Monday, October 26, 2009

Did Jesus Die for a Few or for All?

Definite Atonement? Particular Redemption? Limited Atonement?
Christ died for all, but few will appropriate His sacrifice.

Often, verses such as John 10:15 will be used to argue that Christ died for the elect only. However, the passage doesn’t say 'only.' It’s true that Christ laid down His life for His sheep, but it doesn’t say Christ laid down His life just, only, singularly, exclusively or solely for his sheep. Consider this, in Romans 10:1 Paul recorded “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Does that mean Paul doesn’t desire non-Jews to be saved? No, Paul didn’t address non-Jews in this statement, he only mentioned Israel. In the same way in John 10:15 when Jesus said “…I lay down My life for the sheep...” He didn’t address those for whom He did not lay His life down for, but only for those whom He did lay His life down for. Some might argue it’s implied. However, there are many passages that explicitly state that Christ died for all men.
It’s true, the words and phrases ‘all,’ ‘whole world’ and ‘everyone’ don’t always refer to every single individual (e.g. Romans 1:8), thus as always context is important when interpreting meaning. Consider the following:
  • Hebrews 2:9-10 states “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Note the passage goes from referring to Christ tasting death for “everyone” to referring to only bringing “many” sons to glory. The person who says “everyone” means only “some” has the burden of proof.
  • 1 John 2:2 states “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” The only other time the phrase “holos cosmos” (English ‘whole world‘) appears in 1 John is in 1 John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” One common excuse some will use to explain this passage is that John was saying that Christ is the proposition not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. However, 1 John continually mentions the “world,” referring to it as an evil system which opposes God and believers (1 John 2:15-17; 3:1, 13; 5:4-5). The one other time in the epistle that John uses the phrase ‘whole world’ he refers to it as being “…under the sway of the wicked one.” If John wanted to say Christ is the propitiation not just for the elect Jews, but also for the elect Gentiles, he could have just said that. Besides, I think it was likely pretty evident by the last decade of the first century (in which 1 John was likely written) that Gentiles were believers too.
  • 2 Peter 2:1 states “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” The Lord bought even those who will reject Him. They will die in their sins because they rejected the Lord and thus the salvation which comes through Him. The word for ‘bought’(which is also translated ‘redeemed‘) is used in 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Revelation 5:9.
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-7 states “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
  • Romans 5:17-19 states “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Scripture clearly teaches that all men won’t be saved from damnation, but the offer is available to all men (Romans 10:13).
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 states “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
  • Isaiah 53:6 states "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

Objections and Answers

Did God fail when it comes to those who Christ died for that are going to hell?

First off, this would be a philosophical argument, if the Bible states that Christ died for everyone, then He did. Second, Christ did not fail, His death is sufficient, those going to hell didn’t appropriate the forgiveness through faith which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). One could ask, did God fail with Adam and Eve, with Lucifer and his angels or with rebellious Israel? Concerning Jerusalem the Lord said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37) Stephen said to the Jews “’You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.’” (Acts 7:51) Did God fail? The answer is of course no, man did, but God will be glorified even in that.

If Christ died for everyone, why will most people be going to hell?

Few find the way which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) Christ died for all, but few will appropriate His sacrifice by repenting and believing. Ultimately, God is in control.

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