FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

salvation 2

 

If I were to ask any Christian the question: For whom did Christ die? I believe a simple answer to this question is “for the sinner”. In a broad sense that’s absolutely true. Yet, there’s more to it if we delve a bit further. In fact, it’s a question that has set theologians to task for years. I’m not about to claim that I can even scratch the surface, but I’d like open up the dialogue because I find the theology behind the question very interesting.  It can be viewed in three scenarios:

  1. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to save all men without exception. That is, everyone who has ever lived will immediately or eventually be saved.
  2. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer a potential salvation to anyone who would believe in Him. In other words, His death could potentially save, but it would depend upon whether the sinner choses to accept Him as Savior or not.
  3. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer an actual and secure salvation for those He had chosen before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4).

Let’s look at each of these:

Did Christ die so that all may be saved without exception?

This view holds that Christ died to save all men; therefore, all men will be saved. Known as Universalism, it states that everyone is eventually going to heaven. The issue here is that it is in direct opposition to scripture, which is clear that faith in Christ, and Christ alone is required for salvation (John 14:6).  False religions deny Christ, and evil is rampant in this world. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, it is clear that all cannot be saved. The Bible also states that there is a hell for the unrepentant (Rev. 21:8). If all are saved, then why is there a hell?

Did Christ die for those who would potentially come to Him?

Some would hold the view that although Christ died on the cross, His death does not become effectual until an individual “decides for” Christ and is thereby saved. If this is so, then His death only had the potential to save. It could potentially save everyone or it could potentially save no one, depending on who would (or would not) respond to it. First let me say that this view is held by many Christians that I love and respect, and it sounds good on the surface, but it brings up many questions, especially when we consider the broken, sinful nature of man in light of a high and holy God:

  • Did God cross His fingers and hope that someone would heed Christ’s sacrifice?
  • Why would Christ die for those He knew would not accept Him?
  • Did God leave it up to sinners to decide whether or not Christ’s work will be effective?
  • If so, how then, can the sinner make the right choice for Christ in the first place, if he is dead in trespasses and sins and is unable to appraise spiritual things, as Ephesians 2:1 tells us?
  • Does it make sense to say that God was satisfied to punish His Son, (even for those who reject Him), only for them to be punished again in hell? (Romans 3:26)
  • If Christ died for all without exception, and some chose to accept his sacrifice while others do not, is it possible for God to fail?

Did Christ die to secure an actual and sure salvation for those He chose “before the foundation of the world”?

This last view states that Christ died positively and effectually to save a certain number of hell-deserving sinners, that is, those “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

It views the atonement as a secure and actual transaction, not just that which merely makes salvation possible.

The point is, if God already knew and predestined those who would come to him, (Eph. 1:4), if He gave them the ability to reach up to Him in the first place (Eph. 2:1), then it follows that Christ’s intention was to render a complete and sure satisfaction of  the Father’s will to those individuals.

That is: For whom, (and only whom) the Father would chose is to whom (and only whom) the Son would sacrifice His life. The purpose of God is the mission of the Son, as Christ stated in John 6:37-38:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me”.

This last view, I believe, does justice to the purpose of Christ’s death. It was the extension of God’s love set upon those he has chosen from the beginning. It accomplished that which is according to His sovereignty, that which is successful.

Even so, we as Christians are called to heed the great commission to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations”, (Matt. 28:19).

This sounds contrary to the doctrine of election. “What’s the point?”, you might ask, “If God has already ordained His own?” The response, I believe, is that God does not ordain the end (salvation), without also ordaining the means to the end, (evangelism). He gives His children the privilege of being the means to accomplish His will.

Do you trust in Jesus for your salvation? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? If you hear this call to salvation, do not turn a deaf ear. Come to Him today!

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

Comments welcome!

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8 thoughts on “FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

  1. you seem awfully sure of your facts. it seems you bend and beg exegesis at will; notice ephesians 1:4 isn’t about why christ died at all.

