FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?
Of Key Scripture Passages
1 Timothy 4:10
This verse poses a problem for those who deny that Christ died for all. The verse teaches that there is a sense in which God is the Saviour of all men and there is a special sense in which God is the Saviour only of those who believe. The key to understanding this has already been set forth by Paul in chapter 2. There is a sense in which God is the Saviour of all men because He desires all men to be saved and He has provided a Saviour for all men who gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:3-6). There is a special sense in which He is the Saviour only of those who actually come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and come to the Father through the only Mediator which He has provided (1 Tim. 2:5). For a more detailed study of 1 Timothy 4:10 and the unsatisfying way in which extreme Calvinists explain it, see our paper entitled, The Saviour of All Men .
John Calvin agreed that God is the Saviour of the entire race: "Let us know, therefore, that to the whole human race there has been manifested and exhibited salvation through Christ . .. " (see Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke by John Calvin, Vol. I, p. 85 (Baker Book House reprint, 1979). In the same volume Calvin writes: ". . .the Lord is the Redeemer of all the world at large . . ." (p. 140, note 1).
Limited Redemptionists raise this objection: "How can God be the Saviour of all men if He does not actually save them?" The answer is simple: They did not receive the Saviour who died for them. They rejected Him (John 1:11). To the Limited Redemptionist we must ask this: How can sinners reject the Saviour if He is not really their Saviour? How can they deny the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1) if He never really bought them? How can they reject the cross-work of Christ if that work was never really for them? How can they receive a gift which was never offered and never provided? How can we tell them to trust a Saviour who did nothing to save them? How can we tell them the good news about salvation if there is no good news for them? How can we tell them that "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3) if He did not really die for their sins?
To any unsaved person we can deliver this good news: "My friend, I want you to know that there is a Saviour for you (compare Luke 2:10-11). He died for you. He did everything necessary for you to be saved. He paid the full penalty for your sins. All you must do is receive Him by faith."
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