“Died for All”: Beyond a Scriptural Doubt

Derek Ouellette —  February 28, 2010

In Matthew 1:21 we learn that Jesus died for the sins of “his people”. John 10:15 says that Jesus died for “the sheep”; “the church” in Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 5:23-26 and in other places it says “us” (Titus 2:14) or “us all”. And as if the point were not stressed already, Matthew 20:28 says “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”; the “many” is, of course, a reference to Gods Elect.

Would anyone disagree?

Are there any “elect” of God for whom Christ did not die for? Are there any “sheep” of his for whom he did not die for? Are there any of “us” whom Christ did not die for? Is it possible that Christ did not die for the church?

These passages tell us nothing of the scope of the atonement. They only tell us what we already know; that everyone who is “saved” got that way by the provision of the sacrifice of Christ.

F. LaGard Smith writes:

“But that only begs the crucial question under discussion: Did Jesus die for anyone else? Did he die for the whole world? For all the lost—past, present, and future? Dare we imagine of Isaac Watts’ beloved carol, whereby, instead of ‘Joy to the World,’ we sang, ‘Joy to the Elect’?”[1]

So we know that Christ died for those who are saved (how else are they saved?), now we must turn our attention to what is sometimes overlooked; that Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins [Yes, of course – see above], and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world [Oops! I think the Bible is right]” (1 John 2:2).

I am not an advocate of proof-texting (that venerable dogmatic approach); but sometimes you just have to play your (imaginary) opponent on their own turf.

On that note:

Romans 5:18:

“Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men

Romans 11:32:

“For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all

Romans 3:22-25:

“This righteousness from God comes through [the faithfulness of] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” [note: the “all have sinned” is matched by “and are justified freely” with the qualification of: “through faith in his blood”.]

Luke 2:10-11:

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”

John 12:32:

“For Christ’ love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…”

Titus 2:11:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…”

Hebrews 2:9:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone

Joel 2:28, 32:

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved

Revelation 22:17:

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of water of life”

John 3:16-17:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… to save the world through him”

John 12:47:

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it

John 8:12:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”

2 Corinthians 5:19:

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…”

1 Timothy 2:3-6

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who  gave himself as a ransom for all men…”


So you see, the biblical testimony is this: the death of Christ is provisional for all to be saved. Faith is a prerequisite to salvation. Those who believe cash in on the provision of Christ and are saved. Those who are saved are obviously saved by the provisional work of Christ on the cross. Full circle.

If every one of those passages were read without the reader first being indoctrinated (that is, trained to think a certain way without the option of objective reading), this is the most natural reading of the biblical testimony. Only those who have been indoctrinated would accept the verses listed in the opening paragraph and dismiss or explain away the other passages of scripture.


“The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (John 4:14)


“The Father’s ultimate purpose was to save the elect” (R.C. Sproul)

Which quote to you prefer? When the Bible is allowed to speak for itself in these matters a truly robust doctrine of salvation by grace through faith(fullness) emerges.

[1] Troubling Questions for Calvinists… And All the Rest of Us, p.211

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://harrysheresy.wordpress.com Harry Heimann

    Absoluely true or (2 Peter 3:9) would be a lie (v9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance. Does God lie? No! (Titus 1:2). Can God’s will be twarted? Apparently in some matters like irresistable grace, yes and its called free will. Love demands free will or it really isn’t love, thats called control, something a Calvinist should consider. Good post.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Thanks Harry. My problem with this part of the doctrine of Calvin’s followers (Limited Atonement) is not what it affirms (that Christ died for the Elect), but what it denies, (that his death was to be provisional for all).

    It boggles my mind why anyone would try so hard to limit the work of Christ on the cross when the scriptures seem to so explicitly teach otherwise [1 John 2:2].

    • brad dickey

      If calvin or his followers had understood we can’t precisely describe GOD nor His thinking in human words, that we lean heavily on anthropomorphisms and analogies, and that the purpose of the “elect” verses were originally to describe the simple fact that GOD knew before you were born, NOT to proclaim that God turns His back on others, the world would be a better place.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Right on Brad.

  • http://www.classicalchristianity.com MIke Spreng

    he is redeeming the entire cosmos, for that matter. I think that certain aspects of the kingdom are elect and predestined from the begining and people are to fall into this election of heaven on earth, thus receiving the “full” benefits of atonement.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Amen Mike – Romans 8:22 and context!

  • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Dave Leigh

    Nice job, Derek. By the way, I’ve been fighting this battle on the opposite end, having been swamped by universalists and “no-hell” advocates over on my site. The condition of faith (evidenced by faithfulness) has always been clear to me. It’s great to hear you talking about it.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      It is very easy to turn a 5-Point T.U.L.I.P. Calvinist into a universalist: just get them to take “God desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” seriously and at face value.

