Dr. Curt Daniel detailing his view of what he believes the Reformers taught concerning the atonement:
“By common consent and history, this [so-called, ‘Third Point’–CD] is the hardest of the Five Points to understand and is almost always the last to be accepted. There were occasional debates about the issue long before the days of John Calvin.
*Virtually, every Christian, including heretics, believed that Christ died for every human being. Even Augustine believed this.*
… During the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic “Schoolmen” debated the question [‘for whom did Christ die?’–CD]…Then came the Reformation. Martin Luther did not substantially depart from the accepted teaching on the subject. For example, he wrote:
“He bore the sins of the entire world…He has and bears all the sins of all men in His body…The sins of the whole world, which are committed from the first man to the last day thereof, lie upon the back of that one man who was born of Mary” (Works, vol. 26, pp. 285, 277).
Consequently, all succeeding Lutherans believed in Universal Atonement. This continued in other branches of the Reformation as well. For example, all the English Reformers believed in Universal Atonement, as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles:
“The offering of Christ once made, is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual” (Article 31).
When we come to the Swiss Reformation, we find the same views. Ulrich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger and Wolfgang Musculus all believed that Christ died for every man. There has been debate whether Calvin believed in Universal or Particular Atonement, but the evidence is overwhelming that John Calvin agreed with all the other Reformers that Christ died for all. In this he was followed by Peter Martyr Vermigli, Zacharius Ursinus, and other Reformers.
*Universal Atonement was clearly the accepted viewpoint of Reformed Theology up to about the year 1600.*
For example, the most important Reformed statement of doctrine at that time, the Heidelberg Catechism, said:
“That all the time He lived on the earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the whole human race…” (Question 37)
(Curt Daniel, The History and Theology Of Calvinism (Springfield: Good Books, 2003), p. 360).