Universal Atonement

Richard Anthony

Some people claim that Christ died for all men, and therefore, all men are saved automatically. Others claim that Christ did not die for all men, but only for the people that he chose to be saved. Let us look at passages of both sides of the issue.

Passages that say Christ died for all men

1 Timothy 2:5-6, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

1 John 4:14, "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."

Hebrews 2:9, "But we see Jesus...that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "For the love of Christ constraineth us...And that he died for all..."

John 1:29, "...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

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

Passages that say Christ died for only His people, His assembly

Isaiah 53:12, “He poured out His soul to death; and with transgressors He was counted; and He bore the sin of many (not all).

Matthew 20:28, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

Romans 5:19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

Matthew 1:21, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

Luke 1:68, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,"

Luke 22:20, "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."

Acts 20:28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the assembly of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself for it;"

John 10:14-15, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep."

Luke 13:23-24, "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

Matthew 7:14, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Which is true?

Well, they both are true (when these scriptures are used together), and they both are false (if one claims either one is true or the other).

To say that Christ died only for His elect is to contradict the verses that say he died for all men, in addition to contradicting what Peter says by inspiration in 2 Peter 2:1-4. Peter talked about false teachers who were "even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." He clearly states that those who teach such "destructive heresies" and those who follow after them will be lost, even though Jesus had paid the price for their salvation.

Others argue that if Christ died for all, then all are saved. If He paid the price for all, then all have been redeemed. If Christ is truly the propitiation for all, then God's demands are satisfied for all. But they forget one vital detail: not all accept the gift! The debt has surely been paid for all by Christ, but not all choose to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Let's look at the following verse, which brings these two opposing teachings together:

1 Timothy 4:10, "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."

You see, salvation is conditional. Christ died for all men, but not all believe and accept His gift of salvation. Therefore, this answers the dilemma of how Christ died for all men and for his people at the same time! Yes, he died for all men, and salvation is a gift offered to all men, but only those who choose Christ will have salvation.

Goats and Sheep

Some are under the assumption that all of mankind are like sheep. I mean, didn't Isaiah write, "We, like sheep, have all gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6, I Peter 2:25)? Isaiah was not a prophet to all nations (even though he prophesied to other nations). Isaiah was a prophet to the nation of Israel. So, what he meant was, the people of God are like sheep.

It is the same concerning what Jesus said. He said He laid down His life for the sheep, i.e., His people. Jesus told some Jews, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.... He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." (John 8:44, 47). And later still, He told them plainly, "Ye are not of My sheep" (John 10:26).

In Matthew 25:32-33, Jesus said He would separate the nations "as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." Those who are of the sheep inherited the Kingdom, but the goats were not allowed into the kingdom.

With all of this information, will we conclude that those who are "goats" and "not of God" but who are "from the Devil," have salvation, when Christ so clearly excluded them? The answer is, "No." So will we then conclude that Christ did not die for the "goats", but only for "His sheep"? The answer is, "No."

You see, Christ died for both the goats and the sheep. That is the gift he offers to all men, to the world. He offers everybody salvation. But not everybody has salvation. Only those who accept His gift will become "His sheep," and only His sheep will have salvation.

Romans 5:5-6

Here is a passage that some claim it says "Christ died for all men," and at the same time, some claim it says "Christ died only for his people."

Romans 5:5-6, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."

Those who believe in Universal Salvation say that since Christ died for "the ungodly," that means he did not die just for "his people," and therefore, even the ungodly have salvation. Those who claim that Christ died only for his people say this passage applies strictly to the "our" and "us" in the above passage. The "our" and "us," they say, is the apostle Paul (Romans 1:1) and those “beloved of God” in Rome (Romans 1:7).

But the truth is that those who are "saved" were once ungodly. For example, the apostle Paul, before he was saved, was a Pharisee and dragged Christians from their homes and had them killed. He was ungodly. He was a goat. But he eventually chose Christ and became a part of His sheep. So Christ died for the ungodly, yes, but only those who accept Christ into their life will have salvation.

But doesn't God love Everybody?

It has been customary to say God loves the sinner though He hates his sin, but that is a meaningless distinction. What is there in a sinner but sin? Is it not true that his "whole head is sick" and his "whole heart faint," and that "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness" in him? (Isaiah 1:5-6). Is it true that God loves the one who is despising and rejecting His blessed Son? To tell the Christ-rejecter that God loves him is to cauterize his conscience as well as to afford him a sense of security in his sins. The fact is, the love of God is a truth for the saints only, and to present it to the enemies of God is to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs.

If it be true that God loves every member of the human family then why did our Lord tell His disciples "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father... If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him" (John 14:21, 23)? Why say "he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father" if the Father loves everybody? The same limitation is found in Proverbs 8:17: "I love them that love Me."

Again; we read, "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5) - not merely the works of iniquity. Here then is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner. "He that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Can God "love" the one on whom His "wrath" abides?

Again; it is written, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6). Does not this verse teach that God's love is restricted to the members of His own family? If He loves all men without exception then the distinction and limitation here mentioned is quite meaningless.

To tell the Christ-rejecter that God loves him is to afford him a sense of security in his sins. If Jesus gave salvation to everyone, everyone would be in heaven. All sins of all people would be forgiven. But obviously, all sins are not forgiven.

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