Friday, April 5, 2013

Ask Pastor Matt: Did Jesus Die for All People?

 Pastor Matt, 

I came across 2 Cor 5:14-15 today.  

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."

It seems to indicate that Christ had all of humanity in mind when He went to the cross.  Is our position that the "all" refers only to the elect in this passage, or the whole human race?

Thanks for being the resident theologian.

Great question and thanks for asking!

Yes, there are a handful of passages like this that talk about Christ's death being for "all men" or for "all." 

Of course, those who are not Reformed point to these passages right away to refute our view of the doctrine we call "limited atonement," that is to say, that Christ came purposefully to die to redeem His elect. This doctrine usually separates so-called four-point Calvinists from five-point Calvinists (and of course from Arminians). 

In my view, we ought to understand these passages in one of several ways.

1. First, we ask who is the "all" in view? In the text you cited, a Reformed reader would first point out presence of quite a bit of "we" and "us" language in the chapter. This refers to Christians. "All" does not necessarily need to mean "all men who have ever been born," but can mean "all those being discussed currently in the context."

For instance, if we were to say, "I hope they all come tonight to our party," it is taken for granted that we mean all those on the invitation list. We don't mean all men ever born. If that were the case we probably would run out of food and seating rather quickly. If I say "Don't eat all the potato chips!" it is obvious that I am referring to the bag of chips currently on the table, not all the chips ever produced.

In everyday language, the context of our conversation determines the parameters of the word "all."

2. Secondly, in the passage you mentioned above, 2 Corinthians 5, we might suggest that the "all" specifically refers to all those who are saved. This seems likely to me since vs. 14 seems to limit the discussion to those who have "died" with Christ in some way and vs. 15 seems to point to all who "live not for themselves but for Him."

Personally,  I can't see how those expressions would apply to unbelievers.

3. In some other passages, for instance John 12:32, we understand the word "all" to mean "all kinds" or "all classifications" (that is to say, every tribe, every nation, the rich, the poor etc.) and NOT all individuals, since if we were to take "all" otherwise, we would have to become advocates for universalism, and deny the reality of hell. The rest of the New Testament will not allow us to come to that conclusion.

4. Finally, keep in mind too, that while we who are Reformed believe that Jesus' death is effective and intended only for the elect, we do NOT deny that the Gospel offer is real, and saves whosoever will believe. It is not a fake or duplicitous offer to repent and be saved, but a true offer of saving grace. 

Reformed people like to put it this way, "Jesus' death is sufficient for the whole world, but efficient for those who believe." 
To send a question my way, go ahead and email me anytime! 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Fl.


  1. Pastor Matt, How about "all without distinction" as opposed to "all without exception". Jeff


    Jesus said I will build My church. Which church was that? Matthew 16:15-19...."But who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.".....18 I also say to you that are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven......(THE KEYS WERE USED IN ACTS CHAPTER 2)

    Did Jesus say I will build the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, or any of the other 30,000 denominations?


    HEAD OF THE CHURCH: Ephesians Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

    The apostle Paul did not say, select a man on earth, or a national board and then appoint him or them as head of the church? Paul said Jesus was the head of the church.


    When the apostle Paul sent greetings to the Christians in Rome, he said; (Romans 16:16 ....All the churches of Christ send greeting.) Paul did not send greetings from the churches of Roman Catholics, nor from any other denomination. Paul was a member of the Lord's church, not some denomination.

    Acts Chapter 2: The same Peter, who Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven told them how to become member of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, (the kingdom of heaven on earth is the church of Christ, the Lord's church, the body of Christ)? Peter preach Jesus to them and when they believed, he told them to repent and be baptized so their sins could be forgiven, and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were added to the Lord's church.

    Acts 2:40-41....."Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

    They were added to the church only after they believed Peter's preaching and were immersed in water.

    The Lord added the saved to His church. The Lord did not add them to the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran church, the Baptist Church, nor any of the other 30,000 denomination that exist today. (Acts 2:47... And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.)


    Did the apostle Peter consult a man-made catechism, a creed book, or a denominational statement of faith before he preached on the Day of Pentecost?

    Revelation 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Having you name written in the role book of one of the 30,000 denominations cannot keep you from being thrown into the lake of fire.

    When Jesus returns He is coming for His church. Is your name written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:1-27......27 but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

    Which church did Jesus die for? JESUS DIED FOR HIS CHURCH!

    ( All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)