Does the Bible teach that Christ died for everyone or just the elect (some)?
Your question has also been asked as, “For whom did Jesus die?” The topic has also been called “Particular Atonement,” “Limited Atonement,” and “Particular Redemption.” There are two major views on this subject.
One position says that Jesus died only for the elect or those who would eventually become Christians. Here are three passages which seem to teach this truth.
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11 (NASB)
All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:37-39 (NASB)
I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine . . . John 17:9 (NASB)
If we ask the question, “Did Jesus know for whom He was dying?” we must answer yes. Yes, He knew for whom He was dying because God chose the elect before the foundation of the world.
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10 (NASB)
The other view is that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. There are a number of passages that seem to teach this too!
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh. (John 6:51 (NASB)
. . . and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 (NASB)
These passages teach that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world.
The question that is usually asked at this point is, “Did Jesus die to save the whole world?” If we answer yes, then some say that Jesus was defeated because everyone will not be saved. At first this seems to support the limited atonement position. But the question is designed to give the desired answer. We must ask two questions. Our first question is, “Was Jesus’ death or blood inadequate, or not sufficient, to save the entire world?” The answer is that Jesus’ death was a perfect sacrifice and it is more than adequate to forgive anyone’s sins. The second question is, “How can Jesus be defeated when He chose the elect before the foundation of the world?” The answer to this question is that He was not defeated. He chose the elect and provided the perfect sacrifice – a sacrifice that is sufficient to save anyone.
Limited and unlimited Atonement are both true. It is limited in the sense that Jesus knew for whom He was dying and that His death would ultimately benefit only the elect. He chose everyone who who has believed and will believe before the foundation of the world. Unlimited Atonement is also true in the sense that Jesus’ death was perfect. It can save anyone, but His death only benefits those who believe in Jesus – those whom God chose before the foundation of the world. This is a paradox since anyone who wants to be saved – anyone who believes in Jesus – is immediately saved. If you desire to become a Christian, then God has chosen you to become a Christian and the faith that you have has been given to you (Acts 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1). We urge you to read “Searching for God.”
Suggested Links:Searching for God
How is human responsibility understood in relation to the divine?
If you are not chosen, then does it really matter when you die?
What is the role of man and God in salvation?
Predestination and Human Responsibility