With the continued debate on Calvinism raging on in many denominational circles, especially within the Southern Baptist Convention, and with the 3rd point of Calvinism (Limited/Particular Atonement) perhaps being the most rejected and debated of the 5 points (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints), I think it is important to devote particular (no pun intended) focus on this 3rd point.
The T.U.L.I.P. acronym has its roots in the Canons of Dort (with the synod meeting from 1618-1619), which was written in response to the Arminian position laid out in the Remonstrance, which were five points written in opposition to the Belgic Confession and the teachings of Calvin (and those in his theological stream). This being the case let us consider the non-Calvinist view (as I will refer to it) of the atonement in relation to the Calvinist view of the atonement.
Non-Calvinist: “The atonement was made universally for all, including those who refuse to believe. The effects of Christ’s redemption depend upon man’s believing or not.”
Calvinism: “The atonement is limited to the elect. A definite redemption was made.”
According to these definitions it is quite obvious that the majority of Evangelicalism today aligns with the first, non-Calvinist, definition given. However, nearly all Evangelicals profess to believe in the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Wayne Grudem provides a definition for us:
“The view of Christ’s death presented here has frequently been called the theory of ‘penal substitution.’ Christ’s death was ‘penal’ in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a ‘substitution’ in that he was a substitution for us when he died. This has been the orthodox understanding of the atonement held by evangelical theologians, in contrast to other views that attempt to explain the atonement apart from the idea of the wrath of God or payment of the penalty for sin.
This view of the atonement is sometimes called the theory of vicarious atonement. A ‘vicar’ is someone who stands in the place of another or who represents another. Christ’s death was therefore ‘vicarious’ because he stood in our place and represented us. As our representative, he took the penalty that we deserve.”
Basically, this means that when Jesus died on the cross he both bore our sins and the guilt and punishment of those sins (the wrath of God).
The Inconsistency of the Non-Calvinist Position
Let us now consider why the Non-Calvinist perspective of the atonement, as defined above, is inconsistent with penal substitution. The essence of the error is expressed here: if Jesus’ sacrifice was truly penal and substitutionary, as defined above, and if Jesus died for every single human being, then by necessity every single human being will be saved (i.e. universalism). To deny this is not only to be inconsistent, but to bring into question the justice of God. Why? If God already punished Christ for everyone’s sins, then everyone must be pardoned/forgiven of those sins. For God to send to hell people for whom Christ died is an affront on God’s justice. Further, it places a disconnection between the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit. After all, the Spirit applies the redeeming work of Christ. So, if Christ died for all, and yet not all are saved, then there must be something lacking in the Spirit’s application of Christ’s work. In short, the Non-Calvinist position merely views Christ’s atonement as making salvation a possibility, whereas penal substitutionary atonement goes above and beyond a simple concept of possibility, to the biblical concept of being effectual and necessary (i.e. the salvation of the elect is guaranteed). The only acceptable position here is limited or particular atonement; for limited atonement teaches that all those for whom Christ died will inevitably come to saving faith. It teaches that God had a unique purpose in sending His Son to die on the cross (the redeeming of a people for His glory). The problem with those who deny limited atonement is that they show their misunderstanding and misuse of the term and meaning of penal substitution. They want to have the orthodox and evangelical term, but not its logical and theological conclusion.
Is Limited Atonement Taught in Scripture?
While many passages could be considered, let us just look at two very key texts.
John 10:14-16 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Note the relation Jesus presents of the intimate communion of the Father and Son with the intimate communion of Christ and His sheep. His emphasis too is that He lays down His life for His sheep, and He has sheep of another fold (Gentiles) to be brought in. There is clearly a sense of particularity in this passage, and it is tied to His sacrifice. Further, Jesus goes on later in this passage to teach Perseverance of the Saints (vv. 27-30), thus establishing the relation between Limited Atonement and Perseverance of the Saints.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
I actually heard a pastor reference this text in support AGAINST Limited Atonement! Of course, the argument goes, “All always means all, and all means every single human being.” Ok, well, yes, “all” does always mean “all,” but all of what? All of these? All of those? You see, we can speak of all in the sense of a particular group. Now, if we believe that “all” in this passage refers to every single human being, then we must, again, by necessity believe in universalism. Why? Because in this passage Jesus’ death guarantees the death of “all,” and Jesus’ life guarantees the life of “all.” It’s an “if/then” argument. If this is true (Jesus died for all), then this is likewise true (all have died). In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees the spiritual death and resurrection of the elect. Lastly, the text specifically says that Jesus died and rose for “their sake”. Whose sake? Every single human being? If so, then every single human being will be saved. I think it’s rather clear that there is a particular aspect to this atonement passage as well.
The very definition of penal substitution requires that we embrace the doctrine of limited or particular atonement. Our only other options are to embrace universalism (which is contrary to our faith, as the Bible teaches in the existence of hell and people going there), or denounce the doctrine of penal substitution (which is not orthodox and evangelical, but goes against the clear teaching of Scripture and the biblical gospel). I fear many reject limited atonement because they find it to be unloving or unfair. Let me point out a couple things in response to that. First, God’s grace cannot be demanded; otherwise it is no longer grace, but something we deserve or something God owes us. Second, God did not have to redeem anyone from their fallen state. He could have condemned all to hell, and justly so. So limited atonement is not unloving, but does in fact demonstrate the extreme love that God has for His people (Rom. 5:6-11). Lastly, limited atonement demonstrates the consistency and wisdom of God’s plan of salvation. A proper understanding of the meaning of penal substitution helps us to be consistent in our theology of the atonement, and it leads us to truly exult in the glory of God’s grace (Eph. 1:3-14).
 Classical Arminianism is very different from what is commonly called Arminianism today. For this reason I will simply refer to the non-Calvinist position as that (“non-Calvinist”). The definition given of the non-Calvinist view of the atonement is found in the majority of denominations today.
 These definitions are taken from the Introduction of The Canons of Dort by Chapel Library. You may order a copy of this booklet here: http://www.chapellibrary.org/literature/title-catalog/. It should be noted that Calvinism does not deny the necessity of repentance and faith, as is sometimes wrongfully assumed by non-Calvinists. Rather, the atonement of Christ guarantees the elect’s faith, as the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work to His people.
 Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology (MI: Zondervan, 1994), 579.