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.
Is Jesus one who passes by?
Jesus gave an example of people who passed by a nearly dead man who had no strength to save himself. The dying man needed mercy from anyone willing to help. Two religious men happened to come upon the man as they were on the road at that time. While they were in the position to give aide, they passed on by.
31 “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Jesus asked a question of the lawyer that was seeking to justify himself:
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
Was Jesus less than what He required from others? Darrell Bock writes about what is a good neighbor.
Jesus’ question shows what a neighbor is. One should not seek to narrowly define who is a neighbor so as to limit one’s responsibility. The obligation is not to see what can be avoided, but to render aid when it can be readily supplied…Without asking questions, he served a cup of mercy to a person half-dead. By reviving life, he showed life. If we seek to restrict those we serve, we need to hear the lesson Jesus taught the lawyer. The issue is not who we may or may not serve, but serving where need exists. We are not to seek to limit who our neighbors might be. Rather, we are to be a neighbor to those whose needs we can meet. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke 9:51-24:53 by Darrell L. Bock, pages 1034-5)
Is Jesus less than a good neighbor Himself?
Jesus is the image of God in His character, and He revealed God as the ultimate good neighbor. Or are we to think that Jesus would teach others to be something that He is not? Surely not! Did Jesus “pass by” the majority of mankind and leave them in their sin without paying for their sin on the cross? What did Jesus say?
Jesus showed Himself to be a good neighbor when He showed His unconditional mercy by healing a man who had no faith, a man who didn’t know who He was, a man who was steeped in sin and who reported Jesus to the Jews after Jesus warned him to stop sinning. John writes about the aftermath of the healing.
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.
Jesus did not “pass by” this sinner. He unconditionally healed him even as the man divulged the name of Jesus to His persecutors.
Was one man left behind?
One man. That is all it takes to prove or disprove Limited Atonement. If there was one man that Jesus did not die for, don’t you think it would be Judas? After all, Judas betrayed Jesus to death. If there was one man that Jesus did not die for, then Jesus did not die for everyone. Conversely, if there is one man that Jesus did die for, but who is now in hell, then the Calvinist reasoning that Jesus’ death on the cross for that man prohibits God from judging that sinner is faulty reasoning. The test for Limited Atonement as true or false reasonably comes down to one man.
Let’s consider Judas
Calvinism teaches that God’s election that determined who would be saved for happened before the world was created. John Piper writes:
God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.
By this reasoning, if Jesus did not die for Judas, then that determination was made long before Judas was created. This also means that there could be no salvation grace for baby Judas. But watch what Jesus said:
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.”
Matthew 26:24 (ESV) The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
Jesus said that it was “better” or more advantageous for Judas if he had not been born. How is it a good thing, a better thing, an advantageous thing if Judas would have died before he was born? If Judas was predetermined to be lost and go to hell, then there is no good or better end for him no matter when he died. He would be in hell.
For evidence of the common belief that Judas is in hell right now, see John MacArthur’s article called “Unmasking the Betrayer“. MacArthur wrote:
We learn from the example of Judas that a person can be very near to Jesus Christ, and yet be lost and damned forever. Nobody was ever closer to Christ than the Twelve. Judas was one of them, and he’s in hell today, because while he may have given intellectual assent to the truth, he never embraced Christ with heartfelt faith.
Was a Baby Passed By?
For Calvinists who prefer to consider that Judas was just “passed by” by Jesus, how come Jesus said the opposite about Judas as a baby? Jesus said that if Judas had died before he was born, it would have been a good thing for him. In essence, Jesus is saying that He would not have passed by Judas as a baby. It would have been a beautiful, good, advantageous thing for Judas to have died in the womb. How is that possible if Judas was always lost?
No man left behind
In reality, Jesus said that the covenant in His blood was shed even for Judas. I prove this in two important articles on this subject:
No man left behind: Jesus was not willing to leave any man without a Savior.
To the Calvinist who believes that Jesus passes people by and leaves them predestined to die in their sin without a Savior, please explain to me how it is that it was more advantageous FOR JUDAS, to have died in the womb?
In upcoming articles, I will be responding to John Piper statements in his article on For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death? The next article will be on Piper’s claim from his article, that “Your Belief Was Purchased by the Death of Christ”. Piper’s article is found here. Please subscribe to this blog to be notified when new articles are posted.