From all of our previous discussion on this subject there can be no doubt but that Christ brought the ransom for the sins of His people, His own sheep, the church, His Body, the children of God, those given to Him by the Father, the many.
There are many passages of Scripture that point this out very clearly. I shall mention a few.
“Who gave himself for us, that the might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14.
“The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.” John 10:11.
“Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Eph. 5:25.
“The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28.
“He is the Saviour of the body.” Eph. 5:23.
“That Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”John 11:51, 52.
“And for their sakes (whom thou hast given me out of the world) I sanctify myself, that they might be sanctified through the truth.” John 17:19.
“To give his life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:28.
From all these passages it is evident that Christ died, both as to the intent as well as to the result, for those given to Him by the Father. He shed His blood for the very purpose of redeeming and sanctifying many sons unto the Father.
Yet those who want to maintain a universal atonement will produce as many passages .from Scripture, or possibly even more, to maintain their contention that Christ died for the whole human race. There are many passages that might appear to be in flagrant contradiction to the passages quoted above, since they speak of Christ laying down His life for “all,” or for “all men,” or even for “every man.” Allow me to mention a few of these.
“Who gave himself a ransom for all.” I Tim. 2:6.
“The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6.
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all menunto justification of life.” Rom. 5:18.
“And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” II Cor. 5:15.
“That he by the grace of God should taste death forevery man.” Heb. 2:9.
“To reconcile all things to himself.” Col. 1:20.
The question demands an answer: how is it possible to harmonize these’ apparent contradictions? On the one hand, Scripture speaks of the fact that Christ died as a ransom for many. Matt. 20:28. On the other hand, it speaks of the fact that Christ died as a ransom for all. I Tim. 2:6.
The remark has been made that if the term “whole world” does not refer to the whole human race, and if “all men” does not mean all men head for head, and if “every man” does not mean every individual that ever lived upon the earth, how can the man on the street ever understand the Bible, and how can a missionary make himself understood by the illiterate on the mission field? Is it not much simpler to grant that when Scripture speaks of “all men” it means all men without exception?
It has also been maintained that both statements are true, yet in a different sense. We can say that in a sense Christ died for all men, and in another sense He died only for the elect. Therefore when Christ speaks of laying down His life for His sheep He does not exclude the rest of humanity. And when He prays in His high priestly prayer for those given to Him by the Father, He does not exclude the rest of the human race.
In that strain the Remonstrants wrote years ago, saying, “When Scripture states that Christ died for allthis refers to the fact that He accomplished reconciliation, and on the other hand, when it says that Christ shed his blood only for many, this applies to theapplication of it, which is not for all.” Amesius, as quoted by Dr. A. Kuyper in “Uit Het Woord”, vol. III, page 196.
Some such distinction Prof. Dekker must have had in mind when he wrote, “There are, therefore, three senses in which we may legitimately speak of the atonement as being universal in design, i.e., thesufficiency and availability of salvation for all men and the divine desire that all will receive it. The only point at which Scripture and the Reformed confessions point to a limited design in the atonement is at the point ofefficacy. Only there can a doctrine of limited atonement be formulated which does not do clear violence to Biblical teaching concerning the universal love of God.” Reformed Journal, December, 1962)
Dr. A. Kuyper refers to this distinction as made by the Remonstrants as an untenable position that is a mere playing with words. For, he goes on to say, by thus splitting in two the work of salvation, so that the accomplishment of reconciliation and the application of it are separated, then Christ ceases to be the fountain of our salvation, and His “It is finished” is an untruth on Jesus’ lips. If salvation is merited for many, but is realized in only a few, then the accomplishment of reconciliation is only half realized by the suffering and death of God’s Son, and without the application, instead of serving toward our salvation, only makes our condemnation the greater. (See, “Uit Het Woord,” vol. III, page 197.)
