One of the most controversial subjects in all of theology is the subject of the atonement. For whom did Christ die? Did Jesus die for every person who ever lived or did He only die for those who would place their trust in Him?
One verse that those against the doctrine of limited atonement point to is John 3:16.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 3:16.
The argument is that because of the use of the word world we see that Christ died for every individual who ever lived.
But there is a problem with this assertion. John 3:16 does not say that Jesus died for the entire world. What does the verse actually say? It says God loved the world. But what does world mean?
The Greek word, κόσμον (kosmos) does mean world. And in the context of John 3:16 it is referring to creation. The argument can be made, legitimately, that it is also referring specifically to people of the world. I agree with this assessment. However, that still does not say that Jesus died for every individual.
The next part of the verse says that God gave His only Son. God loved the world and, as a result, He gave his Son up. But for what purpose did He give Christ? It was not to pay for the sins of every individual. At the end of the day, if you argue for Christ dying for all individuals that is your logical conclusion, that He paid for the sins of everyone. No, it says that whoever believes.
Now, I will say that I do not believe that this verse actually deals with the question people try to make it answer. I do not believe it deals with who Christ died for. But we know from other passages, which will not be dealt with in this article, that He laid His life down for the sheep (John 10:15). The only thing John 3:16 tells us is that Christ, at minimum, died for those who would believe in Him.
Kevin DeYoung’s book, Grace Defined and Defended takes readers on a journey through the 400 year-old confession called the Canons of Dort. This simple, yet informative, book shows the history and circumstances that lead to the canons being written birthing the formula for what we now call TULIP.
The book does not get heavy into a theological treatise. DeYoung addresses this at the beginning stating:
My first goal is to explain the Canons of Dort. Think of this not as a mini systematic theology or as an exegetical exploration of key salvation texts, but as a brief, accessible commentary on the background and theology of Dort itself.
DeYoung definitely delivers. He brings the articles of the canons to succinct and clear statements with explanation in modern English that leave no doubt on the history and meaning of the articles.
The main text of the book does not give the full text of the canons. Rather, DeYoung takes key phrases that build the meat of each article and expounds upon it. This helps to keep the book short and focused sticking with the most important facts of the documents. Full texts of the positions of Dort and the Arminian position (Remonstrant) can be found in the appendixes at the back of the book. Scripture proofs are also provided for each of the points.
It is good to note that at the beginning of the book DeYoung takes a history of the TULIP acronym explaining that, while good, it does not give the full picture of Calvinism or even the canons of Dort. He does make sure to say that TULIP is good for a summary but it is not the complete story or position.
I have to give Grace Defined and Defended five out of five stars. It is easy to read and understand while giving a clear history on the Canons of Dort. I applaud Kevin DeYoung for another outstanding book to help educate the church on what it believes and why it believes it.
I was given a free copy of the book by the Publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
John 12:32 is a verse often used to go against the Reformed Doctrine of Sovereign Election. The argument is that Christ will draw “all people” to Himself, therefore this is not something only reserved to a subset of people known as the elect.
Here is the question. Does “all people” in the verse mean every person on earth or is it talking about something else? How can we answer this question?
To make this verse mean every person you have to ignore a basic rule of biblical interpretation. That is, you must take this verse out of the context of the passage.
If you single out this one verse then yes, it definitely says all people and one can assume that it means every individual person. However, if you look back at verses 20-22 you get the context of what Jesus is talking about.
There were Greeks that had come to the disciples in order to talk to Jesus. This gives us the context. The Jews (which included the disciples) were under the impression that since they were God’s chosen people, they were the ones to whom salvation was promised.
However, John 12:32 shows that Jesus is proclaiming that salvation is to both Jew and Gentile. So “all people” in verse 32 means all people groups Jew and Gentile.
When interpreting Scripture it is crucial that the full context of the passage be looked at in order to arrive at the proper interpretation of that passage.