C. The Atonement’s Result
What happens when the salvation Christ provides is applied to his people? The Apostle Paul answers in Romans 8:31-34.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
This passage provides tremendous insight into the extent of Christ’s atonement. First, the Father gave the Son “for us all,” for those referenced in the previous verses (vv. 28-30), for the predestined and called people of God. Second, since the Son has been given up for this elect people, they can have confidence in their salvation because God saves them perfectly. No charges or condemnation can be claimed against them. Third, Christ’s death—and subsequent resurrection—brings his chosen people ongoing intercession. James White comments, “Since the Father is the one who justifies, who then can condemn? Once the divine sentence has been uttered, there can be no appeal to a higher court. This is why there can be no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus, for the number of those in Him is identical with the number of the elect.” All those for whom Christ died cannot be condemned—they are in him. White continues, “Can Christ Jesus bring a charge of condemnation against them? Certainly not, for He died and rose again and sits at the right hand of God, ‘who also intercedes’ for whom? For us. Who is the ‘us’? The elect of God.”
Jesus explains this intercession for his people in his high priestly prayer. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. . . . I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:6, 9-10). Loraine Boettner explains the Old Testament background and significance to Christ’s prayer:
There is also a parallel to be noticed between the high priest of ancient Israel and Christ who is our high priest; for the former, we are told, was a type of the latter. On the great day of atonement the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the twelve tribes of Israel. He interceded for them and for them only. Likewise, Christ prayed not for the world but for His people. The intercession of the high priest secured for the Israelite blessings from which all other peoples were excluded; and the intercession of Christ, which also is limited but of a much higher order, shall certainly be efficacious in the highest sense, for Him the Father hears always.
Christ intercedes for his people. This intercession is directly connected to his atoning work on the cross. Since this intercession is the application of Christ’s atoning death, then it follows that his sacrificial death is limited to those whom the Father has given him. For whom did Christ die? He died for the elect.
James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom (Amityville, NY: Calvary, 2000), 238.
Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1932), 158-159.