FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." -- Matthew 20:28
Our all glorious Christ, the Son of God, effectually accomplished the redemption of his people by the sacrifice of himself at Calvary.
All men who claim to be Christians believe in and teach limited atonement. The Arminian, free-will, works monger, who asserts that Christ died for all men, for those who perish in hell as well as those who are saved, limits the atonement of Christ contrary to Scripture. They limit the merit and efficacy of Christ’s blood and the atonement made by his blood, asserting that the blood of Christ must be supplemented by man’s decision, man’s faith, man’s obedience, man’s baptism, or something else performed by man.
We assert, according to the Word of God, that there is absolutely no limit to the merit and efficacy of Christ’s blood and the atonement obtained and accomplished for God’s elect by his blood. However, according to the Word of God, the atonement of Christ is limited in intent, scope, design, and purpose to God’s elect. To suggest, imply, or teach, indeed, to believe that there are some in hell for whom the Lord Jesus Christ shed his blood and made atonement is to betray an idolater’s heart and blaspheme the Son of God, denying his very godhead.
Many wonder why God’s servants are so dogmatic regarding the gospel doctrine of particular, effectual redemption. Because this gospel doctrine is so divisive among religious people, and so commonly despised by those who do not know our God, it is the place where compromise is most prevalent. Yet, this is the very heart of the gospel. Either Christ redeemed his people or he failed in the work he came to do, and we are without hope. The blasphemy of universal redemption makes the Son of God a failure. The doctrine of universal, ineffectual redemption, of universal, ineffectual atonement is just as damning to the souls of men as any other doctrine which inherently denies our Savior’s divinity. These things make the doctrine of the atonement a matter of vital importance.
In this study, I want to answer this very important question from the Word of God: for whom did Christ die? We will begin in Matthew 20:28. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ himself says as he describes his mission in this world, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Our Savior here declares that there are indeed “many” for whom he has given "his life a ransom," a ransom price, the price of their redemption. They are described as “many”, not all, because these “many” are a distinct and peculiar people. They are the "many" who are ordained unto eternal life (Acts 13:48), -- the "many" the Father has given to the Son (John 6:37-39), -- the “many” whose sins he bore on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), -- the "many" for whom his blood was shed for the remission of their sins (Matt. 26:28), -- The "many" who are made righteous by his obedience (Rom. 5:19), -- and the "many" sons, he, the Captain of their salvation, brings to glory (Heb. 2:10).
The objects of redemption, those for whom Christ died, for whom he made atonement by the shedding of his blood, for whom he obtained eternal redemption, are a special and distinct people. The Scriptures declare that they are "redeemed from the earth" (Rev. 14:3), from among all the other inhabitants of the earth. As explained in the very next verse, they are "redeemed from among men" (Rev. 14:4). One end of Christ's redemption of them is, "to purify to himself a peculiar people" (Tit. 2:14).
The inspired writers seem to delight in using the pronoun "us," when speaking of the death of Christ, and our redemption by it. Thus the objects of redemption are identified as a distinct, particular people. "Christ died for us." God "delivered him up for us all.” Christ “gave himself for us.” He did so “that he might redeem us.” The saints around his throne sing unto the Lamb, “Thou hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood."
The Scriptures everywhere teach limited atonement, particular, effectual redemption, accomplished and obtained for God’s elect by the sin-atoning death of Christ as our Substitute. There is not a hint, suggestion, or implication of universal atonement anywhere in the Word of God. The Word of God tells us specifically and clearly who those sinners are for whom Christ died.
Do you wonder whether or not the Son of God died for you and obtained eternal redemption for you when he entered into heaven with his own blood? If so, you need only to read the Book of God. Here are eight, plain, unmistakably clear answers, given in the Book of God to the question – For whom did Christ die?
1. The Lord Jesus Christ died for every sinner in this world who is loved of God with an everlasting love.
The objects of Christ’s redemption and the objects of God's love are the same. Redemption flows from the love of God and Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). This love from which redemption flows is much, much more than some imaginary, universal benevolence. It is much more than that general kindness shown in providence to all men as the creatures of God. This is a special and discriminating love. It is the special, saving favor which God bears to his own people alone as distinct from others. The Lord God declares, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
This special, redeeming love is that which Christ expressed in the sacrifice of himself towards his own that were in the world (John 13:1). All who are thus loved by Christ were redeemed by Christ. They are "his" people, "his" sheep, "his" church. To suggest, or imply that Christ died for reprobate sinners, who are the objects of his just wrath and contempt, such as Esau, is utter nonsense.
2. Our all glorious Christ died for God’s elect (Rom. 8:30-34).
The objects of election and redemption are the same. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?--It is Christ that died.” That bold challenge of faith makes sense only if you understand that Christ died for God’s elect and infallibly secured their salvation by his death. The “us all” for whom God delivered up his Son are the same as those whom he foreknew, and whom he predestinated; and whose calling, justification, and glorification were secured from eternity by God’s sovereign purpose of grace toward them.
