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?
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! …
What does Jesus mean when He says “the flesh profits nothing”? There are several different meanings for “flesh” so to understand what Jesus means, let’s first understand the rest of His saying so we can gain the intended contrast He has in mind.
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
Jesus identifies who gives life. It is the Spirit who gives life. The Father gives life and the Holy Spirit gives life. Does Jesus also give life?
The Spirit Gives Life
Jesus said in John 4 –
John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Jesus said, “I WILL give him.” What will Jesus give? Jesus will give eternal life. Jesus said the same thing again in John 6.
John 6:27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
Jesus said that He will give eternal life to the crowd. What kind of life is He giving to the crowd? Jesus is giving eternal life. However, the way Jesus would give them eternal life is embedded in His use of the term “came down from Heaven.” It was the “who” not the “what” that came down from Heaven, that will provide eternal life.
Jesus is the life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15 shows that Adam at his beginning became a living soul, but Jesus as the last Adam, came in the beginning as something more..
1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
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 lesion that lists the term “the many” as meaning “a few” or a “small amount”?
Dr. James White has stated on his Dividing Lineprogram that he wants to see how I line up the John 6 passage to show why people are not coming to Jesus. This post will summarize my view from my previous verse by verse exposition and tie in reasons for unbelief from the book of John. Let’s look at two different groups of people from the book of John who walked away from Jesus and several people who also ended up in unbelief and did not follower Jesus.
Why the hostile Jews did not come to Jesus
The first group of people that did not come to Jesus, John identifies as hostile to Him. In the book of John, John calls Jewish leaders who were hostile to Jesus, as “the Jews.” John identifies Jewish leaders who are hostile opposers to Jesus as “the Jews.”
the Jews Referring to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. John often uses the label hoi Ioudaioi, “the Jews,” to categorize those who are opposed to Jesus and His ministry. While the term can be used in a neutral or even a positive sense (see 2:6; 4:22), the prevailing connotation with the expression is “unbelieving Jews.” John refers to “the Jews” more than 70 times. (Faithlife Study Bible note referenced from link on John 5:15)
(John) 6:41–42 The opening words of 6:41 serve as a powerful announcement: those who had been conversing with Jesus were not merely uncommitted people in general but in fact his opponents. They were “the Jews,” the designation used by John to mark out that particular group in the people of Israel. Moreover, they were for the evangelist the equivalent of the rebellious people in the wilderness wanderings, and so he identified these Jews with the grumblers in the desert (e.g., Exod 16:2, 7) (The New American Commentary pg 267)
1. They do not have the love of God in themselves. (John 5:42) John also reveals that there is a connection between loving the Father and loving the Son. (1 John 5:1)
John 5:42 (NASB) but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 1 John 5:1 (NASB) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
In our verse by verse discussion of John 6, we come to verse 38, a verse that highlights the will of the Father.
John 6:38 (NASB) “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
The will that Jesus reveals about salvation is founded not on human will in time, but on the transcendent will of God. It is the will of the Father who sent the eternal Word from Heaven. What is the Father’s revealed will? Jesus reveals the Father’s will in two different ways, by what He says in verses 39 and 40.
John 6:39 (NASB)“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.
Who are the all that He (the Father) has given Me (the Son) in verse 39? …
In my last post, I talked about how Jesus showed the unbelieving crowd, who followed Him in John 6, that the “work” which result is meant to bring the crowd to belief, is God’s work. When Jesus shared that it is God’s work, not the work of the crowd, the crowd demanded a work from Jesus.
John 6:30 (NASB) So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?
Notice that the crowd is no longer conversing with Jesus about their own work. Instead, they want a work from Him. They demand “What then do YOU DO…” They understand that there will be a work whose purpose it is to bring them to faith. They now want a work that they can see, a work that is designed to cause them to believe. Jesus rightfully brought the crowd from their mindset about their own righteous works as being the cause of salvation, to the true cause of salvation which is the work of God.…
In my last post, I discussed the phrase in John 6, which Calvinists ignore from their own proof text passage. In this post, we will deal with John 6:28, 29.
