“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
There’s a song those of us at the Calhoun Church of Christ sometimes sing as we worship God. “Why did my Savior come to earth and to the humble go? Why did He choose a lowly birth? Because He loves me so.” How true that is. He came to seek out those who are lost and offer them salvation through His death on the cross, and He did so because He loves us so much.
Yet the Bible also says that not everyone will be saved. John wrote of unsaved, condemned souls being cast into the lake of fire and sulfur on the day of judgment (Revelation 21:8). Jesus said during His sermon on the mount that many will follow the easy way to the broad gate that leads to destruction, whereas only a few will travel the hard way to the narrow gate which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). He then promised that many on the day of judgment will be condemned due to their disobedience, even though they called Him “Lord” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Because of this, some in the religious world believe that Christ did not die on the cross for everyone, but rather only for a select few. They believe this because they also believe that all of mankind are sinfully depraved at birth due to inheriting our ancestors’ sins. They also believe that God predestined some of us for unconditional salvation and the rest for unconditional condemnation. Even though both of these notions contradict plain Bible teaching (Ezekiel 18:1-20; Romans 2:11; Hebrews 10:26-31), this is what many believe. Thus, they reason that Christ must have died only for some of mankind, those who were predestined by God for salvation.
This belief raises several questions in my mind. First, why would Jesus have to die for those whom God had already decided were going to be saved unconditionally? If those chosen by God were already saved for all eternity, would Jesus’ death make them more saved? What need would there be for Jesus to go to the cross to save those whom God’s power had already saved?
Secondly, Jesus said that He had come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Those who believe that He died only for those already predestined by God for salvation would have Him coming to seek and to save those who are already saved, not those who are lost. How could I be lost and in need for Jesus to seek me out and save me if God had already decided that I would be saved no matter what? Would that not mean that I would never be in a lost state?
Yet the Bible says that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore, everyone would be lost and in need of Christ to save them on the cross. This is why the Bible plainly teaches repeatedly that Christ died for everyone (2 Corinthians 5:15; John 12:32; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 2:9; 7:27; 10:10; Matthew 11:28). He did not offer atonement only for the limited few whom God supposedly had already chosen to be saved unconditionally as many believe. Rather, He came to this earth and died in order to offer salvation to everyone, and He did so because God loves us all (John 3:16). “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:14)
So if Christ died for everyone, why is it that not everyone will be saved? The answer is sad but true. The cross offers salvation to all, but not everyone will accept that wonderful gift. Some will not accept it because they don’t know about it (Acts 17:30), which is why Jesus has charged Christians with the responsibility to bring the saving power of the gospel to a lost and dying world (Romans 1:16; Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20). Others will not accept it because accepting God’s free gift of salvation requires that one become His servant (Romans 6:15-23), and they would rather serve themselves and Satan by seeking out those who will tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
May that never be you and me!