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Definite Atonement in John: “for the sheep”

Having reviewed several meanings of the words world and all as they are used in the Gospel of John, Lawson examines one example, found in John 10:


Jesus emphatically asserted that He would lay down His life for the sheep. The sheep are those whom the Father gave to Christ before He entered the world. In short, the sheep are the elect of God, those who believe:

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” —John 10:14–15

The specific intent of Christ’s death determined the particular extent of it. The design of the cross was that Jesus would save His sheep, as opposed to those who are not His sheep (10:26). Hendriksen writes, “It is for the sheeponly for the sheep—that the good shepherd lays down His life. The design of the atonement is definitely restricted. Jesus dies for those who had been given to Him by the Father, for the children of God, for true believers. . . . It is also the doctrine of the rest of Scripture. With His precious blood Christ purchased His church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25–27); His people (Matt. 1:21); the elect (Rom. 8:32–35).”

—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 286–287.

The Doctrine of Definite Atonement (or, as poorly-named in the TULIP, “Limited Atonement”) is the most controversial of the Doctrines of Grace. Yet, as I see it so plainly presented here and elsewhere in Scripture, and as logic so clearly demands it in light of everything else Scripture teaches about the atonement, I can’t see why. I can only conclude that it is rejected on the grounds that it offends the sense of fairness and justice of an unholy people, never mind that of the holy God before whom all stand guilty from the start.

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Posted  in: Foundations of Grace · Gospel of John · Steve Lawson
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#1 || 12·10·16··15:30 || donsands

Why me should be every sinners heart.
And we should see a Holy Holy, Holy Lord, who, has mercy, has mercy, has mercy, on whom He wants to.
Amazing he had mercy on me.

Thank You jesus, and thank You Father. I am forever unworthy in myself, and yet by the blood, the precious blood of Jesus, I am made worthy to be with You for all eternity.

Thanks for the good post of truth.
It humbles me. And it lifts my soul to rejoice and sing "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation".

Thanks David for the post.

#2 || 12·10·17··15:07 || Carl Cunningham

Just wanted to thank you for these posts about John. As providence would have it I'm starting an in-depth study of John with my pastor, and look forward to mining some of these deeper tidbits along the way. As Sir Edward Hoskins observed: "It's the textbook of the parish priest, and the inspiration of the straightforward layman."

#3 || 12·10·17··15:45 || David Kjos

John is indeed a wonderful book, my favorite of the gospels. Lawson calls it “the Mount Everest of theology,” and I tend to agree.

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