Limited Atonement #2: “All the World”

Christ died for…

The following two categories should be read in light of the “commanding passages” (listed here: because the following could at first glance seem like very general – or even universal – categories. These categories in fact must be defined by the more specific passages that speak of Christ dying for “His elect, His sheep, His church, His people, many, and those the Father has given to Him.”

Whenever we define anything, we must use more specific information to inform our approach to more general information. For example, if we find a dog with flippers, we might want to ask if we really had a dog in the first place. Likewise with a doctrine like the extent of the atonement, the specific things said in Scripture must inform the general things said.

The following lists of Scripture passages should be viewed merely as a collection of relevant texts. Each text must be read in the flow of the passage that surrounds it. In many places, the words “all” and “world” have slightly different valences that require precise exegesis. Here I am merely gathering the texts so that the reader can begin to synthesize the biblical evidence.

8) The world

John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 John 2:2 “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

John 4:42 ‘…and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”’

John 6:33 “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

Rom. 11:12 “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”

Rom 11:15 “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”

2 Cor. 5:19 “…that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

9) All

2 Cor 5:14–15 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; / and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

2 Pet 3:9 In context: 2 Pet 3:1–9 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Rom 11:32 “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”

Heb 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” (The flow clarifies.)

Rom 3:21–24 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, / even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; / for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, / being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

1 Tim 2:6 in context: 1 Tim 2:1-7 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, / for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. / For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, / who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. / For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, / who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, / for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

1 Tim 4:10 “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

NOTE: “All the world” “world,” and “all” have various meanings in the Scriptures

Here are some passages not related to the doctrine of limited atonement. In these passages, we see the words “all” and “world” being used in peculiar ways.

“All the world” and all can mean “all the known world” or “all the world that matters in a given context”:

Luke 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Luke 2:3 “So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.”

Col 1:6 “…which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth”

Col 1:23 “…if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

In the following passage, “the whole world” means the unregenerate mass of humanity, but it does not mean every single person without exception:

1 John 5:19 “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”

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