To Save Sinners: A Critical Evaluation of the Multiple Intentions View of the Atonement

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Article number: 9781666746105, N29
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To Save Sinners

Author: Michael Riccardi


The atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross stands as the very epicenter of Christianity, the very heart of the gospel. Because of this, one does not stray far from the heart of the Christian faith when he asks, "For whom has Christ accomplished so great a salvation?" Answers to that question have historically fallen in two broad categories. Either Jesus died for all people without exception, or he died only for those whom the Father has chosen to save. Recently, a mediating view has arisen, arguing that we should not choose between these options, but that Jesus died with multiple intentions for all without exception and for the elect alone.

In this book, Michael Riccardi offers a critical evaluation of the multiple intentions view from the perspective of classic particularism. The book demonstrates that while the third way proposed is attractive at first blush, beneath the surface it faces insurmountable biblical and theological problems--including the redefinition of the nature of the atonement itself. Riccardi demonstrates that particular redemption is the teaching of the text of Scripture against the objections of one of its strongest opponents.

–––––––––– Table of Contents ––––––––––


Part 1: An Introduction to the Multiple Intentions View

  1. Bruce Ware
  • The Issue at Hand
  • The Traditional Positions
  • The Multiple Intentions View
  1. Gary Shultz
  • The Traditional Framework
  • The Multiple Intentions View
  1. John Hammett
  • Defining the Issue
  • The Universal Intention
  • The Particular Intention
  • The Cosmic Intention
  • Other Intentions?

*Part 1 Summary and Conclusion

Part 2: A Defense of Particularism in Light of the Multiple Intentions View

  1. The Son’s Redemptive Work in the Context of the Trinitarian Plan of Salvation
  • Neither Unison nor Discord, but Harmony
  • The Triune Plan of Salvation
  • Trinitarian Unity a Biblical Doctrine
  • Particular Election, Particular Redemption
  • The MIV and Trinitarian Unity
  1. The Divine Intention for the Son’s Atonement
  • The Salvific Intention of the Atonement
  • The Salvific Effect of the Atonement
  • Multiple Intentions?
  1. The Nature of the Atonement, Part 1
  • Expiatory Sacrifice
  • Propitiation
  • Reconciliation
  1. The Nature of the Atonement, Part 2
  • Redemption
  • Penal Substitution
  • Efficacious Accomplishment
  1. The Great High Priest of the New Covenant
  • The Unity of Christ’s Priestly Work of Sacrifice and Intercession
  • The Particularity of Christ’s New Covenant Mediation
  • The Relationship between Impetration and Application
  1. Key Particularistic Texts
  • The Negative Inference Fallacy?
  • Ephesians 5:22–33: Divine Monogamy
  • Romans 8:28–39: All Good Things for God’s Elect
  • John 10:11–30: The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

*Part 2 Summary and Conclusion

Part 3: A Particularist Response to the Multiple Intentions View’s Interpretation of Universalistic Texts

  1. Christ’s Death for “All”
  • Isaiah 53:4–6
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14–15
  • 1 Timothy 2:3–6
  • 1 Timothy 4:10
  1. Christ’s Death for the “World”
  • κόσμος in Johannine Literature
  • The MIV and κόσμος
  • John 3:16–17
  • 1 John 2:2
  1. Christ’s Death for Those Who Will Finally Perish
  • Master (δεσπότης)
  • Bought (δεσπότης)

*Part 3 Summary and Conclusion

Part 4: A Particularist Response to the So-Called General Intentions of the Atonement

  1. A Genuine Universal Gospel Call, Part 1
  • The MIV’s Case
  • The Universal Gospel Call: Biblical and Reformed
  • What Makes an Offer Genuine?
  • The Sufficiency of the Atonement
  • The Warrant of Faith
  1. A Genuine Universal Gospel Call, Part 2
  • What Sinners Are Called to Believe in the Gospel
  • Should We Say, “Christ Died for You”?
  • Particularism Makes the Better Offer
  • Universal Conviction?
  • Conclusion
  1. The Provision of Common Grace
  • Common Grace and the Atonement
  • Engaging the MIV on Common Grace and the Atonement
  • Conclusion
  1. The Cosmic Triumph over All Sin
  • Universal Triumph Does Not Require Universal Atonement
  • Reconciliation Is Incompatible with Eternal Alienation
  • Christ Does Not Die to Damn
  • Christ’s Reign Is a Consequence of Obedience, Note Atonement

*Part 4 Summary and Conclusion


  • Summary of Argument
  • Areas for Further Study
  • Final Assessment: Cling to a Perfect Redemption


“The best defense against false doctrine requires both the refutation of error and the exposition of the true doctrine of God’s Word. Michael Riccardi’s antidote to the multiple intentions view of the atonement is a rich exposition of the truth that Christ laid down his life for his sheep. Riccardi’s treatment is characterized by irenic fairness to his theological opponents, insightful analysis, and most importantly, fidelity to the inerrant Scriptures.”             

Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

“Michael Riccardi is an astute theologian who has a profound grasp of Scripture exegetically, doctrinally, historically, and thematically. To Save Sinners provides a brilliant analysis of what lies at the very heart of the gospel, namely Christ and him crucified. More specifically, Riccardi tackles the complex, yet crucial issue of ‘For whom did Christ die?’ You will want to read this important book carefully and completely in order to better understand the redemption that the Savior accomplished in his saving death.”

Steven J. Lawson, president, OnePassion Ministries

“In To Save Sinners, Michael Riccardi robustly defends definite atonement with careful and coherent exegesis and theology. In particular, he explains and refutes the multiple intentions view that some Calvinists have recently argued for.”

Andy Naselli, associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament, Bethlehem College and Seminary

To Save Sinners is a magisterial study not only of the divine intention of the atonement but also the very nature of the atonement itself. Michael Riccardi’s analysis is careful, and his exegetical and theological discussions are equally impressive in their patience and scrupulous fairness. This work is a multiple layered model of exegesis and biblical theology, of systematic clarity and gracious polemics. It is a major and very welcome contribution to a topic that lies at the very heart of the gospel.”

Sinclair Ferguson, professor of systematic theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

About the Author:

Michael Riccardi serves as assistant professor of Theology at the Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, where he also serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church alongside John MacArthur. He is the author of Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness (2015) and The Forest and the Trees: The Story of Scripture and Biblical Interpretation (2016).


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