"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Romans 5:11
The question "For whom did Christ die?" is often debated and discussed in Christian churches around the world with no little confusion.
First let me state that the atonement was no accident and Christ did not bear His cross without a specific goal in mind. Jesus did not die merely to make salvation possible for all who would "accept" Him as their personal savior. In fact that language is never used anywhere in the Bible.
Peter preached to the crowd in his day, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Acts 2:23
Here we see the crucifixion was ordained of God and didn't catch God by surprise.
One is tempted to ask the question what would have happened had the Jews accepted Jesus as their promised Messiah? How would people have had their sins atoned for? It's a fair question.
On at least one occasion the Jews tried to take Jesus by force and make Him their earthly ruler or king, "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone." John 6:15
The Jews had an ungrounded and mistaken zeal which was not according to knowledge for they desired an earthly king who would deliver them from their Roman oppressors and establish an earthly political kingdom.
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Now let's explore the question for whom did Christ die?
There are several possibilities. I'll take each one individually.
1. Christ came to die for all the sins of all people
2. Christ came to die for all of the sins of some people
3. Christ came to die for some of the sins of all people or
4. Christ came to die for some of the sins of some people.
If number four is true then some people still have some sins for which they are condemned and so are lost.
If number three is true then all people still have some sins for which they are condemned and so are lost.
If number one is true then nobody has any sins for which they must be condemned since all people's sins are paid for. This can not be for then there would be no need for a hell and punishment of the wicked. This is the heresy of Universalism which admits of no eternal punishment and sees everybody being saved.
The only choice left is number two which is what the Holy Scripture affirms again and again if we read it carefully with no bias or preconceived notions.
Christ came to die for ALL of the sins of some people. Who are these "some" for whom Christ died?
They are His sheep.
"My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." John 10:27-28
Does everybody qualify as Christ's sheep? Certainly not. Only those who hear His voice. These follow Christ and obey His words and manifest the faith once delivered to the saints.
There are many sciptures in the New Testament which when woven together, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, give us the true answer to the question "For whom did Christ die?" Admittingly there are some Bible verses which seem to suggest a universal atonement rather than a limited atonement
and it's not the scope of this article answer each one. Suffice it to say that the atonement of Christ is so powerful and effective that it is sufficient for all but only efficient to the elect sheep.
Christ never shed His blood in vain. He never for once wondered who might accept His offer of Himself on the cross. He already knew that Judas would betray Him and though chosen as one of His disciples He never chose Him to have saving faith.
"As thou has given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life TO AS MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM" (John 17:2)
Here we see the number is a limited number, "to as many as..." If the Father in fact gave all people without exception to the Son to redeem then nobody could be lost but we know this isn't the case. If it were then we would expect to find Jesus praying for everybody seeing that was His will and He never asked for anything unless it was the Father's will.
This is how Jesus prayed, "I pray for them: I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD, but for them which thou has given me: for they are thine." John 17:9
Father, I will that they also, WHOM THOU HAST GIVEN ME, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world." John 17:24
Many mistakenly think the word "world" means every single person who ever lived without exception.
It is beyond the scope of this article to explain the various usages of the word world but if any reader wishes to do a further study on this he can read the work by A.W. Pink on the word world in the back of his excellent book entitled "The Sovereignty of God"
Perhaps it would be easier to understand if we see each role of the Godhead involved in the salvation of sinners.
The trinity is seldom taught in churches today or understood very well.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 we see the doctrine of election by the Father, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit which makes certain the believing of the Truth which is Jesus Christ.
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the3 Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Upon further study we see that what was accomplished by the atonement of our Lord was a sure and certain victory not left to chance but was the great event planned by the Father from ages past: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisifed: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" Isaiah 53:11
In John 6:37 Jesus teaches the same thing when he says: "All that the Father GIVETH me SHALL COME to me..." Not, may come
or might come but "shall come". This is a vital element of the cross and the gospel message of evangelism.
In Matthew 1:21 we read "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall SAVE HIS PEOPLE from their sins."
Can you see it now my dear reader? Jesus which means "saviour"
shall save His people from their sins. He shall save every single one of them and none will perish because they are safe in the hands of both the Father and the Son. That's double security.
Who are His people? Not everybody but rather the sheep for whom He gave His life and for whom He prays. "Iam the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep...I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As tghe Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE SHEEP."
Is this the message of the cross that is preached in most churches today? Sadly, my dear reader it is not. Millions mistake the purpose for which Jesus Christ came and died. Many pastors today tacitly teach that Jesus was rather helpless
to save stubborn sinners and rebels going their own way. The picture that Jesus died as the hands of wicked sinners who must somehow allow Jesus into their hearts by believing that Jesus died for them is not the gospel at all. Jesus died for sinners who He planned to saved by His shed blood and atonement making salvation not just possible but certain.
This is the God centered and God honoring gospel which is found throughout the bible. It brings glory to God because it magnifies His death and atonement by His sovereign decree and purpose rather than the man centered free will teaching of today that must make room for Jesus and allow Jesus into one's heart.
"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48
You can be certain that all who believe on Jesus Christ have repented from their sins and have the faith of Jesus Christ which justifies them (Romans 5:1; Gal 2:16) and these are the ones for whom Christ died. These are the ones who hear and are glad indeed.
Carlton Pruitt ministers the gospel to the Los Angeles area. Formerly a Hollywood actor (SAG member)and junk removal expert he now spends most of his time studying the scriptures, writing articles, hymns and poems and doing street preaching. See his videos on http://www.youtube.com Type LAStreetPreacher in the search bar. CONTACT at Carlton2061@gmail.com