John Piper on the Benefits of Preaching Definite Atonement for the Body of Christ


Here are some great applications of preaching the doctrine of definite atonement, also known as particular redemption, from Pastor John Piper.

“That Christ died and rose again to accomplish this definite, full, and irreversible atonement for his people is the glory of his cross, which is the climax of the glory of grace, which is the apex of the glory of God. This is how I began this chapter. And I said there that not only does this vision of the atoning work of Christ inflame world missions, but it also enables us to preach in such a way that our people experience deeper gratitude, greater assurance, sweeter fellowship with God, stronger affections in worship, more love for people, and greater courage and sacrifice in witness and service. Let me flesh this out briefly.

With the vision of Christ’s achievement displayed and defended in this book, we will aim in all our preaching to magnify the glory of Christ by helping our people realize the unspeakably great benefits that come to them because of this achievement. Our aim will be to help our people know and experience the reality of a definite, full, and irreversible atonement. If God gives us success, here is some of what it will mean for us and our people. 

Knowing and experiencing the reality of definite atonement affects us with deeper gratitude. We feel more thankfulness for a gift given to us in particular, rather than feeling like it was given to no specific people and we happened to pick it up. The world should be thankful that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. But those who belong to Christ should be far more thankful because the very faith that unites us to Christ for all his promises was purchased and secured by the blood of the new covenant. 

Knowing and experiencing the reality of definite atonement affects us with greater assurance. We feel more secure in God’s hands when we know that, before we believed or even existed, God had us in view when he planned to pay with his blood, not only for a free offer of salvation but also for our actual regeneration and calling and faith and justification and sanctification and glorification—that it was all secured forever for us in particular. The rock solid assurance of Romans 8:32–39 (“Who shall bring any charge against [us]! . . . What shall separate us! . . .”) is rooted in the unbreakable link between the definite atonement that Christ made (“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”) and the promises purchased for those for whom he died (“Will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”). 

Knowing and experiencing the reality of definite atonement affects us with sweeter fellowship with God. A pastor may love all the women in his church. But his wife feels a sweeter affection for him because he chose her particularly out of all the other women, and made great sacrifices to make sure he would have her—not because he offered himself to all women and she accepted, but because he sought her in particular and sacrificed for her. If we do not know that God chose us as his Son’s “wife” and made great sacrifices for us in particular and wooed us and wanted us in a special way, our experience of the personal sweetness of his love will not be the same. 

Knowing and experiencing the reality of definite atonement affects us with stronger affections in worship. To be loved with everlasting love, before creation and into the future ages, is to have our affections awakened for God, which will intensify worship and make it more personal than if we thought we were loved only with the same love as God has for those who will never come. To look at the cross and know that this love was not only for the sake of an offer of salvation to all (which it is), but more, was the length to which God would go so that I, in particular, would be drawn into the new covenant—that is the bedrock of joy in worship.

When the psalmist says in Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” he makes it clear that the worship of God—the glorification of God—springs from a vital sense of his “steadfast love and faithfulness.” When a church is faithfully and regularly taught that they are the definite and particular objects of God’s “great love” (Eph. 2:4), owing to nothing in them, the intensity of their worship will grow ever deeper. 

Knowing and experiencing the reality of definite atonement affects us with more love for people and greater courage and sacrifice in witness and service. When a profound sense of undeserved, particular, atoning love from God combines with the unshakable security of being purchased—from eternity, for eternity—then we are more deeply freed from the selfish greed and fear that hinder love. Love is laying down one’s conveniences, and even one’s life, for the good of others, especially their eternal good. The more undeservingly secure we are, the more we will be humbled to count others more significant than ourselves, and the more fearless we will be to risk our lives for their greatest good. Definite atonement is a massively strengthening truth for the humble security and bold fearlessness of the believer. In that way, it releases and empowers love.”

Gibson, David. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (pp. 665-667). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

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