We see the same thing in Ephesians 1:4 and 7. The “us” who are said to be chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world, are the same as those who have redemption in him through his blood. Election and redemption are of equal extent. No more were redeemed by Christ at Calvary than were chosen in him before the foundation of the world.
God’s elect are special to him above all people in the world. Special things belong to them which belong to no one else. Yet, we see that everything which is said to be true of the elect is also true of the redeemed. Therefore, we must conclude, according to the Scriptures, that the elect and the redeemed are the very same people.
· Are the elect the beloved of the Lord? Does the act of election spring from love? Election presupposes love. So the redeemed are the beloved of God and Christ. And their redemption flows from love.
· Are the elect a people whom God has chosen for his peculiar treasure? The redeemed are purified by Christ to be a peculiar people to himself.
· Do the vessels of mercy, afore prepared for glory, consist of Jews and Gentiles alike? So Christ is the propitiation, not for the sins of the Jews only, or the Redeemer of the Jews only, but for the sins of the Gentile world also, the Redeemer of his people among the Gentiles.
· Are God’s elect a great number, a multitude which no man can number out of all nations, kindred, peoples, and tongues? So Christ’s redeemed ones are those he has redeemed unto God, out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation.
· Is it true of the elect that they shall never perish, that they cannot be totally and finally deceived and perish? So, too, it is true of the ransomed of the Lord. They shall come to Zion with everlasting joy. Christ will never lose any part of the purchase of his blood.
3. Our great Savior’s sacrificial work as our sin-atoning Substitute, as our great High Priest was made for those for whom he undertook to be a Surety in the covenant of grace before the world began (Heb. 7:22).
Those for whom Christ died, those who have been redeemed by his blood, are the same people as those for whom he became a Surety. He was made the Surety of the better testament, of the covenant of grace. As such, he became Surety for those, and for none but those, who had an interest in that covenant. In that great covenant the Son of God engaged himself to be our Surety and Redeemer.
This is very important. It is Christ's suretyship which is the ground and foundation of redemption. This is the reason why our sins, and the punishment of our sins were laid upon him, the reason why he bore and endured the wrath of God for our sins, and paid all our debts as his people. This is the reason why he redeemed us out of the hands of divine justice. The Son of God pledged himself to God the Father as a Surety, and laid himself under obligation to do all these things for us. He became responsible for us in all matters. But those for whom he did not become a Surety were not his responsibility. He was not obliged to pay their debts, or to suffer and die in their room and stead.
“Christ's suretyship and redemption are of equal extent, and reach to the same objects; they are the Lord's Benjamins, the sons of his right hand, his beloved sons, that Christ, the antitype of Judah, became a surety for, and laid himself under obligation to bring them safe to glory, and present them to his divine Father.”
4. Our almighty, all glorious Redeemer and Savior died for those who are the people of God (Isa. 53:8).
The objects of redemption are described by such words and characteristics as show them to be a special and distinct people. Particularly, those who are the objects of redemption are called the people of God and of Christ. "For the transgressions of my people", says the Lord our God, "was he stricken” by the rod of justice, to make satisfaction for our sins, and to redeem us from them.
When he was about to come and redeem us, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, at his birth said, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! for he hath visited and redeemed his people." He did so by sending Christ, the Dayspring from on high, as he called him. He visited his people in the flesh and redeemed them by his blood (Lk. 1:68,78). Therefore, the angel that appeared to Joseph and instructed him to call the son who was to be born of his wife, Mary, by the name of Jesus, gave this reason, "for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
Someone may say, “All men are the people of God.” In a sense that is true, inasmuch as they are his creatures. Yet the Scriptures expressly tell us that they are not all his redeemed people. Those who are redeemed by Christ are redeemed "out of every people" (Rev. 5:9).
The redeemed are God's covenant people; of whom he says, "They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” We are his portion and his inheritance, a people near and dear unto him. All God’s elect are a people given to Christ, to be redeemed and saved by him; of whom it is written, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”
5. The Son of God laid down his life and died for those people who are specifically designated as his sheep (John 10:15, 26, 29).
The objects of redemption, those for whom Christ laid down his life a ransom price, are described as "sheep." They are the sheep of Christ, his special property as the Good Shepherd. As such, they were given to him by his Father from eternity. These sheep are represented as being everlastingly distinct from others who are not his sheep.
The whole human race is divided into two groups: sheep and goats. Sheep never become goats. And goats never become sheep. We are all one or the other, either sheep or goats. Some of the sheep are saved. Some are lost. But all are safe. They are his sheep. Some are folded. Some are straying. But all are redeemed. They are his sheep. The Word of God tells us certain, specific things about these sheep, things which distinguish the sheep from the goats.
The sheep are known by Christ. He says, "I know my sheep," not merely by his omniscience, as he knows all men; but he knows his sheep distinctly as his own. "The Lord knows them that are his," from others. That is just another way of saying, Christ loves his sheep. He has knowledge of them and is joined with a distinct and special love for them. This knowledge and love is such as he has not for those to whom he will say in the last day, "Depart from me: I know you not."
