What Christian’s believe and how they have come to understand what the Bible teaches isn’t always shaped purely by Scripture. The Ancient Greek influence of Gnosticism has had a profound and enduring effect on Christian thought. Indeed, that may be the case in needing to ask the question, “For whom did Christ die?”

This question often gets raised in the broader context of popular teachings by prominent Christian preachers and philosophers from the past. For example, one’s conclusion that Scripture advocates for a “limited atonement” of man (e.g. Christ only died for some) would be a natural, almost forced, conclusion if you already believed that only some were eligible (“Unconditional Election”) to be saved by God.

So, how does Scripture quantify those for whom Christ died?


A popularly recognized pneumatic representing the “pillars” of John Calvin’s teaching.

(aka “total inability”) Every person that is enslaved to sin as a result of the fall of man and further, is not inclined to love God. Instead, man’s nature is to reject the rule of God and serve themselves. As a result, no human has the moral capacity to choose to obey God for spiritual salvation. Their sin (“depravity”) affects every part of them (“total”). Calvin’s “total depravity” doctrine is based on his interpretation of Augustine’s definition of Original Sin.

From the beginning, God chose individuals that he would call his own. This was not based on any foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Instead, his selection is unconditional (e.g. unilateral) and based only on his mercy. He extends mercy and salvation in Christ Jesus to those chosen (the “elect”). Those not chosen are separated from him because of their sins, receiving his wrath.

(aka “particular redemption” or “definite atonement” or “particular atonement”) Because of God’s complete sovereignty over man, the sins of the elect – and only the elect – were atoned for by Jesus’ death.

(aka “efficacious grace”) God’s saving grace is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect). By his sovereignty, he overcomes any resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. After all, he has purposed this from the beginning (“Unconditional election”). Here a distinction is made with the Holy Spirit’s “outward call” (preaching of the Gospel) that goes to all (elect and non-elect). It is only this “outward call” that can be rejected by sinners, whereas the “inward call” (or “effectual call”) of the Holy Spirit’s saving grace cannot be rejected (e.g “irresistible”).

(aka “perseverance of God with the saints” and “preservation of the believing”) God’s sovereignty precludes any that have received his “inward call” to be lost.  These “elect” will definitively be saved.

How Scripture answers "For whom did Christ die?"

Jesus died for all mankind – everyone3,11, the world/universe1,4,6,10, all people2,8, the unrighteous5 – different ways to say the same thing. Scripture teaches the full atonement of Christ. Since God “so loved the world”1 and wants all to be saved9,13, why would he send his only son to die for just some? He wouldn’t, which is just as Jesus states1, Paul states2,8, Peter states 5, and John states4,6,11 — all quite plainly.

There are two clear truths taught in all of these passages: (1) Jesus Christ came for all in order to save all1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and (2) not all will obey1,2,4,6,8,10,11,12,13 necessarily inferring man’s free will. The two are mutually exclusive Bible facts; both truths can and do exist at the same time.

An inspiration for this question was provided by this argument FOR limited atonement on the prominent The Gospel Coalition site. While some Scripture is used, there is mostly commentary and no opportunity for public comment. They do note that one passage6 admittedly gives “people fits [that hold to limited atonement] when understanding what John is talking about.” Mr. Raymond then goes on to redefine “world” as if it were only referring to “nations” (e.g. Gentiles) in order to make it fit. While they mention the one passage6 that gives them fits, there are several others not mentioned8,11,13 that should also give fits to those that trying to hold to a “limited atonement” doctrine. It’s a great example of why the any/only/all rule is so important and yet another example of scripture weighting and where it can lead.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

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