What It Means that Christ Died for God's Elect
By Jonathan Gibson
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” -Romans 8:29-30
Christ's Death Really Did Atone for Sin
I think a helpful way to understand the doctrine of definite atonement is that in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past and to apply the accomplishments of his salvation to each of them by his Spirit.
In other words, the death of Christ was intended to achieve the redemption of God's people alone. But not only was it intended to do that, it actually achieved it as well. So, in a nutshell, Jesus will be true to his name, he will save his people from their sins.
In the phrase definite atonement, the adjective definite does double duty. The death of Christ is definite in its intent. Christ died in order to redeem a specific group of people, his elect. And it's definite in its nature. Christ's death really will atone for his people's sins.
Jonathan Gibson (PhD, Cambridge University) is associate minister at Cambridge Presbyterian Church and assistant professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of historical and biblical articles in Themelios and Journal of Biblical Literature and regularly speaks at conferences in Australia and South Africa. Jonathan and his wife, Jackie, have two children.