John 6:28–29 (NASB)
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
When the crowd that had followed Jesus asked Him what they were to do to work the works of God, their question was about their moral or legal obligations before God to gain eternal life. Their question was about works (plural). Their question was also personal. “What work shall we do…?”, they asked.
In reply to the unbelieving crowd, Jesus responded, “this is the work of God” (a singular thing as opposed to plural works). This one (singular) thing is God’s work, in order that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (God) has sent.
The verse that is the most ignored by Calvinists in their own proof text is John 6:27, and within the verse, in particular, a specific phrase. Calvinists prefer to start their focus in John 6 with verse 37, but it is vital to discuss all of Jesus’ words to the crowd, so that we do not miss out on the truth presented in verse 27.
Jesus makes a promise
In John 6:27 Jesus makes a promise that lays the foundation for the important words that will follow. Jesus said:
John 6:27 (NASB) “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
To understand this verse, we need to know who Jesus is talking to.
To whom is Jesus talking to?
John 6:26 (NASB) Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
Jesus is speaking to the crowd that had been fed by the bread and had followed Jesus. But they were not following Him because they had faith, but because they had a physical need met. Jesus exposes their motive for following Him in verse 26.…
My last post on Judas brought up a discussion of Jesus’ words about Judas and what it would have been like for him had he not been born.
Matthew 26:24 (NASB) “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
What is “good”?
There is no doubt that Jesus’ words are inspired. His words are also preserved in the Scripture so that we can learn things that we could not know without His revelation. Jesus gives a conditional statement about what would be “good” or “better” for Judas on the condition that he had died before he was born. Jesus said that for Judas to die before he was born would have been advantageous to Judas. Look at the range of the meanings for the word that Jesus chose to use:
What is the specific usage of the Greek word “kalon” in Matthew 26:24?
Let’s consider the specific usage determined by the BDAG lexicon (Bauer, Danker & Arndt) for Matthew 26:24 …
Is Judas a problem for your theology? He can be a problem if some of your beliefs come from tradition and not from the Scriptures. In this article, I would like to discuss the full Scriptural view of Judas and ask you to test your own understanding against what the Scripture reveals.
What was the history of Judas as one of the Disciples?
Judas was a follower of Jesus who was chosen with eleven others to be Jesus’ apostles.
Luke 6:13 (NASB) And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
As a disciple of Jesus, he was sent out to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to do miracles.
Matthew 10:5–8 (NASB)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;
6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
Notice it was the twelve that Jesus sent out and Judas was among the twelve according to Matthew 10:4. Judas was given authority over sickness and the enemy just as the other apostles received. Jesus also said that the twelve were sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Matthew 10:16 (NASB) “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
In the teaching of Calvinism, there is an election to salvation for some men while the rest of mankind are created without a hope of eternal life. In this understanding God has pre-determined from eternity past that all but the elect would remain in their sin and be lost forever. If Calvinism is true, then there is a portion of mankind that has been unconditionally chosen and guaranteed salvation because Jesus died for their sins and His death and resurrection guarantees their salvation without fail. Unconditional election is either true or false when tested by the Scriptures. May I share my view of the most famous of the elect in the Scriptures?
Was John one of the elect?
If I asked this question of a Calvinist, I am sure that he or she would answer “Yes.” After all, John had the Holy Spirit since he was in his mother’s womb. Jesus even said that John was the greatest so if anyone on earth should be one of the elect, it surely would be John. Let’s have a look at John’s election.
The Bible’s witness of John
Malachi 3:1 names John as God’s messenger:
Malachi 3:1 (NASB) “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me…
John preached in the wilderness where he drew great crowds. His work as a messenger of the Lord is prophesied in Isaiah: …