“I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”-John 10:14-15
For most of my life I was taught that the Lord Jesus died for every single person in the world. Anything contrary to that never entered my mind until I was introduced to Reformed Theology. I never heard that Jesus did not die for the world but for the elect. The idea that Jesus did not die for all shook me to my core. I did not know how to respond to this teaching that was so new to me. In my Bible College course, this teaching permeated much of the content of the classes. I listened intently as the professor would read from Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 8:29-30, or the entire chapter of Roman 9. I began to ask myself whether it could be true that Jesus did atone for the sins of specific people. Other passages of Scripture would reveal more and more of this truth to the point where I readily embraced this teaching. Now, before you begin to criticize, at least hear me out. Actually, not hear me, but consider the passages of Scripture that I will refer to.
One of the first “comebacks” to the teaching of “Limited” or “Definite Atonement” is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Looking at this verse, Jesus says God loved the world and “whosoever believeth.” There some things to ponder on; namely, what is meant by the word “world,” and what the Greek word that is translated “whosoever” actually means. The context of the passage needs to be looked in regards to its understanding. Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus who was a teacher of Israel. Jesus was teaching Nicodemus that salvation was not only for Israel, but for all nations. Jesus says to Nicodemus that God so loved the world, meaning the nations. The idea should not be in regards to quantity but quality. God so loved this sinful world that was in rebellion against Him that He sent His Son. God’s love was not just for Israel but the world, meaning all nations, peoples, and tongues. Christ was going to purchase the redemption of people from all different nations, not just Israel. This would be the proper meaning of John 3:16. It does not mean that God sent Christ to die for every single person in the world. Jesus stated in Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He says again in Matthew 26:26, “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Jesus did not say that He gives His life for everyone, but many.
The Apostle John in John 10:15 states that Jesus gave His life for His sheep. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 5 that Christ gave Himself up for the church. These verses demonstrate that Jesus gave His life for a specific people. Not only does the Scripture teach that God predestined some unto salvation-as we have discussed in the previous articles- but also that Christ died for many, not all. We will discuss further in our next article that Jesus giving His life for the world (Every single person) presents a number of difficulties to reconcile.
Joshua Banks is senior pastor and founder of Shepherd’s Rock Bible
Church in Kingsport, TN. He holds a Bachelors degree in Ministry from
Luther Rice University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and a
Master of Divinity both from Liberty University. Joshua and his wife
Amanda, along with their 5 children, reside in Gate City, VA.