      Does hell exist? Yes, but probably not like you have been trained to think:


      • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

        Gregory, I think somtimes the Western conception of things may be slightly exaggerated and often too generalized by the Orthodox East. The Orthodox have remained remarkable unified whereas the West – while being obviously influenced by certain thought patterns including certain conceptions of Hell – is characterized by diversity and free-thinking.

        In the article you sourced I vagely recognized what the author describes as the Western concept of eternity/Justice/Hell et cetera. As he went on to describe the Orthodox view I exclaimed: That’s what I’ve believed for a long time! (of course with refinement and more refinement to come).

        The article reads: “No, my brothers, unhappily for us, paradise or hell does not depend on God. If it depended on God, we would have nothing to fear. We have nothing to fear from Love. But it does not depend on God. It depends entirely upon us.” I have been telling people this for some time now. I appreciate the Orthodox central emphasis on “God is Love” and that God “respects our Free Will”. Amen.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Thanks David, I have enjoyed your debate on Hell and Universalism, thank’s for bringing that to my attention.

  • Jan van Helden

    I’m afraid you are battling paper enemies here. The reformed have never denied that Christ died for the sins of all. The Canons of Dordt for instance say that the death of Jesus is of infinite value, and therefore sufficient (but not efficient) to atone for the sins of the whole world. (II-3) People who do not believe in Christ and repent of their sins are themselves at fault.(II-6)
    I think, as you would probably too, it is biblically absurd to say that man can benefit from the cross without faith and repentence.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Jan, you sound very much like an Arminian! 😛

      I assume then – based on your comment – that you would reject Limited Atonement a la my “paper” arugment above and 1 John 2:2 where Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.

      Unless you’re going to try and escape this by claiming that “world” is a reference to the “elect” (a la the U which proceeds the L).

      Alas, Limited Atonement presupposes that if Christ’ atoning work on the Christ were suffecient for all it must also be effecient for all. If you deny this (because Faith is required as I would agree) then you are an Arminian and don’t know it. If you accept this then you agree with Calvinists such as Louis Berkhof:

      “The doctrine that Christ died for the purpose of saving all men logically leads to absolute universalism, that is, to the doctrine that all men are actually saved.” (Systematics)

      Thus my “enemy” is not so much a piece of paper after all. :)

  • Jan van Helden

    Hi Derek,

    Thanks for your reaction. It is actually quite amusing that you think that i am an arminian because the only thing i have done is quoting two theses from the canons of dordt 1618-19 (the only ecumenical reformed synod in history)where the theology of the remonstrants was renounced, i.e. the followers of arminius.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Jan, I don’t think you read my response too carefully. When I said you were “Arminian” (… “and don’t even know it[!]”) I was being facetious! Now THAT is amusing. 😛

    • http://travelah.blogspot.com/ A.M. Mallett

      It is a misnomer to refer to the Synod of Dort as ecumenical. It was a strict ecclesiastical affair with non-Calvinists forbidden to be seated. The infinite value of the atonement as expressed in Dort’s second main point of doctrine is not to present any hint of universality of the sacrifice but to associate it with the unbounded holiness of Christ. Calvinist doctrine has specifically denied that Christ died for all even though Calvin himself can be quoted as embracing an unlimited atonement specifically with his commentary on John 3.

  • http://www.dodifferent.org.uk David Bunce

    Because Reformed theology always gets a hard deal out of this sort of discussion, I’d like to sketch a way in which certain streams of Reformed theology (my own, for example) can say a similar thing.

    The first step is to move the idea of faith away from the faith of the believer to the faithfulness of Christ (expressed by the Greek “pistis Christou”) to God’s covenant plan to redeem the whole of creation. Therefore, salvation isn’t dependent upon us and our faith, but on the faithfulness of God to be the God who redeems, heals and loves.

    With reference to the questions of election, I’d say a few things. Firstly, I think one could make a strong Biblical argument that Christ, the Chosen One of God, ended up dying on the cross in the place of the rejected one (ie, look at things like “My God, why have you forsaken me”, the references to Isaiah 53, the references to Psalm 22, “cursed is the one who dies on the tree” etc). Therefore, because of Christ’s rejection, it opens up the way for all of humanity to become elect.

    Secondly, if we think election is about pie in the sky when we die (ie all going to heaven), I think we have drastically missed the point. The election of Abraham was a covenant election to be a blessing to this world in this life.

  • brad.dickey@gmail.com

    Why is it so difficult to assume Christ died for all, but not all will accept.

    Why is it so difficult to understand salvation is for a purpose?

