carefully about the limits on Jesus’ death. Most Christians believe Jesus died for all the sins of all men, but men must fulfill certain conditions in order to be saved, so that Jesus’ death did not actually save anyone. They say He died for the sins of those in hell every bit as much as He died for the sins of those that make it to heaven. This severely limits Christ’s death, because it limits it from actually accomplishing anything. The truth in the paragraph above is that His death actually and fully saved every person for whom it was intended. The power and value of His death is not limited, only the extent to which God intended it – His elect chosen to be saved.
For Further Study
For many more glorious details about Limited Atonement: Limited Atonement.
For more about the distinguishing love of God for His elect: Distinguishing Love of God.