I once heard a lecture by Dr. Paul Lim on the extent of the atonement. He commented that years ago students approached their grade from the perspective of a zero with the aim of increasing the points to a letter grace of D, C, B, and hopefully an A. He said this is not the case anymore since many students today assume that they start with (deserve) an “A” and only the possibility of losing their points or grade level. Dr. Lim’s point is obvious: many approach the blood of Christ today assuming that God is obligatory in his grace. And since the blood of Christ is predicated on his love, the same is said of the love of God. It is not demanded; it is freely bestowed — not on everyone, but to those whom he chooses based on his infinite wise counsel. The person who demurs that God is free to confer his electing grace on his chosen cannot with any honesty believe that “God owes us nothing.” But if God owes us something, why would we think so highly of his love and grace? It would be expected and deserved.
All of this is a good reason why the term “limited atonement” should probably be jettisoned from the Reformed vocabulary. It suggests that all deserve the atonement (everyone starts with the letter grade “A”), and therefore God “takes away” something that he is obliged to bestow. The reality is everyone starts with an “F”, and thus God in his wisdom, freedom, and love, bestows grace to a particular or definite undeserving people.
It is one thing to say that we are undeserving sinners; it is another to be consistent and apply that to the love and blood of Christ. As it is often said in Reformed circles, we dare not ask for a “fair” God since fairness and justness would require us to suffer for our own sins in eternal perdition. We do not want a fair God, rather our hope is in a merciful God whose willing Son absorbed the wrath on the cross as our glorious substitute.