    Why is it so complicated to remember all the verses that show things that need occur in salvation. You aren’t saved without repentance, change. You aren’t continually atoned for without confessing, how many in the West Confess their sins even to themselves Derek? Much less the Non-apostolic traditions where there is no priest to confess too?

    Christ died for all. Not all will accept that salvation. ELECT is a term for OUR understanding of GOD outside of time, knowing who would be HIS before they were born. Before you were born, HE sat with you in your death.

    And, everyone tells me I’m arminian, and the arminians hear me and run like heck.

  • brad.dickey@gmail.com

    Oh, and what are the odds that “all the world” was a necessary statement from the perspective that it wasn’t just for the Jews from which He hailed, and the messiah was to come for?

    Scratches chin and nods off to sleep.

  • http://redhookchapel.wordpress.com/ John T III

    I love it when scriptures like the ones sited as well as “God desires that all be saved” are used to twist and distort the truth of the scriptures.

    The Lord himself says that there will be those that go to hell. They will in fact be doing so called good works and even believe themselves to be religious.

    Paul, James, Peter and Jude all state how there will be a future judgment. Jude and Peter go so far as to say that the judgment of those of their day was secured in the past before they were born.

    We could also look at John, Isaiah and Ezekiel to name a few where the future judgment and condemnation of large groups of people.

    People are sent to hell because they reject God and his way of salvation. The scriptures are clear on that, I find it interesting that all those who claim that the scriptures aren’t clear on this are usually the one who are trying to defend a heretical position on salvation.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      John I don’t see your point in relation to the post. “God desires all to be saved”, but that doesn’t mean all will.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      No, John: God does not SEND anyone to hell. Any god who would consign someone, anyone, to eternal torture is not worthy of the name, no matter how powerful that entity may be. To paraphrase St. Paul, quoting Isaiah: “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of beliefs like this”.

      People CHOOSE to go to hell because they reject the Love that is God. They reject communion with the Most Blessed Trinity. They prefer darkness over light. They prefer to remain trapped by sin and Satan, finding a living death preferable to the new life that comes when one dies with Christ. They prefer power and self-righteousness over repentance. They refuse to see that they are sick and so cannot seek the healing dispensed “the physician of our souls and bodies”.

      I’m sorry, Derek, but I’m reposting that link:


    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek

      Lololol…Greg, you just love that link don’t you LOL!

  • http://redhookchapel.wordpress.com/ John T III

    Derek & Fr Greg,

    God is a righteous God and can not tolaerate sin. If He could then there would be no need for sacrifices & there would have been no need for Christ to have died for Sin.

    FR Greg I think you need to reread the Bible if you think God doesen’t send anyone to hell. Luke 16:19 clearly shows a person in hell in intense suffereing for their evil deeds and Lazarus in the rest of Abraham.

    How about the end of the book of Revelation Chapters 19-20 where it says they were thrown into Hades.

    Becareful if your god doesn’t condem and cast into hell those who are not saved then you are not worshipping or preaching aboput the one true God of Heaven. The God who is righteous, loves, hates and pours his wrath on the wicked.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      Good luck with that God, John. This is not the God of Jesus Christ, and, according to John’s Gospel, all judgment has been consigned to HIM, precisely because He is not only God, but also human.

      You are not seeing the forest for the trees and you are not reading the Bible in the context of the rest of the Tradition.

      “God IS love” and “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” Everything else, Divine righteousness, holiness, etc., etc. is relative to this.

      BTW, you are understanding sacrifice in terms of Anselmian propitiation, which is late and Western, not the expiation that characterizes the Patristic (and Talmudic) understanding. Christ is the Lamb of God who “TAKES AWAY” the sins of the world.

  • http://redhookchapel.wordpress.com/ John T III

    And Derek,

    While God desires that none shall perish and has always wanted to dwell with men. But that desire and love for a world doesn’t negate his acting in righteousness and pouring his wrath on the wicked.

    That was my point, you can not use His desire that none persih to say there is no Hell and that He doesn’t send people to hell.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      John: it is not that God cannot tolerate sin. If that were the case, then God would not be omnipotent and could not have become human. It is that sin cannot tolerate God.

      An old-time Evangelist used to say that in hell, everyone brings their own brimstone. This means that sin is consumed by Divine Holiness, as by fire. But what of those who will not let go of sin? The Divine and Holy Love can only be torture to them as the Divine Fire continues to burn up the sin that they ever continue to generate.

  • Lemuel G. Abarte

    Christ is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

    The topology of logic is a conundrum that has no place in Biblical exegesis. If there were, one should apply sparingly. Best of all, approach the problem by faith.

    He is the Savior of all men. He is the Savior of the elect.