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  • Writer's pictureJosh Reading

Who did Jesus die for? How God saves people

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

For many who start to read this blog post, it will seem like an unusual question. The answer would seem obvious from scripture, people will quickly recollect John 3:16 and say ‘the world’.

There are those however that insist the world does not really mean that Jesus died for all people but rather a select group of people or ‘all kinds of people’.

The basic reasoning for that stance is, ‘If Jesus died for everyone, then everyone would be saved but they are not, rather Jesus died only for his sheep’.

Who does scripture say Jesus died for?

Jesus died for…

1. The Church Eph 5:25 – 27, John 10:15, John 17:9 – 11

Jesus tells us in John 10:15 “...I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15)

2. The Many

Matthew 20:28 tells us

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28).

Those that argue for a limited intent in Jesus’ death are quick to assert, ‘look, it says, the many, not all’ but that is not the way ‘many’ is used throughout scripture. Romans 5 in particular is helpful as it shows us that ‘the many’ is in fact ‘all people’.

Romans 5:15…

”But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Romans 5:15

Note here, the “many” die because of the trespass of ‘the one man’ (Adam) and grace comes through, ‘one man, Jesus Christ’ and overflows to ‘the many’.

Verse 18 continues

“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18 - 19

Who is the many? The term is interchangeably used with ‘all people”. In the same way Adam’s sin has resulted in condemnation for ‘all people’, Justification and life is also for ‘all people’.

To attempt to limit the ‘many’, one needs to assert that sin did not actually effect all people. ‘The Many’ must be the same for the effect of sin and the cross of Jesus, ‘all people’. Unfortunately, Calvinism sets up sin as greater than the Grace of God. Why then argues are not all saved? Romans 5 also addresses this, "the Gift is not like the trespass" (V15) it is far better, but it is only available to "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness" (V 17)

3. Paul

Paul actually makes it clear Christ died for him.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Christ died for Paul. Is Paul intending to argue that only he is saved? Of course not, he is simply being specific about Jesus death for him personally.

Those who argue for a limited intent in the Atonement intentionally restrict a passages word trying to argue that Jesus died for the Church or for the Sheep.

In no way, does Jesus dying for the Church limit the fact he has also died for the whole world.

Otherwise, we are all in trouble because the Apostle Paul made it clear Jesus died for him.

4. For the Entire World Is 53:6, John 1:29, Heb 2:9

“Who gave himself as a ransom for all” 1 Tim 2:6

“...he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Heb 2:9

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world” 1 John 2:2

What is important here in 1 John is that some try and make ‘world’ mean less than ‘world’ but every single usage of world in 1 John includes the sinning world not just the Church as some would try and claim (Feel free to check out every reference in 1 John here to world)

The attempt to limit the atonement or death of Jesus is not a reflection of scripture but more a reflection of a faulty reasoning in regard to atonement. Calvinism is internally a logical system and that is it’s appeal to some. The problem is that once one of these start to tumble, it comes tumbling down in general. Those that argue for a limited effect say that the Arminian perspective restricts the ‘power of the Atonement’. It is well meaning, trying to avert some mysterious attempt to limit the grace of God but does not work. If I were to buy you a ticket to a show and you chose not to use that ticket, it does not make that ticket worthless, it has been paid for, it is effective. You need to use it.

If Christ died for all, why then are not all saved?

The atonement is universal in the sense that the Church's gates are wide open to "everyone who calls" (Rom. 10:13), to "him who is thirsty" (Rev. 21:6), to "all you who are weary and burdened" (Matt. 11:28).

The reason all are not saved? Faith

Jesus said…

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." John 8:24

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36

“The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. 3 " 'If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it [a] will be acceptable to the LORD. 4 He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Lev 1:1 – 4

What is important here, is that a sacrifice was offered for all Israel once per year (Leviticus 16:34) as Jesus has done once for all time (Heb 10:10 - 14) yet each Israelite had to come to the entrance and lay their own hand on a sacrifice to be made right with God.

John 1:12-13 says

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The atonement is sufficient for all but only efficient for those who believe.

Heb 4:14 says...

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb 4:14 - 16

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