Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Atonement of Christ

Another Christmas has past. Another Christmas to celebrate all that Jesus came into the world to do for sinners like me. Another Christmas to celebrate the amazing grace and love of God that came in the world in the life and death of his Son. For Jesus came into the world for the end of dying that sinners might live. And so it seems a good time to ask the question, "who did Jesus die for. For whom does his death make atonement?" Most Christians today believe that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. That is, his atonement is for every one's sin. And the usual scripture which will be used as evidence for this is,

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

And so those who believe that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world will say "look Jesus died for your sins and it is only your not believing that makes his death ineffective for you." But is this what this passage of Scripture teaches?

Firstly John uses the term "world" in 10 different ways in his gospel:

1. The Entire Universe - John 1:10; 1:3; 17:5

2. The Physical Earth - John 13:1; 16:33; 21:25

3. The World System - John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 

4. All humanity minus believers - John 7:7; 15:18

5. A Big Group but less than all people everywhere - John 12:19

6. The Elect Only - John 3:17

7. The Non-Elect Only - John 17:9

8. The Realm of Mankind - John 1:10; (this is very probably the 

best understanding of the word "world" in John 3:16 also)

9. Jews and Gentiles (not just Israel but many Gentiles too) - John 4:42

10. The General Public (as distinguished from a private group) 

not those in small private groups - John 7:4

("WORLD" - John's Ten Uses of the Word by Pastor John Samson)

Firstly, it is thus simplistic to say than when John uses the word world means the entire world. It must first be ascertained as to what context John is using the word in. And it is right to interpret the world as the mass of sinful humanity into which the Son was coming to give his life. It is into this mass which encompasses the whole world that Jesus was coming to give his life. And his coming proceeds out of God's love for the mass of this sinful humanity.

Secondly, the English words "whosoever believes" read in the Greek, hina pas ho pisteuwn. They literally mean, "everyone believing" and it is because of their believing in Jesus that they "should not perish but have eternal life." This believing is on-going and though it may diminish and increase it remains continuous through out a person's life. Jesus did not come to die for the sins of the whole but only for those in the world who would belong to the group called "everyone believing." 

Thirdly, God does not love everyone in the world in the same way. It is very common to restrict God's love to one type, and yet we do not love other people in this way. A husband should love his wife in a far different way than other women. And parents should love their children in a far different way to other children. We distinguish between the different types of love we have depending on who the people are. Like wise God loves in different ways depending upon who the people are. The two main types of God's love is his general love such that he, 

"makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." 
(Matthew 5:45)

And his specific love or the love he has for the elect such that he,

"chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he blessed us in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:4-6)

So when John wrote "for God so loved the world" he is speaking of God's specific love as being towards who would believe from the mass of sinful humanity and it is for this group that Jesus came and died.

Fourthly, if Jesus died for the sins of the whole world does his death then only make men savable but it is up to men to contribute their part if they are to be saved. Does Jesus death fail to save? If he died for the sins of the whole world then how can God send anyone to hell, for Christ has already been punished for those sins on the cross? Is Christ the High Priest for the whole world and does he make intercession for the whole world? Is the the mediator between man and God for all men?

Another Christmas has come and gone and it is amazing that Jesus came die that I a sinner might have life in all its fulness in him. That my sins have been dealt with on the cross, that Jesus is my all sufficient sacrifice who saves me to the uttermost. He is my High Priest who cleanses me from all my sins by his blood. And he intercedes for me and id my mediator with the Father. It is only by his being born and by his death that he could be all of this for me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

No comments:

Post a Comment