The sheep know the shepherd, too. Christ is "known" by his sheep, for whom he laid down his life. They all know him in his person, offices, and grace. Whereas there are multitudes who neither know the Father nor the Son. The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice. That is to say, the sheep know the gospel of Christ, the joyful sound of grace, the glad tidings of redemption accomplished. Whereas the gospel is hid to them that are lost:
Those sheep for whom the Good Shepherd laid down his life, once they are called, hearing his voice, follow the Shepherd who died for them. They follow his Word, his example, and his Spirit. They imitate him in the exercise of grace, love, patience, and humility, and in the performance of every duty. As their Master symbolically fulfilled all righteousness, being buried in the waters of Jordan and rising again, so do the sheep. As the Shepherd kept the memorial feast of redemption accomplished, so do his sheep. It is written, regarding all the redeemed from among men; that they "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Rev. 14:4).
The sheep, being ransomed by the blood of Christ, “shall never perish.” The goats, set on Christ's left hand, shall be forever cursed and cast into everlasting fire (Matt. 25:33,34). The sheep shall be blessed forever They are forgiven, justified, sanctified, and sealed. “They shall never perish.”
6. Our great, sin-atoning Substitute laid down his life and died for the children of God (John 11:52).
Redemption and adoption belong to the same people. According to the prophecy of Caiaphas, Christ was to die, not for the nation of the Jews only, but to "gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" throughout the Gentile world. Those who are predestinated to adoption by Christ are those who have redemption in him through his blood (Eph. 1:5, 7).
This blessing of adoption, in the full enjoyment of it in resurrection glory, is called "the redemption of the body." The resurrection is called the redemption of our bodies, because redemption, in so far as the application of it is concerned, will not be complete until our very bodies are redeemed from all the consequences of Adam’s fall (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).
7. Our all glorious Redeemer died for and redeemed every sinner in this world who believes on him as Savior and Lord.
The fruit of redemption is the evidence of redemption; and faith in Christ is both the fruit and evidence of redemption. The children of God are a particular number of men, who are given of God to Christ, to be redeemed by him. They are the seed promised to him in covenant of grace, that he should see and enjoy, and with whom he shall be satisfied. These are the people of whom he is the everlasting Father. They are the people for whom and on whose account he became incarnate, "took part of the same flesh and blood." They are the many sons he shall bring to glory (Heb 2:10,13,14).
Not all men are the children of God. They, and only they, are the children of God who are openly and manifestly the children of God by faith, who believe in Christ. Their faith in Christ is owing to and the result of special grace and distinguishing love, a boon of mercy bestowed only upon those who are chosen, redeemed, and called of God (Rom. 9:8; Gal. 3:26; John 1:12; 1John 3:1). If you and I believe on the Son of God, our faith in him is the fruit and evidence of our redemption by him.
8. Our great and glorious Savior died for, made atonement for, and redeemed his church, which is his bride and spouse, with his precious blood.
The objects of redemption are the church and bride of Christ. It is the church which he loved and for which he gave himself as a sacrifice and ransom price. It is his beloved bride that he redeemed unto himself. It is the church he has purchased with his blood, even the general assembly, the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. That church is the elect of God whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Eph, 5:25; Acts 20:28). Of that church of which Christ is the head and husband, he is the Redeemer. "Thy Maker is thine husband; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 54:5).
This cannot be said of any denomination, or of all professing to be the church of Christ. The great whore of Babylon is not the spouse of Christ. Those who are drunk with the intoxicating wine of Babylon (Arminian, free-will, works religion) do not belong to and have no part with this church which is the Bride of Christ. That church coming from Babel, our Redeemer calls a whore. The church, which is his Bride, he calls a chaste virgin. Though there may be "threescore queens, and fourscore concubines" of Babylon’s sort, yet, says Christ, "my dove, my undefiled, is but one” (Song 6:9). This is his Bride. This is his spouse.
Redemption is not universal and useless, but particular and effectual. Christ did not lay down his life and die for all in general, but for many in particular. If the redeemed are those who are the objects of God's special love and favor, then not all men are redeemed. There are some of whom it is written, "He that made them, will not have mercy on them; and he that formed them, will show them no favor" (Isa. 27:11). If the redeemed are the elect of God, and them only, then not all men are redeemed; for all are not chosen. “The election hath obtained it and the rest are blinded" (Rom. 11:7). If only those are redeemed for whom Christ became a Surety, then not all men are redeemed. Christ did not engage to pay the debts of all men. If the redeemed are the people of God and of Christ, then not all are redeemed. There are some on whom God writes a "Loammi," saying, "Ye are not my people; and I will not be your God" (Hos. 1:9). If the redeemed are the sheep of Christ, to whom he gives eternal life, then the goats, who will go into everlasting punishment, are not redeemed. If the redeemed are the children of God, and the church and spouse of Christ; then not all men are redeemed. “For all men have not faith!”