Question: You have said that Christ made satisfaction to God’s justice for the sins of the elect. Did Christ do that for every person or only for the elect?
Christ made satisfaction to God’s justice only for the elect. By the “elect” I mean those whom God chose in Christ before the creation of the world.
Paul said that those for whom Christ will certainly be saved, and they are God’s elect. In Romans 8:30–34 he wrote, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
That is not to say that there is anything lacking or insufficient in Christ’s blood. Christ’s death would have been sufficient to save many worlds of sinners, if God had willed it to be so. But though Christ’s blood would have been sufficient for all and every sinner, it is efficient only for God’s elect. God chose them; Christ died for them; they will be completely saved.
But doesn’t the Bible say that Christ died to save “the world”?
Yes, the Bible says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ is the propitiation “for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It also says that Christ is the only Mediator, for He gave Himself “a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6). We affirm and rejoice in these truths.
Doesn’t that mean then that Christ came to save every person?
No. The Word of God uses the terms “world” and “all” in a variety of ways; each usage must be understood in its own context. “World” can refer to (a) the created earth (Matt. 13:35), (b) sinners in a general way (John 15:18), (c) people from among both Jews and Gentiles (Matt. 26:13), (d) persons of all social and economic classes such as kings and subjects (1 Tim. 2:1–2), (e) a great number of people (John 12:19). Similarly “all” has a variety of applications defined by context (Matt. 3:5). We cannot force each use of “world” and “all” into the strait-jacket of meaning every individual person (Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6). For example, in Romans 8:32, “us all” is clearly “God’s elect” (v. 33), those “whom he did predestinate” (v. 30).
Therefore we should not believe in universal redemption.
Could you define universal redemption please?
Universal redemption is the idea that Christ died to redeem every person without exception.
In its most unrestricted form, universal redemption is the teaching that all men (perhaps even the devils) will one day be saved. It is especially prevalent when people imagine God to be only love and ignore His justice. This doctrine denies eternal damnation in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46).
In a modified form, universal redemption teaches that Christ made satisfaction to God for every man’s sins, but their salvation hinges not on what Christ did but their free will. Salvation is pictured as a gift God bought, wrapped, and offers to all men in the death of Christ, but that gift has no power to do anything until each one accepts it. This doctrine denies God’s election, the Son’s finished work of accomplishing our total salvation, and the Spirit’s effective work to draw sinners to Christ (John 17:2; 19:30; 6:37, 63).
If universal redemption is not true, then how can we do evangelism?
We must do evangelism in a biblical way. We repeatedly hear today in evangelistic messages, “Christ died for you. What will you do for Him?” But where in the Bible do we ever find someone being told, “Believe that Christ died for you”?
Rather, we find faithful witnesses explaining the work of Christ and calling everyone who hears them, “Repent and believe the gospel.” The gospel message is not, “Believe that Christ died for you,” or, “Believe that you are one of the elect.” It is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
There is more than enough in Christ’s death to save you if you will but trust in Him. He does not need us to add anything born of our free will. The only thing we contribute to our salvation is our bondage. But Christ is not defeated by the chains that bind us. He has purchased a full redemption for all who trust in Him, including their very faith. Glory be to God!