    “… just as he chose is from the beginning to be good folks”

    the essential paraphrase.

    there’s little doubt jesus was a universalist in his own teaching. paul, in “pistis christou”, says it is because of jesus’ faithfulness that we are justified. now, you have chosen to interpret at as our choice of having faith in jesus as what matters. jesus’ message was of doubling down on the law and focusing it on our way of seeing the world, then from there, repenting. in that, jesus is in a long line of prophets who decry anything other than repentance.

    jesus’ death was a continuation of his life of service to others, and being his followers, he charged us with doing the same for others; which is the entire sacrament of the holy eucharist.

    jesus never tried his death with soteriology. he never implies expiation. here never makes anything central but service, being living sacraments to others, being god’s grace and love in the world.

    the most natural theory of atonement is this: god’s active presence in the world is called “grace” and because we are like god, we are drawn to god. we are drawn to goodness, that which god is. this draw is called “pistis” (the greek word used in the NT), persuation. atonement is found in participation with the good. the result of that encounter is transformative. this transformation is salvation. jesus is what god had in mind (logos) for humanity all along. jesus is the way (hodos) we’re supposed to be in the world. jesus is the truth (alethea) of what our full humanity is. jesus shows the mode (zoe) that life takes in that full expression of humanity.

    one thing is for certain. if through adam, without anyone else’s consent, assent, acceptance, or denial, all humanity is damned, then if jesus’ life and death likewise does not restore the whole of humanity, without our consent, assent, acceptance, or denial, adam is superior to christ.

    millions of verses like micha 6:8 show a classic rabbinical conflict with the prophets who thought sacrifice was profane. jesus was a prophet, not a rabbi. his message is entirely a recapitulation of those same ideas.

    i think the most complete and thorough study of atonement is by hastings rashdall (the idea of atonement in christian theology) and is the best hardback you can buy at $10.00 USD. there haven’t been any better works i’ve found cataloging the development of the idea of atonement, at any price.

    just a few thoughts.

  2. This one was the toughest for me in my reading of God’s word, and the last one of the so-called “5 Points” that I was holding out on….for over 10 years I had run “Calvinism” ( just the 5 points in response to the 5 Articles of the Remonstrants ) through the Scriptural wringer and was in complete agreement with every one of them except for “Limited Atonement” ( Particular Redemption is what I like to call it ), then one day one of the “hold out” verses that I was so sure read a certain way and could not be understood any other way than as showing universal atonement…changed:

    ” For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” ( 1 Timothy 4:10 )

    Granted, I believe it’s vastly unfair to the Lord to lift verses out of context and concentrate on “snippets” of things He has said about subjects, but this one stuck in my mind as meaning that Christ is the eternal Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe…in other words, He paid the price with His blood to satisfy God’s requirement for a blood sacrifice for sins to make it POSSIBLE for all men to be saved.

    Keeping in mind that I was heard God’s word through the preaching of it some 38 years ago in an Independent Baptist church that does not teach God’s choice of the sinner, but rather the sinner’s choice of God, I must ask you to bear with me as I share this monumental revelation ( for me ) about this one subject.

    About 13 years ago I am convinced that the Lord had a friend of mine give me 3 passages over the phone for me to read…having not been studying as I should from the point of conversion at 12 years of age, I can tell you that Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:29-30 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 hit me like a hammer at 37 years old, and set me off on my thirst for more of God’s word on the subject of first, election, and from there, EVERYTHING He had to say about everything.

    Fast-forward to a few months ago when I believe God showed me just a glimpse of something I had not considered, and once I did, all the verses that seemed to show Universal Atonement were immediately made suspect….

    *Jesus Christ as Saviour can also be in the temporal ( Earthly) sense.*

    Take a look at Psalm 107:23-30 sometime, and how it describes those that go down to the sea in their ships and when storms come…they cry out to God and He saves them out of their trouble. To me, the psalmist is lamenting that men do not praise the Lord for His wonderful works to the children of men…ALL men.

    Once I realized that God can be the Saviour of all men in the temporal sense, I then realized what the context of this verse was…Jesus Christ, God incarnate and the Creator of the universe, is the Deliverer of ALL men. As I see it, He delivers them out of their earthly troubles to show them His temporal mercy in matters of this life…but it has nothing to do with who His Father has given Him to save in the eternal sense ( John 6:65, John 17:2 ).

    Having read and understood all the verses that speak to a specific purpose regarding Christ’s death and sacrifice for believers, I was still on the fence ( until that moment ) about the meaning of the ones that didn’t seem to. After that, verses like Hebrews 2:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3-6 are coming to light, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I firmly see 1 John 2:2 ( which I believe I have ) clearly for what it is actually stating when taken in what I call, “the greater context” within God’s word.

