The death of Jesus for the world is a delicate question for Calvinists according to John Piper. Piper answers a question from one of his listeners in a post called “In What Sense Did Jesus Die for the Non-Elect?” In the audio transcript of an interview Piper says:
Well, the apostle Paul says Christ died for all people, even the non-elect, and of course that raises delicate questions for us Calvinists to answer. How does Christ’s atoning sacrifice apply to the non-elect? The question comes from an anonymous listener to the podcast: “Pastor John, many times I have heard people say, ‘Yes, Christ died for all people but not all people in the same way.’ I know Reformed theology teaches that Christ’s atonement is particular in that the extent of the atonement to save souls is limited to the elect only. However, I am having trouble adequately explaining how Christ died for all people but not in the same way. For what tangible reason did Christ die for the non-elect?”
It is quite revealing how the listener was having trouble explaining John Piper’s explanation of the death of Jesus for the world. This article will demonstrate where John Piper takes a wrong turn and how to answer his description of an “offered” salvation vs. a “guaranteed” salvation. One thing that I like about John Piper is that he is clear about what he believes. Let’s examine his statements about salvation.
What tangible reason DID Christ die for the non-elect?
This question is often asked of those of us who do not believe that God initiates evil. If God predestined the death of Jesus, does this mean that God commanded or ordained the evil acts of men? A Calvinist website describes God’s ordaining of evil this way:
Remember, regarding the death of Jesus the Biblical text says, “…both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:27-28)
So the Bible itself testifies that God ordained evil men to crucify Jesus. Acts 2 says the same. So you need to be able to develop a theology which fits that into your view. While you may not understand it, you must yield to what the Scripture teaches regarding God’s meticulous hand of providence in all things:
Was the death of Jesus evil: Let’s look at the facts.
Jesus’ life was not taken by the will of man. Jesus claimed that the authority to give up His life came from God and the action was His own initiative:
17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
The death of Jesus is a commandmentto Jesus, not a commandment to evil men.
John Piper’s article “For Whom did Jesus Taste Death?” focuses on Piper’s premise that disallows Jesus from being a ransom sacrifice for all people. There are many parts of Piper’s article that I would like to address, but I will deal with them one at a time in individual posts. This post addresses Piper’s claim that our faith was purchased on the cross as a gift.
Was Our Faith Purchased on the Cross as a Gift?
In my last post, I addressed the question of whether there was one verified example of a man for whom Jesus did not die. For if there was such a man who did not have a kinsmen Redeemer, then Jesus could not have died for all. Similarly, if there is a biblical example supported by the testimony of Jesus that He died for one particular man who is now in hell, then the premise that it would be unjust for a man to be in hell if Jesus died for him, is untrue. So, what about the claim that faith is a gift purchased at the cross? John Piper says that one will believe this if “you believe as you ought to believe”.
And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief—like all other spiritual blessings—was purchased by the death of Christ.
Where does the Bible say that your faith was purchased on the cross as a gift? Piper claims that Hebrews 10:14 shows that our sins were paid for and ultimately forgiven at the cross so that no judgment will ever fall on our head, no sin can be brought up against us, and the wrath of God was wiped out at the cross – before we were born! …
Did Jesus’ death leave no man left behind that was not covered by His death on the cross? For many Christians who identify as Calvinists, the gospel includes the conclusion that Jesus died only for a select group of people who were predetermined by God before the world was created. Consequently, some men were left behind because the blood of Jesus was not meant to cover their sin, according to their belief system. Instead, Calvinism says that if Jesus paid for the sins of all the world, then He must have also died for unbelief, leaving Him unable to judge sinners in hell for their unbelief. R.C. Sproul’s ministry Ligonier Ministries Inc says it this way:
If God’s justice is totally satisfied by Christ’s work on the cross, then it would follow that God would be unjust in punishing the unrepentant sinner for his unbelief and impenitence because those sins were already paid for by Christ.
This reasoning is faulty because it is man’s reasoning and not the testimony of Scripture. The Scripture NEVER makes this claim and, in fact, the testimony of Jesus refutes it. The understanding of the extent of Jesus’ death (for whom did Jesus die?) must take into consideration the testimony of Jesus. Did Jesus leave any man behind not paying for their sin?
Before we look at the evidence left to us by the words of Jesus, let’s consider the claim that Jesus merely “passed by” the sinner that He does not intend to save. …
1. Can you give even one clear Scripture that says Jesus did NOT die for someone or that He did NOT die for a class of people?
2. “The many” is a term that comes with the article that is synonymous with the “whole” (see screenshot below). Can you find a single lexicon that lists the term “the many” as meaning “a few” or a “small amount”?