Parable Explaining Limited Atonement

The Parable of the Net, Answering “All Men”

47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.(Mt 13:47–50 ESV)

Harper’s Bible dictionary defines Atonement, as  the means by which the guilt-punishment chain produced by violation of God’s will is broken, as well as the resulting state of reconciliation (‘at-onement’) with God.

It was the will of the God the Father to crush His one and only Son, whom gladly and joyful  lay down his life(John 10:15) as his Father put him to grief(Isaiah 53), drinking of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath(Revelation 14:10).

The wounding of Son of God for our transgressions, the crushing and tearing of His body, for our iniquities, the striping that brought us healing,(Isaiah 53), the death on the cross for our violation of God’s Holiness. So that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.(John 3:36 ESV)”

Paul beautifully explains atonement as:

[Christ Jesus] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.(Romans 3:25-26 ESV)

Limited Atonement:

What does it mean then, when one say, Christ Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to save the whole world, but it was not for the whole world(only for the sheep to whom He came to lay down his life for).  Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the sheep(elect).

The parable of the net, helps in explain limited atonement. The net is sufficient to catch all kinds of fish, but it was not cast down to collect all kinds of fish but only the good fish(the sheep).

It is important to notice that, one is not a sheep because Christ Jesus died for him, but Christ Jesus died for him because he is a sheep.


Does Limited Atonement deny that God is the “Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”(1 Timothy 4:10)?

What about:

  • John 12:32. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
  • Romans 5:18. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all”
  • Hebrews 2:9. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”


Understand the word “all” and “world” as used in Biblical times is key to understand these passages.

What does it mean by Savior of all men? Does it mean savior of every single person on Earth or does it mean savior of every kind of person on Earth?

If it means that Christ Jesus is, savior of every single person on Earth, then that interpretation lead to a Biblical contraction since there are some that are not saved(not in the book of life). There are some whom the wrath of God still remain, some whom will cry Lord! Lord! but be rejected.

New Testament usage of “all” denotes “all kinds”, “all types” or “all sorts”. You can see these usage of Language as you reading through the Gospels. One will read that, Christ Jesus healed all  people, yet in next verse He is healing others again. Did He not heal all? If He healed “all people” in a manner of every singe person then where are the others coming from?

Moreover, Paul writes money is the root of all evil(1 Timothy 6:10). If his usage of all means every single evil then we face a problem of time when money was not in the picture, example Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”(1 Timothy 4:10)

“Especially those who believe” does not make sense if we try to translate all people as every single person. Since if every single person is saved, then their can not be especially a certain group in every single person.

Christ Jesus is a Savior of all sorts/kind/type of people, from every nation, and every language.

God is the Savior of all men in the sense of all types of men(not only Israelites’, but also gentiles, and all kinds, the tax collectors, the prostates, e.t.c ) and not every single person.

The net is cast for every single person, but it collects only the one to which the net was cast for.

Therefore limited atonement does not deny that God is the savior of all men but denies that atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross was for every single person.

Also recommend reading: John Piper on Limited Atonement