    Lesson learned:

    The carnal mind cannot understand the spiritual word of God ( John 6:63 and 1 Corinthians 2:14 for example )…and even in His children it takes time for the Spirit to transform the mind through the reading of His word, IMO. It therefore becomes very important that we obey His command, for without it we cannot come to know everything that He has done for us; We cannot get to know our Lord and Saviour thoroughly in this life without this:

    ” Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ” ( 2 Timothy 2:15 )

    …which goes hand in hand with this:

    ” as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” ( 1 Peter 2:2 )

    We cannot grow spiritually without God’s word, and once we start, it’s amazing ( and scary ) what He will show us…things that others cannot see unless He shows them to them, as well. Oh, I think we could try to “fast track it” and learn systematic theology, but does that do the word of God and His Holy Spirit justice?

    I don’t think so.

    Margo, what I like about this post is your “argument” through what I like to call the “back end”…the perspective of already having a biblical understanding of it and then trying to put it into simplistic language and breaking it down into logical points. Yes, it would take me ( for example ) quite a long time to show someone why I understand it the way I do going through Scripture, and even then they wouldn’t “get it” without God doing the work… but your approach in this article seems just as “valid” ( if not more so ) as the approaches that the opponents of it take as well.

    While I doubt it will convince the naysayers ( because only time through the word of God and by the power of His Spirit will convince anyone ), I think it shows that you have a grasp on Who you know and everything that He’s done for you. 🙂

    I wish you well, sister, and may I encourage you to keep reading…like a flower opening slowly and petal by petal, there’s so much that He has show His children just through His word alone. Study it every day, and praise Him for the privilege of knowing Him…not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

    ” And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” ( John 17:3 )

    Dave.

    • Dear Dave,
      Thank you for sharing your faith and your experience. It took time to share this much and I value it and do not take it lightly!

      My intent in this series was to try not to label the points of the Doctrines of Grace as such, or to label “Calvinists” or “Arminian” doctrine, in the hope that readers will see God’s word and not a label. I hope to show the logic and natural building of doctrine based on the very basics of what Christians by and large agree to be true: That God is sovereign and we are not. If we grasp the true scope of God’s all-encompassing rule, and the true nature of the depravity of man, then we must conclude that He is sovereign over salvation as well.

      Not that logic determines doctrine, but it does help the pieces fit together as I meditated upon God’s word. As you said, it is only the Holy Spirit that we can get anything.

      Your point about God being the Savior of all men is well taken. He shows His grace in big and small ways. The sun shines down on all men, the righteous and the unrighteous.

      Thank you for your encouragement. I will indeed strive to stay in His word. It often helps to have the insight and dialogue of others as well. Iron sharpens iron and that’s why a group study is often helpful. I see the depth of your desire for God’s word and also urge you to keep pursuing Him daily!

      God Bless,
      Margo

      • Apologies Margo,

        I sometimes forget that people who are reading these comments can get offended by the terms expressed in differing theologies as taught by institutions of men. My intent was to use them as a point of reference only, for purposes of familiarity.

        From here on out I will limit my responses to what I believe Scripture is saying, and not to categorize anything as either “Calvinist” or “Arminian”. I will also make the same effort to stay away from any of the other “isms” and their accompanying descriptions, as I feel that expressing oneself in these terms tends to alienate the reader…to me, “theologians” are often viewed as somehow above the rest of believers, and far be it from me to set myself up as one.

        Finally, I have no wish to start a fight; Only to express what I believe about Scripture and why.

        Back to the subject:

        The parts of God’s word that win me over to the view that Christ died for the elect? I call many of them the “that” passages. Here are a few examples:

        ” For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 )

        ” Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” ( Ephesians 5:25-27 )

        “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” ( Titus 2:14 )

        To me, these are passages that describe a specific purpose and something that was specifically accomplished by His death ( the giving of Himself ), FOR believers. From my perspective, the “that” is understood as, “for the reason that”, and they speak of a very special and precious purpose behind Christ’s sufferings…He did all of it for me and those like me. As I see it, there are MANY of these, and they far outnumber those that seem to speak to the contrary…but until I saw what the other passages meant in light of these, I really wasn’t “getting it”.

        Dave.

        • Hello Dave,

          No need to apologize at all! When I mentioned not referring to labels, I was just saying that in response to your comment on the style of writing I had in this post, ie the “back door” approach. It had nothing to do with your comments. 🙂

          I’ve never considered the “that” passages in light of the topic of election. They do point to a purpose. Let me think upon that…

          As always, thanks for sharing!
          Grace and Peace
          Margo

  3. Pingback: WHAT’S SO IRRESISTIBLE ABOUT GRACE? | Ministry in Words

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