A common question asked at ordination councils (at least in some church associations) is this: “For whom did Christ die?” I got that one from a pastor who sat on the council during my doctrinal examination. This is not a bad question. In fact it ranks right up there with the question Why did Christ die? It has, though, often been asked to identify whether the candidate believes Jesus died for everyone equally. Some would say that the answer to that question determines whether or not an individual is evangelistic.
Sorry for emoting, but that’s crazy. Was Jonathan Edwards evangelistic? How about Matthew Henry? Were George Whitefield, William Carey and Charles Haddon Spurgeon passionate about reaching people with the gospel? These guys all believed that Jesus died particularly for the elect. Put it into our day. Can we doubt the evangelistic zeal in our day of R.C. Sproul, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, teachers who still believe the theology of the apostles and the Puritans?
There are number of ways to answer that question:
· Christ died for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Isn’t everyone a sinner? Surely, but Jesus pointed out that some people are not convinced. He said He did not come to call the righteous but sinners. The righteous need not apply.
· Christ died for us all (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 4:10). All people equally? Look at the way Isaiah uses his pronouns. He starts the chapter asking a question similar to the one we are discussing: “Who has believed our message?” (53:1). The sin-bearer of Isaiah 53 died for all who would eventually believe. Paul told Timothy that Jesus is the “Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
· Christ died for many (Isaiah 53:11-12; Mark 10:45). That is a large, unspecified number. Many people were bought with the blood of Christ so we can expect to find them all over the place.
· Christ died for people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). He purchased people from all around the world with His blood. The evangelist can preach with confidence that the powerful gospel will call many from the grave of their sins.
· Christ died for the weak brother (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11). Because he is a brother, Paul says you can know he is one for whom Christ died.
· Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). Like “sinners,” the “ungodly” encompasses the population of planet, but a limited number will ever count themselves in that number.
· Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). But who is “us”? Look at the particular message of Romans. It was written “to all who are beloved of God in
· Christ died for His sheep (John 10). Jesus laid down His life for His sheep (verse 11), but made it clear that not everyone is numbered with His sheep (verse 26).
· Christ died for the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The very design of marriage makes a groom say “yes” to His bride and “no” to every other. Jesus died to make His bride—not the neighbor lady—holy.
· Christ died for the Father (Romans 3:25). What? Absolutely. This is the meaning of the word propitiation. The death of Christ was not all about the worth of people. It was about satisfying the Father’s righteous demands.
If you are reading this article as someone unsettled about the condition of your soul before God, follow this closely: The death of Jesus Christ does not tell you how valuable you are. It stands as a solemn witness to the condition of the messed-up race to which you belong. It testifies to the immense demands of God the Father and the measureless sacrifice of God the Son, who bore His Father’s wrath in his body. Because He conquered death by rising again, you will stand before Him one day and give an account of yourself. Yours is not to see your value but to flee the coming wrath. Where else will you go? When you see yourself as God sees you, turn from your sins and believe this good news, you can join the ranks of the rescued and say, “I cannot identify which people Jesus died to rescue, but I know He died for me.”