Excerpted from an article by Dr. James White
For Whom Did Christ Die?
There are a number of Scriptures that teach us that the scope of Christ’s death was limited to the elect. Here are a few of them:
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
The “many” for whom Christ died are the elect of God, just as Isaiah had said long before,
By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)
The Lord Jesus made it clear that His death was for His people when He spoke of the Shepherd and the sheep:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15).
The good Shepherd lays down His life in behalf of the sheep. Are all men the sheep of Christ? Certainly not, for most men do not know Christ, and Christ says that His sheep know Him (John 10:14). Further, Jesus specifically told the Jews who did not believe in Him, “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). Note that in contrast with the idea that we believe and therefore make ourselves Christ’s sheep, Jesus says that they do not believe because they are not His sheep! Whether one is of Christ’s sheep is the Father’s decision (John 6:37, 8:47), not the sheep’s!
…just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God….husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:2, 25-27).
Christ gave Himself in behalf of His Church, His Body, and that for the purpose of cleansing her and making her holy. If this was His intention for the Church, why would He give Himself for those who are not of the Church? Would He not wish to make these “others” holy as well? Yet, if Christ died for all men, there are many, many who will remain impure for all eternity. Was Christ’s death insufficient to cleanse them? Certainly not. Did He have a different goal in mind in dying for them? [I am not here denying that the death of Christ had effects for all men, indeed, for all of creation. I believe that His death is indeed part of the “summing up of all things” in Christ. But, we are speaking here solely with the salvific effect of the substitutionary atonement of Christ. One might say that Christ’s death has an effect upon those for whom it was not intended as an atoning sacrifice.] No, His sacrificial death in behalf of His Church results in her purification, and this is what He intended for all for whom He died.
He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:32-34).
The Father gave the Son in our place. Who is the “our” of this passage? The text says that it is “those whom God has chosen,” that is, the elect of God. Again, the intercessory work of Christ at the right hand of the Father is presented in perfect harmony with the death of Christ—those for whom Christ died are those for whom He intercedes. And, as this passage shows, if Christ intercedes for someone, who can possibly bring a charge against that person and hope to see them condemned? So we see what we have seen before: Christ dies in someone’s place, He intercedes for them, and they are infallibly saved. Christ’s work is complete and perfect. He is the powerful Savior, and He never fails to accomplish His purpose.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
Are all the friends of Christ? Do all own His name? Do all bow before Him and accept Him as Lord? Do all do His commandments (John 15:14)? Then not all are His friends.
While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).
Both the substitutionary element of the cross (gave himself for us) and the purpose thereof (to redeem us…to purify) are forcefully presented to Titus. If it was the purpose of Christ to redeem and purify those for whom He died, can this possibly not take place?
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Christ will save His people from their sins. I ask what Edwin Palmer asked me before: Well, did He? Did He save His people, or did He not?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
This is the common confession of every true believer in Christ. We died with Him, our Substitute, the one who loved us and gave Himself in our behalf.
We have seen, then, that the Word teaches that Christ died for many, for His sheep, for the Church, for the elect of God, for His friends, for a people zealous for good works, for His people, for each and every Christian.
To be continued. . .