Limited Atonement and the Argument from Romans 8:32.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Preliminary Remarks:1

Roughly speaking, the core argument here takes on the following lines.

1) All for whom Christ died, Salvation is effectually applied.

2) Salvation is not effectually applied to all men.

3) Therefore, Christ did not die for all men.

For the argument to be sound, the first premise must be established. However, if it cannot, then the conclusion cannot be obtained.

To that end, Romans 8:32 is the often adduced in support for the first premise.

However, the first fundamental problem with using Romans 8:32 to prove the first premise is the problem of unjustified term conversion. The subject of verse either represents the elect as a class, or believers as a class (i.e., believing elect). Thus, Paul says either,

4) All the believers, for whom Christ was given, will be given all things.


5) All the elect, for whom Christ was given, will be given all things.

Either 4) or 5) are justifiable readings of the verse.

What we can know is that the text is not saying:

6) All for whom Christ is given (and that in any sense), will be given all things.

There is nothing in the text or context which entails this interpretation.

It is this term conversion which is the false and unjustified move in the mechanic of this argument for limited atonement.

Paul is speaking assurance to believers (or the elect as a class), such that, “As Christ is given to us who believe, how much more can we who believe be assured that he will  not also give us all things in him?”

Paul is not asserting the general proposition, nor do his words entail: “All for whom Christ died, Salvation is effectually applied.”

The second problematic here is the assumption that the sense (e.g., purpose and  accomplishment) in which Christ is said here “to die for” to believers (or the elect as a class), is the exclusive sense in which Christ can be said “to die for” any man.  Yet all that can be inferred from Romans 8:32 is that in the sense in which Christ dies for believers, in this sense, can we be assured that believers will be finally and infallibly saved. Nor is there is anything in this text which implies that only in this sense could Christ have died for anyone.

At the end of the day, the first premise may be sound, but it not on the basis of Romans 8:32. And this is Bellamy’s point in the following:


Obj. 7. But if God so loved the world, the whole world, as to give his only-begotten Son to die for them, in the sense explained, why does he not go through, and perfect the work, and save the whole world, according to that in Rom. viii. 32? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Ans. 1. And why did not the king, in Matt, xxii., who had made a marriage for his son, and sent his servants to say to them that were bidden, “I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage; “why did not the king, I say, when they refused, compel them to come in? Since he had done so much, why did he not go through and finish the work? And this is directly to the point in hand, because this parable is designed to represent that full provision which is made for the salvation of sinners by the death of Christ; and it proves that the objection has no force in it. But further:–

2. Take your Bible, and read from the 28th verse to the end of the 8th chapter of Romans, and you will see what the apostle’s design is, through his whole discourse. “We know,” says he, “that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are called according to his purpose.” But how do we know it? Why, because God is fully determined to bring them to glory at last. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate; and whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and them he justified, and them he glorified. And God was so fully determined to bring them to glory, and so much engaged in the thing, that he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; that is, us, who love God, and are his elect people–for it is of these, and these only, that he here is speaking. “And since he was so much engaged as to do this, we may depend upon it that he will also freely give us all things; that is, us, who love God, and are his elect people. So that never any thing shall hinder our being finally brought to glory, or separate us from the love of God; neither tribulation, nor persecution, nor distress, nor any thing else.” So that this is the apostle’s argumentSince God was so much engaged to bring them to glory who loved God, and were his elect people, as that he had given his own Son to die for that end, they, therefore, might have the strongest assurance that he would do every thing else which would be needful effectually to bring it about.2

But God never designed to bring the non-elect to glory, when he gave his Son to die for the world. He designed to declare himself reconcilable to them through Christ; to offer mercy; to invite them, in common with others, to return; and to assure all that he that believeth shall be saved; and to use means with them more or less, according to his pleasure; but finally, they being obstinate, he designed to leave them to themselves, to take their own course, and, in the end, to deal with them according to their deserts. (Matt, xxiii. 37, 38, and xxii. 1–7.) And this being the case, the objection from the apostle’s words is evidently groundless.

Joseph Bellamy, “True Religion Delineated,” The Works of Joseph Bellamy (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1853), 1:306-307.  [Italics original; footnote values modernized; and underlining mine.]


1For brevity’s sake, I will leave out many of the bridging premises on the assumption that thoughtful readers should be able to determine these implied and tacit transitional premises. Further, for my purposes here, I am using “to die for” as equivalent to delivered Him over for us all, along with all other cognate expressions. Lastly, my argument here works on the assumption of the limited readings of Romans 8:32, where the “us all” and “us” both refer to the believers and/or elect as a class. I do not mean to negate the possible and quite viable reading  which holds that the “us all” (32b) refers to humanity in general, while the “us” (32c) refers to believers, wherewith an enthymematic premise is implied (c.f., Roms 5:8-11, specifically v9).

2If we leave God’s design out of the apostle’s argument, I cannot see that his reasoning would be conclusive, any more than a like argument would have been conclusive, if we should suppose Moses to have used it with the Israelites at the side of the lied Sea, “Since God has now brought you all out of Egypt, and thus divided the Ked Sea before you, and drowned your enemies, therefore he will now, without fail, bring you all to the promised land;” which reasoning would not have been conclusive; for the body of that generation died in the wilderness, and that i:i a very awful manner, notwithstanding this glorious deliverance.

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