Second Peter 2:1 and the Extent of the Atonement -- By: Andrew D. Chang

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 142:565 (Jan 1985)
Article: Second Peter 2:1 and the Extent of the Atonement
Author: Andrew D. Chang

Second Peter 2:1 and the Extent of the Atonement

Andrew D. Chang

[Andrew D. Chang, Pastor, Irving Korean Baptist Church, Irving, Texas]

A doctrinal issue that divides Christians is the question of the extent of the atonement. Did Christ die with the intention to save only the elect or was His death in some way relevant to all human beings? If one reads passages like John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10 without any preconceived theological framework, the conclusion seems to be that the Bible unequivocally teaches unlimited atonement. However, if one imposes a straightjacket of his own theological bias on those and other universal passages, he may say that it is equally possible to interpret those passages from the perspective of “limited redemption.” Most of those passages seem to go either way if one’s theology demands so. But limited redemptionists must struggle with at least a few passages to prove their view. One of these passages is 2 Peter 2:1. One limited redemptionist is of the opinion that the whole case for unlimited atonement hinges on this very verse .1 This seems to be an over-simplification of the case; however, as Henry Alford puts it, “no assertion of universal redemption can be plainer than this.”2

In spite of its tremendous significance, little or no scholarly attention has been directed to this passage until recently.3

Gary Long took up a serious study of this passage to interpret it from the limited redemptionist viewpoint. His study seems to be cogent and his case for limited atonement very plausible. In view of this, this article seeks to point out some weaknesses in Long’s arguments and to defend the unlimited atonement within the limits of 2 Peter 2:1.4

The Meaning of Δεσπότης

As Long correctly observes, the two key words in this verse are δεσπότης (“Master”) and, more importantly, ἀγοράζω (“bought”).5

The word δεσπότης is employed 10 times in the New Testament, 5 of which are used of men. Four of these are clearly used in the sense of slave owner, or lord in contrast to slave (

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