Writings on Christianity

Did Christ Die For Everyone? (Tsouloufis)

Did Christ Die for Everyone? (Tsouloufis)

[The following is a post by friend Dan Tsouloufis]

It’s a commonly held position to assume that Christ died for everyone, not just for the elect.  Yet John 17:1-9 seems to indicate otherwise, as does John 17:24.  As John 17:9 states: “I pray for them.  I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”  Some other key passages are John 6:44, John 6:65, and John 10:25-29.  There are many other passages as well, but these are just a few from the Gospel of John.  The overarching point is that Christ’s atonement was sufficient and effective for His followers (i.e. His sheep, His elect).  Thus, Christ loses none of His sheep; He loses none of those given to Him by His Father.  This is precisely why Christ’s atonement is effective, because it secures the salvation for His sheep, His elect.  However, in the non-Reformed view of salvation, Christ’s atonement merely secures the “opportunity” for potential believers.  Which means that Christ’s atonement is ineffective for all those who never come to Christ.  Whereas in the Reformed view, Christ’s atonement was completely effective because it secured the salvation for His elect.  It accomplished what it intended to accomplish.

Let me state it another way.  God is not sitting around idly waiting for rebellious sinners to turn to Him.  This is because rebellious sinners won’t.  Without Christ, we are spiritually dead and our will is in bondage to sin.  But some will insist that God loves everyone and He desires everyone to be saved, thus the doctrine of election can’t be true.  Ideally, heaven could be full and hell empty if everyone just responded in faith.  Yet we know that not all will respond.  Thus, shall we insist that God loves people more in response to their love of Him?  Hardly.  The truth is, God must first love us, not the other way around.  Without the Holy Spirit awakening us, how would we truly love God, let alone desire to worship and obey Him?  Our hearts are idol factories and we are self-worshippers.  Moreover, if we suppose that man’s salvation is ultimately based on man choosing God out of love, then how much love is required?  How would we go about determining that?  What if my love wasn’t enough?  Or what if over time, my love falters and grows cold?  Will God only love me if I love Him back?  How much ongoing love does He require of me?  I ask these questions merely to demonstrate the difficulty of holding to a libertarian freewill position, which makes man’s salvation ultimately contingent on man’s pure free choice to love God and choose God without any influence or coercion by God (even soft coercion, whereby God intervenes to change man’s desires in order for man to see his need for God).

Yet for some, the Reformed view of salvation and election are too difficult to accept.  While I can sympathize to a degree, I would also respond that the Reformed view of salvation gives us true assurance of our salvation, due to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.  God loses none of His sheep.  Whereas in the libertarian freewill position, one must always wonder: if my salvation is based solely on my free choice, how secure is that ultimately?  What if my love for God grows cold?  What if I’m in a pattern of willful sin?  How much willful sin will God tolerate?  Thus, if my salvation is based solely on my choice and not on God’s choice, can I lose it?

But there’s a second problem with the libertarian freewill position.  If person A becomes saved and person B doesn’t, then why?  Was person A more moral?  Was he more humble?  Was he more intelligent?  Did he have more common sense?  Pick any one of these.  If salvation is solely due to man’s free will and man’s free choice, then ultimately his salvation is not by grace, but by his wise decision to choose; whereas person B did not make such a wise decision.  Does this picture of salvation sound like grace?  How does one get around this dilemma?

Therefore, shall we conclude that Christ died for everyone?  Or did Christ die for the elect, His sheep?  If Christ died for everyone, then His atonement was insufficient for many, since many will not respond in faith.  And if salvation is ultimately based on man’s free choice, then Christ’s atonement is insufficient apart from man’s decision to choose.  Biblically, we must reject these notions, and conclude that Christ died merely for the elect, His sheep.  And because He did, we can assert that Christ’s atonement accomplished what it intended to accomplish, because it secured the salvation for His sheep, for which no one can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28).

By Tom Schmidt

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

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