For Whom Did Christ Die?


Some say He died for all … some say He died for most … and some say He died for a few.  What does the Bible say?  Did Jesus Christ die for all people or did He only die for some (the Elect)?


  • Psalm 22:27-29 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations. 29 All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. 
  • Psalm 66:3-4 Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!  Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.  4 All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises [to] Your name.” Selah. 
  • Isaiah 45:22-25 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. 24 He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.’” 
  • The fact that “every knee” shall bow, indicating that ALL will worship God, eventually, implies that Jesus did what was necessary for ALL to be in a right relationship with God. 


  • Luke 19:9-10 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 
    • Is there anyone which was not lost?
    • NO, all people have been “lost” at some point, as a result of Adam’s sin. (Romans 3:23)
    • To fall short is to be lost.
  • John 12:32-33 (NIV) But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 
    • Jesus did not say He would draw “some men” or “all Jews” to Himself. He said He would draw “ALL men” to Himself. 


  • John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
    • Note: Jesus did not take away the “sins” of the world.
    • He took away the “sin” of the world (referring to the very essence of sin – the sin nature – the cause of all sin.
    • He did so by dealing NOT with individual sins, BUT with the penalty of all sins. 


  • John 4:42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.
    • Part of the Gospel for the Samaritans would have been that Jesus, the Christ, was the Saviour of “the world” (and not just the Jews). 


  • 1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world
  • 1 John 2:2 (NIV) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world
    • The use of the word “whole” here is interesting, implying NOT just a part of the world, BUT the entire.  More significant, however, is that He is “the atoning sacrifice” for the sins of the whole world … and “not only for ours” (i.e. NOT JUST THOSE OF CHRISTIANS).
  • Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 
    • Note, first, that the reference is to “every” creature, not just some.
    • Note, also, that the creatures are NOT just on the earth, BUT also “in heaven”, “under the earth” and “in the sea”.


  • Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
    • Who are the “ungodly”? Well, all people, at one time or another, have been numbered among the “ungodly”.
  • Romans 5:8, 10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 
    • As above, all people have, at one time, been counted as sinners or “enemies” of God
  • Romans 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 
  • Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
    • Compare what Paul says in this letter to what John said in his book (Revelation 5:13 above).
  • 1 Timothy 4:9-11 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.
    • The point here is that God is the Saviour of ALL men, NOT just “those who believe”.


Interestingly, there are some who do NOT believe that Christ died for all (i.e. every single person).  Rather, they believe that Christ died only for the Elect (those whom He chose). So how do they deal with the passages above?

  • They say that the word “world” doesn’t always mean “people of the earth” and the word “all” sometimes means “some” or “some of all”. 

The truth is that they are right … The word “world” sometimes means “the system” … and the word “all” sometimes refers to some people in a particular region or time … BUT it also true that “all” sometimes means “all” … as in the following cases:

  • Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
    • Question: To whom is the “all men” in verse 18 referring?
      • Answer: To those who were condemned (which is all men).
    • Question: According to verse 19, whom will be made righteous?
      • Answer: The “many” who were made sinners.
      • And who were made sinners?
      • Paul doesn’t say here, BUT we know that ALL were made sinners b/c all have sinned (Romans 3:23)
    • Question: To whom is the “many” in verse 19 referring?
      • Answer: To all those who were made sinners (which is all men).
    • Obviously, verse 19 is a case where “many” means “all”.
    • The point is that Paul believed that the “free gift” came to ALL men and that ALL wiIl be made righteous.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and 15 He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
    • Who are the “all” that died in Adam?
    • Is there anyone that did not die because of Adam’s sin?
    • The answer is that everyone died because of Adam’s sin … which means that ALL died.
    • This means that when Paul uses the word “all” above, he means all.
    • Clearly, this is an instance where “all” must mean ALL.


If the scriptures supporting universal (or unlimited atonement) are so numerous, and so clear, then why are some still so adamant that Christ only died for some?  My theory is that their insistence is based on two (2) things:

  1. The fact that so many people have been dying without accepting Christ as personal Saviour;
  2. The belief that it is only in this life (or this age) that a person can be saved (which would mean that all those persons referred to in the statement above would have been lost).

Add to this the understanding the belief that God is omniscient and omnipotent … and you have to believe that God, who knew (b/c He is omniscient) that they would have been lost … and who had the power (b/c He is omnipotent) to prevent that loss, chose not to prevent it because He had pre-determined (decided long ago) that they would be lost.

Once we understand their theological perspective, then we can better understand why the “L” (which stands for “limited atonement”) had to be included among the T U L I P doctrines.

If one is totally depraved (the T), he cannot respond to God unless God gives him the ability to respond.  If God gives him the ability to respond because He has chosen him, unconditionally (the U) to be saved, then he cannot resist God’s saving call to be saved – i.e. God’s grace is irresistible (the I).

Given that line of reasoning, the only logical conclusion is that the man who dies in his sin was never chosen to be saved.  This means that Christ’s atonement, which is totally effective, was not for that man.  If Christ had died for him, then he would never be lost. Ergo, Christ must have died for only some.  He could not have died for all.

So, what do you think the Bible is saying?  Did Christ die only for some people … or did He die for ALL people?

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