We can agree with that. But let me add, that Prof. Dekker and all those who wish to make the distinction mentioned above, must prove from Scripture that this distinction always applies. Let them prove that whenever Scripture speaks of Christ laying down His life as a ransom for all, this refers only to the sufficiency, the availability, and the divine desire to save. While on the other hand, whenever Scripture speaks of Christ laying down His life for His sheep, as a ransom for many, it refers to the efficacy of the atonement. I am going to show in this article that this is not true. And that is certainly not a simple distinction that appears so obviously on the surface that the casual reader of Scripture will recognize it. Nor is this a simple distinction that can be made to the uneducated unbelievers in the mission field with the patent statement, “Christ died for you.
Anyone who reads Scripture carefully must soon realize that there is no contradiction at all between the statements that express that Christ gave His life as a ransom for many and those that teach that Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all.
First of all, these are many passages in Scripture that show plainly that “all” or “all men” cannot mean every member of the human race. I will quote just a few.
“And he departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; and all mendid marvel.” Mark 5:20. Here the very context limits the “all men” to the people of Decapolis. But even so, no one would insist that this statement must be interpreted to include every single individual in Decapolis, babies and all, as if without exception they all marveled at the power of Jesus. We do not even do that in our daily conversations.
“And they came to John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all mencome to him.” John 3:26. Here again the “all men” must be limited to the Jews of that day. And we can safely exclude many prominent Jews, such as the scribes and Pharisees. The text refers plainly to all kinds of men.
“And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Acts 2:45. Here the “all men” is limited by the very context to those within the group of believers.
These examples could readily be multiplied. But why quote more? We all know that the term “all men” is most generally limited by the context. Rarely do we meet the term that it is not immediately evident even to the casual reader that this is limited to a certain group. And those rare cases in which it is not perfectly evident must certainly be interpreted in the light of the overwhelming testimony of Scripture that Christ’s atonement is for His people.
Let me briefly touch upon a few of the passages referred to above to show that this is actually the case when Scripture speaks of Christ as a ransom for all men.
In I Tim. 2:6 Paul writes that Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. A glance at the previous verses will show that in verse 1 of this chapter the apostle speaks of making prayers for all men. Immediately he qualifies this by saying that he has in mind particularly kings and all those who are in authority. Evidently the church had been neglecting to pray for their enemies and those who despitefully used them. Paul is therefore referring to all kinds of men. And he still has all classes of men in mind when he says in verse 4; “Who will have all men to be saved.” So that when he informs us that Christ died as a ransom for all, he especially wants to impress on us that Christ died as a ransom for all the elect, no matter what their class or position may be.
In Isaiah 53:6 the prophet is speaking for himself and for all of God’s chosen people. He is confessing their faith in the suffering Servant of God. And therefore he declares, “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah had just confessed in the previous verse, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; (and notice the efficacy of this accomplished work) and with his stripes we are healed.” And then the prophet adds the confession: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Upon which he confidently declares, “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The “all” is limited by “us,”, those of Israel who experience the fruit of that accomplished work in their hearts. They “all” without exception know that the burden of their sins is borne away.
We hear that same triumphant confession from the lips of Paul in Rom. 8:32, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” Do not fail to notice that Paul is perfectly confident that, since God delivered up His own Son, for us, he will also surely give us all the benefits that Christ merited, even the full salvation of life eternal.
Obviously the same thing is taught in Romans 5:18. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Here the comparison is made between the legal solidarity of the human race in Adam and the legal solidarity of God’s people in Christ. By the offence of one man all who were included in him came under condemnation. And by the righteousness of Christ all who are in Christ are justified, even without exception.
Therefore when we read in Hebrews 2:9 that Christ tasted death for “every man,” nothing is said in the statement as such just who are included. But it does become evident from the next verse that this “every man” includes every single son of God. Because God’s very purpose in the suffering of Christ was to bring “many sons unto glory.”
Any student of Scripture must see that Christ is always the center of God’s revelation to us. He is the Firstborn among many brethren, who will unite all things in heaven and on earth in Himself in the new creation to the glory of the Father. He fully reconciles all things in heaven and on earth unto God, the wicked excluded.Col. 1:20. And there is no reason why that cannot be preached on the mission field.