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Insight #352 – Calvinism Examined #4 – Did Jesus Die for You?

One day Calvina told her neighbor, “I’m so thankful Jesus died for me, but I don’t know if He died for you or not.” A fake comment to be sure, but it truthfully portrays Calvinism’s teaching via the third TULIP item: “limited atonement.” But what does the Bible say?

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In light of this great verse, how can anybody claim that Jesus died for only a limited number of people?

The word “world” (Strong’s #G2889: “kosmos”) does have various meanings. It sometimes means our planet. It sometimes means all people. It sometimes means a limited group of people.

Calvinism claims that “world” in John 3:16 refers to a limited group of people, namely “God’s elect.” However, this is totally contrary to Jesus’ meaning of “world” when used for a limited group. This is most clearly seen when Jesus speaks of the “world” in contrast to His disciples. Notice these examples in the Gospel of John:
14:16-17: [that God would give the disciples] “the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive.”
15:18: “The world hates you.”
16:19-20: [regarding His death]: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”
17:9: “I pray for them [disciples]. I don’t pray for the world.”
Calvinism’s attempt in John 3:16 to limit “world” to “God’s elect” is the exact opposite of Jesus’ use of the word. There is no getting around the wonderful truth of John 3:16: Jesus died for you and me and everybody else – He died for the whole world.

How Limited?

But let’s be clear. Jesus’ blood shed on the cross is limited in one sense. John 3:16 clearly says the benefits of Jesus’ death are for those who believe. Contrary to Calvinism’s “unconditional election,” the sovereign God has placed a condition on receiving the benefits of the atonement. This condition is repeated three times within four verses of John 3:
3:15: “… whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
3:16: “… whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
3:18: “… he who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed…”

Another way Calvinism attempts to uphold their teaching is by adding “only” to selected texts. As one example, here is a Calvinist quote: “The Bible says that Christ laid down His life for His sheep, and only them. John 10:11.” That is a lie. John 10:11 does not say “and only them.” 

Yes, Jesus died for His sheep. But the Apostle John directly contradicts those who add “only” to such texts: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “Not for ours only”! The distinction between “ours” and the “world” is that the cleansing blood is available to “the whole world,” but the ones who benefit are those who accept Jesus as their Shepherd. And the Shepherd himself said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who disbelieves will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

It’s Our Choice

Sad but true, here is the dark side of Calvinism (paraphrasing John 3:16 according to their doctrine):
>>For God so hated most of the world, that he refused to give His Son for their salvation. Rather, He created them totally depraved and incapable of believing in Jesus. Thus they shall perish eternally with no opportunity for salvation.<<

This is in direct contradiction to the clear teaching of the entire New Testament, which closes with this invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ He who hears, let him say, ‘Come!’ He who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Amen.
NOTE: The purpose of this series is to biblically examine various aspects of the Calvinistic acrostic, TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.