Does 1 Samuel 3:13-14 Support Limited Atonement?

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On his website, Arminian Perspectives, Ben Henshaw has a questions page at which he answers questions about Arminianism and Calvinism that visitors to his site pose in the comment section of the page. Here is a question adapted from someone with the screen name Credulo followed by Ben’s answer with some editorial revision:

Question: 1 Samuel 3:13-14 has been used as a prooftext for limited atonement. It says, “And I declare to him [Eli] that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever” (ESV). This verse is used to defend Limited Atonement because it does limit the atonement at least from being for the sin of Eli’s house. My response to this challenge is that the sins committed by Eli and his sons will not be purged because God would not apply the atonement to him. Is this a right reasoning?

Answer: With regard to the passage concerning Eli, it may imply a measure of limiting to the atonement. However, it is far from what Calvinists claim concerning the limited atonement in which God decreed from all eternity who would be saved and made atonement through Christ only for them. In the case of Eli, it is an issue of severe judgment on Eli’s sons for spurning God’s grace and insulting God and His people through their actions as priests.

The point to keep in mind is that the passage nowhere says that there was never any atonement available for them, only that there would no longer be consequent to God’s judgment (which actually implies that sacrifices could make atonement for them prior to that time). God certainly has the right to withdraw further opportunity for atonement and to refuse to forgive in bringing appropriate judgment on His people for certain sins. The OT speaks of the presumptuous sin for which there was no forgiveness. Such sins cut one off from the covenant community making it impossible for them to benefit from the sacrifices of God’s people. Some scholars believe that irrevocable apostasy in the NT is in the same category of presumptuous sin in the OT. As in Hebrews, the writer states that for the apostate, “there remains no more sacrifice for sins.”

But again, that God at some point refuses to work any longer with a rebellious sinner or denies that person further opportunity for atonement (which assumes that such a person would take advantage of such an opportunity, which may not be the case at all), does not mean that God did not make a provision for them that they could have taken advantage of (and in the case of the apostate, did indeed take advantage of prior to rejecting it).

I should also point out, with regard to Eli’s household, it may be a reference not so much to them not being able to receive any forgiveness for their actions, but to the irrevocable consequences to the family in that the family line would end and/or would no longer be part of the priesthood despite some of them being personally forgiven. Either way, it is hardly a support for the Calvinist conception of limited atonement.