Thursday, July 26, 2007

Did Christ die for the whole world or only for the elect?

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“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 also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6)


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Donny Boy, a couple of thoughts:

(1) Your post could also look like this:
“Is Universal Salvation Right or Did Jesus Not Die for the Whole World?”
John 12:47 “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world."
1John 2:2 "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Taking into account all of the occurrences of “world,” we must conclude that there are several ways to understand the term.

(2) “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29)
1John 2:2 "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

If this is true for every individual, then on what basis are people sent to hell? IOW, if someone rejects Christ but yet has his sin propitiated/taken away, then there is no basis to send him to hell.

Donald Kirby said...

Jonathan- thanks for your comments. I must admit that this debate is not easily answered, but I appreciate the dialogue. You almost got me on your heading, but you were not fast enough. LOL. You do raise an interesting question concerning the basis of eternal judgment for the unsaved. The basis for their judgment is their unbelief. Though Christ died for all men, this does not mean all men will be saved (contrary to universalism) because there are many who have refused/will refuse to place their faith in the atoning work of Christ. I am sure you have heard the quote that “Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient to only a few.” The gift of eternal life is extended to all men through the atoning work of Christ; however, eternal life is only received through their faith. When they refuse this gift, the benefits of Christ’s atoning death are not extended to them. Unsaved man will stand condemned before a holy God not because Christ did not die for them, but because He did die for them and they refused to accept Him.

Consider some passages:

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Don, yeah, my new title was pure silliness to make the point that the use of those passages could be made to prove the very opposite of what you wanted – hence the real issue of what "world" means.

I held to the sufficient/efficient view for the longest time, but have strayed from the fold. The application of the benefits of the atonement upon belief makes sense, but doesn't jive with verses such as the one you quoted:

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29)

This seems to unequivocally state that the world's sin has been taken away. As a result, there is no sin (including unbelief) that has not been removed. This leaves no basis for judgment.

This leads us back to the original question: what are the ways "world" can be understood and in what way is it being used in the passages cited. As you may guess, I don't think the authors are using "world" synonymously with every individual through history. Thanks for the dialogue!

Donald Kirby said...

The term “world” is used in Scripture in several ways. I may need to recheck my sources again, but I believe that “world” is never used in a limited sense to refer to the “elect.”
1) worldly affairs
“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)
2) system opposed to God
“And He was saying to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.’” (John 8:23)
3) representative of mankind in general
“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9)
4) material element
“through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” (2 Peter 3:6)

The particular definition in our discussion is the 3rd one concerning mankind. There are instances where “world” is used in a limited way like the following passages:

John 12:19—“So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

Romans 1:8— “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

However, these are instances where “world” is limited geographically. In the soteriological passages, “world” is not limited.

On the other hand, I do admit that you present a difficult problem. I believe that John 1:29 is referring to all of mankind. Yet if the Lamb came to take away the sin of the world, then why is unbelief not included? Hmmm……

Daniel said...

I am curious...

Did Noah build the ark for the whole world, or only for those whom God elected to save from the flood?

Donald Kirby said...

Daniel- Interesting question. I am not sure if it is the correct question though. God instructed Noah and his family to build the ark in order to deliver them from the flood. Noah and his family were delivered because Noah "was a righteous man, blameless in his time, and walked with God." (Gen 6:9).

The ark was not an act of deliverance for others not because God prevented them from coming but because they refused to come.

Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.