FOR WHOM IS THE ATONING DEATH OF CHRIST FOR ALL MANKIND EFFECTIVE?
The Scriptures are abundantly clear that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, all the way from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the last soul that shall be born on the earth. The Holy Spirit, through the writer of the book of Hebrews, shines His “spotlight” on this truth and unequivocally states, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). Paul declared, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men . . .” (Titus 2:11). (Emphasis mine in both texts, hf).
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said of the fruit of the vine, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Earlier, Christ had announced that He had come “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Are the “many” in these two statements restricted to less than the entire human race? Let us see.
The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, again shines His “spotlight” on the subject and says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all . . .” (I Timothy 2:5-6, emphasis mine, hf). So, the “many” for whom Christ shed His blood and gave Himself a ransom, according to the inspired apostle Paul, was “all”! (Isn’t it wonderful how the Bible explains itself? I wish we all could learn to let it do so.)
But while Christ died to redeem all mankind to God, does this mean that everybody will be saved? Well, again, let us see. When we shine the “spotlight” on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we hear Him saying, “Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). As Christ reaches the climax of His great sermon, He states, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He then shines His “spotlight” on the unpopular truth that many will claim to have prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and done many wonderful works in His name, only for Him to say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22-23).
So, the reality is that while Christ died for the sins of all mankind, not everyone will be saved! The writer of Hebrews affirms that Christ “became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrew 5:9). Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe (obey, ASV) the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
Those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ “will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (II Thessalonians 1:6-10). At His second coming, Christ will make a great separation between all the people of the earth. He will set the sheep on His right hand and the goats on the left (Matthew 25:33). (Brutal reminder: We cannot live as a goat here and expect to be recognized as a sheep on the day of judgment!) Those on the left (the goats) will go away into everlasting punishment, while those on the right (the sheep) will enter into eternal life (Matthew 25:46). Jesus described the eternal place of punishment as being “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched,” and to emphasize the matter He shined His “spotlight” on the statement three times in rapid succession (Mark 9:44, 46, 48)!
So, for who is the atoning death of Christ for all mankind effective? When we shine the “spotlight” of God’s word on this question, the answer is: Those who obey the gospel, those who obey from the heart that form of doctrine to which they were delivered (Romans 6:16-18), and those who, after obeying the gospel, remain faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10).
To obey the gospel one must hear the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Romans 10:17), believe the gospel (John 8:24), repent of all sins (Acts 3:19; 17:30-31), confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:8-10), and be immersed in the waters of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4). According to the “spotlight” of God’s word, it is when one complies with these conditions that the atoning death of Christ becomes effective for that person. Those who fall short of doing these things will sadly discover that the death of Christ was of no avail to them!
Some, in their desire to deny the reality of the biblical doctrine of everlasting punishment and in their effort to stretch the grace of God to cover the impenitent and disobedient, come very close to affirming the unbiblical doctrine of universalism (the ultimate salvation of all mankind), but Christ is only “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
June 16, 2015
June 17: North View Church of Christ, Columbia, TN.