Scriptural Support of Definite Atonement
Matthew 1:21: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew 20:28: "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 26:28: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
John 10:15: "...and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Acts 20:28: "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."
Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Hebrews 9:28: "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
Arguments in Favor of Definite Atonement
The Bible says Christ died for a specific group of people - "the church," "His people," "His sheep." Why would Jesus die for, by virtue of His omniscience, those He knew would never come to faith? It seems it would have been a waste and a lack of foresight on the part of God to have Christ die for those whom he had not chosen to salvation.
The nature of ransom is such that, when paid and accepted, it automatically frees those for whom it is intended. No further obligation can be charged against them. Now, if the death of Christ was a ransom for all alike, not just for the elect, then it must be the case that all are set free.
Christ is defeated, or at least frustrated, if He died for all men and all men aren't saved. If Christ died for all people, why then would God send people to hell for their own sins? No court allows payment to be exacted twice for the same crime, and God will not do that either. Christ paid for the sins of the elect; the lost pay for their own sins.
Why didn't Christ pray for everyone in His High Priestly prayer in John 17, but only for His own? The intercession is limited in extent; therefore the atonement must be also.
Louis Berkhof says "the word 'all' sometimes has a restricted meaning in Scripture, denoting all of a particular class, 1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 1:23, or all kinds of classes, Tit. 2:11."
What does the Bible mean when it says Christ is the "Savior of all men"? Charles Hodge answers: "What is meant is that He is our Savior, the Savior of men rather than of angels, not of Jews exclusively nor of the Gentiles only, not of the rich or of the poor alone, not of the righteous only, but also of publicans and sinners...."
Such universal terms such as all or everyone, simply show that Jesus died for all men without distinction. That is, all kinds of people, people from among both the Jews and Gentiles and every tribe, tongue and nation.
John Owen in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ wrote "God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved... If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, 'Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.' But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins? Let them choose which part they will" (page 61).
Option 1 is what the vast majority of Christians believe - that Jesus took upon Himself at the cross all the sins of everyone who ever lived or will live. But Owen asks a good question: if that's the case, and it is sin that keeps people from God, then why isn't everyone saved?
You may say, 'Because of their unbelief they won't be saved.' What keeps people from eternal life with God? Their unbelief - which is a fact affirmed by both reformed and non-reformed Christians alike. The ever-famous John 3:16 limits the atonement to only those who believe - a point that showcases the truth that all Christians really believe in limited atonement in one form or fashion.
But then Owen asks an important follow up question: But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? The answer, of course, is yes. Paul flatly says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). The writer of Hebrews, describing faithless Israel, also says, "So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:19).
If unbelief is not a sin, Owen says then there is no reason for it to bar anyone from God's presence. If unbelief is a sin (and we have seen that it is), then it was either one of the sins that Christ died for or it was not. So either unbelieving people still have something to answer for to God or they don't.
Owen has shut off all possible options for those who want to claim that Christ died and bore the sins for every human being, and yet still want to adhere to the teaching that all will not be saved. With options 1 and 3 being untenable, the only option remaining is the reformed doctrine of limited atonement.
Some Final Words
We know that the election of the Father is not universal,
The regeneration of the Spirit is not universal,
Then why would the atonement of the Son be universal?
That would put the persons of the Trinity completely at odds with one another.
But the triune God is completely unified.
But worst of all, you're saying the cross by itself doesn't save
That we must do something to give the cross its power
That means, at the end of the day, the glory's ours
That man-centered thinking is not recommended
The cross will save all for whom it was intended
shai linne - from the song Mission Accomplished